Who Invented Garlic Bread? (Invention Timeline Explained)

Can you believe there was a time when garlic bread didn’t exist? It can be a pretty mind-boggling fact for many, as it’s been integrated into popular culture for a very long time. Just about everyone knows about garlic bread, since it’s a combination that pretty much everyone runs into at one point or another in the kitchen. 

Is the bread getting stale and you don’t want to waste it? All you have to do is rub some garlic, drizzle some olive oil and you have a surprisingly gourmet dish out of the most common ingredients in the kitchen. Interested in how garlic bread came to be? Here’s a quick (and thorough) guide talking about one of the most versatile bread dishes around!

Who invented garlic bread?

It’s been said that garlic bread was invented by the Romans, though we aren’t sure about the timeline so it would have to be in the ballpark between the 8th century BC (its founding) and 5th century AD (its collapse). If we’re talking about garlic bread in the US, it would be in the 1950s. 

Garlic bread’s key contributors (and evolution)

  • The Ancient Romans
    Widely believed to be the inventors of garlic bread

    The Romans had access to copious amounts of olives, olive oil, garlic, and bread. It’s widely believed that they used garlic bread as an appetizer for their dishes.

  • The Italians
    Inventors of bruschetta and the traditional Italian garlic bread

    Traditionally, most people know the Italians as the ones responsible for garlic bread, mainly due to their dish, the bruschetta. They had olive oil, garlic, and bread — it was only a matter of time before they started putting it together!

  • The Americans
    Inventors of the more widely known garlic bread

    When people think about garlic bread, it’s not usually the original Italian version. Instead, it’s the Italian-American version that made its way to restaurants during the 1950s.

  • Cole’s Quality Foods
    Inventors of the commercial, frozen garlic bread sold in stores

    Cole’s Quality Foods in Michigan played around with the idea of developing frozen foods, with garlic bread being one of the first. Commercially available, frozen garlic bread isn’t the healthiest, but it’s certainly one of the best-known.

When was garlic bread invented?

The thing about garlic bread is that the winning combination was known long, long ago. Garlic bread — the combination of garlic, bread, and olive oil — was a part of appetizers in the ancient Roman diet sometime between the 8th century BC and the 5th century AD.

A brief history of garlic bread

Isn’t it strange that there was a time when garlic bread didn’t exist? However, the only thing people really needed to develop garlic bread are the ingredients — the idea of it would eventually come along. Such is the reason why garlic bread got its start in ancient Rome, where it’s widely believed they used the dish as a form of appetizer. The thing about garlic bread is when you have stale bread (which the ancient Romans had in droves), olive oil, and garlic, it’s common sense that garlic bread turns into a dish.

While the Romans undoubtedly invented garlic bread, it wasn’t until around the 15th century when the Italians started to play around with the idea of garlic bread once more. In this case, it was the bruschetta, which is something of a precursor to the garlic bread we know and love today. The bruschetta was made with garlic, olive oil, and was toasted. This is probably the same way the ancient Romans did it, but it was likely with stale bread.

As far as the more commercial garlic bread is concerned, it started to gain popularity in the US around the 1950s as part of restaurant menus. It’s the reason why some say the Italian-Americans started the garlic bread trend. Sometime in the 1970s, Cole’s Quality Foods in Michigan played around with the idea of frozen garlic bread, which eventually took off. That frozen, commercially available garlic bread found in groceries is probably the most popular form of garlic bread today!

The garlic bread timeline

  1. 8th century BC – 5th century AD
    The Ancient Romans

    The first inventors of garlic bread. It’s likely they used garlic bread as an appetizer for their primary dishes, but it was likely also the main dish for many occasions. 

  2. 15 century AD
    Reviving the dish with the Italians

    While the Romans might have had garlic bread as part of the diet, the Italians started the trend with their bruschetta. It’s a close enough dish to garlic bread that it might as well be garlic bread to everyone else!

  3. 1950s
    Popularizing the dish with the Americans

    Developed by the Burroughs Corporation, the Panaplex display was notable for having technology similar to more modern day plasma TVs.

  4. 1970s
    Creating the commercial, frozen garlic bread product

    The garlic bread you can buy in supermarkets got its start in the 70s, when Cole’s quality foods started to distribute frozen garlic bread to the masses. Ever since then, garlic bread has been on an upward trend. 

Where was garlic bread invented?

There are two locations where garlic bread potentially got its start. The first is Rome, and the second location is in Italy. 

Why people love garlic bread

  • A dish borne out of common sense

    Funny enough, most people knew how to put two and two together when it came to garlic bread. So long as you had some kind of bread, garlic, and olive oil (optional), there was always a means of transforming the bread into something delicious.

  • A surprisingly versatile dish

    Garlic bread got its start in the US as a side dish alongside the entrees. There are some people who prefer certain restaurants over others not because of the main dish, but because of the quality of their garlic bread.

  • Affordable and easy to make

    So long as you have bread and garlic, everything else is a bonus. If you’re looking for an easy way to fill your stomach, you can’t really go wrong with garlic bread. You can even add olive oil to give it that extra hit.

  • Garlic and olive oil have plenty of health benefits

    While the quality of the bread will determine whether it’s healthy for you, there’s no denying that both garlic and olive oil have plenty of health benefits. It might be a little high on carbs, but the pros far outweigh the cons. It’s also worth noting that garlic bread is absolutely delicious.

Garlic bread by the numbers

  • 2The primary ingredients that make up garlic bread. All you really need is a piece of bread and some garlic to get started. Of course, you can add ingredients, but bread and garlic are a fantastic combo.
  • 3The price in dollars of the average pack of garlic bread you can find in stores. Of course, the price can vary depending on the brand, and where the garlic bread is served. Interestingly enough, the average price is similar if you were to buy the garlic and bread yourself!
  • 1There was one ingredient that the US changed when bruschetta arrived from Italy. Since the US didn’t have a lot of olive oil, they replaced it with butter, which is why most types of garlic bread are buttered.
  • 2022It’s the present day, and the people’s love of garlic bread continues to grow. Over two thousand years later, and people still love garlic bread.

Five facts about garlic bread

  • The different textures of garlic

    There are various ways to prepare garlic bread, and the texture of the garlic can be quite different depending on the cooking type. For example, you can go for soft garlic by wrapping it in aluminum foil and placing it in the oven.

  • The bread suitable for garlic bread

    While pretty much any type of bread can be used, people usually go for crusty bread to get the job done. The ancient Romans probably used stale bread.

  • The best food to pair with garlic bread

    Funny enough, the carb heavy garlic bread is paired best with other carb heavy dishes, specifically Italian cuisine. It’s no surprise, considering they invented bruschetta.

  • Different ways to prepare garlic bread

    The bread itself can be toasted in an oven, heated on a frying pan, or grilled.

  • How garlic bread came to America

    There’s a good chance that Italian immigrants brought bruschetta to America, and the Italian-Americans turned it into the ideal side for restaurant entrees.

FAQ about garlic bread

  • What is the best way to prepare garlic bread?

    While there are many fantastic ways, let me share with you what I think is the best. You douse garlic in olive oil, wrap it in foil, and cook it up in the oven. Afterward, the garlic should be so soft you can squeeze it out of its skin. You use that as the spread for your garlic bread, and the preparation of the bread itself is up to you!

  • Is garlic bread good for me?

    That depends on the type of garlic bread you have! Typically, store-bought garlic bread isn’t too healthy, but the ones you prepare at home can have plenty of health benefits.

  • Were the ancient Romans really responsible for garlic bread?

    It’s highly likely. As garlic, olive oil, and bread was a part of their daily diet — and the Romans were known to be pretty creative during their time, it’s extremely likely that they had garlic bread as part of their culinary repertoire.

  • Is ready-made garlic bread a good idea?

    The quality of frozen garlic bread depends on the brand, but for a lot of people it’s quite nostalgic. You should give it a try if you haven’t yet!

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