I'm trying to find a substitute for garlic in a chicken pulao recipe. The masala paste calls for 4 cloves of garlic, which are ground with the other ingredients into a paste. I'm already substituting radish for the onion. (My sister has celiac disease and is very sensitive to/finds it difficult to digest onions and garlic and related -- no chives, shallots, etc. Even garlic and onion powder are out.)

I'm not sure what to substitute here. If it was a small quantity, such as one clove, I'd be ok in just omitting it entirely. But 4 cloves is not an insignificant amount. Further, the canonical 'onion and garlic subsitutions' question suggests a lot of other ingredients still in the garlic/onion family -- which are all out. Asafoetida, which it suggests, I've only ever used as an onion replacement. And even in that other question it says to fry it in hot oil first. My current use is as part of a paste which is used to marinate the meat overnight prior to cooking so I'm not not sure how having to fry it in hot oil first would work into that (assuming I can even find it in a store.)

I don't want to use ginger since the paste already includes ginger. Can I use horseradish? Garlic adds a certain kind of 'umami' and sharpness/pungency that I'm unsure how to replace in a marinade like this.

Basically the recipe is to grind a bunch of ingredients into a paste, coat the chicken, and let sit overnight. The coated chicken is then cooked with rice and spices to make the pulao. The other ingredients in the paste are onion, ginger, yoghurt or buttermilk, and spices.

  • You may get a better result if you pick a recipe that doesn't contain so many ingredients that need substitutions.
    – GdD
    Nov 6, 2020 at 8:52

1 Answer 1


I would still suggest using asafoetida (also known as "hing"). Bloom it in just a couple tsp of vegetable oil,and then add it to the paste. Since your marinade already has fat in it from the yogurt and buttermilk, a little extra fat from the oil won't change it significantly. Frying spices in oil separately and adding them to liquid is a common Indian food technique, called a "tarka" or "tadka". And asafoetida really is the best garlic substitute ... that's the whole reason it exists, as a food.

In terms of obtaining it, your best bets where you are (your profile says Rocky Mountains) is either to find a grocery store with a substantial Indian food aisle (there are Indian groceries in almost every major Western US and Canadian city), or online ordering. The nice thing about hing is that a little goes a long way, and it keeps for a long time if it stays dry, so the one little jar you buy should be good for dozens of dinners with your sister.

Substitution ratio: 1/2 tsp is equivalent to 2 cloves garlic, or 2/3 cup minced onion.

  • 1
    It's often available in jars diuted with fenugreek, so you may need to use a little more - but that's a good thing as you wouldn't use much otherwise. And keep it in a glass jar with a well-sealed metal lid
    – Chris H
    Nov 6, 2020 at 11:03
  • What's the ratio of asafoetida to garlic for this? One tsp = 1 clove? (For some reason I had been under the impression that it was an onion equivalent, not a garlic equivalent.) Nov 7, 2020 at 1:49
  • Honestly the hardest part about finding asafoetida is finding a gluten free version. Most of them appear to be cut with wheat. Nov 7, 2020 at 2:01
  • It can be either, or both, really. I don't know about the gluten. Maybe try some high-end? The stuff from Savory Spice is only cut with Fenugreek, no wheat: savoryspiceshop.com/asafetida
    – FuzzyChef
    Nov 7, 2020 at 3:17
  • 1
    I added a substitition ratio to the answer.
    – FuzzyChef
    Nov 7, 2020 at 4:12

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