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.

You may also enjoy 50+ Top Mediterranean diet recipes. For all recipes, visit us here JOIN MY FREE E-MAIL LIST HERE. 

4.40 from 157 votes

Toum Garlic Sauce Recipe

Suzy Karadsheh of The Mediterranean Dish. In the kitchenSuzy 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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4.40 from 157 votes (83 ratings without comment)

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Comments

  1. Eleanor says:

    5 stars
    Love love LOVE this recipe, it was so easy to follow. I have seen ice water recommended for hummus as well, so this made sense. Highly recommend this, because it came out creamy, smoothy, slightly tangy from the lemon and full of flavour. Pairs well with so many different things. Will definitely be making this again.

    1. TMD Team says:

      So glad you loved it, Eleanor!

  2. Charlotte says:

    5 stars
    Fabulous!
    Thank you

  3. Carol says:

    Followed the recipe and ended up with a liquid mess. Truly disappointed

  4. Didi says:

    4 stars
    I have a couple of questions, first about salt: does it have to be kosher salt? And can you leave out some or all of the salt for those who don't like it or can't have it?

    Second, the nutrition information doesn't specify the serving size, Can you include this?

    Thank you.

    1. TMD Team says:

      Hi, Didi. While we highly recommend using kosher salt, table salt can be used in a pinch, but only use 1/2 the amount. We've never tried totally removing the salt, so hard to say how much doing that would affect the taste. And the serving size here is 1 Tablespoon. The entire recipe makes about 18 tablespoons.

  5. Marlene says:

    I tried cutting this recipe in half, 6 large cloves of garlic, 3/4 c of grape seed oil and the juice of a small lemon the size/amount was not specified. I got a soupy consistency not even remotely fluffy

  6. Joy says:

    3 stars
    It tastes fine but never thickened up. I’ll use it as a salad dressing and add more herbs.

  7. Beth Bollyer says:

    I tried this but made a triple batch (probably shouldn't have done that for my first time). Mine doesn't look as "stiff" as yours, is that perhaps what you mean by "break"? I did a super thin stream and alternated with cold water every 1/4 cup but my food processor is brand new and there is a low and high speed, I did the high speed. Should I have done low instead? It still tastes amazing and am able to toss it with fresh green beans and it is amazing. Just wondering about the consistency. It doesn't really spread like mayo but more covers or spreads like a super thick oil. Love Mediterranean food and am excited to try your recipes! We don't have any such restaurants where I live so I decided to just make my own. 😉

  8. Gabriela says:

    Followed exactly, unfortunately didn’t work at all :/ so sad

  9. BB says:

    1 star
    This doesn’t work. I’ve never had a mayonnaise or emulsified dressing of any sort fail, but this did. And my kitchen is a mess of splattered garlic oil, too.

  10. Megan says:

    1 star
    Didn't work. I even tried multiple things to save it. Ice water bath to cool it down, moved it my vitamix blender instead of the food processor, even added some cornstarch. Nothing. A watery mess, a bunch of oily dishes and a waste of ingredients.

  11. Irina says:

    5 stars
    I've just made the test and it come out delicious! Thank you!!

    1. Suzy says:

      Awesome! Thanks, Irina!

  12. Ashley says:

    I tried this recipe exactly as it is listed and ended up with a watery mess that was far too lemony (for someone who loves lemon!). I tried all of my tricks to save an emulsification, to no avail. The ratios are off, with way too much lemon juice and water to oil. The lemon juice should have been added slowly, alternating with the oil. Tried again with a different recipe and ended up with flavorful, fluffy toum.

    1. Marie says:

      What recipe did you try that came out?

    2. Sonia says:

      1 star
      Didn’t emulsify….came out completely watery. Waste of time and ingredients. I followed exact recipe.

  13. Fiona says:

    5 stars
    Lovely! followed your instructions and have made a delicious toum. Can't wait to try it - had it years ago in UEA and always meant to try and make it. Thank you : ))

  14. Amy says:

    5 stars
    I just made this - followed the recipes and the video exactly, and it turned out perfect. It's so delicious! Thank you for such a wonderful recipe.

    1. Suzy says:

      Yay! Thanks so much, Amy!

  15. Marc says:

    5 stars
    Turned out great ….just followed the recipe! Grew up in Dearborn Mi so I was forwarned about how slowly to put in the oil!

    1. Suzy says:

      So glad it worked for you, Marc!

  16. madison says:

    5 stars
    I made this and it turned out perfect!!! It is a little strong for me so I am going to let it sit in the fridge for a few days before I eat it!

    I did use 1.5 heads of garlic since I read the reviews. It worked great!

    1. Suzy says:

      So glad the recipe worked well for you, Madison!