Toum is a Lebanese garlic sauce that is traditionally served with Chicken Shawarma and it is SO addictive! Here's how to make your own restaurant-style toum at home, in 5 minutes, without a food processor! There are typically two versions of toum, and this one is egg-free!
What is Toum?
You know the saying "awesome sauce"? I think it's about Toum. Toum is a traditional Lebanese garlic sauce that is served with:
- chicken shawarma
- Shish Tawook
- Grilled chicken
- and alongside many other dishes, as well as a sauce in sandwiches.
It's thick, creamy, and garlicky, but without being too overpowering. It's so addictive, and I'm usually spooning it on my wraps, or whatever I'm eating it with (everything). Also, by the way, toum just means "garlic" in Arabic.
It comes together by emulsifying garlic and oil, with lemon juice and salt. Emulsification is the process of combining two immiscible liquids (i.e., liquids that normally do not mix) together in one homogenous mixture. In this case, we are combining oil with the liquid from the garlic and lemon.
Toum is not the same as Mayonnaise, because mayonnaise is made from emulsifying egg yolks and canola oil. Since toum is egg-free, it's actually a type of aioli.
Before modern kitchen appliances, toum was made using a mortar and pestle. What a sign of love! The process entailed grinding the garlic to a paste in a mortar and pestle, then slowly adding oil a few droplets at a time, and pounding for likely 20-30 minutes.
Luckily, we now have kitchen appliances! There are two common ways that toum is made today:
- 1) using a food processor, and
- 2) using an immersion blender.
I'll discuss the differences in the next section, but spoiler alert, I highly recommend the immersion blender method. Because It's quicker, easier, and more people have that in their kitchen vs a pricier food processor.
You only need 4 ingredients for Toum!
Here's what you need to make toum:
- Garlic: the star of the show! Make sure you use fresh garlic; this is important. I actually use fresh pre-peeled garlic to make this a truly 5-minute recipe. If you're using pre-peeled, make sure it is from a trusted supermarket and freshly peeled (locally sourced if possible). If not, you can peel garlic really quickly by smashing them on a board with a chef's knife. No worries!
- Neutral Oil: It's important to use oil that doesn't impart any flavour, in order to let the garlic shine. My choice of oil is avocado oil, but I know it can be pricy, so feel free to also use canola oil, sunflower oil, vegetable oil, or grapeseed oil.
- Lemon Juice: Acid is important to mellow out the flavour of the garlic and add some tang to round out the sauce. It also plays an important role in the emulsification. If you prefer a less lemony toum, you can decrease the lemon juice and replace it with water instead.
- Salt: For flavour, and to help grind the garlic.
Watch how easy it is to make Toum
How to make Toum using an Immersion Blender
- Start by preparing the garlic cloves. In order for this recipe to be a truly 5-minute toum recipe, I use pre-peeled garlic cloves. I buy them from a trusted local middle eastern shop that I know has freshly peeled cloves. This is important!
- If you don't have access to fresh pre-peeled cloves, start peeling! I recommend the method where you smack the garlic clove with a chef's knife, which will help the peel come right off.
- Next, slice the garlic cloves in half lengthwise and remove the germ inside, which is a little green stem. Removing this ensures the toum does not come out bitter, so don't skip this step. Sometimes my cloves don't actually have a germ inside, in which case, great! Moving on.
- Next, in a long jar or container that fits your immersion blender, add the garlic cloves, lemon juice, and salt.
- Blend until a foamy garlic paste is formed, ensuring all the garlic is pureed. This should take 20-30 seconds (depending on the power of your blender).
- Next, with the immersion blender still inside the container, pour all of the oil on top of the garlic paste.
- Blend for 3-4 minutes, slowly pulsing the immersion blender up and down in micro movements to help the sauce emulsify. The emulsification will slowly move all the way up the jar until the result is a homogenous toum sauce.
- You can continue to pulse the immersion blender up and down and blend for 1-2 more minutes. This helps thicken the toum a bit more. It will also further thicken in the fridge once cooled.
- Taste and adjust for salt, if required. You can add a bit more and pulse blend it until mixed in. Do not add any lemon juice as it will cause the sauce to break.
- Store the toum in an airtight Mason Jar and keep it in the fridge for 2-3 months. The flavour of the toum will continue to mellow out over time.
Immersion Blender vs. Food Processor
There are two different ways you can make toum; either using a food processor, which is the more common method, or using an immersion blender, which is my preferred method. Let's compare the two methods for making this specific Lebanese garlic sauce.
This is the immersion blender I use in my kitchen!
Toum using a Food Processor
Here are a few important factors to consider when making toum in a food processor:
- The food processor size vs. the amount of toum you are making. The first time I tried to make toum with my 7-cup food processor, it was a major fail. The garlic cloves were flying all over the place and not making contact with the blade, so the garlic failed to puree. Therefore, if you have a large food processor, you need a double or triple batch. If you want a small batch (like this recipe), you need a mini food processor.
- The need to continuously stream in oil. The process starts by first pureeing the garlic with the salt until a paste forms. Then, the oil is streamed in a small amount at a time, alternating with lemon juice, until the toum emulsifies. That means you are adding 1-2 tablespoons at a time, either yourself or using a food processor streamer attachment.
- The longer time required. Because you are streaming in the oil and lemon juice 1-2 tablespoons at a time, the process likely takes between 10-20 minutes. A lot longer than an immersion blender!
- Toum yield is likely fluffier/thicker. Because the process is slower in a food processor, the toum tends to yield a slightly "fluffier" or thicker consistency than the immersion blender method. Not a big difference for me, but something to keep in mind.
Toum using an Immersion Blender
Here are a few advantages and factors to keep in mind with the immersion blender method:
- No need to stream in the oil. With this method, after the garlic is pureed with the salt and the lemon juice, the oil is added right on top. The oil won't mix right away, but as you blend, the oil starts to leak through the garlic "barrier" and start to emulsify with it, until the whole thing is emulsified. I'm not sure of the exact science, but it just works.
- It's quicker. The process of emulsifying using this method takes 2-3 minutes, and a maximum of 5 minutes (the blender power likely has an impact here), because you don't need to stream in the oil.
- Toum yield is likely less thick. But still plenty thick! It's just not *as thick* as the food processor method because it's faster. When the toum cools in the fridge, it will also get slightly thicker, so this is totally fine by me.
Why I don't recommend using egg whites in Toum
There are a lot of people who use egg whites in their toum. That's because egg whites are excellent for emulsification due to their chemical properties. They act as a stabilizer and ensure that the toum sauce emulsifies and never breaks. However, when using egg whites, toum can only be used up to 7 days in the fridge, due to the egg white's fridge life.
I've never used the egg whites method. Because I don't love the idea of raw eggs, but more importantly, I don't want a short life for my toum. I like to make a 16 oz jar and use it over 2-3 weeks. Also, because this non-egg version is fool proof! I will convince you, trust me.
Tips to ensure your toum succeeds!
There are always small little tips to every recipe that will ensure you succeed. This is extremely important especially when it comes to toum! Toum can be finicky (as much as I have tried my best to give you a fool-proof recipe), so keep these tips in mind:
- Use fresh garlic! Either fresh pre-peeled or fresh unpeeled. For pre-peeled garlic, make sure the cloves look plump and creamy, and that they don't smell of garlic.
- Remove the garlic germ to avoid bitterness. Simply cut the cloves open lengthwise and remove any small green stem you see inside.
- Use a neutral oil for maximum garlic flavour!
- Use a high-powered immersion blender. Not all immersion blenders are made equal. Make sure yours is powerful enough for toum!
How to make toum less strong or overpowering
Toum is a lot of garlic. So if you're making it, I take you you're a garlic fan. But I know that there's likely people out there who want it slightly more "mellow" in flavour. Here are a few things to consider if you want a mellow-er toum:
- Once you make it, allow it to sit in the fridge for 2-3 days. The flavour of toum will naturally mellow out in the fridge and take the edge off.
- When you're ready to enjoy toum, mix it with half the amount of plain yogurt (so if using 1 tablespoon toum, add about half a tablespoon yogurt). This will make the toum less concentrated and it will still taste delicious.
How to make toum thicker
This recipe yields a classic toum thickness. If you enjoy toum in a thicker consistency, allow it to sit in the fridge for a day and it will thicken up. Another way to get thicker toum using the immersion blender is to use more oil.
This recipe uses less oil than usual, and that's because I don't like toum tasting too oily. But if you add more oil, you will have a thicker consistency.
Finally, ensure you are using a high powered immersion blender in order to emulsify the toum really well and get the right thickness.
How to store toum
Simple! Just put it in an airtight glass jar and store it in the fridge. I love using mason jars, and this recipe makes exactly one 16 oz (453 g) jar. When using the toum, try not to contaminate it by always using a clean utensil when scooping it out.
Toum will last in the fridge for 1-2 months (or maybe even longer), but this amount will likely be finished long before then! Especially with all of the different ways that you can use it.
What do you eat toum with?
A better question is what do you NOT eat toum with? I slather it on everything, folks. But here's a more useful answer:
- Serve toum in chicken shawarma wraps, or any other grilled chicken recipes.
- Serve it alongside rotisserie chicken
- Use it in salad dressings, as a replacement for both garlic and oil
- Use it to marinate chicken. Instead of adding minced garlic and oil to your marinade, just replace for a few tablespoons of toum!
- Use it to season potatoes when making roasted potatoes in the oven, or serve it alongside potatoes as a dip
- In fact, use it to marinate/season any other roasted vegetables before baking
- Use it to replace mayonnaise or aioli in any other recipe or wrap (even chicken salad)
- Serve it with falafel or lamb
Here are some more recipes you'd love!
If you tried these recipes, please consider leaving a star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating in the recipe card below and/or a review in the comments section further down the page - I'd love to hear from you! You can also hop on over to Instagram and say hello!
5-Minute Toum (NO Food Processor!)
- 1 cup peeled garlic cloves (155 grams) pre-peeled works as long as they are fresh
- ½ cup lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups neutral vegetable oil (Avocado oil)
- Start by peeling the garlic cloves if you don't have pre-peeled ones. I use pre-peeled as long as fresh from the store.
- Cut the peeled garlic cloves in half lengthwise and remove the green germ if it's there. When present, the garlic germ may make the toum bitter.
- In a long jug or jar that fits your immersion blender, place the garlic, lemon juice, and salt. Blend them together until they form a paste and develop some foam, for roughly 20-30 seconds depending on the power of your blender
- To the garlic paste, while the immersion blender is still inside the container, add the 2 cups of oil
- Start blending, keeping the blades of the immersion blender at the bottom of the jar, and slowly pulsing it up and down slightly. Do this for 3-5 minutes until the oil and the garlic start to emulsify (see video for reference). The emulsification will slowly work its way up the jar until the whole sauce is emulsified.
- Store in an airtight mason jar in the fridge for 2-3 months.
- Use pre-peeled garlic cloves to make this process much easier. However, make sure they are freshly peeled and from a trusted grocery store/supermarket.
- Make sure to cut the garlic cloves in half and remove the germ, especially if its green. The germ will add bitterness to the toum.
- If peeling the garlic cloves, use the method where you smack the clove with a chef's knife, which should allow the peel to come straight off
- This method will not work in a food processor. Check the post body for guidance on how to adapt to a food processor.