Don’t want to hear the backstory? Jump straight to the recipe.
Papa John’s has been serving their garlic sauce with pizzas since they opened. The warm, buttery sauce goes perfectly with pizzas and breadsticks. There are countless recipes online for recreating it (mostly involving mixing garlic powder into melted butter) which make a pretty good result, but there is something off about them. At the secret-sauce.net test kitchen, we wanted to truly rebuild the sauce in a home kitchen, so we started from the ground up.
If you look at the garlic sauce recipe on the Papa John’s website, they show you all of the ingredients that they use, as required by the FDA. The ingredients must be listed by the order of prevalence inside of the food by law.
One thing that immediately stands out is that the sauce does not contain butter. It does not contain any milk ingredients actually, it’s completely vegan!
Papa John’s uses mostly soybean oil and water in their sauce with the flavorings coming from salt and garlic. They use beta carotene for coloring and a whole lot of other ingredients to maintain the sauce consistency and freshness. For the purposes of this article, we’ll ignore most of the freshness/consistency keepers since we’ll be making this fresh at home.
The first item that we tackled was the garlic flavor and amounts. We experimented with varying amounts and found that the amount of salt used actually affected the amount of garlic flavor as well. We know from the ingredient list that salt is more prevalent than garlic, but to unlock the full flavor of the garlic we used a trick from Dan Souza at Cook’s Illustrated where he suggests hydrating garlic powder before using it. This made a huge difference in our end result. Event though this recipe only has a quarter of a teaspoon of garlic powder, the garlic flavors are huge.
Getting the sauce to the right creamy consistency was another challenge. We tried making it by finely chopping, cooking, blending, whisking, mixing, and whipping, but nothing was coming out right. Stepping back, we finally realized that in order to get the creamy consistency from the oil, we were going to have to introduce a whole lot of air into the mix, and we were going to need a stabilizer to keep it there. We settled on cream of tartar as our stabilizer as it’s easily available in most pantries. For the method, the critical tool is a hand blender.
Using a good hand blender is key to this recipe. The hand blender will add air while chopping and stirring in a way that we could not reproduce with a blender or professional stand mixer. We adopted a technique that we learned from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt t and his amazing mayonnaise recipe.
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon warm water
- 1 pinch of cream of tartar (about ⅛ teaspoons)
- 1 slice of carrot
- ½ cup of vegetable oil
In a vessel just wide enough to fit the head of your hand blender, add the garlic powder and salt.
Mix in the warm water and stir until all salt is dissolved. Allow to sit for 5 minutes while the garlic powder hydrates.
Add your carrot slice, pinch of cream of tartar, and vegetable oil to the glass
With the base of the hand mixer at the bottom of the glass, blend on high, slowly moving the blender until all ingredients are mixed and the carrot slice has been fully blended into the sauce.
Serve the garlic sauce immediately, or store in an airtight container up to five days.