Saffron Substitute: Common Substitutes and How to Replace

When you need saffron but don’t have any on hand, use turmeric, safflower, paprika, annatto, or food coloring to finish a recipe. You could even have some success if you make a delicate mix of more than one possible saffron substitute.

Saffron is a pricey spice that is said to have originated in Iran or Crete. However, its origins is obscure, and other places may have been early users of saffron’s flavoring and coloring capabilities as well.

It adds a ray of sunshine color to dishes like lamb tagine or chicken biryani, and its taste is earthy and mild, yet notably flowery.

It is extracted from the blossoms of Crocus Sativus, often known as saffron crocus.

The first step in making the saffron we use as a condiment is to pick vivid crimson stigma and styles from Crocus Sativus flowers. Cooks use them to add color and taste to their meals after they have been dried.

The nuances of a recipe frequently influence which saffron substitute is best. As a result, our list of saffron alternatives includes a few possibilities.

Because saffron is a distinctive spice, it is difficult to replicate precisely. However, each of the top five saffron replacements has some resemblance to saffron.

They all have their own distinct taste, color, availability, and price. We’ve also included several recipes that use these spices.


Saffron adds taste as well as color to recipes. Turmeric has the same effect. And, since they both have a little golden essence, you may use saffron to color meals that call for it.

Turmeric is so close to saffron that some counterfeit spices use it as a replacement or combine it with a little saffron to save money. However, saffron is a flower, but turmeric is more closely related to a form of ginger.

So, although saffron flavour is delicate and almost light, turmeric flavoring is more tannic and strong.

So, although not perfect, turmeric is a good saffron alternative on its own. However, it may be ideal when coupled with another saffron substitute, such as paprika.

Consider combining one teaspoon of turmeric with two tablespoons of paprika for the greatest effects. This combination provides both the colors and tastes required for a saffron substitute in your cooking. Just be cautious since a little amount may go a long way!

In conclusion, the taste of turmeric makes it a possible saffron alternative. However, its availability, cheap cost, and color make it one of the finest saffron substitutes.

Turmeric goes well with scrambled eggs, risotto, paella, and rice. It may be used in place of saffron in meals such as soups or cooked greens such as greenbeans. Consider making a ginger and turmeric carrot soup.


Safflowers’ original form looks similar to saffron when harvested. They are both derived from vibrant blooms.

But that’s about it in terms of similarities. Safflower is made from the dried petals of daisy-like flowers. We already know that saffron is derived from the stigmas of another flower.

However, safflower has a brilliant crimson tint and adds a golden colour to a meal. It also has a subtle flavor that is similar to saffron but not quite as refined.

The price of safflower, on the other hand, makes it quite enticing. Whereas safflower generally costs around $4 per pound, a single gram of saffron may cost much more.

Safflower offers the color you need for a good saffron substitution, and its flavor is neutral, so it won’t overpower the tastes of a meal. As an alternate spice, use a comparable quantity of safflower; for example, if a recipe asks for a pinch of saffron, use a similar amount of safflower.

Because it is so inexpensive, you may also experiment a little to discover the ideal ratios for you and your taste preferences.

Safflower is a natural therapeutic factor that helps to avoid heart disease. Try it in stir-fries, deep-fried chicken, and traditional saffron dishes like chorizo and risotto.


Paprika is a mild and sweet pepper combination that has been dried and processed into a fine scarlet powder. Its hue varies according on the combination of peppers used, whether it is roasted or not, and other conditions in its preparation.

It has a similar coloration to saffron, but while saffron leaves a dish appearing golden or even rusty, paprika can render items brilliant red, even in little amounts.

Furthermore, depending on the particular blend, paprika may vary from moderately sweet to rather spicy, providing an element of surprise to each package’s taste. So, as a saffron alternative, use paprika sparingly and only after tasting a tiny amount.

As previously noted, combining paprika with turmeric yields excellent effects. For the best of both worlds, use a ratio of around two parts paprika to one part turmeric.

This combination is inexpensive, readily accessible in most kitchens, and provides both the colors and tastes that make it one of the greatest saffron alternatives.

However, be cautious since certain paprika mixes may be extremely strong, and you don’t want to overuse it and give too much heat or pepper taste to a meal that needs delicate ingredients. Milder herbs and spices may be overpowered by the strong paprika.

Paprika is wonderful in pasta, on chicken, and as a spice to any recipe. It’s also great for curries and spicy dishes. Sweet paprika is also available in select supermarkets and lends a less fiery flavor to any dish.


Annatto is made from achiote tree seeds. It is native to Central and South America and is available as a seed or a dried brick of powder.

Its color and taste are similar to saffron, and it is likewise quite inexpensive. Because of its reputation as a cheaper replacement for saffron, some people refer to annatto as a poor man’s saffron.

Annatto is also known as Mexican saffron since it is so widespread throughout Central America. If you locate it in seed form, you’ll need to ground it into a powder before using it as a saffron alternative.

Alternatively, using a mortar and pestle, pound the seeds into a paste with a little oil or water. You may also just combine some seeds with a little water in a blender or food processor.

However, be cautious since annatto may be fairly potent, with a distinct earthy taste. It has a flavor that is comparable to that of a mushroom.

So it’s a good alternative for saffron’s flavor and color characteristics, making it a realistic option in a meal that calls for the more costly spice. It’s also reasonably priced.

However, most kitchens that do not prepare South or Central American food are unlikely to have a block of annatto on hand.

We recommend using annatto to color soups, make stews, or make your own spice. It will give whatever you prepare a rich reddish orange hue, similar to saffron. It also amplifies tastes that are already present.

Food Coloring

Food coloring is another approach to replicate the color that saffron adds to meals. By combining a few drops of yellow and red food coloring in some water, you may approximate the color that saffron adds to a dish.

Because food coloring is also reasonably cheap, you may experiment in a separate bowl to acquire the correct combination for your meal before adding it in. However, since food coloring has no taste, you will not receive the desired saffron overtones from this saffron substitute.

However, you will not be adding any tastes that may disturb the recipe’s balance.

The expression “the best ability is availability” is also used. That is also true in the competition for the finest saffron alternative.

Almost every kitchen contains red and yellow food coloring stashed away in a cupboard. As a result, it may be the greatest saffron alternative you have on hand at any given time.

Food coloring may be used in any meal. You may also choose a color. Use an orange or red food coloring to best approximate saffron.

If you still want to add flavor to your dinner, consider one of the saffron replacements suggested above. If you are unable to obtain or locate the original item, any will give a great kick to your dinner.

Remember not to use too many drops of food coloring. Begin with one or two drops and mix them together to see how it looks. You don’t want your meal to become an orange color! Or maybe you do. That is all up to you.


What is a good replacement for saffron?

Turmeric, a ginger family member, is the most often suggested saffron alternative. It is similar enough that dishonest spice traders have used it to forge genuine saffron. When cooked, it produces a yellow tint comparable to saffron.

What herb can replace saffron?

Turmeric is a spice produced by the turmeric plant. Turmeric, a member of the ginger family, is the most generally suggested saffron alternative. Turmeric has an earthy, somewhat bitter taste and a vivid orange hue.

What is a cheap version of saffron?

Saffron is certainly more flowery and delicate in flavor than turmeric, but turmeric has a flavor profile that is akin to the stronger, earthier flavor characteristics found in saffron. A Couple Cooks suggests replacing 12 teaspoon turmeric for every huge pinch of saffron in your dish.

Is saffron and turmeric the same spice?

While they have certain similarities (such as their brilliant colors and powerful tastes), they are derived from distinct plants. Turmeric is a rhizome or root, while saffron is a flower. As a result, saffron has a more delicate and flowery taste than turmeric, which is considerably more bitter and earthy (4).

Can you replace saffron with other spice?

Ground turmeric is the greatest saffron alternative, and it’s simple to obtain in your local grocery shop. Other alternatives include annatto and safflower, although these ingredients are difficult to come by. Turmeric, in our view, is the greatest alternative!

What is poor mans saffron?

The marigold, sometimes known as the poor man’s saffron. Because of their color and taste, they may be used as a replacement for saffron. The blooms may be used as a garnish, but their citrus flavor also works well in salads.

How to make fake saffron?

Corn silk threads, safflower (an unrelated thistle), coconut filaments, or even coloured horse hair or shredded paper may be used to make fake saffron. The dye used to color false saffron washes off fast, as seen by the water test (#4 below).

How important is saffron in a recipe?

Against dull grains, a tiny pinch gives beautiful color, perfume, and taste. Desserts are another popular use for saffron, and it can go anyplace vanilla goes, including custards and biscuits. (The two have similar taste profiles: sweet, heady, and musky.)

What is the Flavour of saffron due to?

Safranal (2,6,6-trimethyl-1,3-cyclohexadien-1-carboxaldehyde), which gives saffron its unique scent, is generated during storage by the dehydration of picocrocin, which gives the spice its characteristic bitter flavor. SA and GR saffron had the greatest safranal content.

What is saffron generic name?

Saffron (Crocus sativus) is a flowering plant. Saffron spice, culinary coloring, and medication are all made from the dried thread-like portions of the flower (stigmas).

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