Zankou Chicken Garlic Paste (Copycat)

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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



Zankou Chicken Garlic Paste

5 from 6 votes
  • Yield: 4 servings
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Course: Sauce
  • Cuisine: Middle Eastern
  • Author: Sabrina Snyder
Zankou Chicken's secret Armenian Garlic Paste is thick, garlicky and 100% addicting. The reason Zagat and all of Los Angeles loves Zankou!


  • 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


Note: click on times in the instructions to start a kitchen timer while cooking.

  1. Mix the instant mashed potatoes with about 1/2 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.
  2. 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.
  3. At this point start adding the potato and continue running the food processor until it is all incorporated. Transfer to a covered container.
  4. 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.
  5. Now you can take it out, take a piece of bread and enjoy every delicious garlicky [and hardly discernably potato-ey] bite.

Recipe Notes

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

Nutrition Information

Yield: 4 servings, Amount per serving: 322 calories, Calories: 322g, Carbohydrates: 17g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 28g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Sodium: 890mg, Potassium: 231mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin C: 24g, Calcium: 24g, Iron: 1g

All images and text © for Dinner, then Dessert.

Keywords: copycat recipes, Garlic Paste, Zankou Chicken


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  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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?

  11. 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.

  12. 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!!

    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!

  13. 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

  14. 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! 😀

  15. 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!

  16. 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 🙂