Resist the urge to buy pre-chopped garlic; it has a harsher flavor that can make your pesto (or any dish) taste mediocre. Instead, keep fresh garlic in a cool place and follow the steps in this video for a quick guide to how to peel and cut garlic.

By Real Simple Editors
Updated January 10, 2020

Garlic is essential to many recipes and you likely already know your garlic basics, but knowing how to peel garlic, how to chop garlic, and how to mince garlic can kick your home-chef skills up a few notches. Sure, you can buy pre-chopped garlic at nearly any grocery store, but learning how to cut garlic yourself is more satisfying—and can add better flavors to your dishes.

Like learning how to chop an onion or how to peel a mango, learning how to chop garlic (or, for more advanced chefs, how to mince garlic) just takes patience and practice. Garlic cloves are rather small—especially when compared to larger vegetables you’re likely chopping—so improving your knife skills here, particularly if you’re working toward a mince, will help you out with any recipe, no matter what you’re chopping.

Chopped garlic can add flavor to any dish. It’s common in Italian dishes—pastas, sauces, pizzas, etc.—but it can enliven vegetable dishes, stews, soups, and more, too. Once you’ve gotten the hang of chopping your own garlic, you’ll be adding it to everything. (Next step: Learn how to get rid of garlic breath.)

Peeling garlic is a must: The papery skins are not pleasant to eat. Once the bulb is peeled and you’ve separated the cloves, you can decide if you want to chop garlic (for larger pieces in your dish) or mince it (for smaller ones). In a few minutes, with this handy guide to how to peel and chop garlic, you’ll be ready to move on to the rest of your cooking endeavors.

What You Need

  • cutting board, chef's knife, garlic, garlic press, garlic peeler (optional)

Follow These Steps

  1. Peel off papery layers
    Peel away as many of the skins as possible and discard.
  2. Press into a tight garlic bulb with the palm of your hand
    If cloves are tight and can’t be easily pulled free, use the ball of your hand to press and roll the garlic against your cutting board to loosen the cloves.
  3. Peel the cloves
    Slice off the end of the clove, where it was attached to the bulb. Then place the clove beneath your chef’s knife and whack the knife with your other hand; this will loosen skin. Remove and discard any skins.
  4. Chop the garlic
    Start by slicing a clove. For a fine chop, hold the tip of the knife with one hand and use the other to rock blade back and forth over your slices. If your knife skills are up to it, you can attempt a mince by continuing to cut the garlic until pieces are very small.
  5. To mince garlic, use a garlic press
    For garlic that’s almost pulverized, place the clove into a garlic press and press down until the whole clove comes through the holes. A zester will also work, though the result will be more of a paste than defined, minced pieces.

    Tip: Finely chopped garlic releases more juices, which add flavor.