Garlic-Infused Olive Oil: Is it Safe?
Garlic-infused olive oil is a great way to flavor your meals, especially when you can’t or don’t want to eat garlic. You can buy it in the stores or and on the internet you can find numerous recipes that tell you how to make it yourself! But is it actually safe to make it yourself? What should you pay attention to when making garlic-infused olive oil?
Why Would You Use Garlic Infused Olive Oil?
If for some reason you can’t or don’t want to eat garlic, then garlic-infused oil is a way to create flavor in your meals. This is especially useful for people who follow the low FODMAP diet, or for people who react to garlic regardless of FODMAPs. Although there is very little scientific evidence about whether or not a garlic allergy exists, I do see clients in my dietitian practice who seem to react to only garlic and personally I do too.
So for any of those reasons it can be a solution to use garlic-infused olive oil!
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Why is Garlic-infused Oil Safe While Garlic is Not?
Infused oil generally only contains aromas and flavors of garlic. The FODMAPs and other carbohydrates in the garlic can’t dissolve into oil (they can dissolve into water since they’re water-soluble). So the use of oil to catch the flavors of the garlic will leave out any of the triggering substances that are found in garlic itself.
Why Specifically Olive Oil?
To be honest, it doesn’t need to specifically be olive oil. Any oil will do to carry the flavor of the garlic. But when you look at it from a health perspective, olive oil is a good option!
When you’re choosing the oil you want to use, it is important to check the smoke points of the oils your considering. If you plan on using the oil for cooking/frying, choose a type of oil with a high smoke point (for example avocado oil, rapeseed oil, standard olive oil, rice oil). Otherwise, you will burn the oil and that’s not great for your health. When using the oils cold, as a dressing, for example, the smoke point is not important, since you won’t heat it.
Apart from that, it is smart to check for types of oil that have a higher omega-3 value and less omega-6. So for cold use, good options are extra virgin olive oil, flaxseed oil, walnut oil, sesame oil.
Store-bought vs. Homemade Garlic-infused oil
This is the big question since a good garlic-infused oil is not always easy to find in the local stores. If you find a good and affordable garlic-infused oil in a store near you, I’d always say that is the best and safest option. If the oil still contains some pieces of garlic at the bottom, this should pose no problem as long as you pour it through a siege to avoid the pieces getting in your meal.
Make Garlic-Infused Oil Yourself
You can also make the garlic-infused oil yourself, but this takes some caution. Because storing a homemade garlic-infused oil for a longer period can actually cause you serious health problems. The oil that is infused with herbs or garlic is, when it’s not done right, a breeding ground for botulism (a rare but serious condition caused by toxins from the bacteria Clostridium Botulinum with symptoms like difficulty swallowing, blurred vision, trouble breathing, nausea, vomiting, stomach aches, and paralysis). And this is why I’d advise against making it yourself for storage. (Unless you’re an experienced food preserver and you really know what you’re doing, find guidelines here)
If you want to add some garlicky flavor to your meals without the danger of botulism, try cutting some garlic in slices, heat up the oil in the pan, stir fry the garlic for a couple of minutes and then use a siege to filter the garlic out. After that, you can use the oil for the meal that you’re making. (Use immediately or at least the same day, don’t store for later)
Definitely don’t just cut some garlic up or use whole cloves and add them to your olive oil bottle to soak. This is asking for problems. I have seen some blogs where they tell you to do this, don’t believe them, please!
The store-bought infused oil will have been treated with the necessary safety measures to avoid botulism and this is a safe way to use the oil. Just one side note here, if it’s a small store where the owners make it themselves I’d advise you to ask them about the measures they took to avoid botulism to be sure! Better safe than sorry.
Garlic-infused oil can be useful for flavoring your meals when you can’t or don’t want to eat garlic. Getting a store-bought option is a safe bet. If you buy it, be mindful of the oil that has been used and whether or not you want to use it for cooking/frying or use it cold in a salad for example.
It is possible to make garlic-infused oil yourself but aim to use it the same day to avoid botulism.
What is your experience with garlic-infused oil? Let me know in a comment below!
Hi there, I’m Manon.
In my daily life I work as a registered dietitian in the Netherlands with a special interest in gut health.
During my workday I get loads of questions about healthy food, recipes and lifestyle to make it a little easier to get healthy. On Positive Gut I collect my best recommendations, tips and recipes to make your healthy lifestyle a little easier!