Today let us talk about the best saffron substitutes! Saffron is an ingredient most of us are familiar with. Not everyone would have used it, but it definitely is an ingredient that most people know as one of the most expensive ingredients.
Saffron is very widely used in certain cuisines for food and in tea. However, there can be times when a recipe demands saffron, but you might not have any handy. What would you do in a situation like this? My advice? Use a substitute for saffron, of course!
So you must be wondering, what are the best saffron substitutes? The best saffron substitutes are turmeric, ground cumin, cardamom powder, curry powder, marigold flowers, safflower, and sweet paprika powder.
However, before we start exploring the best saffron substitutes, let me introduce all of you to saffron a little more. This will definitely help you understand the ingredient better. So, let us together discover saffron.
Quick Peek: Saffron
This section has all the information you need on saffron. You will get to understand what it is, its flavor and texture profiles, uses, and nutritional information, along with health benefits. So, read on to know all about saffron!
What Is Saffron?
Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of the crocus sativus plant. It has been the world’s costliest spice by weight for the longest time. It is made from the stigmas of the flowering plant. It takes thousands of flowers to get one pound of saffron.
It is native to Asia and has been cultivated for thousands of years for culinary and medicinal uses. It is also cultivated to make perfumes and dyes. The threads of saffron are fine and have a yellow tendril at one end and a flute at the other end.
Describing Saffron: Texture And Flavor
The texture of saffron can be best described as small thread-like stamens. Saffron has a sweet aroma and is red to orange in color. The threads are very small in size, and usually, multiples of them are used in various recipes.
The flavor of saffron is subtly earthy and grassy. It is slightly sweet, similar to honey. The flavor of saffron may stand out in certain recipes. However, if the rest of the ingredients have a very overpowering flavor, the flavor of saffron can be masked.
Uses Of Saffron
Saffron definitely has a lot of culinary uses, in Asia especially. In Asia, it is most popular in the Middle East and in the Indian subcontinent.
It is used in various savory foods to add flavor, such as in biryani. Moreover, it makes a great addition to desserts too. It is also used to make saffron tea.
The uses of saffron, however, are not limited to the culinary world. Saffron is very commonly used to make natural dyes. The essential oils in saffron make a great addition to various essential oils and fragrances. Moreover, it is also used to make various medicines.
Saffron On The Health Radar | Looking Through The Wellness Telescope
Saffron is generally used in very small quantities in various recipes. Hence, it does not really impart any important health benefits as such. However, it does have a lot of health benefits because of which it is used for medicinal purposes.
Saffron is a powerful antioxidant. Moreover, research shows that saffron may help improve mood, memory, and learning ability. Certain studies have also shown that since saffron has a high amount of antioxidants, it may help fight cancer.
Saffron is also known to help reduce Premenstrual Syndrome symptoms. Moreover, it also acted as an aphrodisiac and was consumed a lot in olden times to increase libido. Saffron also can help reduce appetite and help with weight management.
Why Use A Substitute For Saffron?
I am sure this question must have come to your mind at least once. Why use a substitute, especially for such a rich ingredient. While they might not appeal to all, there are definitely a few reasons why you can consider using a saffron substitute.
Firstly, saffron is very expensive! A pound of saffron can definitely end up being out of your budget. So, not everyone would want to use saffron, especially in daily cooking. In this case, a budget-friendly substitute can come in handy, for sure.
Moreover, it can be easy to find in certain places. However, it may not be too readily available everywhere. In that case, there is no need to go looking for it in Indian or Middle Eastern stores. A substitute would work just fine.
Lastly, in case the cost and availability aren’t a problem for you, however, you have just run out of saffron, why run to the store at the last minute? A substitute may work perfectly well and will definitely save a lot of your time and energy!
I think I have given you enough information on saffron. So now, without further ado, let me introduce you to the best saffron substitutes!
9 Best Saffron Substitutes
This section has a list of the best saffron substitutes. Moreover, you will also get an understanding of how to use each substitute. So, read on to know all about them!
Turmeric is very similar in color to saffron and gives an earthy taste to food as saffron does. Hence, it is the closest substitute to saffron.
The color of saffron and turmeric might seem different when you see them as they are. However, when added to food, they both impart the same color. The flavor of turmeric is, however, not exactly the same as that of saffron.
Nevertheless, it can be used as a substitute in various recipes for saffron. Be mindful of the amount of turmeric you use in a recipe.
Too much of it may change the color of your food and impart a very strong flavor. Ideally, use half the amount of turmeric as the amount of saffron in a recipe.
Safflower is a lot blander in taste as compared to saffron. However, it imparts a very similar color as saffron and can be used as a substitute for the same.
The flowers of safflower were, in fact, used in Spanish colonies as a replacement for saffron. In case you are particularly looking for a substitute to replicate the color of saffron and not the flavor, safflower works as the best substitute for saffron.
While using it as a substitute for saffron, you can generally follow a standard 1:1 ratio. However, safflower will not impart the same flavor as saffron and will get masked by the flavors of the other ingredients in your recipe.
Also known as the poor man’s saffron, annatto are the seeds of the achiote tree. It imparts the same color as saffron in food and hence can be used as a substitute for the same.
Annatto is a commonly used coloring agent in Mexican and various Latin American cuisines. It gives food a saffron-like yellow color. The flavor of annatto is sweet and peppery.
However, since it is used in small quantities, it won’t make much of a difference to the overall flavor of your food. While using it as a substitute for saffron, try getting annatto powder.
It can be used as it is in a recipe, in a 1:1 ratio. However, if you get annatto seeds, soak them in oil or water for half an hour and then use the liquid. Make sure you adjust the quantity of the rest of the liquid in your recipe.
4. Cumin Powder
Cumin also imparts a light yellow color to food. It is, moreover, very easy to find and is budget-friendly. This makes cumin a good substitute for saffron.
Cumin powder generally has a slightly bitter taste as compared to saffron. But again, when using it as a substitute for saffron, the quantity used is generally very less. Hence, it won’t impact the overall flavor of the dish too much.
Cumin powder may not be as great a substitute as the other options give. However, it is very easy to find compared to most of the substitutes. As for the quantity of substitution, you can generally use half the amount of cumin as the amount of saffron given in a recipe.
5. Curry Powder
Most varieties of curry powder have some amount of turmeric in them, which is a great substitute for saffron. Curry powder can again impart a color similar to that of saffron and hence can be used as a substitute for the same.
Curry powder, however, has a much sharper and different taste than saffron. Since it is a mixture of various spices, it has a very strong lingering taste of spice. Hence, it must definitely be used carefully in a recipe as a saffron substitute.
Adding too much curry powder will definitely give a very strong taste to your food. So, the best way to use curry powder as a substitute for saffron is to start with half the amount. You can add more later if you want a stronger flavor of the spice.
6. Paprika Powder
Sweet paprika powder is another spice that is extremely easy to find. It will impart a great color to your dish, which is slightly similar to that of saffron. Hence, it can be used as a substitute for the same.
Make sure you use sweet paprika powder as it has a much milder flavor than hot paprika powder. Hence, it won’t impact the flavor of your dish to a very great extent. Moreover, the sweet paprika powder is darker in color than saffron.
So, it will definitely provide a much darker color to your food as compared to saffron. The best way to use it as a substitute is to use half the quantity as compared to the amount of saffron you would use in a recipe.
7. Marigold Flowers
Marigold is a herbaceous plant with yellow-orange colored flowers. The flowers impact great color to food and hence can be used as a saffron substitute.
Moreover, the flavor of marigold flowers is not too pungent. So they won’t make that much of a difference to the overall flavor of your food. Marigold flowers need to be exposed to the sun and dried for a long time.
These dried flowers need to be ground into powder. This powder can be used as a saffron substitute in a 1:1 ratio. However, an important thing to remember is that the drying process may take up to several days.
8. Cardamom Powder
Cardamom powder will definitely impart a good color to your food. However, it also imparts great flavor. It can be used as a substitute for saffron in various recipes.
Cardamom powder is much stronger in taste than saffron. Similar to curry powder, using too much of it in any recipe will definitely make a huge change to the basic flavor of your recipe.
So, while using it as a substitute for saffron, use half the amount as you would use saffron. In case you want the flavor of cardamom to be stronger, you can always add more later.
Similar to marigolds, calendula is also a herbaceous plant with yellow-orange flowers. The flowers impart a similar color to saffron and hence can be used as a substitute for the same.
Again similar to marigold flowers, calendula flowers need to be dried and ground before using them as a saffron substitute. They, however, do have a slightly darker color than marigold flowers.
You can use dried calendula flower powder as a substitute for saffron in a 1:1 ratio. The powder won’t make much of a difference to the overall flavor of your food.
Short Recap For The Best Saffron Substitutes
I am sure that by now, you must have gone through all the substitutes for saffron. However, are you still confused about which one to use in your recipe? In that case, there is no need to worry! I have broken it down further into three categories to make it easier. Have a look!
Most Suitable: The most suitable saffron substitute is turmeric.
Easily Available: Ground cumin is the most easily available substitute for saffron.
Best Flavor Profile: Cardamom powder and curry powder will give the best flavor profile when used as a substitute for saffron.
As we have reached the end of this article, I hope it has helped you find the best substitute for saffron. Saffron is definitely a very expensive spice to have. It may not be pocket friendly for everyone. However, the color and flavor it imparts to food make it worth the money!
In case it turns out to be out of budget for you, you can easily consider one of the substitutes. All the substitute options given are extremely worthy.
Also, they are all cheaper than saffron. So, the next time you want to use a substitute for saffron, don’t shy away from giving one of these options a try!
Frequently Asked Questions ( FAQs )
What does saffron do to your body?
Saffron has a lot of health benefits such as improving mood and libido. It helps reduce Premenstrual Syndrome or PMS symptoms and is linked to enhancing weight loss.
Why is saffron so expensive?
Saffron is expensive as a small amount of spice is obtained from each plant. Moreover, most of the harvesting is done manually.
What does saffron taste like?
Saffron has a sweet and floral taste.
Does saffron have any side effects?
Consuming high amounts of saffron may lead to certain side effects such as drowsiness, stomach problems, nausea and vomiting.
Is saffron good for the skin?
Saffron contains a high amount of antioxidants, so it can protect the skin from UV rays damage.
Can I grow saffron at home?
Yes, saffron can be grown at home.
How much does 1 gram of saffron cost?
A gram of superior quality saffron can cost anywhere between $ 6 – $ 10.
Is saffron good for blood pressure?
Since it is rich in antioxidants, saffron can help lower blood pressure.
How can you tell if saffron is real or fake?
If a thread of saffron does not bulge at one end, it is not real saffron.
Can you have saffron tea everyday?
Yes, saffron tea can be consumed everyday.