What Does Saffron Taste Like? A Detailed Answer

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You have heard a lot about the benefits of saffron. You also heard that this ‘red gold’ could make a hole in your wallet considering its cost. It was once even more expensive than gold! Don’t mind someone telling you all about “What does saffron taste like?” do you? Well, I am sure you look forward to knowing more about saffron before tasting it.


Saffron has a sweet taste with subtle floral flavors. It has an earthy, grassy flavor with a rich aroma. The taste of saffron is sometimes described as that of honeydew with a hay-like, earthy taste. The sweet flavor of saffron is similar to that of honey.

Saffron comes with a heavy price tag. But that doesn’t stop this spice from becoming immensely popular for all the good reasons. Let us get to know more about saffron, its taste, and its benefits in detail.

What Is Saffron?

Obtained from the flower Crocus sativus (also known as saffron crocus), saffron is a spice. This plant’s reddish-colored stigma and styles are collected and dried for use as a seasoning and coloring agent. 

It is deemed that saffron has its origin in Italy, but it is only speculation. Currently, saffron is grown in Italy, Spain, France, and a few parts of India. Crocin is the pigment in saffron that is responsible for its golden color. The phytochemicals, namely picrocrocin and safranal, are the reason behind the hay-like smell of saffron.

Explore The Taste Of Other Foods We’ve Covered

What Does Saffron Taste Like?

Taste of Saffron

Let us now talk about what you came for, “what does saffron taste like?”. It is not an easy question to answer. I will tell you why. Many people experience the taste of saffron differently, and hence there are varied answers about its taste.

The general consensus is that saffron tastes like a blend of sweet and floral notes and has a bold, fragrant aroma. It has a flavor profile similar to honeydew – the earthy, hay-like smell is prominent. Pure saffron tastes bitter and cheap imitations of saffron have a metallic and plastic taste.

Does Saffron Have A Strong Flavor?

The red-tinted saffron is quite known for its flavor and color. So, is the flavor of saffron strong or subtle? Let us find out.

Saffron doesn’t have a strong flavor. It has a subtle taste that is a blend of sweet and floral flavors similar to honey. It does have a bold, rich, fragrant aroma for which it is well-known. The flavor of saffron is dependent on the ingredients it is used with.

Does Turmeric Taste Similar To Saffron?

Saffron and Turmeric

Turmeric is a yellow-colored spice known for its famous golden hue and health benefits. It is often considered and used as the best saffron substitute. So, does turmeric taste similar to saffron? Let us see.

Turmeric has a strong earthy and bitter taste with subtle hints of peppery spiciness. It renders an immense flavor to the dishes, especially curries. Turmeric doesn’t taste similar to saffron which has a subtle blend of sweet and floral tastes with an earthy, grassy flavor. That said, turmeric is used as a substitute for saffron due to its golden color, similar to saffron. 

Does Saffron Taste Like Fish?

I can guess the reason behind this query. Saffron is a classic ingredient used in many seafood recipes such as Bouillabaisse. So, let us now compare the taste of saffron with fish, shall we?

Fishes have a characteristic fishy taste that resonates with the taste of the ocean. However, not all fish taste the same. They have both strong (like anchovies) and mild flavors (like tilapia). They also have a buttery (like salmon) or milky flavor (like cod). 

The varying flavors of fish, in general, aren’t comparable to the taste of saffron. Saffron has a sweet, floral taste with a slight bitterness, while fish has both strong and mild flavors with subtle sweetness and buttery flavor. Saffron can be used along with fish in seafood dishes for an enriched flavor.

What Does Saffron Taste Similar To?

Saffron has a distinctive taste with a wide range of explanations for it. Aren’t you curious to know what saffron tastes similar to? Time to find out.

Saffron, with its unique flavor profile, is hard to match. That said, certain ingredients taste similar to saffron. The closest to which the taste of saffron can be compared is that of honey or honeydew. Apart from that, turmeric, safflower, curry powder, annatto, and cardamom can be mildly compared for their taste with that of saffron. 

What Does Saffron Risotto Taste Like?

Saffron Risotto

Any risotto lovers here? You probably know what risotto is, then. But if there is a newbie here who is reading my article patiently so far, it is time for enlightenment!

Risotto is a classic Italian dish made of rice and broth. The broth could be that of meat, fish, or vegetables. Saffron risotto is perhaps one of the famous risotto recipes. It is made of rice, saffron, butter, meat stock, dry white wine, and Parmigiano cheese. 

So, what does saffron risotto taste like? Saffron risotto has a rich, creamy, buttery taste which is complemented by the bitterness of saffron, the superhero of this dish. It has a velvety texture that looks visually appealing to the core. 

Does Saffron Taste Like Plastic?

Do you remember that I told you about imitation/cheap saffron? It happens because saffron is expensive (it is considered the world’s most expensive spice!). Let us get talking!

Saffron which is pure or real has a mild, sweet, and floral taste accompanied by a slight bitterness. If you can experience all these, then you have genuine saffron (I will tell you more about how to buy authentic saffron soon). Saffron that tastes like plastic, chlorine, or metallic (with a smell reminiscent of hospitals) means it is just an imitator or a cheap version of saffron. 

What Does Saffron Tea Taste Like?

Saffron Tea

Have you ever heard about saffron tea? It is an extremely healthy tea with lots of benefits. If you have decided to try saffron tea, don’t you want to know its taste?

Saffron tea is made by steeping saffron threads in hot water. Since it can taste bitter, it is often paired with other ingredients. It can be mixed with tea, herbs, and spices and thus can have varying flavors. The basic bitter taste of saffron tea can be masked with flavors of lemon, mint, and spices. Saffron tea, thus, has a sweet taste with a subtle spicy flavor. 

What Does Saffron Sauce Taste Like?

I guess the list of food items that can be made with saffron is endless. We now have to deal with saffron sauce. Ready for that?

Saffron sauce is a thick variety of sauces made using saffron, broth, fish stock, white wine, shallot, and butter. It is often used as an accompaniment to meat and seafood. About its taste? Saffron sauce has a mild, delicate flavor that is not overpowering. Though it is made of saffron, the sauce takes, on the whole, the flavors of other ingredients used in it.

What Does Saffron Taste Like In Rice?


Saffron can be paired with anything due to its amazing fragrance and startling color. Now we will look at what saffron tastes like when paired with rice. Did you know that saffron rice is a famous dish in Thailand? 

Saffron rice comprises saffron threads, vegetable or chicken stock, turmeric, chile, lemon juice, basmati rice, and fish sauce. Saffron in rice has a sweet and floral taste that perfectly blends with the flavors of other ingredients. Saffron gives a nice, golden color and rich flavor to the rice. 

Why Is Saffron So Expensive?

Finally, we will find why saffron, the red gold, or the world’s most expensive spice, is so expensive. Let us get started.

  • Saffron is a spice that is grown and harvested under specific weather conditions. Saffron flowers can’t be exposed to excessive sunlight, water, or temperature.
  • The delicate plant that contains the flower crocus sativus blooms only once a year. 
  • The labor-intensive process of harvesting saffron is what makes saffron quite expensive. It takes around six hours a day to get around 450 grams of saffron. That too, around 75,000 flowers must be plucked by hand to obtain the said amount of saffron. (So simple, right?!)

Tips For Buying Authentic Saffron

Authentic Saffron

Here is the article’s highlight (apart from the taste stuff, of course) – the tips that will help you buy authentic saffron. Keep reading!

  • Color, Shape, and Strength of Strands: Look for the strands of saffron. They should have diffused ends if they are authentic saffron. They should be bright red as well. Also, authentic saffron threads will not break apart when rubbed between fingers.
  • Taste: The taste of authentic saffron should be slightly bitter and astringent. It tastes overly sweet; it is not genuine saffron.
  • Aroma: The aroma of authentic saffron should be grassy, floral, and earthy in flavor, similar to that of a blend of hay and honey. 
  • Test: There are a few tests that you can do to identify authentic saffron.

In Cold Water:

Put a few saffron threads in cold water. It is authentic saffron if you notice the vibrant red color disappearing into a golden hue. 

With Baking Soda:

Mix baking soda with saffron in a cup of water. If the mixture turns yellow in color, the saffron is authentic. 

What Is The Best Way To Store Saffron?

Now is the time to know how to store saffron properly so that there is no compromise with its taste, texture, or color. Read the following tips on the best ways to store saffron:

  • Saffron has to be stored in a clean, airtight container. Exposing saffron to oxygen or humidity affects its properties, so it is imperative to be stored in a tightly sealed container.
  • The saffron container should be stored away from sunlight in a cool, dark place. It must be stored at a temperature between 15 and 20 degrees Celsius.
  • If you plan to use saffron frequently, avoid storing it in the fridge. Frequently taking it from the fridge will cause condensation that will mess up saffron’s quality.
  • For better protection, you can use aluminum foil.

Culinary Uses Of Saffron

Benefits of Saffron

Saffron can be a great addition to your cooking recipes. Following are some of the culinary uses of saffron for your information:

  • Saffron is a spice primarily used as a coloring and flavoring agent in many cuisines. 
  • Saffron will give you an amazing fragrant aroma in the recipes you use it in.
  • Saffron has a mild flavor and can be used to pair with ingredients such as almonds, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, mint, and nutmeg. 
  • Saffron can be a flavorsome addition to recipes such as that chicken, couscous, curries, flan, lamb, nuts, polentas, puddings, rice, shellfish, and soups.
  • Apart from using it in foods and drinks, it can also be used to prepare traditional medicines!

Health Benefits Of Saffron

Saffron comes not only with an impressive price tag but also impressive health benefits. Let us find out what saffron has to offer us health-wise:

  • Saffron is an excellent source of powerful antioxidants such as crocin, crocetin, safranal, and kaempferol. These help in protecting the body against oxidative stress.
  • Compounds such as crocin and crocetin help improve inflammation, reduce appetite, and protect brain cells from damage.
  • Consumption of saffron can enhance your mood and help people dealing with symptoms of depression.
  • It has anti-cancer properties and helps in dealing with PMS symptoms.
  • It can reduce the risk of heart attacks and lower blood sugar levels. 
  • It can boost the memory of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s. 

Nutritional Content Of Saffron

In a 100gm of saffron, the following nutritional values are observed:

Energy310 Kcal
Carbohydrates65.37 g
Protein11.43 g
Total Fat5.85 g
Cholesterol0 mg
Dietary Fiber3.9 g
Calcium111 mg

Final Word

That was all about saffron and its taste. By the end of this article, I hope you are familiarized with saffron. Saffron is a spice that is majorly used as a coloring and flavoring agent. It has a blend of sweet and floral tastes with a slight bitterness that is not overpowering. It has immense health benefits as well.

Saffron has an expensive price tag owing to the labor-intensive process needed for harvesting. So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and try tasting saffron. Let me know all about it in the comments section. See you soon with another article!

Frequently Asked Questions

What does saffron add to a dish?

Saffron adds a vibrant color, aroma and flavor to whatever recipe it is used in. It is most often used with rice dishes such as risottos, pilafs, and paellas.

What is called the poor man’s saffron?

Safflower is called the poor man’s saffron. It is used as a natural coloring agent in foods. It is also used as a fabric dye, as a cooking oil and as a decorative plant. 

What are the side effects of saffron?

The side effects of saffron include drowsiness, stomach problems, and nausea or vomiting.

What does saffron do to the brain?

Saffron greatly helps in boosting your mood. It helps in changing the levels of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin and keeps the mood balanced.

Is there a cheaper substitute for saffron?

Turmeric, safflower, and annatto are cheaper substitutes for saffron. 

What spice is closest to saffron?

Ground turmeric is the spice that is closest to saffron. 

How many saffron threads are in a teaspoon?

1/4th of a teaspoon contains 10-15 threads of saffron. 

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