Lebanese Garlic Sauce, Garlic Toum, is Versatile, Rich & Vegetarian



Lebanese Garlic Sauce, Garlic Toum, is Versatile, Rich & Vegetarian

This bold, flavor-packed, Middle Eastern garlic sauce is easy to make at home with the help of a food processor and a little good technique. It adds a fresh taste of garlic to baked fish, roasted roots, or other favorite dishes.

By Mark Zuleger-Thyss



Mediterranean condiments are a great way to brighten a wide range of dishes.

The stars of Mediterranean cuisine are olive oil and garlic.

This irresistible Lebanese version of eggless aioli is fluffy and smooth with a fresh hint of lemon. It is the perfect keto condiment.



Lebanon is a Middle Eastern country known for beautiful mosques with intricate architecture and historically rich ancient sites.

Sitting on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, Lebanon shares borders with Israel and Syria. Arabic is the most common language, although French and English are spoken by some due to colonization.

Lebanon is also known for its scrumptious traditional Middle Eastern cuisine, and Toum is one such food. 



Garlic Toum, also known as Salsat toum or toumya, is a garlic sauce common to the Levant, the eastern Mediterranean, with its islands and neighboring countries.

Toum is also a popular condiment in Lebanese restaurants, often served with chicken. It's easy to make, given it requires only four ingredients. The sauce or dip is like the Provençal aioli or mayonnaise but without eggs. There are many variations, but the most common ones contain garlic, salt, olive oil, and lemon juice, traditionally crushed together using a wooden mortar and pestle.

It's a good idea to always have a batch of this Garlic Toum sauce on hand. You can keep it in the refrigerator and take it out at a moment's notice. Spread it on toast, bagels, and falafel, or dip it with French fries, artichokes, and Levantine sandwiches. It is also commonly served with grilled chicken dishes— really, anything that calls for a creamy garlic accompaniment.

Garlic Toum is used as a spread because of its thickness. It's an excellent topping for Shish Tawook, shawarma, rotisserie chicken, and many other Middle Eastern dishes.

In the town of Zgharta, in Lebanon, mint is added and called zeit wa toum ('oil and garlic').

Garlic Toum is not only tasty, but it’s also good for you. It’s a great source of antioxidants; it also has anti-inflammatory properties.

Studies show eating garlic may help lower high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Toum is dairy-free, vegan, and ready in no time.


What Lebanon has bestowed upon the U.S.

Of the many things Americans enjoy that came out of Lebanon, one is the masterpiece, “The Prophet,” a collection of prose poems by the Lebanon-born writer Kahlil Gibran, the third best-selling poet in the world. And there were other countrymen who followed to live in the United States; about 3 million people of Lebanese descent now call it home.

We can also thank Lebanon for introducing us to Kibbeh, its national dish, and for hummus, falafel, and shawarma, which have become among the most popular Lebanese foods globally.

And the notable people who share Lebanese ancestry are individuals who rose to fame in the entertainment world, such as Zoe Saldana, Salma Hayek, Danny Thomas, Shakira, Tony Shalhoub, and Frank Zappa. Casey Kasem, Paul Anka, and Neil Sedaka also succeeded in the U.S.

One contribution to America is Khalil Gibran’s many messages of survival because of love. That one does everything for love, even if he must leave his dreams, one must follow his heart to make a better future.

One quote that took root in American culture is, “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”

And then of course, there is the food ...




Garlic Toum Recipe

Vegan | Vegetarian

Total time: 20 minutes | 32 servings 

Food processor or Mortar & Pestle methods

Transfer Garlic Toum to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to one month.



  • 1 cup garlic cloves, peeled (4 cloves; 130g)
  • ¼ to ½ cup lemon juice from two lemons (60-120ml)
  • 2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 3 cups olive oil (720ml)



  1. With a paring knife, split the garlic cloves in half lengthwise. With the tip of the knife, remove the germ from each garlic clove half.
  2. Add garlic and Kosher salt into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse garlic until finely minced, occasionally scraping down the sides of bowl. 
  3. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and continue processing until a paste begins to form. Continue adding lemon juice 1 tablespoon at a time until slightly smooth and fluffy.
  4. Slowly drizzle in olive oil in a thin stream while blending followed by more lemon juice. Continue alternating lemon juice and olive oil until incorporated. The garlic cream is ready when it's thick, white, and fluffy.

This slow and steady process of emulsifying the garlic with olive oil produces a spread with a heavenly texture.

Blending garlic into a paste releases emulsifiers within its cell walls, stabilizing the sauce without using eggs.

Alternating adding olive oil with a small amount of lemon juice prevents the emulsion from becoming overwhelmed with oil and breaking.




Enjoy Garlic Toum with Shish Tawook ~ a tasty yogurt marinated chicken dish served at Leila



Leila, located in Detroit's ‘Lebanese Food Mecca.’


Food as Medicine

One tablespoon of Toum garlic sauce contains only 125 calories.

Raw garlic has many health benefits and has been used as food and medicine for thousands of years. Ancient Olympic athletes used to eat raw garlic to boost their strength and stamina.

Olive oil contains polyphenols, an antioxidant that protects the body’s cells and maintains heart health. 





The Mystique of Garlic & “Russian Penicillin”

Even before Count Dracula lurked on Transylvania's winding, misty roads, always fearing ropes of garlic around an intended victim's neck, garlic was already the world's oldest herb. Today, garlic is widely known for its pungent flavor as a seasoning or condiment.

Part of garlic's popularity can be attributed to its many social uses: culinary, medicinal, and folkloric. Many of the world's cultures find garlic tempting and delicious.

The ancient Egyptians used garlic to flavor their food, with some experts saying it has been around for over 8,000 years. Pliny the Elder, a respected Roman thinker, was keen to prescribe garlic to fight infections and protect against toxins.

Garlic is a flower, a member of the lily family, and with over 300 varieties of it on Earth, you can find it in white, pink, and violet varieties. 


Garlic was nicknamed “Russian penicillin” and given to soldiers in World War II as medicine. And Romanians—demons, werewolves, and vampires alike—have a cult-like appreciation for the plant.


The garlic plant has long been considered a superfood for its distinct flavor and perceived healing powers.

It is low in calories but very high in nutrition, with many health properties. Used today in folk medicine, it is an antioxidant and antiviral with antimicrobial and cholesterol-lowering properties. Simply put, garlic is one of the healthiest foods on earth!

When cutting into a garlic bulb, the thio-Sulfinite compounds in it turn into the active ingredient Allicin, which aids in lowering blood pressure. Allicin helps nitric oxide be released in the blood vessels, relaxing them and reducing pressure. Additionally, garlic helps fight the common cold and even has anticancer properties. 

Garlic helps regulate blood glucose levels for diabetics and is excellent for the heart and circulatory system. To boost the immune system, eat one raw garlic clove a day. The thiosulfate compounds in garlic act as potent antioxidants and protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. Garlic is a genuine superhero!

Garlic contains many vitamins and minerals, including manganese, potassium, iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium, calcium, beta-carotene, and vitamin C.

Garlic is present in the folklore of many cultures, used for protection or white magic, perhaps owing to its reputation in Central European folk beliefs as a powerful ward against demons. It could be worn, hung in windows, or rubbed on chimneys and keyholes to ward off vampires and the occasional werewolf.

Today you can get your garlic fix with a few tablespoons of Toum sauce spread on a cracker!




Olive Oil

The oil pressed from olives is delicious, versatile, and has impressive health benefits. As a healthy fat, olive oil is a unanimous favorite.

Here are a few of olive oil’s benefits backed by decades of scientific research.

Olive oil can protect against atherosclerosis. It is a potent antioxidant and good for heart health. It contains anti-inflammatory compounds like polyphenols, which help protect against atherosclerosis—the buildup of plaque in the arteries. These compounds help reduce oxidative stress and improve blood vessel function. They play a crucial role in the development and progression of atherosclerosis.

Consuming olive oil may benefit gut health by maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria in your digestive tract. Studies show olive oil may help reduce disease-causing bacteria, stimulate protective bacteria growth, and increase short-chain fatty acid production.

Olive oil provides vitamin E, a fat-soluble nutrient that functions as an antioxidant. Vitamin E protects cells against oxidative damage. Vitamin E also plays an essential role in immune function and cellular communication. 

It may help protect brain health by enhancing the function of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), a barrier between the blood vessels of the brain and the brain tissue that prevents harmful substances from reaching the brain.



Olive oil, especially extra virgin olive oil, is unrefined and free of chemicals in its natural state.

Unrefined olive oil is popular in Mediterranean cooking and is best used in salad dressings or for foods that need to be quickly sautéed. Olive oils cannot be used for prolonged cooking at high temperatures.



Garlic Toum is an easy topping sauce much like zhoug, tahini sauce, skordalia, tzatziki, and harissa, and it can enhance any dish effortlessly.

Condiments made at home, like sauces, dips, and spreads, are vital to our meals because they add so much flavor, elevate any cuisine, and make any enthusiastic gastronome happy.   





Author's Note

 While putting together this article-recipe, the author’s sincere desire was to have readers fall in love with Lebanese culture and its healthy Mediterranean foods.

Perhaps after gaining an appreciation of what Lebanese people have brought to our shores, readers would want to prepare or seek these foods—and Toum—at home or in restaurants.






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