Toum, a Lebanese Garlic Sauce for Everything

Last week, I was watching a video from Sohla El-Waylly on Binging with Babish where she talked about removing the germ from cloves of garlic to reduce the heat. Lots of good information that I had never considered. She then made Toum, a traditional Lebanese sauce that presents similar to a strong garlic mayonnaise. This is something I have had many times in Middle Eastern restaurants but never considered making on my own. Since I can never have enough garlic, this comes as a surprise.

I could not find the video again after much too much search time but her Toum recipe from Serious Eats is here.

This sauce is very simple with only garlic, salt, lemon juice, and water.

Fresh picked garlic is much milder than after it has had months to dry out and concentrate it’s flavors. The germ grows inside which is where the green tips come from. Most of garlic’s heat comes from the germ and Sohla says to take it out of the cloves for a milder taste. Fresh garlic has a much smaller germ. It is usually a spring crop and it is currently the second week in December so I was not expecting what I found at the local big box store. I picked up a sleeve of 5 bulbs and used 3 in the Toum. I split each and every clove, no green tip to be found and almost no germ to remove.

Fresh lemon juice is always best but I did use the grocery store pre-squeezed this time. Ingredients listed, juice from whole lemons and not from concentrate. It is 6 days since my last shop and I have to use what is on hand.

Another concern was food processor volume. I have an 11 cup model and thought that with but one cup of garlic it would not process as needed. Looking at the recipe again, the 3 cups of Canola oil should give me enough traction I hoped.

Indeed, the garlic and salt were well chopped, but no amount of scraping down and centering would allow it process finer. As recommended, just a bit of lemon juice first made little difference. A slow stream of oil, just ¼ cup at first started to show a change. Then a bit more oil and a little more lemon juice. Once enough liquid was in the bowl, magic started to happen. Slowly the mixture started to emulsify as hoped. All in all it was perhaps 10 minutes before all of the oil was introduced and spun. In the end, it was actually too thick with the appearance of a gel which sheared in rounded chunks.

It was only then that I remembered the water that was chilling in the freezer. The top and bottom were frozen with some liquid in the middle. Chopping it into small chunks with a knife, I slowly introduced the mix into the Toum. Another minute or 2 of blending gave me a better consistency while still well emulsified. It did not break.

This stuff is wonderful. Creamy like mayonnaise with a major garlic bite. No eggs so it is entirely Vegan as well. It goes so well on a hot crusty piece of Sourdough Focaccia.

Toum, a Lebanese Garlic Sauce for Everything


  • 1 cup cloves garlic, 3 full bulbs for me (about 130g), do not use pre-peeled or crushed
  • 2 teaspoons Course Sea Salt, if table salt, use about 2 tsp
  • 1/4 cup (60g) fresh lemon juice, 2 lemons should do it
  • 1/4 cup (60g) ice water
  • 3 cups (600g) neutral oil: grapeseed, sunflower, or canola


  • Peel garlic and split each clove tip to base. Remove germ
  • Add garlic to food processor bowl with salt and spin until finely chopped. You will have to scrape as you go
  • Add 1 tsp of lemon juice to processor bowl, scrape down
  • Add ¼ cup of oil in narrow stream, scrape if needed
  • Add a few tbsp of water and keep spinning
  • Continue to alternate oil, water, and lemon juice alternately until all is incorporated. Take your time to avoid breaking the emulsion. This could easily take 10 minutes
  • Remove Toum to sealed glass jar. Will keep in a cold fridge for up to a month

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