Toum is a bold and creamy Middle Eastern garlic sauce made of garlic, oil, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt with just a little bit of water. You can make this in a snap with the a help of a food processor and one important technique.
Once you master this garlic sauce recipe, you’ll be making big batches to store and use in lots of different ways. Be sure to check out ideas below!
I’m a firm believer that it’s the extras like dips and sauces that take a meal to next level delicious.
Today, we’re talking about TOUM! And let me just say, once you master this easy 4-ingredient garlic sauce recipe, you’ll be using it in all sorts of ways. It’s smooth, creamy, and bold…just the perfect condiment to kick things up a couple notches.
By the way, toum is pronounced TOOM, and in Arabic, it simply means garlic!
I first learned about toum sauce from my mother in law Dina who used to own a Mediterranean restaurant in grand Rapids, Michigan.
Toum was one of the most requested items at the restaurant, and it was the thing to go with the different gyro wraps and grilled items. Every morning, Dina would whip up a large batch of her special toum recipe, and it was inevitably sold out by the end of the night! That’s how good it is!
I guarantee, once you master this easy homemade toum recipe, you’ll be using this sauce in all sorts of ways.
What goes in garlic sauce?
Some toum recipes call for mayonnaise, but this traditional recipe, adapted from Maureen Abood’s Lebanese cookbook Rosewater and Orange Blossoms (affiliate link) is completely vegan, and to me, it tastes far better, while remaining nice and creamy.
It literally takes 5 ingredients to make, one of which is water! Here’s what’s in this toum sauce recipe:
- Garlic. I used 1 whole head (or about 12 garlic cloves).
- Kosher salt. Just 1 teaspoon
- Neutral-tasting oil. 1 3/4 cup. As much as I love my extra virgin olive oils, for toum, it’s best to use something like a grapeseed oil or sunflower seed oil.
- Lemon Juice. 1 lemon.
Plus a little bit of ice water to help during the emulsification process.
How to make garlic sauce (toum)?
Making toum, or touma, from scratch is simple, but it’s all about the very slow and steady emulsification process that whips the garlic and oil together with the help of lemon juice and a bit of ice water. Traditionally, a morter and pestle are used to make this garlic sauce recipe, but I have found a small food processor to work just as well. Here is how to make it:
- Mince the garlic and kosher salt together. First, pulse the peeled and sliced garlic and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt in a small food processor until the garlic appears minced.
- Add lemon juice. Pour in juice of one lemon and pulse again a few times to combine.
- Slowly slowly slowly add the oil and alternate with a bit of ice water, while the processor is running. Drizzle about 1/4 cup of the oil very slowly from the top opening of the food processor (it should be a very slow stream). Add about 1 tablespoon of ice water and keep the processor going. Continue to do this using 1/4 cup of oil at a time and alternating with the ice water until the oil is finished and the garlic sauce has thickened and increased in volume (it should look whipped and fluffly. This process can take a good 10 minutes, do not rush it!
- Use the best fresh garlic. This recipe is all about garlic, so avoid using peeled garlic from a package. Use the best fresh garlic you can find. Give the garlic head a squeeze, the cloves should be full and firm.
- Slice the garlic in half and remove any green sprouts. This is optional, but it prevents the bitter flavor it can impart.
- Don’t skip the lemon juice. Fresh lemon juice adds brightness, and it should be added at the beginning to help the garlic (some recipes may add the lemon juice toward the end which causes the sauce to break).
- Do not rush the emulsification process. Adding the oil ever so slowly as the garlic is whipping in the processor is what makes this sauce! Alternating the oil with a small amount of water prevents the emulsion from breaking.
- Use a small food processor. For the amount of garlic used in this recipe, a smaller processor works well because the blade can easily mince the garlic without it flying all over the bowl. If you double or triple the recipe, you can easily use a large food processor.
What do you eat toum with?
If you haven’t already tried toum or touma, you might be wondering how to use it or what to pair it with.
This garlic sauce recipe is one versatile condiment you will use over and over. Pretty much anything you think might need a kick of garlic, you can use toum!
And if nothing else, egg-free toum can easily replace mayonnaise or aioli as a healthier, bolder, and far tastier spread on sandwiches!
Too strong for your taste? Here are three ways toum can mellow
For some who need their toum to be less powerful, three things you can do:
- Leave it in the fridge a few days. Time in the fridge will take a bit of the edge off.
- Place the peeled garlic in ice water for 30 minutes or so before making the garlic sauce. But be sure to dry the garlic very well before you start.
- Add cooked potato (mashed) or a couple tablespoons of Greek yogurt. Either of these items will thicken the toum sauce and take a bit of the garlic edge off. You would add a little bit at a time during the process. I don’t do this because the toum is not the same with these additions and I’d rather have the real deal.
How long will toum last?
If you make a large batch of toum sauce, put it in a tight-lid mason jar or glass container and keep it in the fridge to use as needed. It will keep for 4 weeks or so.
And if you need to, you can divide it into smaller portion and freeze it for later use.
There you have it! Can’t wait for you to try this awesome sauce.
Toum Garlic Sauce Recipe
- Food processor
- 1 head garlic
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 lemon juice of
- 1 3/4 cups grape seed oil or sunflower oil (a neutral tasting oil)
- 4 to 6 tbsp ice water
- Peel the garlic cloves. Cut the cloves in half and remove the green germ (this is optional).
- Place the garlic and kosher salt in the bowl of a food processor (a smaller one may work better here). Pulse a few times until the garlic looks minced, stopping to scrape down the sides. Add the lemon juice and pulse a few times to combine (again, scrape down the sides)
- While the food processor is running, drizzle the oil in ever so slowly (use the top opening of the processor to drizzle in the oil). After you've used about 1/4 cup or so, add in about 1 tablespoon of the ice water. Stop to scrape down the sides of the processor bowl.
- Keep the processor running and continue to slowly drizzle in the oil, adding a tablespoon of the ice water after every 1/4 cup of oil. Continue on with this process until you have used up the oil entirely. The garlic sauce has thickened and increased in volume (it should look smooth and fluffy). This should take somewhere around 10 minute or so.
- This recipe is adapted from Maureen Abood’s cookbook Rosewater and Orange Blossoms (affiliate link).
- Cook’s Tip: for best results, do not rush the emulsification process. Remember to add the oil very slowly as the processor is running, alternating with a little tiny bit of ice water. If your processor does not have a top opening to drizzle the olive oil, still add the oil very slowly, about a tablespoon or so at a time, and run the processor to whip the garlic well. And again, don’t forget to add a bit of the ice water as well. Keep whipping the garlic until you have used up all the oil. Alternating the oil with a small amount of water prevents the emulsion from breaking.
- It helps to use a smaller food processor. I used an older version of this mini food processor from Cuisinart (affiliate link).
- Storage: toum can be stored in a tight-lid mason jar or container in the fridge for 4 weeks or so. You can also freeze some for later use.
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