Baking Without Saffron – 4 Saffron Substitutes


Saffron, the most exquisite spice, you want to use it but it’s too expensive, are there substitutes? This fire-colored spice is used in many dishes like Paellas, Bouillabaisse, Risotto. These types of dishes are nothing without the strong, distinctive flavor. In case you were wondering how to make these dishes without saffron, let me offer you some alternatives.

Nothing can substitute the specific taste of saffron but some come close. Ground turmeric, safflower, cardamom, and annatto seeds are popular saffron substitutes. These ingredients provide the same yellow-orange color.

So, if they don’t taste the same, are they really substitute? Well, that’s what we’ll be expanding on. If you just wanted to find out the substitutes and nothing else, you can move on with the baking. For those that want to find all about saffron and its alternatives, hang around.

Ground Turmeric

Ground Turmeric

Turmeric is the closest substitute to saffron, although it does add a slightly different( earthy) taste. This root comes from the Curcuma longa of the Ginger family. It has a bright yellow/orange color and originates from India. It can brighten up your dishes just like saffron does.

Chefs say that they use one teaspoon of turmeric mixed with one teaspoon paprika to get that smoky flavor and aroma that saffron has.

Uses For Turmeric

  • Beauty: Because of its anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants, turmeric is wildly popular in the beauty world. It has the potential to reduce redness, get rid of dark spots, fix hyperpigmentation, and leave your skin looking healthy and glowing.
  • Turmeric mask: Take one teaspoon of honey, a teaspoon of milk, and 1/4 of teaspoon turmeric. Mix it well and leave it on your skin for half an hour. You can see the results instantly.
  • Turmeric for cooking:  Great for stews, soups, and a guest of honor of every curry recipe. Adds color and pungent, bitter, and earthier taste to every meal. Turmeric is used mostly in Asian cuisine, and pairs mostly with spices like ginger, ground black pepper, and curry. Its anti-inflammatory abilities also help when consumed as hot tea, clearing your throat and reduce swelling and redness.

Safflower

Safflower

With its similar color and distinctive and pleasant smell, safflower is a saffron replacement in cooking and baking, mostly because of its similar color palette. Although they have a similar name, they are not the same. The spice is made from the dried leaves of the safflower and is commonly used as an alternative to turmeric and saffron.

To substitute saffron with safflower:  Because of its mild flavor, you have to use double or more of the amount that is required for saffron. For example, if a recipe requires a teaspoon of saffron, use two or three teaspoons of safflower oil. Maybe mix it with some garlic powder or herbs of your choice to intensify the taste.

The seeds are often used for making safflower oil. The oil can be either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated,  both good for your health because of their unsaturated fatty acids(or so-called ”good fats”).

Monounsaturated safflower oil is generally used for deep frying, and recipes that require a high cooking temperature because of its high smoke point. It is a good substitute for shortening in any baking as well as bringing moisture to any other baked good.

Polyunsaturated safflower oil. While not suitable for heat, it goes great in raw recipes and salad dressings. Just remember that unsaturated fatty acids have a shorter life span, so make sure you store your oils in a cold and dark place.

Annatto Seeds

Annatto Seeds

Annatto seeds are a red/orange spice coming from the achiote tree, originating in tropical places like Mexico and Brazil. It’s mostly known for being used as a natural food coloring for processed foods like cheese, other dairy products, meats, and junk food.

The leaves and seeds also have an important role in medicine ( used for heartburns and external burns)

Annatto Seeds For Cooking

This spice all by its self is kind of a hit or miss. Like the safflower, annatto also has a very mild taste.  Try to pair it with spices like cumin, smoked paprika, and lots of garlic powder. Make sure to toss a few herbs like mint leaves or basil to make it even more aromatic.

Cardamom

Cardamom

I think every good cook should have cardamom in their pantries. Either for baking a cake or making a salad, this spice has it all. Coming all the way from the mountains of India ( now can be found in other hot regions like Florida)and made from seeds of the ginger family, cardamom is essential in chefs’ kitchens.

This spice is often confused with lemon stems but, looks aside, green cardamom really does taste lemony and zesty. That being said, there are two types of cardamom: green and black

Green cardamom like I said, adds a lemon-like freshness to your food, but at the same time tastes a little sweet and spicy. It is a great ”add in” for lemon cakes or any baked good that needs a bit of freshness.

Black cardamom is most often used in Indian cuisine for aromatizing savory foods like chicken masala, curry, different types of stews, soups. You can put just one or two when you marinate chicken, or pork, or even put it in the water while boiling rice. Black cardamom is usually 5 times bigger than green cardamom. While green cardamom is used in either sweet or savory dishes, black cardamom is recommended only if cooking savory.

Why Is Saffron So Expensive

Well, this is the thing. Real Saffron threads come from the crocus sativa flower(Saffron Crocus), but it only has three thread-like stigmas that are used to make this spice. So it requires very hard work to collect those threads, dry them and wait for them to grow back again for a short period in the fall. But all that taste and aroma, it really is worth the price.

Related Questions And Other FAQs

Where Can I Buy Saffron

Although saffron is really expensive, most grocery stores have it in stock. Real cooks would argue that the saffron you buy in stores is not real saffron. You can try visiting spice vendors, in case you’re worried about the origin.

Can I Put Saffron In Tea

Yes, you can put saffron in tea. Saffron has a strong taste, so plain saffron tea is not that enjoyable. Try mixing saffron with other herb leaves.

Does Saffron Expire

Saffron has an exploration date but it does not go bad after the due date. It will lose its strong taste and smell but it’s still usable. Using expired saffron shouldn’t cause any undesired effects.

Closing Thoughts

There is no such thing as a substitute for saffron. These alternatives will only get the yellow color and some of the earthy taste, but we can only try at this point. This prestige spice is simply irreplaceable. If you really want to make a prestige dish that requires saffron, I would recommend buying it if you can. Really, you do not need much to spice up your dishes, only a couple of threads. So, one jar should last you for more than a year.

Natasha

Natahsa is an editor/writer for buttercreambakeshop who is excited to share the latest baking tips she experimented with herself at home. She loves to meet with like-minded people who share her passion in baking.

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