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DIY Garlic Powder (No Vampires Edition)


It was when I last went looking for our shaker of garlic powder that I was finally motivated to clean out the pantry. After rummaging around for a bit, I discovered it well-hidden in obscurity at the very back of the shelf, its label dusty and faded, its contents distressingly clumpy. Truth be told, that garlic powder had been in my husband’s life longer than I had. Tossing it into the waste bin, I had more fear that its sudden absence would inspire vampire infestation than that I’d miss it in the kitchen. Which is to say, I did not expect my life to change one bit.

Clearly, garlic powder is not a spice rack item I think much about. However, though it’s a seasoning that inspires an eyebrow-raising level of animosity in some quarters, I don’t have any snobbery about using it. I had just kind of forgotten about it. It had slipped out of my life along with those batches of Chex Mix and slices of garlic bread toasted under the broiler that had flavored my childhood.

DIY Garlic Powder: peelings

Having just discovered the “dehydrate” setting on my oven, I figured why not try making a batch of my own? I did the math for this week’s Serious Eats column, but if you don’t care much about that part, know that in the end I had a small jar of powerfully attractive powder. It’ll be much easier to remember to use this stuff.

DIY Garlic Powder

This process also works for onions, and I took the opportunity to do a tray of each simultaneously without damaging the flavor of either. Out of one 13-ounce white onion (chopped fine), I was able to produce 1/2 cup of dried flakes, which reduced to 3 tablespoons of onion powder. It’s a very small amount, but it has a very sweet taste–like a fried onion ring.

Be prepared for your house to fill with the strong scent of garlic during the dehydration period.

2 garlic bulbs (about 5 oz.), cloves separated and peeled

DIY Garlic Powder: drying

Slice garlic very thinly and spread out in a single layer on a dehydrator tray. Alternatively, you can use drying racks or a parchment-lined baking sheet in your oven (convention setting if you have one) with the door cracked open (I found that an old wine cork works well for this purpose).

Dehydrate at 130°F, stirring and turning slices every few hours until garlic is fully dry. When dehydration is complete, the garlic chips will snap in half rather than bend. This could take nine or more hours, depending on the thickness of your slices and the vagaries of your appliance.

DIY Garlic Powder: grinding

Allow garlic to cool completely and then grind to desired consistency (I use a coffee grinder that I reserve for spices). If you want to make sure that the powder is fairly even and fine, pass the ground garlic through a mesh strainer, catching the larger bits for a second pass through the grinder. Store finished powder in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Makes approximately 2 oz.

Hot Topic: Harissa and Berbere Paste


I think it was the mix of vibrant sun and biting wind this past weekend that inspired me to finally do something constructive with the bag of dried hot peppers sitting in my pantry. A friend had shared her beautiful stash with me, along with a family recipe for a fantastic-sounding chili; hopefully she won’t mind the project detour I ultimately took with her ingredients.

In truth, I had been contemplating making berbere paste for years–ever since discovering a recipe for it in the pages of the World Food Cafe cookbook in 2002. It seemed so exotic! But then I’d read the long list of ingredients and find myself getting sleepy before even making it into the kitchen. So, as with overly complicated knitting projects and 1,000 piece picture puzzles, it got pushed to the back of the closet, an idea for some rainy day down the line.


A crisp, sunny day offers the perfect opportunity to visit my favorite Punjab Market in Waverly and stock up on spices.

Then a funny thing happened. I bought a small container of a spicy lentil stew from the Ethiopian stall at the Waverly Market and found my motivation: I was going to make a big pot of Yemisir Kik Wot (more on that later).

In truth, making the berbere paste is not actually difficult. It’s just a long list of spices that must be measured and toasted and ground, mixed with a paste of vinegar, onion, ginger, and garlic. After all that, you net a baby food jar’s worth of product–one that you may find yourself opening for no reason other than to breathe in its amazing aromas and dreaming of as you sleep at night.

Berbere Paste
from the World Food Cafe cookbook

2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1/2 inch piece of ginger, minced
3 green onions, sliced
1 T cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. peppercorns
1/2 tsp. cardamom seeds
1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
1/2 tsp. fenugreek seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
4 cloves
8 dried red chili peppers
4 tsp. ground sweet paprika
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Measure whole spices into a bowl. Heat a dry skillet and toast them until lightly browned and fragrant. Toss frequently and take care not to burn them. Next, grind the whole spices and dried peppers finely (I use a cheap electric coffee grinder that I reserve just for this purpose). Measure the powdered spices into the mixture as well. Set aside.

Place the garlic, ginger, onions, and vinegar in the bowl of a food processor (since there is so little to mix, after some trial and error, I had much better luck using the small processor that came with my immersion blender as opposed to my powerhouse Cuisinart). Process into a paste, then add all the ground spices and continue mixing till well combined. Pack into a small glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate until needed.

one pot

Since I had barely dented my Ziploc bag full of dried peppers and I already had every spice I own out on the counter, I decided to just keep going and try my hand at making a batch of Harissa while I was at it (plus, there was a soup using it that I’d just read about and wanted to try…convenient!). After all that berbere paste activity, this one seemed sinfully low-effort.

also from the World Food Cafe cookbook

2 oz. dried hot red chilies
2 T cumin seeds
3 T coriander seeds
4 garlic cloves
1 tsp. salt
5 T olive oil

Remove any stems or seeds from dried chilies and soak the peppers in warm water for about an hour.

Meanwhile, measure whole spices into a bowl. Heat a dry skillet and toast them until lightly browned and fragrant. Toss frequently and take care not to burn them. Grind the whole spices finely and set aside.

Once the peppers have softened, drain and place in the bowl of a food processor. Add ground spices, garlic, and salt, and run processor until peppers break down and a paste begins to form (I had to stop and scrape down the bowl repeatedly, and even then only got half way there).

spice row

Next, with the processor running, slowly drizzle in the oil. This is where my harissa finally came together, much like a pesto. Keep processing until smooth. Pack into a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate until needed. Works as a condiment and in soups and stews (more on that later, as well).

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