The One Ingredient You Need to Make Beans Less Gassy

This staple of Indian cooking can make digesting legumes a whole lot easier.

Asafoetida, also spelled as "asafetida" or referred to in Hindi as "hing," is a common ingredient in Indian kitchens, and it just so happens to be a digestive aid that can help you avoid stomach-rumbling gas the next time you sit down to a pot of beans and rice.

What Is Asafoetida?

Asafoetida is made from a type of gum-resin extracted from the roots of ferula, an herb plant in the celery family. When raw, it has an extremely pungent smell (sometimes compared to boiled eggs) and bitter taste. But once cooked, asafoetida takes on a pleasant onion-like scent and mellow flavor that will not only add digestion benefits, but also contribute a lovely aroma, to your finished dish.

Because of its funky smell, asafoetida gets a bad reputation. The simple solution is to just store your jar of asafoetida in an air-tight container. This will stop its scent from permeating your spice cabinet while keeping it fresh at the same time.

a bottle of Laljee Godhoo Hing Asafoetida on a white background

Buy it: Laljee Godhoo Asafoetida (Two Pack), $12;

How Does Asafoetida Aid Digestion?

Asafoetida is regularly used in ayurvedic medicine, which dates back thousands of year. It's recommended for treating indigestion, gas, or some more serious conditions like kidney stones or bronchitis. While research is still needed for all of asafoetida's medical properties, some studies have promising results pointing to it being a good source of antioxidants, helpful with chronic indigestion, and potentially reducing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Perhaps that's why it's no coincidence that asafoetida is a common ingredient in Indian bean and lentil dishes.

Asafoetida cake and powder with a mortar and pestle
subodhsathe / Getty Images

How to Cook With Asafoetida

Asafoetida needs to be cooked in a fat to mellow out its bold smell and taste. Typically this would be done with oil or ghee, but you can also use butter. Traditionally it's used in tempering, the Indian technique of toasting spices in fat, which is then drizzled over dishes like dal (lentil curry) to add a boost of flavor and digestion benefits.

Very little asafoetida is actually used, with most recipes literally calling for "a pinch," but you can measure out anywhere between 1/16th to 1/8th teaspoon if you're a stickler for measuring.

Add asafoetida to your a pot of lentils or beans with one of these two methods:

  1. Sauté a pinch of asafoetida in your preferred fat over medium heat for one to two minutes (until it smells onion-like), then stir in the water, legumes, plus any extra ingredients and cook.
  2. Cook your legumes as desired. In a separate small pan sauté a pinch of asafoetida in your preferred fat over medium heat for one to two minutes (until it smells onion-like) then stir into your pot of beans or lentils.

Where to Buy Asafoetida

Asafoetida is typically sold in small bottles and comes as a yellow or off-white powder. You can also find whole pieces of it at some stores, but we recommend against beginners purchasing those since consuming too much asafoetida can have adverse health reactions, such as headaches or dizziness.

Bottled, powdered varieties of it are cut with ingredients like wheat or rice powder (so read the label if you're gluten-sensitive), with asafoetida making up only roughly 30 percent of the product. Between the ingredient proportions and the small amount used in cooking, you won't have to worry about safety when using asafoetida in your next batch of legumes. You can find a bottle of powdered asafoetida for just a few dollars at your local Indian market, or it's easily available for online ordering.

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