Asafoetida – A Replacement for Onion & Garlic (Low Fructose)

Yesterday I went into Pike Place Market to (and don’t laugh at me here) take Bailey to see the city we’ve moved to. I know he’s a dog and all but I figured that we had dragged him literally half-way around the world and he hadn’t seen Seattle yet. It’s been 2 years. Plus it was a gorgeous day and who needs more of an excuse than that to go into Seattle to the markets and Fisherman’s Wharf?


As you can see, we visited the markets and a few shops besides; Bails and Nellie were not only allowed in basically all of the stores that didn’t serve food but they also were given a treat in each one. Spoilt things. Seattle really is very dog friendly. Except for Sound Transit (a bus company) – for some reason dogs have to be crated to go on their buses, whereas King County Metro (the other bus company) has no rules other than you have to pay for a dog that won’t fit on your lap and one big dog per bus… just so you know.

Anyway, back to the Asafoetida, also known as Hing. It is an interesting spice, to say the least.

We visited the World Spice Merchants store, which is just behind Pike Place Market – again, the dogs were allowed in and were given treats – and while browsing, the words “onion and garlic flavours hiding within” popped out at me. This was exciting! While I can eat cooked onion and garlic with no issues, I am always looking for replacements to either put with my recipes here or just in case my FM changes and onions and garlic end up on my no-go list.

*Note* After further research on asafoetida, the powder is usually cut with a tiny amount of rice or wheat flour to prevent clumping. I emailed World Spice Market and their current batch (as of May 2013) contains wheat. If you’ve just got FM, this might be ok for you as you only use a pinch in any recipe; if you have Coeliacs, make sure you find a powder with rice flour only.

Asafoetida is made from the sap excreted from the stem and roots of the giant fennel plant, Ferula Assafoetida, which is dried and then ground into a powder. It cannot be eaten raw, as it can cause severe gastrointestinal upset.

However the dried, powdered form in which it can be purchased in America has been shown to alleviate:

  • Gastrointestinal upset and flatulence
  • Cold and flu symptoms
  • Yest infections
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Hysteria/insanity
  • Pulmonary issues such as bronchitis
  • Some contraceptive effects

References here and here.

It is very popular as a spice in Indian cuisine as well as soups and stews, due to the onion/garlic/leek taste (as well as a truffle flavour) that it can bring to a dish. It apparently pairs well with cauliflower and legumes.


There can be side effects to Asafoetida, though. Apparently, it is quite efficacious with regards to flavour, so not much is required – it has the nickname “Devil’s Dung” due to its pungent odour when uncooked. I don’t think it smells as bad as that – at least the version that I bought doesn’t; it’s a bit like a strong onion powder smell.

Due to its potential contraceptive effects, it is recommended that women who are aiming to become pregnant, are pregnant or breast-feeding do not consume this spice as it could cause a miscarriage. It should also not be consumed by young children.

On that scary note, I’m going to experiment with it as a flavour enhancer in a few dishes, without intending to use it medicinally.

Does anybody else out there have any experience cooking with Asafoetida? I’d love to get some recommendations.


14 thoughts on “Asafoetida – A Replacement for Onion & Garlic (Low Fructose)

  1. I just moved to Seattle too and of course took my dog out to pike place last weekend! Great to know about this spice replacement! I am so glad to find your site as I’m just in the early beginnings of my low fodmaps diet!

    • Hi Kat! I love Pike Place Market and I hope you’re enjoying Seattle’s gorgeous summer. Make the most of it, we won’t see the sun from October through March haha. If you scan across the menu to the “Restaurants and Travel” tab, there are some restaurant recommendations – I suggest you try Portage Bay Cafe asap for delicious local food at very reasonable prices. They are also more than happy to check ingredients and they have the best gluten free bread I’ve ever eaten that they make into French toast! *drools*

    • So sorry for the late reply! I don’t know how I missed your comment. Yes, there was wheat in that batch of hing but that can change per batch, so it’s best to call them up and ask. I hope you’ve found a suitable powder in the meantime!

  2. Late to the game but..
    It should smell. Usually smells like gross socks. This disappears after cooking. It’s usually cooked first in oil much as you would cook garlic in oil before adding other ingredients. I would be hesitant to use it without this preparatory step.

    • Hi Matthew, thanks for stopping by. The batch I bought definitely stunk, but I didn’t think it warranted the rants/gagging/complaints that I have seen online. Perhaps it was a tad old, or sub par, or a different variety? Anyway, I have heard others say that their asafoetida needs to be double bagged but I didn’t feel like mine did. As for cooking, I don’t really use asafoetida much anymore, unless it’s in Asian/Indian dishes, as I prefer garlic and onion infused oils but you’ll see me mention in recipes (that I haven’t edited to use the infused oils instead) to fry it in oil before adding other ingredients, if the dish allows. As I mentioned above, it shouldn’t be eaten raw as it can cause GI upset – I always make sure it’s cooked. 🙂

    • Yes it’s great in place of garlic and onion in Asian inspired dishes but I prefer other methods to get the garlic/onion flavour in Italian or more Western cooking. FODMAPers would still have to be careful with your recipe, as, depending on how many serves it makes, 1 cup of lentils might be a bit much.

      • Hi! I stumbled onto your blog when looking for suggestions on how to use asafoetida as a replacement for garlic, as I’ve discovered I’m allergic to garlic if it’s in big quantities and/or undercooked. You say you prefer other methods to get a garlic flavour in Italian or more Western cooking, what do you use for that? I miss garlic, and it’s in everything it seems… things you never notice until you suddenly can’t eat it, I guess. It’s also the flavour du jour down here, so I am having a hard time avoiding it. I know you say you can eat cooked onion and garlic with no issues, but if you’ve got any hints or tips I’d love to hear them!

        Also, I’ve got a friend who sticks to a FODMAP diet, so I’ll point her to your blog, too! (I’ll probably find out she already reads it regularly, though!)

        Thank you!

    • Hi. Just wondered how much to use. Eg 1 onion = ? T Spoon. Assuming the onion is between a golf ball and a tennis ball size. Thanks heaps.

  3. Hi Nataliya, I’ve been cooking with asafoetida powder for about a year for my daughter with IBS.. Before her diagnosis we used lots of onion and garlic in everything that suited. The low fodmap diet was a very big adjustment in many ways but we found a way to still have those deep, rich flavors without the fructans. For garlic I simply infuse a bit of warm olive oil with a clove or two for about five minutes right in the pot or pan I plan to cook in, discard the garlic, and carry on with the recipe. For onion I keep a jar of asafoetida on the counter and toss 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon into the pan with the warm oil and let it heat for just a few seconds. The transformation from pungent oinion smell to heavenly onion fragrance is wonderous! And if the end product would seem skimpy without the actual onions (such as sauteed onions and peppers for sausage sandwiches) I add thinly slice a summer squash . It has a similar consistency when cooked and absorbs all that lovely asafoetida flavor. We have a local producer here in Maine in dedicated gluten free facility. Gryffon Ridge Inc. in Litchfield. Check to see if they ship I think they do.

    • THANK YOUUUU! I was challenged to find a “quality” GF asafoetida. I see that Gryffon Ridge has numerous spice offerings. What a wonderful find! Thank you, again.

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