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Asafoetida or Hing is an important spice in Indian cuisine, and it may help with the digestion of pulses, so is great for those on vegetarian diets.

Asafeotida has a flavour that is very distinctive and stinky, being somewhat foetid and sulphurous but with that initial sweetness that garlic or onion have when they start going off and ferment a bit. This unique smell gives asafoetida its coarser names of Devil's Dung or Stinking Gum.

When fried briefly in hot oil, the smell tones down and becomes a sweet, onion-like flavour, which is why Brahmins in India often cook with it as they are prohibited from eating garlic and onions. This makes asafoetida ideal for those who dislike garlic or onions, because it gives those flavours but without the strong taste.

As a result, asafoetida is one of those sneaky little spices that adds something special to dishes, even when only a small amount is added; you don't need it, but it creates an extra depth that somehow is lacking when it is removed.

Asafoetida is used to add an onion-like flavour to dhals, vegetable dishes and pickles and relishes.

What is Asafoetida?

Asafoetida is a deep brown, unpleasant looking oleoresin gum extracted from giant fennel, Ferula assafoetida, which grows to about 3 metres (10 ft) high [1]. It looks similar to your vegetable patch fennel, but bigger and coarser in appearance, with bright yellow flowers that only blossom after about five years of growth. The asafoetida sap is collected from plants that are older than four years in age by tapping the base of the stem, then removing the milky juice that oozes out. This resin dries out into lumps that turn a dark reddish-brown. The brown gum is musky and rotten in aroma and soft to touch.

Generally, asafoetida gum is ground with a form of starch to give a coarse, light brown powder. Yellow asafoetida is made by mixing the gum with wheat or corn starch, gum arabic, turmeric and perhaps an artificial colour as well. However, the best asafoetida uses a fenugreek seed base and without any additional colours like turmeric or artificial colours.

Nutritional Data

Energy Value 202 kCal / 858 kJ
Fat n/a
- saturates n/a
- mono-unsaturates n/a
- polyunsaturates n/a
Carbohydrate 23.4
- sugar 2.8
- polyols n/a
- starch n/a
Salt 0.3
Fibre n/a
Protein 24.9

These can be compared to reference intakes, but these have not been shown in the table above, because they are not particularly useful for spices.


  1. Katzer, G. (n.d.) Asafetida (Ferula assa-foetida L.), Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages. Retrieved 28 October 2015.

Further Reading

  • Hemphill, I., Hemphill, K. (2014) The Spice and Herb Bible, Robert Rose. ISBN 9780778804932.
  • Norman, J. (2015) Herbs & Spices: The Cook's Reference, DK Publishing. ISBN 9781465435989.