The hardest part of accepting a low-FODMAP diet, was giving up my favorite foods like turkey chili, seafood stews (Cioppino, Bouillabaisse, Korean Dae-Gu Maeun Tang), Italian tomato sauces, Thai and Indian curry dishes etc., all notoriously laced with garlic and onions. When I first tried to replicate these at home without the garlic or onion, they all fell flat, failing to satisfy the craving. The flavors didn’t seem fully integrated and tasted “hollow,”screaming for the real deal — with garlic or onion, please! As I began experimenting and researching, I found some great arsenals for filling the voids and they have become my most formidable staples in the kitchen. So arm yourself with low FODMAP seasoning secrets and be a foodie again!
Garlic and Onion Substitutes
My two secret weapons for cooking without garlic are: garlic infused olive oil and astafetida (also known as asafoetida)
Astafetida is an Indian spice that’s a dried form of resin from a tree and performs well in place of garlic or onion. It has somewhat of a dried, stale garlic flavor, but terrific for seasoning soups, stews and curry. Historically, poor little astafetida has been given a bad rep because of its stink, but it quickly loses its funky smells and is a great flavor enhancer in cooking. I read that the Indian Jains and strict Brahmins use it in curry, because they forbid themselves to eat garlic or onions…hey, kind of like us! Since it may not be readily available, I buy mine on Amazon here:Rani Asafetida (Hing) Ground 3.75 oz. It does list wheat as one of the binding agents, but it’s such a minimal amount that it should be well tolerated for low FODMAP diets.
Garlic infused oil is acceptable because the fructans (the culprit) in the garlic is soluble in water but not oil. That means you can make your own by heating garlic (or onion) in the oil, then tossing it out before adding other ingredients like vegetables. Homemade versions need to be refrigerated and tossed out within a week to avoid risk of botulism.
If you want to buy one already infused like I usually do, please make sure it is truly garlic infused and not flavored with garlic powder! I went through several bottles labeled “garlic infused,” until I discovered that they had “garlic flavoring” as one of the ingredients or had tiny chopped garlic pieces and powder in them. My favorite one is the Baja Precious – Glorious Garlic Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil (750ml Bottle).
Chives and Scallion (only the green part)
I often use both in my cooking if the ingredients call for onions. Be sure to use only the green of the scallion. I’m so paranoid that I only use the darkest green part and toss out the rest. Scallion’s pretty cheap!
This one is pretty simple to work around, but the challenge is figuring out what actually has fructose in them. Unfortunately, most all-natural baked goods found in health food stores contain sweeteners like honey, agave, beet sugar, prune, pear and apple juice which are no-nos for us.
My top choice for cooking with sweeteners is maple syrup. Aside from having less sugar overall than cane sugar, it also has antioxidant benefits; better on the glycemic index; and believed to be helpful for inflammation diseases. Make sure you are buying true maple syrup and not pancake syrup!
Straight cane sugar, palm sugar and rice malt syrup are fine too.
Some people who are sensitive to spicy foods may actually find they are intolerant of the items that accompany the spices (e.g. garlic, onion) rather than the spices themselves like chili pepper and curry. Obviously, too much pepper like cayenne can be an irritant on the digestive system! But I often use spices liberally to season and liven up my dishes. Watch out for chili powders too, as many found in supermarkets like McCormick’s already contain garlic powder. The safest one I use is Korean Red Chili Flakes, Gochugaru (1 Lb) By Tae-kyung, as it’s usually just plain hot pepper powder. Be sure you don’t get the Korean Chili Paste, as it frequently contains fructose.
Also be careful of store bought condiments like ketchup (high fructose corn syrup) and hot sauces which often have garlic, like Sriacha. I like using the good old fashioned Tobasco or Crystal’s Hot Sauce to add a kick.
Other than the ones already mentioned, there are a slew of spices that are FODAMP friendly like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, paprika, black pepper, nutmeg, star anise and turmeric.
Fresh herbs are a great way to enhance and add dimensions to your food. FODMAP friendly ones include: basil, cilantro, coriander, curry leaves, fenugreek leaves, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, marjoram, pandan leaves, oregano, parsley, rosemary, tarragon and thyme.
Oh, while there is a debate whether the ginger root is an herb or a spice, it can be used generously and great for the digestion!