Zankou Chicken Garlic Paste (Copycat)

4 servings
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes

Zankou Chicken Garlic Paste is thick, garlicky and 100% addicting.

Zankou Chicken Garlic Paste is thick, garlicky and 100% addicting. The reason Zagat and all of Los Angeles loves Zankou!

Zankou Chicken Garlic Paste is a magical sauce that may seem completely crazy to any of you not familiar with Zankou Chicken, but to all of us in LA, this sauce is good enough to horde.

Made with raw garlic, lemon and potatoes, the magic is in the flavor of the garlic. The punch of raw garlic immediately adds to anything you want to put it on.

Some ideas for use:

  • Rotisserie chicken or Falafel (C’mon Zankou knows how to do it right!)
  • On sandwiches! Makes for an amazing substitute for mayonnaise.
  • Tossed in pasta with a touch more olive oil.
  • Roasted Vegetables – I love this with roasted asparagus dipped in the paste! Also amazing with roasted bell peppers, even now as I am typing this I am eating this combo and swooning.
  • Roasted meats – works great with pork, beef and lamb.
  • Anything you would ever add garlic to!

Zankou Chicken Garlic Paste is so popular that what used to be a free sauce you could snag some extra of is now pre-packaged and inventoried and sold for much much more than should be allowed. Can’t say I blame them, I routinely wanted three or four extra little containers with my meal just so I could use it on everything else I ate later that week.

If I had to describe it to you [since unfortunately for you computers have not yet formed the ability to do smell-a-vision] it would have the thickness and consistency of horseradish, but with a raw, strong garlic flavor with a hint of lemon.

Zankou Chicken Garlic Paste is thick, garlicky and 100% addicting. The reason Zagat and all of Los Angeles loves Zankou!  Many people have spent years trying to decipher the Zankou Chicken Garlic Paste Copycat recipe, going so far as to cook the sauce to see what form it takes [spoiler, it becomes a pancake!] and calling the corporate office asking if it has certain ingredients in it for “allergy reasons.”

The secret ingredient turned out to be potato. People knew it was some kind of starch because it cooked into a pancake instead of melting in the hot pan, and ever since the potato was revealed to be the mystery ingredient the flood gates have opened. The main debate now lies in what kind of potato you use. Since I have no access to the actual Zankou Chicken Garlic Paste recipe or any connection to Zankou Chicken itself, I starting doing test runs.

In my trial runs of the Zankou Chicken Armenian Garlic Paste recipe I’ve gone both ways, potato flakes and fresh russet potatoes and while both were very tasty one was a clear winner…. the potato flakes! It also makes it an even easier recipe since using fresh potato means heating the pot of water, peeling and cubing them, mashing them and letting them cool all the way back down so you don’t mute the flavor of the garlic by mixing it in hot and partially cooking it. Plus you know when you’re working on that kind of volume

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Zankou Chicken Garlic Paste

Zankou Chicken's secret Armenian Garlic Paste is thick, garlicky and 100% addicting. The reason Zagat and all of Los Angeles loves Zankou!
Yield 4 servings
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Sauce
Cuisine Middle Eastern
Author Sabrina Snyder


  • 1 cup instant mashed potatoes , plain flavor or potato flakes
  • 1/2 cup room temperature water
  • 15 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice , please don't use the plastic lemons with "juice" in them
  • 1/2 cup canola oil


  • Mix the instant mashed potatoes with about ½ cup water. Depending on the brand, may be a bit more or a bit less. You're going for mashed potato consistency, this is used to give "body" to the sauce, so err on the side of caution and go thick, not soupy.
  • Peel the garlic cloves and put them in your food processor. Add the lemon juice and salt. Puree until finely chopped then stream in the canola oil until it looks like a delicious aoili.
  • At this point start adding the potato and continue running the food processor until it is all incorporated. Transfer to a covered container.
  • Now. Before you panic and think you've gone and added too much potato because of course you tasted it immediately and you're disappointed it tastes so potato-ey, put the container in the fridge. Forget all about it for at LEAST a couple of hours, preferable until the next day.
  • Now you can take it out, take a piece of bread and enjoy every delicious garlicky [and hardly discernably potato-ey] bite.


Inspiration drawn from this thread : and many many little containers of Zankou's delicious garlic paste over the years.


Calories: 322kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 890mg | Potassium: 231mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin C: 24mg | Calcium: 24mg | Iron: 1mg


About the Author: Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years who is the creator and developer of all the recipes on Dinner, then Dessert.

She is also the author of the cookbook Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients, published by Harper Collins.

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef.

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook for families one day a week and cook their entire week of dinners. All grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning was done along with instructions on reheating. As a private chef she cooked for private parties and cooked in family homes in the evenings for families on a nightly basis after working as a personal chef during the day.

Sabrina has been certified as a ServSafe Manager since 2007 and was a longstanding member of the USPCA Personal Chef Association including being on the board of the Washington DC Chapter of Chefs in the US Personal Chef Association when they won Chapter of the year.

As a member of the community of food website creators Sabrina Snyder has spoken at many conferences regarding her experiences as a food writer including the Indulge Food Conference, Everything Food Conference, Haven Food Conference and IACP Annual Food Professionals Conference.

Sabrina lives with her family in sunny California.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.


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  1. Yum! My family and I were on vacation in California when we tried the garlic paste for the first time. Everyone loved it. We can’t get it here in my state so I’m so glad I found your recipe! It’s delicious!!

  2. I tried this recipe. Bleeeh! Too much garlic and too hot!!! I tried it by cooking a powdered potato without milk, used butter instead of canola oil and 6 cloves of garlic only. Turned out perfect!!!

  3. I was a little shy on having enough mashed potatoes to make a full cup. I probably had 3/4. The lemon flavor is very strong, is it supposed to be? It’s more like a lemon paste. I used the substitution recommended for garlic (3/4 tsp.) It doesn’t taste overly garlicky to me. I’m going to add more potatoes tomorrow, but do you think I should add more garlic?

  4. I couldn’t help myself, added a whole lemon after I tasted it. Keep me away from lemons or anything I can squeeze.

  5. Only four stars because of the ingredient art the end: Canola Oil. Pure poison! There is no canola plant. it is rapeseed oil which has a foul smell and needs to be deodorized for it to be usable. It’s not a healthy oil. Just a big scam by the manufacturers and approved by the notorious FDA.

  6. One of my favorite foods of all time. However, it would be great if you could please clarify if you mean 15 cloves (individual garlic pieces) or 15 HEADS of garlic (150 or so cloves). Also, de-germing the garlic is critical, especially when making this in the spring when garlic sprouts like crazy!

  7. Thank you SO MUCH for posting this copycat! I lived in LA, and worked in a medical office, where pharmaceutical company reps would frequently bring us Zankou for lunch, and it was always phenomenal! I haven’t lived there in years, and haven’t thought about it in years, but the second I saw ‘Zankou Chicken’ in your list of copycats, my mouth was watering for garlic sauce! I’ll be trying it soon!

  8. Not even close. It just tastes like over-garlic’ed mashed potatoes. Huge waste of ingredients. Trader Joe’s sells a garlic sauce that’s just like the Zankou garlic sauce. Notably, potatoes are NOT an ingredient.

  9. Girl!!!!! I love to cook and repurpose leftovers and add my own flare to things. I also read through tons of recipes everyday to get inspiration. Your recipe just made me have an Hallelujah moment! OH MY GOSH! Can’t wait to try this! My dad is 100% Ukrainian so my love of garlic comes from my roots! When I saw 15 cloves of garlic in the recipe I was like ” Holy Spirit activate”
    Thank you for posting and opening my eyes to this amazing recipe!

  10. Can you use Avocado Oil instead of Canola? i generally use it whenever “vegetable oil” is mentioned but just wanted to check. I love Zankou garlic sauce and to be able to make it would be a dream come true! Also wondering if this would work in a mini-food processor or if a full-size one is required?

  11. OMG is this good! I’ve never had the original, but this recipe is so good, that it doesn’t matter. Thank you for sharing this recipe.

  12. Hi, Does this last long in the refrigerator? I saw the comment on freezing but how long does it hold? I heard Toum (without the potato) can last up to a month but wasn’t sure with potato how long.

    1. I think it’ll last up to a week or two in the refrigerator but I haven’t tried freezing it yet. I would think that if stored properly, it should last up to 6 months in the freezer.

  13. Zankou is my absolute favorite! But living in Texas now and don’t get to LA often enough. Can you tell me what I could use instead of potato flakes that would make this a little more Keto friendly? REALLLY drained and dried cauliflower maybe?

    1. This is a copycat recipe so I haven’t tested it any other way. The potatoes get creamy and are pretty general in flavor so the garlic is able to take over the flavor. If you switch to something else with the same absorbency, I’m not sure how the flavor would be affected. Cauliflower has a pretty strong flavor. If you decide to try, I’d love to know how it turns out. Good luck!

      1. Have made this several times since my first review, and it gets better and better. Just made the newest batch. Used a few more cloves of garlic, added lemon zest plus lemon juice, and used a little less than 1 cup of the potato flakes as I wanted it just a little less thick. I’m addicted to this garlic paste. I plan on trying other varieties such as Toum and Agliata as well, just to taste the difference, because, well, it’s all garlic greatness!

      2. This really didn’t come out anything like Zankou garlic sauce, even after a day in the fridge.

        That said, it’s actually a decent take on a traditional Greek skordalia which is probably what Zankous sauce is based on.

  14. One additional step I do is to de-germ the garlic first. That means cutting the cloves in half length-wise, and pulling out the center-most strand of garlic. This is the part that gives raw garlic its heat and bitter aftertaste. Remove the germ from each clove and the garlic will still taste like garlic, but it will only have the sweetness, not the biting aftertaste. It’s a little extra work, but so worth it. So easy and soooo good.

  15. This is an ALMOST copycat recipe.
    I would suggest using half the amount of lemon juice for the sauce to not be quite so bitterly acidic. Other than that, it’s great!

  16. Questions: How is the taste of this paste if you leave out the potato flakes because I’ve seen other similar recipes that don’t call for potatoes or potato flakes? Second, can use use the minced garlic in jar or should I only use the fresh whole garlic cloves?

    1. I haven’t tried it without. The potato just allows to thicken it and is mellow enough that the garlic really takes over. I would suggest using fresh garlic but if jarred is all you have, that’ll do in a pinch. Good luck!

  17. So good. I’ve only heard of Zankou chicken from some crime podcasts, but that sent me in search of a recipe for the sauce. This is easy, delicious, and will go with so many things. I’m thinking rotisserie chicken (that’s how I used it tonight), but also as a spread on sandwiches, slathered on a turkey and cheese roll up, in a quesadilla, on a steak, on a pita. I need to try this on a Popeyes chicken sandwich. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    1. I tried it and is it supposed to be super thick? Mine turned out super thick and more like overlemoned mashed potatoes (in consistency) and less like a sauce.

      1. It is meant to be thick, it’s a paste. It will taste like mashed potatoes at first but the flavor of garlic will take over. Trust me on this one, it’s one of my favorites. 🙂

  18. I haven’t been back to LA in over a decade, and somehow managed to forget about Zankou’s and that garlic paste until someone reminded me today. Then it all came back to me, and the fact that I can make it so easily just made my day. Thank you!

    1. I’ve not tried it but I don’t see why not. Make sure it’s stored in a freezer safe air tight container and it should last up to 6 months in the freezer.

  19. Is there any reason not to use real mashed potatoes? Instant or flakes are not available where I am currently. Developing nation, govt work, just raw veggies and such (I got live chickens, electricity, slow cooker and of course gas or carbon for cooking, few small swine running about too). Would real mashed potatoes require any recipe tweeks?

    1. Mashed potatoes add more water content to the recipe vs the flakes absorbing it. It’s a copycat recipe and was replicating what they use.

  20. Hi Sabrina! Late to the game but I’ve been trying to duplicate the garlic sauce served with street shawarmas and roasted chicken I had growing up in Saudi Arabia and this sounds spot on! I’ve read all the comments before asking this but do you have a particular brand of potato flakes you use? Mom would kill me if she saw instant potato flakes in the pantry since she’s a diehard “make from scratch” everything. I’m in Texas so would most likely need a national brand recommendation on instant mashed potato flakes.

    1. I actually used the Whole Foods 365 brand. I know you can find them on Amazon too if there’s not a store local to you. Don’t worry, I won’t tell your Mom. Haha!

  21. How much garlic is 15 cloves? I got a garlic that has a bunch of non-standard cloves and i’m not sure how much to use.

    1. To me, you really can never have enough garlic. 🙂 I’d say it’s probably around 1/4-1/3 cup.

  22. Many years ago, maybe 20 or so a chef friend walked into the Hollywood location and spotted a bag of russet potatoes in the back. He thought it was odd because they don’t serve potatoes in any form. We always thought it was the secret ingredient! Still not sure how to incorporate raw russet potatoes so I’ll try the flakes.

    1. Why would you think they use the potatoes raw? Chances are they boil them and mash them into the garlic.

    2. Hi, just to be clear, it’s 1 cup of the dry instant mashed potato flakes? OR do we make the instant mashed potatoes according to package directions and then take 1 cup of that…

  23. I just ran across this during a search. I had all the ingredients, and made it immediately. Even BEFORE the “potato taste” settles – this is DA BOMB! I did use fresh lime juice instead of lemon, because that is what I had. Thank you, thank you, Sabrina. I am a vegetarian, so will be looking on your site for vegetarian dishes. Meanwhile – I could just smear this on a piece of bread and be a happy camper!

  24. Just made my first attempt at making this! Quick question: do you usually get a burning garlic flavor right after it’s made/before it marinates? I tried a bit and the garlic flavor was so strong it burned (no other way to describe it?) Just checking to see if that was normal?


    1. Burning garlic flavor? Hmm. The garlic flavor no doubt is SUPER strong. But it shouldn’t burn. I would say that when you first taste it you taste potatoes and crazy garlic. But it should mellow some by the next day. It won’t be so nose clearingly potent and you shouldn’t be able to taste any potato flavor anymore.

    2. I had the same experience, Lauren, even after a day. It might be a personal reaction that just some people have. I don’t think I’ve noticed this before because I almost always cut garlic cloves lengthwise and combine them with a little bit of oil in some foil and put them in low heat in a toaster oven before using. If cooked until they just start to turn brown, it knocks out any sharpness. I can’t wait to try that with this recipe, which is perfect in every other way.

      I grew up in LA but moved away decades ago, so I sure missed that Zankou sauce. Now I don’t have to. Thanks so much for this recipe.

  25. East cost checking in.
    This looks amazing but, do you serve it cold, let it get room temp, or does the chicken warm it up when you put it on?

  26. Thank you so much! I love the Zankou garlic sauce, but not so much their chicken (a bit on the dried side) and you totally help me solve my dilemma. I buy the roti chicken from my fav chicken place and make this sauce. Your recipe is spot on.

    1. Husband is Lebanese and his Dad used potatoe…I go to the restaurant and buy it..I lived outside of Dearborn Mich .biggest Middle Eastern I’m surrounded by Arabic Rest…I get lazy and use mayo lots of garlic salt and olive oil to make enough for a dinner

  27. Yes I made this sauce.
    It was a little dry but I added more water. Wow. Delicious. I ate this with breakfast lunch and dinner. It’s a fantastic garlicky and spicy sauce for everything. Thank you!!

  28. Is the 1 cup of potatoe flakes after mixing or before? I made 1 cup of potatoe flakes and have a tricycle least 2 cups mixed

    1. In the fridge, probably 1-2 weeks (after letting it sit in the fridge for one day so the flavors can marinate.) However, I’d be surprised if it lasted that long – I know I wouldn’t be able to resist eating it for that long!

  29. Hi Sabrina! So I made the garlic sauce but it seems super thick, still the same consistency as the potato mixture I made. I’m going to let it sit overnight but what can I add of it still has that thick potato consistency? You’re the best!

    1. Oh my god, I’m so sorry for not responding sooner, but this comment got caught up in my spam filter and I just now found it! By now you’ve eaten it and this won’t be helpful, but the consistency is definitely going to stay the same, but is shouldn’t taste like potato anymore. I hope you still enjoyed it; if you didn’t, I can make some and bring it to you so you can taste how awesome Zankou Chicken is!

      1. This is great. I tried buying garlic paste in a Middle Eastern market but it wasn’t the same. This is the closest or exact. Mine had a little thicker consistency, so i just added some olive oil and room temp water to make it creamier and i’m now enjoying it 24hrs later. On my way to get a whole chicken and pita bread. Thank you for sharing

  30. This looks delicious! I am obsessed with garlic flavored chicken, so I am excited to try this! Pinning for future reference! Thanks for doing all of the research and trial runs for this! 😀

  31. I’ve never had anything like this sauce — it sounds like the perfect accompaniment for so many things! And I think just eating it with a spoon sounds great too.

    1. Telling someone “here, try this raw garlic paste with potato and lemon” they would look at you like you are insane. Go into the restaurant and you’ll see people hoarding the sauce and scraping every last bit of it out of the container. It’s just that good!

      1. No joke!! Zankou garlic sauce is like crack!! You just want more, more and MORE!! Looking forward to trying this!!

  32. Wow! Would not have guesed those ingredients, but glad I have the recipe, looks so great! Would love this on falafel 🙂

    1. Just be sure not to judge the flavor when it comes out of the food processor. It needs to chill for the garlic to complete its complete takeover of the potato, haha! I hope you enjoy it 🙂