Asafetida the Onion Alternative

Asafetida the Onion Alternative

Asafetida and an elimination diet

Staying away from onions and garlic? Missing the flavor? Try this spice. Asafetida – the onion alternative –  can be used as a substitute for the flavors of these two vegetables, if not the texture. 

The key to a successful Elimination Diet is finding flavorful foods that will keep you from missing what you can’t have. After all, if you have 12 foods on your do-not-eat list, that leaves hundreds on your I CAN EAT list!

I want to thank my friend Rhoda who suggested the Asafetida. I would never have thought of using it instead of onions! It is a substitute for the onion and garlic “umami” flavors. I am not using either of those wonderful vegetables in my elimination diet recipes – sigh!

Asafetida close up in black spoon in glass bowl

Key points about my new friend, Asafetida

  • Asafetida is related to fennel, and both are in the same family as celery
  • It’s the root that produces a resin with the onion-y flavor
  • As a packaged spice, it is a beige powder
  • The root and powder in their uncooked state have, to some, a nauseating aroma (I think it just smells like celery and onions)
  • It’s added when the spices are being tempered. You add it with your cumin, turmeric, etc. so that the spices flavor the oil
  • It’s a bit pricey – at Savory Spice, the fabulous spice shop in downtown Denver where I bought mine, it was three times what I paid for the same amount of Savory herb!! But the good news is:
  • You don’t need much – I usually don’t add more than ½ teaspoon in a soup, stew or stir-fry

Using Asafetida

I hadn’t heard the term tempering applied to spices before. However, it reminded me of a bit of culinary wisdom I have been told. A friend (and fabulous cook) from Sri Lanka told me once that you never add the spices to the cooked food. Always add them to the oil, and then the flavored oil flavors the food. 

Recipes that contain asafetida on this blog are all elimination diet recipes for my daughter-in-law. Is something in her diet making her 4-month old son spit up? Our goal is to find out, so we are not including onions or garlic in her food for now. Recipes containing asafetida include (so far!):

Taco Seasoning

Spiced Beef-Lentil Stew

Chicken Black Rice and Zucchini Soup

I’d be fascinated to hear from readers what other options you’ve found for going onion-free. It’s the hardest part of this phase of recipe development for me!