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  • Writer's pictureJere Folgert

Is Elephant Garlic Really Garlic?

Updated: Apr 5

Elephant garlic is a type of leek that is often mistaken for garlic. It has a large, white bulb with six to eight cloves that are similar in size and shape to garlic cloves. Elephant garlic has a milder flavor than garlic, but it is still quite pungent. It can be used in many of the same ways as garlic, such as in cooking, making garlic bread, or even eating it raw.

Softneck Garlic on the left. Elephant Garlic on the Right

Elephant garlic is a member of the allium family, which also includes onions, shallots, and chives. It is native to Europe and Asia, but it is now grown in many parts of the world. Elephant garlic is a perennial plant, which means that it comes back year after year.

Elephant garlic is a good source of vitamins A and C, as well as fiber and potassium. It also contains sulfur compounds that have been shown to have health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer. If you are looking for a milder alternative to garlic, elephant garlic is a good option. It can be used in many of the same ways as garlic, and it still has a lot of flavor.

A Story about Elephant Garlic

"Once upon a time, there was a young woman named Sarah who loved to cook. She was always experimenting with new recipes and trying different ingredients. One day, she was at the grocery store and she saw a sign for elephant garlic. She had never heard of it before, but she was intrigued. She bought a head of elephant garlic and took it home.

Sarah wasn't sure how to use elephant garlic, so she decided to look it up in her cookbook. She found a recipe for elephant garlic soup and decided to give it a try. She followed the recipe carefully, but when she was finished, she was disappointed. The soup didn't taste like garlic at all. It was actually quite mild.

Sarah was confused. She had followed the recipe exactly, so she didn't understand why the soup didn't taste like garlic. She did some research online and she discovered that elephant garlic is actually a type of leek. It is not the same as garlic, even though it looks similar. Elephant garlic has a milder flavor than garlic, so it is not a good substitute for garlic in recipes.

Sarah was glad that she had learned the difference between elephant garlic and garlic. She now knows that she can use elephant garlic in recipes that call for a milder flavor, such as soups and stews. She also knows that she can use garlic in recipes that call for a stronger flavor, such as marinades and dressings.

Sarah is still a fan of cooking, and she is always looking for new recipes to try. She is also more careful now about reading the ingredients in recipes, so that she doesn't make the same mistake again."

Is there a difference between "real" garlic and elephant garlic?

Real garlic and elephant garlic are both members of the allium family, but they are not the same plant. Real garlic is a type of Allium sativum, while elephant garlic is a type of Allium ampeloprasum. This means that they have different genetics and grow in different ways.

Real garlic is often referred to as either Hardneck Garlic or Softneck garlic. Real garlic is a smaller plant with smaller bulbs. Each bulb has about 10-12 cloves. The cloves are white or light pink and have a strong, pungent flavor. Real garlic is often used in cooking to add flavor to dishes.

Elephant garlic is a larger plant with larger bulbs. Each bulb has about 6-8 cloves. The cloves are white or yellow and have a milder flavor than real garlic. Elephant garlic is often used in cooking as a substitute for real garlic, but it can also be eaten raw.

Here is a table that summarizes the key differences between real garlic and elephant garlic:

So, which one should you use in your cooking? It really depends on your personal preferences. If you like the strong flavor of real garlic, then that's what you should use. But if you prefer a milder flavor, then elephant garlic is a good option. You can also experiment with using both types of garlic in your cooking to see what you like best.

Despite the name, elephant garlic is not actually garlic. Garlic (Allium sativum) is commonly used as a flavoring for food, as a condiment, and for medicinal purposes. The milder-flavored elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum) is actually a leek that produces large cloves. This plant was given the name "Elephant garlic", because each bulb is about 2-3 times the size of a full-grown hardneck or softneck garlic. Elephant garlic is more closely related to leeks and onion, than garlic. Real garlic and elephant garlic share the same basic shape and root structure. Each have cloves inside a wrapped bulb. Conventional garlic heads can boast as many as 20 cloves, but elephant garlic never have more than about six. Its massive, plump cloves have a yellowish cast.

Elephant garlic produces the same flavor compounds as regular garlic when it’s crushed, and it releases the same flavor compounds produced by onions and leeks, just less of each type. For the sensitive tongue or palate, elephant garlic doesn’t taste as potent as its allium cousins. That being said, elephant garlic makes up in size what it lacks in "garlic-ness". It's flavor is diluted, and lacks the zing and shart pungent bite, but that is okay! When making raw dishes such as pesto, Elephant garlic makes the dish much more palatable and somewhat sweet. Elephant garlic is a very interesting plant. At close inspection, it produces a Jurassic garlic bulb, with huge, plump cloves. Unlike hardneck garlic, elephant garlic does not have to be harvested or divided each year. Instead, it can be ignored and left in the ground without much risk of rotting. And, it has a long storage life.

Elephant garlic is probably the most widely grown Allium in Georgia, U.S., excluding sweet onions. Although elephant garlic is more closely related to leek than to garlic, it has the same growth habit and bulbing process as regular garlic. Elephant garlic can be planted at two different times of the year: spring and autumn. As with true garlic, elephant garlic is typically planted in the fall and harvested about eight-nine months later, in the following summer. Garlic and elephant garlic bulbs are hand-harvested. Soil is loosened prior to pulling using a garden fork, bed lifter or potato digger. Properly cured or dried garlic can be stored for up to three months in a standard warehouse or up to six months in cold storage. Elephant garlic prefers full sun and can be grown in temperate regions all the way into tropical zones. At our GroEat Garlic Farm in Montana, we grow hardneck garlic, including many named types of Porcelain, Marbled Purple Stripe and Glazed Purple Stripe.

Elephant Garlic Uses: Elephant garlic has a flavor of its own, and some cooks and chefs claim it should not be a substitute for true garlic. "If you want milder garlic flavor" they say, "use less of the real garlic". That being said, Elephant Garlic has many uses: Elephant bulbs can be roasted whole and used as a spread on bread. It can be sautéed, sliced and eaten raw, and minced. Roasting, baking or grilling will enhance its flavor, and its large size makes it perfect for slicing and deep frying to make garlic chips. Elephant garlic's mild flavor also makes it ideal to be used in raw dishes. For those who are turned off by garlic’s powerful pungency and characteristics, elephant garlic might be and better choice. Elephant garlic is much milder which is why it is preferable to eat for some people. It's size is attractive. Elephant garlic is huge compared to its counterparts. At close inspection, it is obvious the Elephant garlic plant has a tall and thickly built stalk with a very large garlic-like bulb at its base. It's bigger size leads many to assume that it contains more flavor and potency than garlic, but the opposite is true. The great news is that elephant garlic contains Allicin just like regular garlic does. This means you get the health benefits of garlic in elephant garlic while get the unique nutrients in leeks and onions.


Elephant Garlic Recipes

Elephant Garlic Soup


  • 1 head of elephant garlic

  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

  • 1/2 cup milk or cream

  • 1/4 cup butter

  • 1/4 cup flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Peel and chop the elephant garlic.

  2. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat.

  3. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

  4. Gradually whisk in the broth, milk or cream, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

  5. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  6. Add the elephant garlic and cook for an additional 10 minutes, or until the garlic is tender.

  7. Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in a blender until smooth.

  8. Serve hot, topped with Parmesan cheese.

Roasted Elephant Garlic


  • 1 head of elephant garlic

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

  2. Cut the top off of the elephant garlic bulb and drizzle with olive oil.

  3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

  4. Wrap the garlic bulb in foil and roast for 45 minutes, or until tender.

  5. Let cool slightly, then squeeze the cloves out of the bulb and serve.

Elephant Garlic Mashed Potatoes


  • 4 medium russet potatoes

  • 1 head of elephant garlic

  • 1/2 cup milk or cream

  • 1/4 cup butter

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


  1. Peel and chop the potatoes and elephant garlic.

  2. In a large pot, boil the potatoes and elephant garlic until tender.

  3. Drain the potatoes and elephant garlic and return them to the pot.

  4. Mash the potatoes and elephant garlic with a potato masher or an electric mixer.

  5. Gradually add the milk or cream, butter, salt, and pepper, mixing until smooth.

  6. Serve hot. ​


Mr. Jere Folgert is the owner of GroEat Garlic Farm in Bozeman, Montana. GroEat Farm is a small, sustainable family farm located in the beautiful Hyalite Foothills, in the shadows of the Gallatin Mountain Range. The hardneck varieties that they grow on their farm flourish, due to the combination of the very cold winters, heavy snowpack, moist spring, temperate summers, and the nutrient-rich and dynamic alluvial soils, washed down from the Gallatin Mountain Range.

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