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  • Writer's pictureLydia Gerratt

Toum; Lebanese garlic sauce

Every time I go to Maroush, a family run Lebanese restaurant in London, I always include an order of garlic sauce. It is the very best pairing for charcoal grilled meat, wrapped in soft, warm Lebanese bread with salad and pickles. I would even dare to say, it’s better than adding chilli.

Toum (pronounced toom) is an emulsion of pureed fresh garlic, lemon juice and a light vegetable oil. Garlic is full of natural emulsifiers – emulsifiers ‘bind’ ingredients which would not naturally come together; like oil and water. Once you have pureed the garlic cloves in a blender, the emulsifiers are released from inside the cell walls and combine with the oil and lemon juice to form a thick white sauce.

I usually make toum a couple of hours before I eat it to give the garlic a chance to calm down. Natural enzymes in lemon juice work on overly aggressive pureed garlic to subdue it and take away that burn. Toum tastes better and a lot more mellow after a few days – Atticus, my 8 year old son, loves this sauce when it gets to this stage and spoons it over any grilled or roasted meat I’ve made for dinner.

This recipe will make enough to fill 2 jam jars. I know it sounds a lot, but you actually need enough ingredients in a blender to be able to process properly to make the sauce. I can guarantee that you will use up all the sauce within a month!

I even add toum to sandwiches like ham and cheese, as it takes the flavour to another level. I always have it on the table to spoon onto chunks of roast chicken, of course steak, any roast vegetables and especially crisp roast potatoes.

Miraculous ingredients: fresh garlic cloves (firm to the touch), good quality vegetable oil

Toum; Lebanese garlic sauce


1 cup of peeled garlic cloves, almost 3 garlic bulbs/heads

1 teaspoon sea salt

¼ cup/60ml lemon juice, about the juice of 2 lemons

3 cups/650ml sunflower oil

¼ cup/60ml ice cold water


Place all the garlic cloves and salt in a medium size blender and pulse until the garlic cloves are finely chopped.

Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to the blender and process to form a paste (it will still be quite lumpy at this point as there are not enough ingredients in the blender to make a smooth paste - when the oil is added later, the paste will become smoother). Use a rubber spatula to scrap the garlic pieces from the sides every now and again.

Add another tablespoon of lemon juice and process for 10 seconds.

While the blender is running, pour in a tiny amount of oil (about a tablespoon) and process for 10 seconds. Continue to add small amounts of oil to the running blender until ½ cup of oil has been added to the garlic mix.

Add a tablespoon of lemon juice to the garlic and oil sauce and process for 10 seconds.

Now that the sauce has begun to emulsify, add the next ½ cup oil in a steady stream with the blender running and finish with a tablespoon of lemon juice.

Continue to add ½ cup of oil at a time with a tablespoon of lemon juice, in a steady stream with the blender running. Once all the lemon juice has been incorporated into the sauce, start adding a tablespoon of ice cold water after each ½ cup of oil until all the remaining oil and water have been incorporated.

The toum will now be a thick white sauce and can be transferred to clean jam jars and stored in the fridge for up to a month.

Preparation time 10 minutes, processing time 20 minutes, makes enough for 2 jam jars


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