Is asafoetida gluten free?

Is asafoetida gluten free?

Asafoetida, also called hing, is a spice that’s commonly used in South Asian cooking, particularly in India. The spice itself is gluten free, but the packaged form is often NOT gluten free. We’ll get into the reason for this below, and will also provide sources for certified gluten free asafoetida.

Hing is the dried gum resin that’s exuded from the tap root of Ferula. Ferula is a perennial herb that’s part of the celery family. The plant species is native to Iran and Afganistan, and continues to be produced there in large quantities. The spice has a very pungent smell, due to its high concentration of sulfur compounds. Because of this, its name in many languages translates to ‘devil’s dung’ or ‘satan’s resin’. I know this doesn’t sound very tasty, but once it’s cooked, hing’s flavor transforms into a savoriness similar to cooked leeks or garlic. Some even say it has a meaty taste.


Image from Ayushvedah

Asafoetida is most often used in vegetarian dishes, especially lentil curries, and vegetable dishes based around cauliflower and potatoes. The savory umami flavor of asafoetida is usually paired with turmeric and cumin in Indian cuisine. Because hing provides an onion-y flavor, it’s often used in low FODMAP recipes. Only a small amount of the spice is necessary, because it’s so pungent. A tiny jar will last a very long time.

Ayurvedic medicine uses asafoetida to treat indigestion, although this hasn’t yet been extensively studied. However, it has been shown to contain high levels of antioxidants and to have antifungal effects. Some studies have also indicated that hing helps reduce asthma symptoms, lower blood sugar levels, and may protect brain health.


Dal fry from Cook with Manali

Why wouldn’t asafoetida be gluten free?

Asafoetida sap itself is entirely gluten free, but it tends to be cut with wheat flour to make using the spice easier. This is to prevent clumping, because the pure dried resin can easily stick together. Another reason it’s cut with flour is due to the strong taste. It’s easy to use too much hing in a recipe, so diluting it with flour provides more room for error, and also increases the profit for the merchant selling the spice.


Image from NPR

When dining out at Indian restaurants, this unfortunately makes it necessary to ask if asafoetida specifically has been used in any of the dishes you’ve ordered. Many people might not understand that even that tiny amount of wheat flour could make you very sick. If you’re vegetarian, it’s extra important to check, because hing is mostly used in Indian veg dishes.

The good news is that you can find asafoetida that’s cut with rice flour instead of wheat flour, making it gluten free! We’ve provided some good resources below, but it’s also worth checking your local Indian store to see what’s available.

Gluten Free Asafoetida


Image from Burlap and Barrel

* Title image courtesy of First Cry Parenting.

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