A man standing in a cluster of asafoetida sprinkles spice onto food he is cooking in a pan

What Is Asafoetida and How Can I Use It?

Last updated: October 2022

If you are living with IBS, there is a good chance you have discovered that certain foods make your symptoms worse.

Two common foods that can worsen IBS symptoms are onions and garlic. This is because onions and garlic both contain high amounts of FODMAPs. If you are following the low FODMAP diet for IBS management, you have probably been told to avoid onions and garlic.

Unfortunately, because onions and garlic both add a lot of flavor to food, it can be difficult to eliminate them from your diet. Luckily, there are other ways to get a similar flavor.

Have you heard of asafoetida? If not, read on for more information about this pungent but tasty spice!

What is asafoetida?

Asafoetida is a dried and powdered resin made from the root of the giant fennel plant Ferula asafoetida. Also known as hing, devil’s dung, and stinking gum, it is a common ingredient in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. While it has been reported to have a strong and slightly unpleasant smell, its flavor mellows with cooking and produces a flavor like onion or garlic.1

Asafoetida can be purchased in two main forms: yellow or brown powder.

The yellow powder is less pungent because it has been diluted with flour or rice flour. If you are following a low FODMAP diet, check the ingredient list for wheat flour, as wheat flour contains FODMAPs.

The brown powder is pure asafoetida and should be used in tiny amounts.2

Are there health benefits to asafoetida?

Asafoetida has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine. Studies in animals have shown several pharmacological effects of asafoetida, including muscle relaxant effects, brain-protecting effects, memory enhancement, stimulation of digestive enzymes, lowering of blood pressure, liver protection, and antimicrobial activity.3

Unfortunately, asafoetida has not been extensively studied in humans, so it is unclear whether the effects seen in animals also occur in humans. Therefore, I would not recommend it as a way to improve IBS symptoms. However, it is safe to consume if you want to mimic the flavor of onions and garlic.

How to use asafoetida

With asafoetida, a little goes a long way!

Start with 1-2 pinches and work your way up from there. Asafoetida tastes best if you fry it in a small amount of oil for 5-10 seconds before adding the rest of the ingredients.

Asafoetida works well in Indian dishes, but you can also use it in any dish you would typically use onions or garlic. Try it in soups, stews, stir-fries – the sky is the limit!

Asafoetida powder should be stored in an airtight container to prevent its strong scent from spreading into your kitchen. The fresher it is, the stronger its smell will be.

Final thoughts

If you are avoiding onions and garlic to manage your IBS symptoms, asafoetida can be a great alternative. While it has a pungent and strong aroma in its raw form, cooking significantly mellows its flavor.

Have you tried asafoetida? Let us know in the comments below!

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