Cooking Indian food on weekdays can be easy, especially if you take the trouble to do some meal prep work beforehand.
In my kitchen, when I'm strapped for time, one of the ingredients that I love having around is ginger garlic paste.
While it might not sound like much, making a ginger garlic paste from scratch for every dish you cook can take up precious minutes. You need to peel the garlic, wash the ginger and chop it up, and then crush all of it with a mortar and pestle. Or, if you don't have a mortar and pestle, a blender or food processor, which you'd then have to wash.
Not the end of the world, but if you could save the five minutes or so you'll spend doing that, why wouldn't you?
In past years, during busy weeks, I'd sometimes find myself picking up a glass jar of ginger-garlic paste at the Indian store. While it tasted fine enough, the ingredient list with emulsifiers and preservatives would give me an uneasy feeling. Finally I decided I'd just make my own.
This is an incredibly easy job, and one you can do on a weekend or whenever you have a few minutes to spare, and voila, you will have it ready to go whenever the mood for an Indian curry or dal strikes.
Tips and tricks for making ginger-garlic paste that won't lose its flavor and aroma
There are Indian cooks who will swear that nothing can equal the flavor and aroma of freshly made ginger garlic paste, and to that I say, not really.
Made right, a ginger-garlic paste that's been sitting in the refrigerator no more than four weeks, or one that's been frozen, will pretty much give you results that are similar to anything you make fresh.
The key is to use natural ingredients that will preserve the flavor and aroma as well as keep your ginger and garlic fresh: oil and a touch of vinegar.
While vinegar is not an ingredient used commonly in the food Hindus in India cook, it is a powerful preservative and along with the oil it will keep the flavors and freshness sealed in.
There are just 2 tbsp of vinegar in this recipe which makes approximately two cups of ginger garlic paste, and you will barely be able to taste it in the paste, leave alone in a cooked dish.
The liquids also help keep the blades of the blender or food procesor moving and you don't need to add water. I do not recommend adding water to make the ginger garlic paste as it will increase chances of the paste becoming moldy and the paste will also discolor over time.
Substitute for vinegar: If you absolutely don't want to use the vinegar, use ½ tsp turmeric, which will also act as a preservative.
Steps for making the paste
- Wash the ginger thoroughly of any grit that may be sticking to it. Peel the ginger only if you are not using organic ginger. If you are using organic ginger there is no need to peel the ginger--the blender will pulverize the skin.
- Chop the ginger into small pieces, about the size of a garlic clove.
- To peel the garlic, place a clove of garlic on the chopping board, place the flat side of a chef's knife on it, and smack it with the heel of your hand. This should crush the garlic and loosen the skin. You can also just use a heavy weight, like the pestle of a mortar and pestle, to smash the garlic with just enough force to slightly crush it so the skin begins to pop off.
Or, you could just save yourself all the trouble and buy pre-peeled garlic.
- To make the ginger-garlic paste, place the ginger and the garlic in a blender and turn it on at a low speed, around 2-3, so they are chopped into small bits. It's best to use a powerful blender for this, like a Vitamix.
- Add the liquids and once again continue to process on a low speed. You can stop and scrape down the blender bowl once or twice if it looks like the ingredients are not moving.
- Once the ingredients are quite broken down, increase the speed until you have a paste. If your blender is not very powerful and the paste remains a bit coarse that's okay.
How to store ginger garlic paste
- The paste will keep in the refrigerator for about four weeks in an airtight jar.
- For longer-term storage, freeze one-tablespoon-size servings in an ice cube tray. Place the frozen cubes in a freezer safe bag and take one or more as needed when a recipe calls for the paste.
How to cook with ginger garlic paste
- You can use the ginger garlic paste in any Indian recipe that calls for it, and in most recipes that call for adding ginger and garlic separately. So, for instance, if a recipe says to add three cloves of garlic and an inch-size knob of ginger, you can replace it with a tablespoon of ginger-garlic paste.
- Ginger garlic paste is typically added to the recipe right after you saute the onions and, sometimes, along with the onions. In recipes that don't call for onions saute the ginger-garlic paste with the tadka ingredients in a bit of oil. Remember the ginger and garlic are raw and they need to be cooked for their flavors to mellow down and complement the other ingredients in your recipe.
Recipes to use the paste
The following are just a few examples of the tasty Indian dishes you can make with ginger-garlic paste. You can find many more recipes by typing "ginger garlic paste" in the search bar.
- Chana Masala
- Quick, Spicy Vegan Chicken Masala
- Zucchini Kofta Curry
- Basic Tomato Onion Masala Sauce for Indian Curries
- Vegetable Biryani
- Veg Manchurian
Ginger Garlic Paste
- Blender or food processor. Food processor will make a coarser paste.
- 1½ cups ginger (chopped into ½-inch pieces. Measure after chopping. No need to peel the ginger if using organic)
- 1½ cups garlic cloves (peeled)
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp vinegar
- Place the ginger and garlic in the blender. Blitz on low speed for a minute or so until the ginger and garlic are broken down into small bits. Scrape down the bowl a couple of times if needed to keep the ingredients moving.
- Add the oil and vinegar and process again, first at low speed until you have a paste, and then at a higher speed until the paste is quite smooth. Again, scrape down the bowl with a spatula as needed if the ingredients don't move.
- Store the ginger-garlic paste in an airtight jar in the refrigerator for up to four weeks.
- For long-term storage place one-tablespoon-size servings of the ginger garlic paste in ice cube trays, pop out the cubes when frozen, and store in a freezer-safe bag.
Love this ginger garlic paste recipe? Check out more how-to recipes on Holy Cow Vegan!