What is Saffron and Perfect Substitute for Saffron?

July 3, 2021

Saffron is world’s most legendary spice and, at the same time, one of the most expensive spices. Thus, it’s worth for you to know what are the perfect substitute for Saffron. Before that we would like to brief you, what is saffron, what is saffron used for, what does saffron taste like, what color is saffron, how to use saffron threads, Favorite Saffron threads recipes and many more things related to saffron along with the substitutes for saffron.

What is Saffron?

Saffron brings a reddish-orange color, which makes your dish pleasant to others. It’s a spice derived from the flower of “saffron crocus”. They are dried to use as a seasoning and coloring ingredient for several dishes. Thus, saffron is an essential spice for your home foods.

But since it’s one of the most expensive spices because of its scarcity, you do not need to worry about not having saffron in your kitchen. You can use several non-expensive substitutes for Saffron in your day-to-day cooking.

What is Saffron Used For?

Saffron is not only used as a spice but also Saffron is used for asthma, cough, whooping cough, and to loosen phlegm. It is also used for sleep problems, cancer, intestinal gas (flatulence), depression, Alzheimer’s disease, fright, shock, spitting up blood, pain, heartburn, and dry skin.

Apart from these saffron extracts are used as a fragrance in perfumes and as a dye for cloth. Thus, saffron contains an impressive variety of plants, which gives multiple uses.

What Does Saffron Taste Like?

Saffron has a sweet, floral taste. It is earthy and has a subtle and complex flavor. No spice is more impressive than saffron. The saffron chews sweet and savoury effortlessly with an unmistakable scent and flavor and gives a strikingly golden color to every dish it delights.

What are the Best Substitute for Saffron?

Since saffron is so expensive and because of its scarcity, you can use saffron substitute.  Here we have listed 6 wonderful saffron threads substitutes for your knowledge.

1

Turmeric

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Turmeric comes as the closest substitute to saffron as its color is very similar to saffron. But the flavor is quite different because turmeric has its own flavor. So that the flavor of turmeric may not work well in some dishes when substituting for saffron.

Turmeric is a member of the ginger family. Its taste can be described as earthy and bitter and is often used in curries. While saffron has a floral and sweet taste, turmeric is much bolder and more peppery. You can use the same amount of turmeric that you add to your dish as saffron powder. But it only adds saffron color to your foods.

How much turmeric do I use in place of saffron? To have a similar flavor to saffron you can substitute 1/2 teaspoon turmeric with 1/2 teaspoon paprika for a little flavor. Turmeric is also known as Indian saffron. Turmeric is used to stretch powdered saffron by unscrupulous retailers.

2

Cardamom

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Cardamom is useful to substitute for saffron. But you don’t get the color that you get with saffron if you substitute saffron with cardamon. Thus, you have to sacrifice the reddish color you get with saffron if you go with cardamom. The flavor of cardamon is much closer to saffron compared to other substitutes for saffron.

The flavor of cardamom is citrusy, spicy, and herbal. It’s a pod-like garlic clove. But when you use this, you have to consider more about the amount you add as cardamon can add a more powerful flavor to your dish. The recommendation is to use about half the amount as you would saffron because it has a stronger aroma and flavor than saffron.

3

Safflower

Safflower is the perfect substitute for saffron. Favorite Saffron threads Recipes, how many teaspoons is 1 gram of saffron, how to use saffron threads. safflower vs saffron

Safflower vs. saffron has more similar characteristics. So that safflower is considered a close substitute for saffron. The color that safflower provides almost the same to the color of saffron. Both safflower and saffron are similar enough in their appearance, but there are some differences.

Saffron has a more delicate color than the safflower petals, which are a brilliant red. If you inspect the safflower and the saffron side by side, you will be able to see that the safflower consists of petals while the saffron is made of stamens. The flavor of safflower is regarded as being relatively mild, although pleasant. It has been described as floral, herbal, and chocolatey.

Safflower is known as Mexican saffron. Petals are the part of the safflower plant that are used and not the stigmas. Safflower is a close substitute for saffron as it has a similar color to saffron with a pleasant, distinctive flavor. You can add the same amount of safflower as you would saffron. You can find safflower in your local store or Latin American food store. 

4

Paprika (Pimentón)

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Paprika which is a bright red spice derived from dried fruits and peppers. Paprika is a ground spice made from dried red fruits of sweeter varieties of the plant Capsicum annum. It comes in three flavors, such as spicy, sweet, and smoked. What kind you purchase will affect the overall flavor it brings to your dish. As a substitute for saffron smoked paprika is most suitable because it will help mimic smoked saffron threads’ flavor.

A combination of smoked and sweet paprika is also used as a substitute for saffron. If paprika combines with turmeric, it gives the closest flavor of saffron. Paprika is less expensive and high accessible as you can find paprika in almost all the groceries easily. 

5

Annatto

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Annatto gets from the achiote tree. It’s a seed. And mostly found in the regions of Central and South America. Annatto is also referred to as the “poor man’s saffron” and can be used both as a seasoning and a dye. As a substitute for saffron, Annatto has a bright orange or red color. But this requires preparation before use as a spice.

The seed has to be either steeped in oil or water, made into a paste, or grind into a powder before using for cooking. This can be used as a greater substitute for saffron as the color and flavor are closer to saffron, and you don’t need to sacrifice either color or flavor that you get from saffron. However, it’s hard to find annatto everywhere because of its scarcity.

6

Marigold Flowers

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Marigold blossoms can be used to give a similar color to that of saffron. To substitute for saffron, it’s essential to dry the flowers and then grind them. The resulted powder can use instead of the saffron threads. Marigold flower is easy to grow, or you can buy a fully grown plant from a local plant shop.

Take off the petals and dry them in the microwave for 15 seconds at a time. Then use a mortar and a pestle to crush the powder. Use marigold flowers in any dish that calls for a similar color to the saffron. Use the same quantity of this ingredient as a starting point, then add more if necessary.

Why is Saffron So Expensive?

You may wonder why saffron is so expensive. That’s due to several reasons. One is from 75,000 saffron blossoms to produce a single pound of saffron spice. And also, saffron is cultivated and harvested by hand.

Due to the amount of labor involved in harvesting, saffron is considered one of the world’s most expensive spices. And also, saffron is used to make medicine. Thus, due to its scarcity also is regarded as the most expensive spices in the world.

What Color is Saffron?

If you are wondering what color is saffron, saffron has the tone of golden-yellow. Saffron is neither yellow nor orange. Although the saffron spice is reddish in tone, the saffron’s color has a more orange-yellow blend, and many people equate the color of the saffron with the rising sun.

How to Use Saffron Threads?

The best way to use saffron is to take a pinch of saffron threads and grind it into a fine powder with a herb grinder. Then put the powdered saffron into a small bowl, add 2-3 tablespoons of hot water, stir gently, cover, and let it bloom for at least five minutes to bring out the color and aroma before adding it to your dish.

How Many Teaspoons is 1 Gram Of Saffron? One gram of saffron threads equals roughly one loosely packed tablespoon. One teaspoon includes 0.71 grams of saffron. Two teaspoons of saffron = 1.42 grams of saffron.

It would be best if you had a pinch of saffron for your home cooking. One gram is way too much saffron for your home dishes. But if you’re making huge dishes that feeds 20 people, then 1 gram is sufficient.

This measurement might differ with different substitute for saffron. Therefore be careful on using those substitutes.

Favorite Saffron Threads Recipes

You can add saffron to soups, stews, casseroles, salad dressings, desserts, and many more other recipes. Following are some favorite saffron threads recipes that you can try for.

Saffron Chicken – Saffron chicken recipe comes from Iran and is simple to make. Because of the bright and full flavors, serve alongside simple rice and a salad. Add in one tablespoon bloomed saffron to the pan of the chicken, shake the pan, so the saffron spreads on the skin on the chicken.

Saffron rice – this is a quick and easy dinner that you can prepare. Add all ingredients (Basmati Rice, onion – finely diced, olive oil, saffron) to a microwave-safe bowl and microwave it for 5 minutes.

Saffron Tea with Ginger & Honey– You only need saffron threads, water & fresh ginger to make this super healthy, refreshing saffron tea.

Fried cauliflower with saffron– Saffron allows the white vegetable to take on the golden color, elevating the humble vegetable to exotic heights.

Saffron Side Effects

Though saffron has many health benefits, there are possible side effects if you take a large amount of saffron by mouth. Some possible side effects include dry mouth, anxiety, agitation, drowsiness, low mood, sweating, nausea or vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, change in appetite, flushing, and headache. Allergic reactions can occur in some people. Getting more than 5 grams of saffron can cause poisoning, and 12-20 grams can cause death.

Saffron seems to be able to affect mood. It might trigger excitability and impulsive behavior in people with bipolar disorder. If you have this condition, it’s better not to use saffron. Saffron might affect blood sugar levels.

Watch for signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and carefully monitor your blood sugar if you have diabetes and use saffron. Saffron might affect how fast and how strong the heartbeats. Saffron might lower blood pressure. Taking saffron might make blood pressure too low in people with low blood pressure.

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How To Grow Saffron?

Saffron plants need well-draining soil and plenty of sunshine. If the saffron crocus is planted in swampy or poorly draining soil, it will rot. Apart from the need for good soil and sun, saffron crocus is not picky. Saffron cannot be produced without human intervention. The seeds produced by its flowers are sterile, making natural pollination impossible.

The Crocus sativus plant likes dry, warm weather but tolerates light snow. Its favorite type of soil has clay with a good mix of calcium carbonate and other organic matter. The flowers must be harvested by hand, before or immediately after sunrise, so they are not damaged by direct heat from the sun. Each flower produces only three stigmata.

Once the flowers have been harvested, the stigma must be plucked and dried for about 12 hours. It takes between 15,000 and 16,000 flowers to produce 1 kilogram of saffron spice.5 In terms of labor, it takes 370–470 hours to produce it. This labor-intensive harvesting process is what makes saffron so expensive.

Wrapping up..

Spices come with their unique flavor, which is hard to replaceable. But with the expensiveness of saffron and scarcity of saffron you have to choose substitute for saffron. Turmeric, safflower, marigold flowers, or annatto are all inexpensive alternatives which you can use as substitutes for saffron. Hope you get a wider overview about what’s saffron, what is saffron used for, what does saffron taste like, what color is saffron, how to use saffron threads, what’s saffron good for and what are the cheaper substitutes for saffron from our article.

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