I tried making alioli at home, but in the first step (turning the garlic into a fine paste), I didn't make much progress. I chopped the garlic fairly finely first, but when I tried crushing them with a wooden spoon in a wide low mug, the little pieces just ping off.

What's the trick? Is there some way of softening them up first?

Note that I'm not making it in commercial quantities, so the amount of garlic I'm using would scarcely reach up to the blade on my immersion blender.

  • How did you crush it?
    – Mien
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 8:41
  • What does it mean for pieces of garlic to "ping off"
    – Ray
    Commented May 10, 2012 at 11:30
  • @Mien, wooden spoon in a wide low mug. Commented May 10, 2012 at 12:23
  • 3
    Your error is chopping the garlic. If you work with the whole clove it's far more manageable. Commented May 11, 2012 at 8:17
  • 1
    @Mien, al·lioli is the Catalan spelling; alioli is the Valencian and Castilian spelling; aioli is Provençal and different in that it uses egg. Commented May 14, 2012 at 17:56

8 Answers 8


I make garlic paste quite often, using this technique I saw on Bobby Flay.

  1. Put the whole clove on the board.
  2. Lay knife flat, and smack it with your hand.
  3. Remove paper and root.
  4. Dice finely.
  5. Sprinkle with the quantity of salt your recipe calls for.
  6. With the knife relatively flat, grind the garlic into the salt with the knife. Typically, I'll make a pass in one direction with the edge on the board, leading with the spine, and then come back with the spine on the board, leading with the edge. You need a wide knife (at least a french chef's knife, cleaver or santuko) in order to keep your fingers out of danger. I apply the downward pressure with the top of my palm, with my fingers curled back.

Check this for a similar technique - http://www.howdini.com/howdini-video-6688064.html (The mincing starts around 2:40 After 5 or 6 passes, you should have a nice fine paste.

  • 3
    You don't need to add the salt, but it helps as an abrasive. Commented May 10, 2012 at 14:22

Garlic Press

I like to use a garlic press for this sort of thing. You drop a whole clove or two in the device, squeeze, and you get a perfectly smooth garlic paste. The one downside is that it can be quite a pain to clean. Garlic Press


There is also the Microplane (I'm not sure if there is a generic name for this type of rasp-style grater). Although I see it as ideally suited for hard cheeses and citrus zests, it generally does a fine job on garlic too. It means that you don't have to have on extra specialized tool. The downsides are again the cleaning (though not as bad as the press) and the likelihood of nicking your finger as you get down to the last bit of garlic.

Microplane Grater

Knife Skills

Here's a simple method that I use when I really don't feel like getting one more device out (or dirty). Lay the garlic clove on a cutting board and lay the side of a chef's knife over top of it. Then smack it with the heel of your hand hard enough until you feel the garlic yield under the pressure. The garlic has been "crushed" but is still holding together. If you dice it very finely at this point, it will have a much better "crushed" texture than if you do not smack it first. I do find that the other methods yield a superior result, but this method is often more than sufficient.

Knife Skills

  • 2
    Use a wooden toothpick or skewer to hold garlic down to last bit on microplane
    – TFD
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 20:54
  • Nice tip, TFD (pad)
    – Ray
    Commented May 12, 2012 at 0:16

The traditional way is to use a mortar and pestle. It works with very small quantities.

If you don't have a mortar and pestle, try approximating one with a cup rounded on the inside for the mortar and something sufficiently round for the pestle, for example the end of a rolling pin. It won't be as good as mortar and pestle, but will give you something crushed.

Another option is to use the immersion blender on a whole head or two of garlic, then freeze the part you won't be using immediately. If you do so in small portion, you can always get out a single portion for seasoning a dish.

  • Actually I suppose the freezing would help soften them up just by itself. Blend then freeze sounds like a very promising idea. Commented May 10, 2012 at 12:25
  • I found a bowl + a small cup worked pretty well before I got a mortar & pestle. I was using a metal cup, and just pressing firmly / grinding with salt, starting from whole cloves of garlic ... I'd steer clear of glass, as you don't want to pound and end up with broken glass everywhere.
    – Joe
    Commented May 15, 2012 at 15:42

Strong plastic bag and a rolling pin


Cutting board and a flat, heavy pan. Just grab the edges of the pan firmly and apply your weight down, creating some arcing motions from side to side.


I'd like to second the microplane zester. Produces the smoothest results exceptionally quickly. I also like the fact that I can get half garlic clove mashed to a paste. Most other methods work better on larger quantities. Here is a little video on how this works: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alY0OUKUeCA


Having successfully made aioli, I find that a garlic press squeezes each clove just fine. What's more, it retains the thick part of the peel.


I use a variation on Chris Cudmore's method given elsewhere in this thread:

Instead of dicing the garlic (Chris' step 4) I use the back of the knife blade to 'slice' the garlic very thinly. This actually squashes the garlic to a paste instead of dicing it. This is usually enough for most recipes that require 'crushed garlic' and is actually faster than dicer. Chris' steps 5 and 6 are not usually required though for a really smooth paste I may go on to 'grind' the garlic too.

Note that the above technique requires a large, heavy, thick-bladed knife. The back of the blade must be thick (mine is 3 or 4mm) or it won't work. The best part of this (and Chris') method is that there is no fiddly washing up of processors, graters, crushers etc.

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