Inside the Spice Cabinet: Asafoetida (or Asafetida)

updated May 2, 2019
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Asafoetida, also known as asafetida and hing, is a staple ingredient in Indian cooking and most commonly used in vegetarian recipes. It’s pungent smell can make this powder seem off-putting, but rest assured it dissipates while cooking, bringing a full, savory flavor to foods.

What Is Asafoetida?

Taste: Pungent
Most Popular Use: Indian cooking, substitute for garlic and onions

Asafoetida is a pungent spice used in cooking, in addition to being consumed as a digestive aid. Native to Central Asia, particularly Iran and India, asafoetida comes from a very unusual source. According to Harold McGee, it’s made by scraping the sap from the exposed root of a plant in the carrot family. The sap is dried and crushed, giving us a tan-colored powder to sprinkle into our dishes.

McGee also says that the sap contains many of the same sulfur compounds found in onions. It has a very strong odor when dry, which many sources say is reminiscent of washed rind cheeses or body odor. Not to worry – when the spice is added during cooking, it mellows out into a gentle flavor.

It’s essential to store asafoetida in an airtight container as its strong aroma can affect nearby spices and foods. When kept in a cool, dry, and dark location it can last up to one year.

How To Use Asafoetida

Asafoetida is used in savory dishes, often to add a more full flavor by mimicking the taste of onions, garlic, egg, and even meat. It’s a staple ingredient in Indian cooking, commonly used along with turmeric in lentil dishes like dal, and a variety of vegetable dishes.

Recipes for Cooking with Asafoetida