Skip to Content

Toum – The  Lebanese  Garlic  Sauce | Cook With Kids

Toum is  the buttery garlic  sauce   from Lebanon.   It   goes great  with  grilled  meat  and  French fries ?.  What  I am trying  to say is  that  it  is  very  versatile-  use  it  to make meat  marinade,  as  part of  salad  dressing ,  as  a  spread  and  so on.   If  you  have  had  shawarma,  chances  are you have  gotten a  taste  of  it.  You get  the   garlic  taste  but  in  an  intriguing  way  a  bit  like mayo with a kick.

Toum - the Lebanese garlic sauce

You have the  garlic , oil and  lemon juice  plus  a  pinch of  salt.  These  ingredients   get  transformed  into  a  fluffy   spread  that  I personally love  with  French fries.        We  spread  this  liberally on a pita  wrap.  I  will slather it  on chicken  and   make  garlicky roast  chicken.

Here are a  few  reasons  I  love  toum.

  • Vegan – I can  safely leave  it on the  counter  for  the  little  monsters to munch on and  not  worry about  food  poisoning.
  • Versatile –   Add  a  few  herbs  and  slather on  french  bread  and   toast. Voila , you have garlic  bread !
  • Mix  herbs  and  spices  and  use a  garlicky marinade  for  roasts –  potatoes  roasted  with these   sauce are  absolutely delicious.
  • Fun to make – especially  with  kids.  Watch them go from “gross  garlic”  to “ummm  that’s  yum” 🙂 .

Ingredients for Toum the Lebanese garlic sauce

These are  all the ingredients  that  go into this  sauce –  garlic ,  water , lemon juice, oil and  salt.  This here is  your  vegan alternative  to   mayonnaise.  It  spreads  like  mayonnaise, but  with quite  bold  flavors.

So  why  is a  garlicky  spread under  cook with  kids ?

Here is  why – Toum is  essentially an  emulsion.   You have  ingredients  that are  not at  all similar – liquids  that  don’t  mix  and a  solid.   There is  no  cooking  involved  and   yet you  end up with a  fluffy spread  that   seems  nothing  like the  ingredients   you started  with.

Transformations  like  these  capture  the  children’s imagination, and  it is   something  different  f rom  decorating  cupcakes  or  making  sugary treats.

What is an emulsion ? 

An emulsion is   essentially  a mixture of two or more liquids that are normally immiscible (unmixable) – think  oil and  water.  To get a stable  emulsion,  that  does  not  separate out  immediately  one  needs  something  to  bind  the  different  types  of  liquids  together.  This “something” is  your emulsifying agent.  It creates a chemical bond with each liquid and becomes a bridge between them.  And  in this  case  it is  garlic.

The  fluffy sauce  in the picture  does  not  look  anything  like  the ingredients  that  go into it.   To get  to this  texture we  have  to use  the ‘mayonnaise method’ ?.  Essentially   we  mix  the  liquids  so much that  the  molecules  are   spread   randomly within each other.  In this  case the lemon juice molecules are trapped by the oil with the garlic acting as the emulsifier.  Think of  it  this   way –  the  oil  and  lemon  juice  want  to   separate ,  so they try to  repel  each other   while  the   garlic  tries  to  keep them   together.   All that  opposing   forces  gives  it  the  fluffiness and  the  binding  forces   of  garlic  gives  it  the stability.

Yes  it is  science !!!    For  those  with  active  imaginations  – two  other  commonly used  emulsifying  agents  are  egg  yolk and   mustard.   May be  you can   find a   way  to  make a   less  garlicky   version of  toum??


How  To Make  Toum

What   we  attempt  to  do here is  to make an emulsion by suspending the water  and  lemon juice in oil.  Since water (or  lemon juice) does  not  mix  with  oil   we  have  to  introduce  it  to the  oil  slowly making sure that  it  gets  incorporated  well  before  adding  more.    The  emulsifier , garlic  in this  case,  has  to be   ready to  bind  both  liquids  together.  So here is  how  it  is  done –

  • Grind garlic and  salt  into a smooth paste.
  • Add  oil to   the  mix  slowly until a  smooth mix  forms .
  • Slowly start introducing water/lemon juice  to it.  Add more  oil if  needed.
  • Go slow  the  mix  will turn  fluffy after a  few  minutes.


Making Toum - the Lebanese garlic sauce

So  here  are  some   shots  on of  toum  being  made. This  one  was  made  with  cold  pressed (extra  virgin)  olive  oil,  as  I was  looking  for   the  olive  and  garlic  flavors  in it.  As  you   can see  the  color  is  pale  yellow.   If you  use  canola  or  other  neutral oils  the  toum   will be  white.

Toum made with Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Here is  the  olive  oil   toum   on  pita  bread.    The  flavors go well here – as  I was  pairing  it  with  grilled meat  and   veggies  and  olive  oil flavors  were  quite a  nice addition .  If  I were  to  add  french fries  to  the  warp I  would  have preferred the  all white  version.

Some  things  to remember :

  • Remove  any  green  parts  from the  garlic. Slit  the  garlic  and  remove  any green  shoots  from the  inside as  well.  The  green  garlic  turns the  sauce bitter.
  • The  color  changes  depending on the  oil  used.  With   cold  pressed olive  oil  (EVOO) you  get a  pale  yellow   toum , which I love.  For the  snow  white  variety  use  canola  oil  or  vegetable  oil.
  • Do not  let  the  contents  heat  up.   This is  where the  cold  water  becomes  beneficial.

Here is a  secret –  Toum can  be  made  with only garlic  and   oil !  Why ?  because  garlic  has  water  and the  emulsifying  agents  are released   when  the  gralc  is  ground  to a  paste !  So essentially  garlic  alone  will suffice !  The  water and lemon  juice tones  down the  pungent  garlic flavors.

Did you know  that Toum  was traditionally made using a mortar and pestle ?  No I am   not  even  going to  try that !  But  if  you need  another  challenge  in  your  life – go ahead  try it  with  mortar  and  pestle !  As  for  me  I am happy with   my blender.

Here  is  the   recipe  for  Toum.

A cracker with toum, the Lebanese garlic sauce, and plate of crackers next to it.


By Syama
Toum is  the   Lebanese  garlic  sauce  popular in the middle  east.  It  has a  fluffy ,  easy to  spread  texture. The  flavors  of  garlic   are  strong  but   mellowed   by the  addition  of  lemon juice  and  oil.  Try this   vegan  sauce in  your  dips, marinades  and spreads.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Course Dip
Cuisine Lebanese


  • 1/3  C Garlic Cloves peeled
  • 1/2 - 3/4 Tsp Sea Salt  To  taste
  • 1 C Oil Notes
  • 2 - 3 Tbsp Fresh  Squeezed Lemon Juice To taste
  • 2-3 Tbsp Ice Water Optional (Notes)


Prep the garlic

  • Peel  and slice  the  slice the  garlic cloves in half lengthwise.   Remove  any  green parts  from the  garlic.
  • Place  the  garlic  in a  food  processor  or  blender  jar  and  process  until   ground  fine.    Stop and  scrape the  sides  in between.
  • If  the  machine  has a  spout  that  allows  you to introduce  ingredients   while  processing   slowly drizzle    about  1  tsp  of oil into the   garlic.  Other wise  open  and    add 1  tsp oil and  blend.  Scrape  the  bowl.  Keep  repeating   the process  until  the  garlic is  creamy.
  • Start adding more oil  alternating  with   few  drops of water or  lemon  juice  until  the  fluffy emulsion is  formed. Go slow  and  wait  for it  to  take  effect.  Taste  and  add  few  more  drops  of  lemon r  water  as  desired.


  • Use any neural oil  such as canola or safflower  for the  classic  white   sauce. 
  • I  would  recommend  using  the  ice cold  water  in this  recipe.  It  seems to  mellow  the  flavors and  keep the  sauce  from heating  in the  blender. 
  • Remember  to remove  any and  all the  green parts  from the   garlic. 

Important: Values are only estimates. Actuals vary depending on ingredients and serving size.

Tried this recipe?Mention @Oventales or tag #Oventales on Instagram

Want  to know  more  about  the  science  of  emulsions ?   These  resources  might  help .



Toum - the Lebanese garlic sauce


Kerala Style black chickpea Curry in Instant Pot
Instant Pot Kadala Curry - Kerala Style Brown Chickpeas Curry
Korean Inspired Shredded Beef Bowl
Korean Inspired  Shredded  Beef  Bowl | Instant Pot / Pressure Cooker Version
Recipe Rating


Monday 30th of July 2018

I've never heard this before and it sounds insanely good, aioli turned up to 47 superb! :D


Monday 30th of July 2018

lol thanks !. It is a kicker and so much fun to do with kids :-) .


Monday 30th of July 2018

I've not heard this name but I have a feeling I have had this (it's also very like a Spanish aioli which I love). I love how versatile this is too, and all the handy tips.


Monday 30th of July 2018

you are right - this is the traditional Mediterranean aioli. No eggs , just garlic and oil :-).


Sunday 29th of July 2018

I love Lebanese food and garlic soo much. I’d love to try this recipe for sure. It sounds delish ? thanks for sharing!


Monday 30th of July 2018

It is so easy to make and so yum .. Definitely try it with shawarma .

Katie Crenshaw | A Fork's Tale

Sunday 29th of July 2018

I have just started trying Lebanese food. I am totally in love with it. I can't wait to make this recipe. It looks so flavorful. Thanks for sharing!


Monday 30th of July 2018

It goes great with all kinds of roasted/grilled meat and so easy to make too .. I would love to hear how yours turn out !