When Should Garlic Be Added To Cooking? (Don’t Burn It)

Garlic is a flavorful addition to many dishes, but when should it be added? Some recipes will advise adding garlic right at the start. Sadly, that’s often bad advice as cooking garlic too early (with your onions for example) will likely allow it to burn. This aromatic is quite a delicate ingredient and cooks quickly when chopped up small. So when should garlic be added to cooking?

When making sauteés or stir-fries, try adding garlic towards the middle or end of the cooking process. This will allow its flavor to shine through without an overpowering raw flavor. For sauces and dishes with liquids, allow the garlic to cook for a few minutes before adding the liquid.

This allows the garlic to become fragrant before the liquid lowers the temperature of the pan and changes the cooking from frying to simmering.

I often think it’s best to treat garlic like a seasoning as the way it is used in recipes can also determine the flavor. I’ve compiled a few tips and tricks to make the most of this popular ingredient so read on to find out more.

How Garlic Can Be Used In Cooking

Garlic is a versatile ingredient that can be used in many different ways while cooking. Here are some ideas for using garlic in your favorite dishes:

Before Cooking: Garlic can be chopped and added to recipes before you start, such as in marinating. This infuses garlic into oil and the meat.

After Cooking: For a strong garlic flavor try adding it to dishes after they’re mostly cooked. For example, you can add it to pasta sauces or rice dishes right at the end.

During Cooking: If you want to add garlic flavor but don’t want it to be too strong, you can add it during cooking. For instance, you can sauté or roast garlic before adding it to a dish midway through cooking. When I’m making a stir-fry I like to add it with the vegetables so that it doesn’t burn in the hot pan.

Using Raw Garlic: If you want the strongest garlic flavor (and the best health benefits!), you can use raw garlic in your recipes. Just be careful not to overdo it, since raw garlic can be quite potent. Try finely chopping, crushing, or mincing raw garlic and adding it to dressings, marinades, or dips.

Frying Garlic: The best way to fry garlic is to start it off at low heat as throwing it into a very hot pan will just turn it crispy and bitter tasting. Once it’s ready you can then either remove it for adding to the dish later or start adding in the rest of the ingredients.

Roasting Garlic: If you want a sweet and mellow garlic flavor, try roasting garlic in the oven as recommended by the Simply Recipes site. Just cut off the top of the bulb so that the cloves are exposed, then drizzle with olive oil and roast at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Once roasted, the cloves will be soft and fragrant and can be used in many dishes.

Sauteing onion, garlic, and meat together can often have conflicting advice. See which one you should cook first in my post.

When To Add For Different Recipes

The best time to add garlic is pretty straightforward for most recipes, although there are a few exceptions. Here are some general tips for when to add garlic when making different types of dishes:

Pasta Sauces And Bolognese

Add garlic to your pan after the other vegetables. Allow it to cook for a few minutes to become fragrant and then add the liquid to the pan. This will help prevent the garlic from burning. You can also add more garlic to the liquid towards the end for a different, fresher flavor profile.

Stir Fry

Add garlic towards the middle or end of the cooking so that it doesn’t burn. Try adding it finely chopped after the vegetables so that they protect it from the very hot wok or pan. See my stir fry guide.

Roasted Vegetables

Add some whole garlic cloves along with your vegetables to the roasting tin. It will cook along with the veggies, adding a lovely aroma and helping them to taste great.

Sauteéd Vegetables

Add garlic when the vegetables are almost cooked. This will allow the flavor to come through without being too raw and overpowering.


Add garlic to soup when you add the liquid to the pan. This will help to infuse the soup with a gentle garlic flavor.

Tips To Cook Garlic Without Burning It

One of the main problems when cooking with garlic is that it can burn easily, resulting in a bitter taste. To prevent this from happening, here are a few tips:

  • Use a lower heat when frying garlic on its own, and plenty of oil.
  • Add to a stir-fry mid-way through cooking the recipe so that it has less time to burn.
  • Use other ingredients, like onion, to shield the garlic from the direct bottom of the hot pan.
  • If you’re roasting garlic cloves with other ingredients, remove them once they turn a nice light brown color. This will help to prevent burning but still allow the garlic flavor to infuse into the dish.
  • Use a non-stick pan when sauteéing or frying garlic. This will help to prevent burning and make it easier to clean the pan afterward.

How Much Garlic To Use

As a general guide, use one clove of garlic for every person that you’re cooking for. So, if you’re making a dish for four people, use four cloves of garlic.

The amount of garlic you use in a dish will depend on how it is being cooked. Raw garlic is much stronger than cooked garlic so should be treated with the most respect. One clove of crushed raw garlic will easily do for a salad dressing for a whole family.

On the other end, roasted garlic becomes very mellow. You can roast the whole bulb (all the cloves) and use that in recipes. Or roast chicken with lots of cloves surrounding it.

For most dishes in a pan or wok, this tends to be a middle ground, so use 1 clove per person.

Of course, if using a recipe, follow that for quantities.

Can Garlic Be Added After Cooking If You Forget?

If you forget to add garlic when cooking a dish and it’s already finished, you can always add it raw afterward. Just be aware that the raw garlic will have a very pungent flavor as it will not have had time to mellow and infuse into the dish.

One way to get around this is to gently but quickly fry some garlic in a little olive oil and then drizzle it over the top of the dish. This will add a nice garlic flavor without being too overpowering.

Another option is to add garlic powder or oil instead of fresh garlic. This will give a more subtle flavor but can still be very effective. It’s also very useful to use as a rub or for marinades etc.


So, there you have it, everything you need to know about when you should add garlic to your cooking! I hope you’ve found this short guide useful so that next time you’re using this delicious and fragrant allium, you know the best way to enhance the flavors of your dish.

There are a few things to remember when cooking with or preparing garlic:

  • Make sure to add it at the best time to suit the recipe or dish you’re making.
  • When frying it on its own, use a lower heat.
  • If you forget to add garlic during cooking, don’t worry – you can always quickly fry some in oil or add garlic powder instead.
  • For many dishes, the best time to add garlic is usually halfway through cooking or toward the end.
  • As a general guide, use one clove of garlic per person when cooking.

Have fun experimenting with different ways to use garlic in your cooking. There are so many great dishes that wouldn’t be the same without it.

Have any questions? Ask me in the comment section below and I’ll get back to you.

Tom Hambly

Tom Hambly is the founder of Boss The Kitchen. With a background in cooking and building websites, he enjoys running this site to help other cooks improve. About Tom Hambly.

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