What is Hing Powder?

Hing, also known as asafoetida, is an integral spice in Indian cuisine that gives authentic dishes their distinct flavor.

What is Hing Powder

It comes from the dried latex resin of several Ferula species plants in the Apiaceae family.

Hing has been used for centuries in traditional medicine and cooking throughout India and parts of the Middle East, Central Asia, and Europe.

When raw, hing powder has a pungent, persistent odor resembling garlic and onions. But when cooked, its smell dissipates and it delivers a smooth, onion-like flavor.

What is Hing Made Of?

Hing contains about 40-64% resin, 25% endogenous gum, 10-17% essential oils, and 1.5-10% ash. The resin portion contains compounds like ferulic acid, umbelliferone, and asaresinotannols A and B.

The essential oil component is rich in various organosulfides like diallyl sulfide and diallyl disulfide (which gives garlic its smell) as well as dimethyl trisulfide. These organosulfur compounds largely create the distinctive smell and taste of hing powder.

Key Takeaway: Hing gets its signature odor from organosulfur compounds like diallyl disulfide. Its resin and essential oil components also contribute medicinal qualities.

Botanical Sources of Hing

There are over 170 species of Ferula plants, most spread throughout central Asia and the Middle East. The Ferula genus is similar to celery, parsley and carrot plants.

Popular species used to source hing include:

  • Ferula foetida: Found in Eastern Iran, Western Afghanistan and Pakistan. Commonly mistaken for F. assa-foetida.
  • Ferula assa-foetida: Grows in Southern Iran, where it's endemic. Main hing export, though other species are often mislabeled as this.
  • Ferula sinkiangensis and Ferula fukanensis: Both endemic to Xinjiang, China and used locally.

These plants produce thick carrot-shaped roots that exude a resin-like gum known as hing or asafoetida when tapped. The gum varies from greyish-white to dark amber as it dries.

Key Takeaway: Hing comes from the sap of several Ferula species plants, mainly in Iran, Afghanistan and China. These plants have large taproots that yield the resin.

Culinary Uses of Hing Powder

Hing powder is integral in giving Indian vegetarian dishes their signature flavor. It's used to:

  • Enhance flavor of spices like cumin, coriander, turmeric
  • Balance sweet, sour, salty and spicy tastes
  • Aid digestion of beans, lentils, vegetables
  • Substitute onion/garlic in religious fasts or intolerance

How to Cook With Hing

Because raw hing has a bitter taste, it should always be cooked in hot oil to mellow the flavor. Common steps include:

  • Heating hing briefly in oil before adding other spices
  • Adding a pinch directly to lentil curries, vegetable dishes
  • Sprinkling it over finished dishes (not recommended)

The smallest amount of hing can permeate an entire dish. Start with 1⁄4 tsp per pound of meat or vegetables, adjusting to taste.

Key Takeaway: Hing is cooked briefly in hot oil to reduce bitterness. A pinch can flavor an entire dish so start with 1⁄4 tsp per pound of food.

Dishes That Commonly Use Hing

Many Indian dishes get their signature flavor from hing powder. Some examples include:

  • Lentil curries like dal
  • Vegetable curries with potato, cauliflower, okra
  • Chickpea curries like chana masala
  • Dals and sabzis
  • Pickling vegetables

Because a little hing goes a long way, it's affordable to cook with despite being imported. For authentic flavor, smell and nutrition, always try to use fresh hing powder if possible.

Hing Powder Nutrition

Here are the main nutritional components typically found in hing powder:

Minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium7%
Nutrients found in hing powder

So you can see hing provides a decent dose of minerals, carbs and protein for the amount used to flavor dishes. It has minimal fat and high dietary fiber.

The exact nutrient composition can vary based on factors like:

  • Type of Ferula species used
  • Plant's growing conditions
  • Collection and processing methods

However, the nutritional value gives us another reason to cook with this Ayurvedic super-spice!

Key Takeaway: Despite being used in small amounts, hing powder contains 68% carbs, 4% protein and lots of minerals so boosts nutrition.

Medicinal Uses and Health Benefits

In Ayurveda and traditional medicine, hing powder has been used to treat a variety of ailments thanks to its carminative, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Some researched health benefits include:

Digestive Problems

  • Relieves gas, bloating, stomach pains and cramps
  • Stimulates bile flow to improve fat digestion
  • Increases digestive enzymes and saliva


  • Lowers blood sugar levels due to phenolic acids
  • Reduces obesity and fat tissue size

Pain and Inflammation

  • Natural analgesic for headaches, cramps, nerve pain
  • Anti-inflammatory protection


  • Antimicrobial against common bacteria
  • Powerful free radical scavenging antioxidants
  • Wards off infections and allergens

So hing powder packs quite a medicinal punch! With antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory benefits similar to garlic and other alliums, without the strong persistent odor.

How is Commercial Hing Powder Made?

  • Collection: The Ferula plants are allowed to mature for 4-5 years until the roots swell with resin content. The stem is cut and the milky gum resin oozes out from incisions made in the root crown.
  • Processing: The raw hing gum is cleaned and hand pressed into chunks or molded into bricks. It can be sold as-is in pure resin form. Or, it goes through further processing.
  • Grinding: The raw resin is difficult to grate from chunks. So it's traditionally crushed between stones or with a hammer mill.
  • Blending: For commercial hing powder, the resin is blended with 30% rice flour, wheat flour or gum arabic to create a fine, free-flowing powder. This allows for easier packaging, handling and use.

Key Takeaway: To make commercial hing powder, the raw ferula resin is crushed then blended with rice or wheat flour for improved flow and handling.

Types of Hing Available

There are a few main types of asafoetida spice you can buy:

  • Hing resin chunks or bricks: Pure form sold in small pieces that need crushing before use. Has the full aroma.
  • Ground hing powder: Finely powdered to use as-is in cooking. May include flour fillers.
  • Hing-mixed spices: Sold blended with other spices like turmeric or cumin. Offers complementary flavors.
  • Hing oil: The distilled essential oil. Very concentrated potency so used sparingly.

Be sure to store hing in a tightly sealed glass jar, regardless of form purchased. Otherwise it can contaminate every food item in your kitchen! Consider a double container or bag for extra protection.

Cooking Tips When Using Hing

Here are some handy tips for cooking with hing powder:

  • Buy it from a busy seller, freshly ground is more aromatic
  • Start with 1⁄4 tsp per pound of food
  • Quickly heat in oil while stirring until fragrant
  • Add early when simmering stews, dals, soups, sabzis
  • Sprinkle on veggies before roasting
  • Boost flavor of simple lentils or beans
  • Experiment with cabbage, cauliflower or okra recipes

And because hing powder is concentrated, a little really goes a long way. So you get great value from this powerhouse seasoning!

Key Takeaway: For the best aroma and balanced flavor, fry the hing briefly while stirring then add it early in simmering dishes.

Potential Side Effects of Hing

When used properly in small amounts for cooking, hing powder is considered very safe. But taking too much could cause:

  • Gas, bloating, diarrhea or other digestive upset
  • Headaches
  • Mouth swelling or irritation
  • Feeling nervous or overstimulated

Additionally, hing may not be suitable for:

  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Young children and infants

These precautions relate to risks like miscarriage, bleeding, and blood cell oxidation in vulnerable populations. Always consult your physician before using hing therapeutically in supplement form.


What does hing taste like?

When cooked, hing has a pleasant leek-like flavor. If eaten raw, it tastes quite bitter and unpleasant. Frying hing powder helps develop the desired sweet, garlicky and onion notes.

Is hing the same as asafoetida?

Yes, hing and asafoetida are names for the same spice. Hing is from Hindi, while asafoetida comes from Persian. They both refer to the dried latex gum resin from Ferula plants.

Can hing be eaten raw?

It's not recommended to eat raw hing powder. It has a bitter taste that's quite unpleasant. For the best flavor and experience, hing should always be sautéed briefly in hot oil or ghee. This mellows the taste.

Is hing good for high BP patients?

Some research shows hing may help lower blood pressure in animals. But more studies are needed to confirm effects in humans. Talk to your doctor before using hing supplements if you take BP medications, as interactions are possible.

Can we apply hing on naval for babies?

No, hing should never be given to infants or directly applied to their skin. It may cause serious side effects like methaemoglobinaemia from oxidizing fetal blood cells. Introduce spices like hing slowly in small amounts when older.


Hing powder is an ancient Ayurvedic remedy that found its place as a popular flavor-boosting spice in Indian cooking.

When added to hot oil, it enhances the flavor of other spices and balances out the taste of finished dishes.

Plus, it offers antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects with minimal risk involved.

Unlimited Recipes
Unlimited Recipes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *