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!

toum garlic sauce in a bowl. two heads of garlic and a spoon to the side

Toum

I'm a firm believer that it's the extras like dips and sauces that take a meal to next level delicious.

You already know how fond I am of things like tahini, tzatziki, hummus, and baba ganoush. And not too long ago, I introduced you to muhammara, a creamy roasted pepper and walnut dip from Syria.

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.

A blue bowl of toum garlic sauce and a spoon to serve

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.

ingredients for toum recipe: garlic, lemon, oil, and salt

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 ¾ 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.

sliced fresh garlic in a bowl

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 ¼ 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 ¼ 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!
toum garlic sauce whipped in a food processor

Important Tips

  • 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!

The most obvious and traditional use of toum sauce is with things like chicken kabobs, shawarma, grilled lamb, or falafel. It's also great with grilled swordfish or grilled salmon.

I've been known to use this garlic sauce to jazz up some grilled vegetables or stirred in boiled potatoes or olive oil pasta (in both cases, the toum replaces minced garlic).

And if nothing else, egg-free toum can easily replace mayonnaise or aioli as a healthier, bolder, and far tastier spread on sandwiches!

toum garlic sauce in a blue bowl. garlic head to the side

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:

  1. Leave it in the fridge a few days. Time in the fridge will take a bit of the edge off.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 (do not thaw out, use from frozen). I do prefer the fridge method.

There you have it! Can't wait for you to try this awesome sauce.

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4.47 from 151 votes

Toum Garlic Sauce Recipe

Suzy Karadsheh
toum garlic sauce in a blue bowl. garlic head to the side
Toum is a Middle Eastern garlic sauce that is smooth, creamy, and bold. Once you master this easy 4-ingredient toum recipe, you have a versatile sauce or spread to use with many things from chicken kabobs, kofta, and shawarma to falafel, or fish. You can even toss it in your pasta or use it as a spread for your sandwiches. The sky's the limit!
Prep – 20 minutes
Cook – 0 minutes
Total – 20 minutes
Cuisine:
Middle Eastern
Serves – 18 tablespoons
Course:
Dip

Equipment

  • Food processor

Ingredients
  

  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 lemon juice of
  • 1 ¾ cups grape seed oil or sunflower oil (a neutral tasting oil)
  • 4 to 6 tbsp ice water

Instructions
 

  • 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 ¼ 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 ¼ 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.

Video

Notes

  • 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 best 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 (do not thaw out, use from frozen). I do prefer the fridge method. 
  • Visit Our Shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including extra virgin olive oils, all-natural and organic spices and more. 

Nutrition

Calories: 189.8kcalCarbohydrates: 0.6gProtein: 0.1gFat: 21.2gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 14.8gMonounsaturated Fat: 3.4gSodium: 129.6mgPotassium: 6.8mgFiber: 0.04gSugar: 0.03gVitamin A: 0.2IUVitamin C: 0.7mgCalcium: 3.1mgIron: 0.03mg
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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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Comments

  1. I haven't made the toum yet but I was thrilled to see my mother's wedding dishes used in your display....Johnson Brothers Old Britain Castles! I have only one of her plates left.

  2. 5 stars
    Hi. This will produce a very sharp tasting toum which is ok for the strong stomach. I boil one yellow potato until very soft and then I mash it and add to the garlic and lemon and salt. Then I start adding bit by bit the oil. You will get a milder delicious toum.

  3. 5 stars
    This is the yummiest! I've been making this all summer.
    For all the questions about when their product turns to liquid- you've broken the emulsification! It's hard to fix an emulsification once it's broken, so follow her directions!

  4. 4 stars
    I made a batch and followed your directions exactly. It turned out wonderfully!! Then I made a second batch and it turned out great too. I put the second batch in the freezer. When I thawed out the toum it turned to liquid! What did I do wrong? I would really appreciate your advice. Thank you for all the wonderful recipes.

  5. I made the recipe in my food processor the first time and I think it was too big. It was thick milk. Then I tried it today in my Vitamix and added the oil slowly but had the same results. Is the secret in adding the oil in something like a drizzle? I still use it. I'll put it in salad dressing, add to yogurt with mint for a dip, I have also added it to the meat when making burgers. Flavor is awesome. But,,,,,what do you think I need to do differently the next time. I am determined for this to work. johanna

    1. Hi, Johanna. It is meant to be thick, but, yes, the secret to getting just the right texture and thickness, it's best to add the oil very, very slowly. Also, alternate adding drizzles of oil with a little bit of ice water. Hope that helps!

  6. 5 stars
    I made this with an immersion blender and the blending cup, but you don't need to alternate water/oil. Blend the garlic and salt and lemon juice, toss in 3 ice cubes (mine are about 1.5 tbsp per cube) but don't blend them, they will melt as you drizzle in the oil and the blending stick heats up, slowly adding water to the mixture and cooling it at the same time. After you've emulsified about half of the oil (you should have a paste by now), you can just dump in the rest of the oil, it'll float on top of the emulsion, and if you hold the blender head right under the emulsion-oil interface, it will slowly suck the oil down in a vortex. Use a plunging motion to help mix it when it gets too thick.

    If it does break and turn into a garlic slush, take half a cup of the mixture, add a teaspoon of egg white and it should turn fluffy when you blend it, then you can slowly add the rest of the mixture back in. Fry the rest of the egg in a pan and slather some of your garlic sauce on it.

    1. 5 stars
      Excellent comment! So helpful to others and myself. I can not make mayo in my small Cuisinart, EVER, because the blade was too high from the base. The KitchenAid Immersion Blender had no issues emulsifying the oil, so I went with it for this recipe. No problem. Love the idea of the ice cubes ...Thank you Mike.

  7. 5 stars
    I’ve had toum many times before, in restaurants, but this is the first time I made it. I was SO looking forward to it, but it never got past the “thick milk” texture. I also never got past a cup of oil (grapeseed), never mind 1 3/4 cups, as it was just too soupy.
    I’m wondering if maybe I didn’t have enough garlic...? It was a smallish head, so I also used a little less lemon also.
    Or maybe my food processor, which is the same size as the Cuisanart one in your link....but it’s not as powerful as my larger one, maybe it needed more power to emulsify...???
    So many different variables, that I’m not sure what to correct. Any thoughts?

    1. Thanks for sharing, Jayne. It could easily be the size of the garlic, but making toum, as shared in the tips, is all about the balance of oil to cold water and the technique in adding them ever so slowly as you continue to whip it.

  8. This sounds amazing
    So would I put it on my salmon and then cook or is better to use to dip the salmon after it’s cooked ?

    1. Marlene, either way will work. I tend to use it more as a dip for something like salmon or chicken

  9. I tried this using a liquidiser and not a processor as I think my processor may be too big. Sadly did not work and had to toss it. Will definately try again using the right equipment

    1. Kathy. I'm not sure what a liquidiser is...do you mean a blender, like a Ninja or VitaMix? Anyways, I was wondering why you had to throw all the ingredients out as the garlic oil, even tho whipped up somewhat, could have been used for simply sauteing or cooking whereever you would use regular oil, or maybe in salad vinairgrettes, etc.
      I'm thinking I will go ahead and make this with my regular Cuisanart food processor because I use the same amount of oil when I make mayo and it works fine. I understand about the garlic not getting chopped up enough in the big bowl but I'm thinking I might like roasted garlic better anyways or just try it and see how it comes out. This sauce sounds so good and I hope you give it a go again 🙂

  10. Everything was looking good except it wasn't thickening like the picture. I did it SO slow but after the last 1/4 cp of oil (good Avocado), it turned to liquid! I used my little food processor and it got quite hot and the sauce got very warm too.. Also the temperature in my house is 78° as we're having an awful heat wave and even though my AC is on I tend to sit in front of a fan and not use too much electricity during the day. So...how can I fix it? I will use it on vegetables but not as a spread. ?

    1. Hmmm. I'm not so sure what might have gone wrong for you, Jeannette. Did you use ice water to alternate between the oil and the ice water? That is an important step and may help a ton given the heat in your home.

  11. 5 stars
    I had toum (or something very close to it) in Turkey years ago. I've made an "aioli version" with mayo for decades but never using your specified ingredients. An ice water bath for garlic in this volume tones things down considerably too. Will I look like you if I eat enough of this?

  12. 5 stars
    Made this last night to go with homemade red pepper hummus , tabouli, and thin sliced top sirloin steak, and of course pita bread. It was absolutely outstanding. I used an immersion blender to make it and it worked perfectly. Have enough toum for leftovers and I'm freezing the rest for another time. Thanks Suzy for this great recipe.

  13. I just made a batch. Actually used a bit more than 1 bulb of garlic, and a bit less oil. What I have tastes great, but is the consistency of thick milk!! Next time I will adjust the ingredients a tad more.

    1. I think if you use the amounts indicated, you may get closer to the right consistency. Thank you for sharing!