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15 Unique Turmeric Substitute In Soup To Impress The Asians

Turmeric is one of the top stars in Thai, Indian, and many Asian dishes. You can also use it in cooking curries, meat, and vegetable dishes or add it to beverages. Turmeric is also a necessary ingredient in making pickled mustard and chutney. 

If you are not a fan of turmeric, or simply ran out of it, you can substitute using other spices.

Here are some of the best turmeric substitutes you can use in soups.

  1. Mustard Powder
  2. Fresh Ginger
  3. Cumin Seeds
  4. Curry Powder
  5. Fresh Galangal
  6. Smoked Paprika Powder with Mace
  7. Garam Masala
  8. Madras Curry Powder
  9. Black Cardamom

Still cannot find any suitable alternatives from above? Read on as we share the full list of best substitute for turmeric in soup.

But first, let’s understand a bit more about this versatile ingredient.

15 Best Substitute For Turmeric  

Turmeric is from the genus Curcuma in the family of Zingiberaceae under the species Curcuma Longa. It comes from the same family as its cousin, ginger.

The rhizome (root) of the turmeric plant is the part that is dried and powdered to produce the spice. It is light yellow on the outside and bright orange inside. When used in cooking, it changes the color of your dish.

Turmeric has a bitter taste and an earthy, sharp flavor. You can use turmeric in fresh or powder form. However, it is best to use fresh turmeric if you are using it in raw recipes like smoothies or beverages.

Fresh turmeric is grated on top of steaming soup to give it that kick and make your soup more aromatic and flavorful. It also adds color to your soup for a more attractive look.  

If you cannot use turmeric, the closest you can substitute for turmeric concerning taste and color is dry mustard (also called Mustard Powder).

Of course, other alternatives mentioned below work fine too.

Dry Mustard (Mustard Powder)

Dry Mustard

Dry mustard comes from pulverized and finely grounded mustard seeds. This is different from the mustard condiment often used in sandwiches. 

Dry mustard is used in sauces, spice rubs, vinaigrettes, soups, and other dishes. Add liquids to the powder to release its oils that give the heat and flavor of the spice.

The mustard as a condiment is not a suitable ingredient for soup, so do not use it interchangeably with dry mustard.

Fresh Ginger

The rhizome of ginger is grounded into fine powder to produce the ginger powder. Ginger comes from the same family as turmeric but in a different genus, making ginger a cousin to turmeric.

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Ginger has a sweet, sharp flavor and a more spicy taste than turmeric. Too much ginger can turn your recipe bitter so use it sparingly. 

Peel a knob of ginger and chop or grate a teaspoon on your soup to add more flavor.

Cumin Seeds

Cumin Seeds

Heap of Cumin Seeds in Wooden Spoon closeup on Wooden background

Cumin is part of the parsley family and a star in Indian, Mediterranean, and Asian cuisine. It has a similar earthy flavor, but is acrider than turmeric.

Cumin seeds come in whole and powder form. The cumin seeds are fried in hot oil for 2 minutes to release their flavor before adding to a broth.

This is the process followed to prepare lentil soup in Indian cooking. The flavor intensifies when the seeds are slightly roasted.

The ground cumin is dry-roasted and then grounded into a powder. You can use cumin powder directly on your soup because it no longer requires heating to release the flavor. Simply sprinkle ground cumin to season your soup.

Curry Powder

Curry powder is a mixture of turmeric, garlic, cinnamon, ginger, fennel seed, mustard seed, cloves, and black pepper. It is not also a staple in Indian cuisine.

Is it the Indian spice used in making curries?

Actually, curry powder was invented by the British to simulate the flavor of Indian cuisine. It is not the same as the spice used in the Indian curry dish. The Indian curry dish is gravy-based and uses garam masala and not curry powder.

Curry powder has an earthy and mild to spicy taste with sweet and savory undertones. Use it to season your soups, sauces, and stews.

Fresh Galangal

Fresh Galangal

Raw or fresh galangal comes from the rhizome of the galangal plant, a close relative to ginger. The galangal rhizome has a stiff, woody body thicker than ginger. The flesh is reddish-brown and fibrous.

Galangal has a cardamom-like, gingery, and acrid flavor, which is more intense than ginger. It can be grounded into fine powder or paste.

You can use fresh galangal to add flavor to soups, but remove the rhizome before serving because it is inedible. You can also use paste or powder while cooking the broth, but it does not taste the same.

Smoked Paprika Powder with Mace

Paprika is made from combined sweet and hot chili peppers dried and grounded. Mace is the sister of nutmeg because both come from the same plant. The nutmeg tree is the only plant that produces 2 different spices.

The seed produces the nutmeg, while the dried protective coating of the nutmeg seed produces the mace. But, note that nutmeg has a different flavor than mace, and they are not the same. 

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Mace has a woody, sweet, warm, and slightly acrid taste. Paprika has a sweet to spicy and smoked taste depending on how it’s made. Combining the two spices gives the spicy kick, muskiness, and a unique color similar to turmeric.

Paprika with mace infuses your soups with a unique taste and blends of flavor.

Garam Masala

Garam Masala

Garam Masala is a blend of ground cardamom, cumin, black pepper, clove, and cinnamon, although other varieties include other herbs and spices.

The name is loosely translated as hot spices, but it does not mean the spice is very hot.

Garam masala is the star ingredient of the Indian curry dish and not curry powder, as everyone believes. It adds more flavor to your soup, especially vegetable soups.

Madras Curry Powder

Madras curry powder is made from the same blend of spices as regular curry powder. The color and taste are the same except for one distinct characteristic – heat. 

Madras curry powder gives a more potent kick than regular curry powder. Madras has one ingredient that regular curry powder doesn’t have – cayenne pepper. 

It is best used to cook Indian or South Asian dishes. This powder gives more heat but keeps the turmeric flavor close.

Black Cardamom

Black Cardamom

Cardamom comes from the Zingiberaceae family under the genus amomum. This makes it a cousin to ginger, so it can substitute for turmeric.

Black Cardamom is a fire-dried, dark brown to black seed pod with a floral, earthy flavor and smoky aroma. The drying process using an open fire concentrated its smoky flavor and aroma. [Source]

Black cardamom also has notes of camphor, menthol, and resin. The intense minty aroma gives the black cardamom spice similar to black pepper and chilies.

Black cardamom is a staple ingredient of garam masala and is liberally used in spicy Indian dishes. The seed pods are also used as an ingredient in chowders, marinades, casseroles, and soups.

Ajwain Powder

Ajwain produces a seed-like fruit that is similar to cumin and caraway. Ajwain is a common ingredient in the Middle East, Pakistan, and Indian cuisine. 

It has an acrid, bitter taste and an aroma like thyme. The natural oil of ajwain contains thymol, hence the thyme-like smell.

Ajwain is used in flavoring sauces, rice, meat, and soups.[Source]



Many say saffron is the best alternative to turmeric because it has the same color and is slightly similar to turmeric, considering texture and taste. Turmeric is also known as Indian saffron.

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However, saffron has a sweet taste that is not present in turmeric.

Saffron adds a rich flavor and bold color to rice, sauces, and soups. But try to temper its use to keep your dish from getting too sweet. Additionally, saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world.

Safflower Oil

Do not mistake safflower for saffron. Saffron is from the iris family, while safflower is from the sunflower family. Safflower is also referred to as Mexican saffron or American saffron. Safflower oil is produced by pressing the seeds.

Safflower oil has no flavor and can enhance the natural flavor of your soup. Its yellow color can also change the color of the broth. It is also cheaper than saffron,

Paprika Powder

Paprika powder

As mentioned previously, paprika is made from different types of capsicum that range from sweet to spicy. 

Paprika has 3 kinds – smoked, sweet, and hot paprika. You can use either one of these three kinds of paprika for your dishes, but you want a sweet, mild spiciness on your soup. Do not worry; its vibrant color remains, regardless of the type of paprika you choose.

Too much heat can diminish the taste and color of the spice. So, add the paprika near the end of the cooking time.

Annato Seeds

Annato seeds are from the tropical tree Achiote. The seeds or extract have a natural bright yellow to dark orange hue and a sweet peppery taste. 

The Achiote tree bears a fruit that resembles the heart-shaped fruit of the banana. You can harvest the seeds when the fruit matures. The seeds are turned into paste, ground into powder, or infused in oil. 

Annato is used to color soups by steeping the seeds in oil, then added to the dish. If you use the paste, dilute it in water to release the color and use it as your broth. To use the powder, sprinkle on your broth, then stir.

Yellow Mustard Seeds

yellow mustard seeds

Mustard seeds with organic microgreens sprouts in wooden spoon scattered and isolated on white background

The three most popular mustard seeds for culinary use are brown, white, and black mustard seeds. The yellow mustard seed comes from the seeds of the white plant. 

The seed is naturally light tan in color. It only turns yellow with the addition of turmeric. The taste is sweet and spicy, but it does not match the flavor of turmeric.

Yellow mustard seed is a spice. Do not mistake it for mustard, which is a condiment. 

Toast or fry the yellow mustard seed before adding it to your broth.