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Easy Weeknight Garlic Bread Recipe

Why It Works

  • Hydrating garlic powder with water before using enhances its roasty sweet garlic flavor.
  • Baking the garlic bread on both sides ensures evenly toasted garlic bread.

While garlic bread is seemingly simple to make, many versions are a disappointment to eat, with either too much or too little garlic flavor and bread that’s unpleasantly burnt at the edges while still soggy in the center. Great garlic bread should be buttery, crusty, and perfectly toasty from edge to edge. It should have an intense garlic flavor without being overwhelming, and it should be well seasoned—and well buttered!—in every bite. 

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

To avoid the common pitfalls that stand in the way of making perfect garlic bread, read on for my tips on making evenly toasted garlic bread with robust garlic flavor that is prominent but not harsh. My recipe not only produces delicious garlic bread, but it requires just a handful of common ingredients and about 5 minutes of active prep time before it bakes for 15 minutes. without requiring the time to roast a full head of garlic before even starting the bread.

Unlock Garlic Powder’s Full Potential

We’re all in agreement that garlic powder, like many dried seasonings and spices, gets a bad rap. One reason for this is that we often expect the same flavor from garlic powder as we do from fresh garlic. To fully appreciate garlic powder, we must first accept that it will never have the vibrant bite that fresh garlic does. Instead, garlic powder has a gentler and sweeter garlic flavor than its fresh counterpart, and when used correctly and in moderation, it can add a subtle cooked garlic flavor to your garlic bread.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Potentially adding to garlic powder’s stigma is the fact that garlic powder is often used incorrectly. When sprinkled dry directly onto foods, it can taste dusty and lackluster. This is because garlic powder straight from the jar has not developed its full flavor. Alliin and allinase, the two compounds that react to produce the primary flavor component in garlic, are in an inactive state when dry, as they are in garlic powder. But when hydrated with water, these water-soluble compounds are activated to produce the chemical allicin, which is responsible for garlic’s pungency and aroma. When garlic powder is first stirred with a small amount of water before being used, the result is an enhanced roasty, sweet garlic flavor. I learned this technique from Annie Petito’s garlic bread recipe for Cooks Illustrated, where she uses the technique of hydrating the garlic powder with water before blending it with butter to form a paste, and I’ve incorporated that in this recipe below.

Skip Oven Roasted Fresh Garlic and Use Your Microwave Instead

Let’s be honest with ourselves—there’s no flavor that compares with a slow-roasted, creamy head of garlic, especially when smeared over fresh bread. When I have the time, I do like to incorporate roasted garlic into my garlic bread. But, it takes an hour just to roast, cool, and separate the garlic gloves before even getting to making the garlic bread. 

For an approachable weeknight garlic bread that is fast and easy to make, with savory garlic flavor, I found that finely mincing just a few cloves of fresh garlic and briefly microwaving them with butter gently cooked the garlic just enough to tame its raw flavor while also infusing the butter with incredible garlic flavor. The assertive flavor of the garlic-infused butter paired with the sweeter, more delicate flavor of the garlic powder creates a complex garlic flavor with just minutes of preparation. Am I saying it mimics real roasted garlic flavor? Not entirely, but it’s still incredibly delicious, and approachable for any night of the week.

Make a Spreadable Garlic-Butter Paste to Evenly Coat the Bread

Combining the melted, garlic-infused butter with softened but still solid butter makes a spreadable garlic-infused paste that smears easily onto the bread. Simply pouring the hot melted butter over the still solid butter and quickly stirring the mixture together with a small spoon should create the paste immediately. If the mixture is too liquidy at first, just let it cool at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before stirring to recombine. At this point, the butter mixture should be solidified but soft and spreadable. Once the right texture is achieved, I stir in a couple tablespoons of good extra-virgin olive oil because I love the way the combination of rich butter and fruity olive oil taste, particularly on bread. 

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Bake the Bread on Both Sides for Even Toasting

As I mentioned earlier, I’m a firm believer that well made garlic bread should be perfectly toasty and lightly browned edge to edge. To ensure this, after halving a loaf of soft Italian bread horizontally and spreading it with the garlic butter, I first bake the bread cut side up on a rimmed baking sheet until the butter mixture is fully melted and has seeped into the bread before flipping the bread over, cut side down, and gently pressing it into the rimmed baking sheet. This process guarantees that the bread crisps and browns evenly. 

When the bread is finished, make sure to use a thin spatula to carefully flip the bread cut side up onto a cutting board. If some of the toasty garlic bits are left behind on the sheet pan, just use the spatula to scrape them up and then sprinkle back onto the bread before slicing it into individual portions and serving.

Flavor Variations

The recipe below is simple and pantry friendly, but you can introduce a variety of flavors to it. The garlic bread I grew up eating always had a sprinkle of paprika and cayenne, a combo that creates an appealing rust-tinged color and a subtle hint of heat, so I’ve included those here as optional ingredients.

You can take your garlic bread even further and add freshly grated Parmesan cheese or a teaspoon of minced anchovies to the butter paste before spreading it over the bread. Or fold in a couple tablespoons of chopped fresh chives, parsley, or basil, or a teaspoon of minced woodsy herbs like fresh rosemary or thyme. I sometimes also add a couple tablespoons of minced sundried tomatoes and swap in the sun dried tomato oil for the olive oil in the recipe. With this quick and easy recipe in your pocket, you can have garlic bread every night of the week—I can tell you my family didn’t complain when we did just that when I was developing this recipe.

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