Don’t Skimp on the Spices


Planning a menu on a restricted diet–be it the Low-FODMAP protocol or otherwise–means a lot of the same.

With broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, various beans and peas all on the trigger list that leaves a lot of repetition of spinach, green beans, and carrots (not to mention the ubiquitous green salad) as side dishes. Of course there are more options available seasonally, but these are our core components. Even the proteins can get a bit repetitive without a helping hand from the spice rack.

Whether you’re following a recipe or experimenting on your own, a careful perusal of the spice blends on your shelf will turn up some High-FODMAP ingredients–namely garlic and onion powders–in the ingredient lists. Curry powder, chili powder*, steak seasoning, taco mix, etc. Even the simple-sounding Lemon Pepper usually includes both garlic and onions! (And I can report from personal experience that even the small amounts in the Lemon & Pepper seasoning blend are enough to provoke a reaction in an otherwise safe meal.)

The solution, as with any specialty diet, is to make your own. Often it’s just a matter of making up the blend without the offending powdered garlic or onions, but what if you find yourself missing those flavors? There’s always asafoetida (aka hing) powder–a little of that goes a long way, and I’d suggest saving it to apply per dish, not including it in the pre-mixed spices–or a drizzle of garlic oil if appropriate for the recipe. You can still add a sprinkle of green onion tops to the dish while it’s cooking for a more authentic flavor, and some well-diced turnips add a peppery bite to a soup or stew in place of onions.

Here are a couple of my go-to blends we use regularly in our kitchen.

Taco Seasoning

1/4 cup salt
2 Tbsp red chili powder
1 Tbsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp oregano

Combine in a glass jar and shake until combined; makes about a half a cup. Use 2 tsp mix per pound of protein of your choice; go up to a tablespoon if you like your tacos hot!

Curry Powder

4 Tbsp coriander
2 Tbsp turmeric
1 Tbsp cumin
2 tsp ginger
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp red chili powder

Combine in a glass jar and shake until combines; makes about a half a cup. Use 2 Tbsp mix per pound of protein of your choice, 1 Tbsp if you’re seasoning vegetables, or as much as your recipe requires.

While there are plenty of seasoning blends just a convenient search away, I also have two “old-fashioned” books to recommend for just this sort of kitchen quandry. First is one of my long-time favorites, The Kitchen Companion by Polly Clingerman. It’s currently out of print but if you find a used copy either online or at a yard sale, snap it up! This is my go-to for all sorts of cooking basics, time and temp charts out the wazoo, and just all sorts of kitchen awesomeness. The other is The Spice and Herb Bible by Ian Hemphill. In addition to being a veritable encyclopedia of herbs and spices in their various forms, there are usage suggestions and spice blends galore–perfect for kitchen experimentation!


*For the record, if you buy your red chili powder in “bulk” at the Indian grocery like I do, remember that this is straight chilies whereas the chili powder called for in most recipes is rather “diluted” with other things. Pare down accordingly or risk the wrath of your tastebuds!

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