Ajwain and Epazote

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Ajwain and epazote are two spices that our bean-loving family couldn’t live without.

I’ve highlighted both of them in my post on How to De-Gas Beans, but here is more detail about them.

Ajwain is one of the spices mentioned in my post on Savory Hummus.  It, along with epazote, helps with the digestion of beans.

Recently there has been a lot of attention paid to other cultures and their native ways of cooking.  Just like there are some old wives’ tales that actually are true, there are a lot of cultural traditions surrounding foods that had better nutrition at the root of their existence.

I was introduced to ajwain a few years ago by a friend who is a master of all things spice and was the manager of a spice store at the time.  I mentioned to her that we were eating a lot (emphasis on “lot”) of beans and that this was sometimes a source of digestive distress for our family.  We were already soaking, draining and rinsing our beans before cooking, but we were still having some undesirable effects of the high bean diet :-).

Ah yes, brings back memories of that old rhyme,  “Beans, beans, the magical fruit…”

My friend said to try ajwain and epazote when cooking beans, adding them to the bean water after soaking and draining the beans.

What a difference!   And you don’t need to use very much of either spice:

For ajwain:

Use 1/4 tsp per 2 cups of cooked beans to the pot (1 cup dried beans yields approx 3 cups cooked).

I count the number of dried beans that I am using, multiply by 3 and then count off how many 1/4 tsps I need.

For example, if I am cooking 4 cups of dried beans, that will yield about 12 cups of cooked beans.  So I will need 1/4 tsp x 6 or 1 1/2 tsp ajwain.  To make it easy without calculating, I think, “OK.  I am cooking 12 cups of beans so I count off 1/4 tsps of ajwain while dumping it into the pot and counting by 2 for each 1/4 teaspoon.  For 12 cups that means I would add six quarter teaspoons of ajwain.

For epazote, add approximately 1 Tbsp per 3 cups cooked beans or 1 cup dried beans.

You use more epazote in volume per pot of beans, but it weighs considerably less than the ajwain so the cost equals out a bit.

I tried to find out which spice works best for which kind of beans and I was not able to get consistent answers on this topic.  I do find that epazote is more typically used in Mexican and Hispanic dishes and its flavor complements black, pinto, cranberry beans, and the like.  Ajwain works well with, and its taste is well-suited to garbanzos (chick peas), split peas, and lentils.

At first when we started to use these, we noticed a slight change in the flavor of the dish, but it truly is not strong at all.

Here are some photos of both for “illustrative purposes” :-):

Here is ajwain seed:

And here is epazote:

As for where to buy these, and for the answer to my reader’s question, they are available at many international groceries but I purchase mine at Mountain Rose Herbs.  They have a wonderful selection of organic and herbal products.  Penzeys is another purveyor of spices that carries both items, but I prefer the organic option.

More on spice resources in another posting…

Until then, enjoy the magical fruit without the toot — and Happy New Year!

Have you ever heard of ajwain or epazote?

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  1. Pavil, the Uber Noob says:

    Just to be sure that I got this right. We just need to use on of the spices – right?

    Ciao,
    Pavil

  2. Thank you SO much for sharing this! I’d never heard of either of them. And I love Mountain Rose Herbs!!

    ~Karen

  3. The 3/4 tsp and 1 tbs – is that per 2-3 cups of cooked or uncooked beans? Thanks!

    • Sarah, I just redid the calculations in the post and the explanation Let me know if that helps! It’s a bit confusing and I can try to write it out better if need be :-).

  4. do you use the ajwain seed or powder form? it’s hard stuff to find and I want to make sure I get it right :)

  5. Okay…so I don’t have to soak my beans in lemon juice or whey or something anymore if I use the herbs?

    And…I usually cook my beans in the crock pot and then drain off the water. So I just add one of the spices at the beginning of the cooking time?

    I’m feeling a little dense! :)

    • Hi Beth -

      You are not dense :). You do not need the acid medium regardless. In fact, there is now evidence that you don’t need it for grains either. I hope to post on this soon. I add the spices when I put the cold beans in the pot.

      Let me know if you need more info!

    • I never add any acidic ingredient such as tomatos,vinegar or lemon juice to beans until they are fully cooked. I’ve found it inhibits them from softening. In fact, if you add a base such as a pinch of aluminum free baking soda to the water when you soak them and another pinch to the cooking water, it will asure that they do soften, even if they are old (if you’ve ever tried to cook beans that are very old, you’ll know what I mean). I once cooked old beans all day and they wouldn’t soften, then I added a tsp of baking soda and cooked a bit more and they softened right up. If you add baking soda to the beans as they cook you may need to decrease the amount of salt that you add.

      • Thanks – I dont think there is al free soda anymore. Not sure but BRM has changed their labeling. Does the baking soda really help the beans cook faster if they are old? We have issues these days w/ beans taking too long. Thanks!

  6. Thanks. I’ve seen a bit on blogs about not using dairy to soak anymore, so I’ll look forward to your post. I just stumbled on your other post about beans–there are some interesting ideas: boiling for 8 min., adding baking soda etc. I wonder if those work as well. I usually soak mine over night w/ lemon juice, but we still sometimes have issues.

  7. Ajwain is easily available at any Indian grocery store, if you want to try it out without shipping costs, etc. It is regularly used in Indian cooking to help with digestion. For beans, I add grated ginger while cooking soaked beans- works very well to prevent gas!

  8. Savoury is said to have the same ability. However, I often use beans for sweet things as well as savoury, so I usually soak with a pinch of baking soda, rinse, and cook with another pinch of baking soda (after spooning off the foam) It bubbles quite a bit when you add the baking soda, so I imagine it is reacting with/releasing the gases? PS–In Little House on the pRarie they did their beans with baking soda, so this trick’s been around awhile!

  9. Interesting!
    I was reading more about epazote on the mountain rose site, and it doesn’t sound very appetizing. Scents range from citrus to gasoline? Aztecs translate the word to “smelly animal.” Poisonous in large quantities? um no thanks.

    • I mentioned in my post that its flavor is a little distinctive so I would only use it for dishes that aren’t going to be sweet ones. However, even nutmeg is poisonous in large quantities. So while I see your point, I wouldn’t not use it because of their description. Very unappetizing marketing though – wonder if they really sell much of it??? :-).

  10. I was able to get some epizote at an herb store when I visited the city. It looked much coarser and straw-like than your picture, Adrienne. The man in the store seemed quite surprised that it could be used to de-gas beans. He suggested making a tea from the herb and adding it to my dishes, e.g., chili. As, for the most part, I make my bean dishes with tinned beans, I tried a generous teaspoon full in about a 1/2 cup of boiling water. I rather liked the taste that it added and my husband mentioned twice how much he enjoyed the chili that night. Although both my husband and I did not seem to suffer from gas, we did notice a short-lived difference in elimination the next morning.

    • How interesting! All I can say is I heard it from a spice store manager and know that it is used traditionally in other cultures. Glad to have heard you were helped nonetheless!

  11. I was able to get both ajwain & epizote at our local natural foods grocery store, which carries the Spicely line of herbs and spices. I have tried the epizote with black beans and pinto beans so far and it seems to really help with digestibility. However, it’s a bit tricky to pick out all the pieces of epizote from the beans after cooking. It’s like dried pieces of grass stalk. Am I doing something wrong or is there an easier way to remove the epizote? I’m cooking garbanzo beans and will see how the ajwain seeds work.

    • Adrienne says:

      Kate,
      It is the quality of your epazote. I purchased mine from Mountain Rose Herbs and I don’t have “stick like” things in there. Maybe you should try them But to save what you’ve bought, you could put it in a small piece of muslin tied in the pot and then dump it out when you’re done cooking. Hope that helps!

  12. Hi, I was wondering if I could use thyme instead of ajwain as i was reading they have a similar taste?

  13. I’ve never heard of these spices, thanks! I’m wondering how much they affect flavor? I like to use beans a lot in baking (cakes, brownies, etc), so I don’t want much flavor added to them. Would you adjust the amount you use?

    • Hi Nikki. The ajwain affects the taste very little. I use that when I am making a sweet w/ beans. Also, the epazote that I most recently purchased wasn’t as good quality as what I was used to and has bigger “stick like” parts in it so I will probably purchase elsewhere when it is done. I wouldn’t change the amount at all. Try the ajwain and let me know how it goes. It is better suited to some beans, but I have found it helps w/ the gassiness of every type. :)

  14. I was going to ask you what nationality these spices are usually found in, as far as types of foods. So I can find them in local international stores. :)

    http://www.munchtalk.net/

  15. IN Brazil, we always use Bay leaves while cooking the beans. It’s believed to reduce the gas. Now, I noticed that after I went wheat free I rarely have any gas/ bloating problems even when I eat beans. The exception being if I eat sugar. :(

  16. Might it still work if I grind the Ajwain seeds? I have trouble with some small seeds.

  17. My family is mainly vegetarian and so we eat a lot of beans (although less recently). We’ve had great success in decreasing the ability of the “magical fruit” to torment us after dinner by using Kombu.
    Kombu is a dried sea vegetable and comes in either packaged form or sometimes bulk depending on the store.
    To use: Break off approx 3 inch strip of Kombu and rinse in water to rinse off excess salt. Add to beans in cooking water and cook along with beans. When beans are done, remove the Kombu strip (sometimes it shreds and I pick it out but you can eat it.)
    We notice a huge difference in digestive issues when we use Kombu- it’s great!
    Adrienne, love your blog! Also, to clarify the amount of ajwain, etc to add to beans, why not leave off the “cooked” bean amount and just give directions for how much to use for dry beans- it will shorten the recipe, be easier to figure out- because we all start with dry beans! Thanks!

  18. After soaking overnight, then draining, I cook the beans with just a pinch of Ginger to avoid gas problems from beans. My mom used to always do that.

  19. We sell epazote at our garden center, I wasn’t sure if I should buy it. My bf has gout and we need to cut beans. However I make a lot of bean and split pea soups for church meals. Would you use fresh epazote or dried?

  20. Do you how it works?
    What is the spice chemically doing to the beans to cause them to liberate their gas?

  21. Last year I saw an episode of Guy Fieri’s “Diner’s Drive-ins, and Dives” on Food Network. He was at a Mexican restaurant, and the chef/owner was making their pinto beans with epazote. Guy had never heard of it and asked what it was for. The chef said, “It’s an anti-carminitive.” Guy said, “Anti-what-a-tive?” The chef answered, “Reduces flatulence.”

  22. About a year ago, I ordered fresh curry leaves. What I got was a bag full of Ajwain. I wrote the sellers and pointed out their mistake. They told me to keep it and sent me some information about it. Unfortunately, the information was not very helpful to someone who had never heard of nor tasted it before. Hm. I am so glad I read your guide to de-gassing beans. Now I know what to do with that big bag of ajwain!

  23. shelby foreman says:

    Mountain Rose is having a sale on 16oz of Ajwain for April…15% off making it $5.95/lb
    Do they ever have free shipping?

  24. Will adding the herb to already cooked beans help with the problem at all, or it that a waste of time (and herb)? I started with dry beans but have canned them and am wondering if ajwain will help.

  25. I’ve had this article bookmarked for a while and finally got around to ordering from Penzeys since Mountain Rose Herbs no longer carries epazote. I wish I had read the comments first! I used both ajwain and epazote in your recommended amounts instead of just one or the other plus I soaked my beans in ACV water like another friend suggested to help with gas. I added my usual salt, pepper and soup bone. Oh my word the result was nasty! My husband told me to trash it after one taste and a spit in the sink, and he usually adores the beans I make! The beans themselves have no flavor from the vinegar soak I assume and the taste of the epazote is overwhelmingly gross. My epazote from Penzeys looks a bit finer than what you have in the picture and on the bag it says to use only ONE tablespoon per pot of beans, not three like I used for my three cups of dried beans. Maybe different brands are stronger? Hopefully someone can learn from my mistake! Adrienne you said you wrote an article about why not to use the acidic medium. Can you direct me to it please?

    • I am sorry – maybe their epazote has a problem? Sometimes I don’t care for the flavor.

      Can you remind me of the acidic medium context? Thanks.

  26. I saw this comment from a couple years ago.

    Adrienne says:
    November 14, 2011 at 3:53 pm
    Hi Beth -
    You are not dense . You do not need the acid medium regardless. In fact, there is now evidence that you don’t need it for grains either. I hope to post on this soon. I add the spices when I put the cold beans in the pot.
    Let me know if you need more info!

    • Got it. I have been swamped! There is some research stating that you can just soak grains in water and it does the same thing. I will try to get on it – thanks for keeping me on my toes. Well, I already was. Just overwhelmed !