How to Cook Without Onion and Garlic (and REALLY Enjoy It!)

It’s a familiar smell that makes your mouth water immediately. The scent of onions wafting from a pan gives most places an instant homey feeling, letting us know that food is being prepared, and that it’s going to be delicious. But what happens when you love onions, but they don’t love you? Today, we’re talking about hacking flavor: here’s how to cook without onion and garlic, and really enjoy it.

Why Does Onion Irritate My Stomach?

For many people, onions are a serious source of regret after eating a meal. This isn’t just about bad breath: onions are a high-FODMAP food, meaning that they contain a compound – in this case, fructans, a type of oligosaccharide, or short-chain carbohydrate – that is difficult for your gut to break down. This means that when you eat onions, they tend to take a long time to digest, which causes them to sit in your gut and ferment. Unfortunately for those thinking they’ve found a loophole, garlic is also high in fructans. Like onion, it sits in the gut and ferments, undigested, which in the long run can cause painful bloating, or issues like gas and flatulence, especially in people with very sensitive stomachs.

To learn more about the low-FODMAP diet and other bloating culprits in your cupboard, check out this article.

The Wild and Wonderful World of Onion Substitutes

Anyone who has lost their sense of smell from a cold can tell you that tasteless food is no fun. It’s no wonder, then, that many people who can’t eat onion or garlic will try to find an onion substitute. When choosing an onion substitute, your first instinct might be to reach for its smaller, milder cousin, the green onion. The good news is that green onions can be a low-FODMAP food – as long as you only use the green part, as the white part is high FODMAP and can cause irritation and bloating. Luckily, you can turn to chives as an inoffensive (if milder) onion substitute that you can add liberally to your cooking.

Kitchen Hack: Grow Your Own Onion Substitute

If you love green onions and hate to throw the uneaten parts away, there is a way to save them! When you’ve used up all the green parts, simply place the white bottoms and roots of your green onions in a mason jar filled with a centimeter of water. Place the jar in a well-lit part of your kitchen, make sure you keep the water fresh, and watch your green onions regrow. If you’re a committed home gardener, you can even plant your green onions in soil to ensure a steady supply of low-FODMAP onion substitute throughout the year. 

Finding Great Flavor (and Keeping Sodium in Check)

Sometimes what you’re looking for isn’t onion or garlic at all, but flavor. One of the pitfalls to beware of when you’re looking for healthy flavor without onion or garlic is adding too much salt to food. A little bit of salt goes a long way! Learning how to cook without onion and garlic is usually a decision that comes from the desire to live a healthier lifestyle and feel better, so a sudden excess of sodium doesn’t fix the problem as much as cause a whole new one.

For best results, don’t rely too heavily on salt to bring out the flavor of your food; instead, use salt to enhance the taste of oils, herbs and spices. Not sure where to start? Check out this list of low-FODMAP spices that can help you enjoy the tastes you love while nurturing your gut.

Choosing the Right Garlic- and Onion-Free Seasonings

Being careful with salt goes beyond the stuff you sprinkle on your plate. If you’re not the type to mix your own spices and you just want to try something new, you may be tempted to reach for premade seasoning mixes. This is all fun and games until you look at the ingredients. When choosing a seasoning mix, be sure to check not only the sodium and sugar content, but also the ingredients: many seasoning mixes actually contain dried onion or garlic, or other onion or garlic flavoring that can take you back to square one.

To find the perfect blend of low-FODMAP flavors for any meal, check out Fody Foods’ wide array of oils, spice mixes, sauces and marinades. Made without triggering ingredients and designed to deliver taste without regrets, Fody Foods products are created with sensitive stomachs in mind. Looking for zest and a fresh-tasting kick? Reach for Fody’s Ranch Style Seasoning to flavor dips and salad dressings. Making a steak? Skip the onion and get the flavor of your dreams with Fody’s Steak Seasoning, and if you’re frying it, try Fody’s garlic- and shallot-infused extra-virgin olive oils for a deeper flavor. From Taco Seasoning to the endlessly versatile Everyday Seasoning, there’s no limit to the flavors you–and your gut–can create and enjoy with Fody.

Learning how to cook without onion and garlic comes with practice, and it helps to have the right tools! Explore the full range of Fody’s sauces and seasonings by checking out our products, and for cooking inspiration, visit our recipes page. Remember: no-bloat eating doesn’t mean no-flavor eating! From all of us at Fody, bon appétit!

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