top saffron substitutes
Written by Vahid Epagloo, Food Consultant Updated:

The most famous spice especially in the Asian cuisine is saffron. It is also famous for its high price; it is the most expensive spice all around the world. Due to its price and scarceness, people looking for its substitutes. Queen of Flowers introduces 5 top saffron substitutes in this article for you.

Are there any substitutes for the red gold?

Actually, there is no substitute for this golden spice. As you know, this spice has a great golden yellow color, an exotic aroma and bitter taste. You cannot find something that has all these and also is as usable and profitable as saffron. Hence, we can say there is no substitute for this magical spice. However, according to its high price, chefs use different ingredients in their recipes instead of saffron. We gathered 5 most common of these substitutes.

The golden spices substitutes

These substitutes are used as spices. You should first consider which property is more important in your recipe, and then according to the desired properties choose the substitute. Each of these substitutes has one or at least two of the saffron properties.

These substitutes may have a great color and good taste, even they may have a fragrant aroma, but none of them smell like saffron. The exotic aroma of this sunshine spice is its obvious difference of it.

The red gold is a very popular spice, but due to its price and scarceness in many regions, people try to find saffron replacement.

Before finding a replacement for saffron, we should consider its properties. The food properties of this spice are its color, taste and aroma.

Taste of saffron is like a well prepared espresso, bitter but favourable. The flavor profile of the sunshine spice is somehow complicated. It has a bitter, earthy and smoky flavor. The color of saffron is golden yellow. This spice adds color to dishes. The yellow rice called saffron rice.The saffron and all its coloured substitutes are called yellow food coloring.


Turmeric is the root of the plant named Curcuma longa or Curcuma domestica; Curcuma aromatic in botanical. This plant is a member of the ginger family. This root part is used as spice in Asian cuisine. It is known as the Indian spice or Indian saffron. The color of the turmeric is yellow like saffron. However, the saffron color is bright golden yellow, but the turmeric has a matte yellow color.

It is said, that turmeric has a taste like the magical spice, and it is true somehow. The Turmeric is bitterer than saffron, but both of them have an earthy taste.

If you want to use turmeric instead of the red gold, be careful not to use a lot. Too much amount of the Indian saffron can change the flavor of your dish. Check your recipe about the amount of spice you should add.

Turmeric is the best saffron substitute, however some chefs use saffron with turmeric to have vibrant color and spicy flavor. Read Turmeric Vs. Saffron.

turmeric taste and color


The color that safflower could add to any dish is like saffron, bright, golden yellow. Although, the aroma is different, the safflower could not add any aroma to the dishes. In addition, it cannot remove the unpleasant smell of some foods, like seafood or meat.

The other point is that safflower spice has a blander taste. You should not add too much of it to your dish. Its taste could affect the taste of the dish.

If in your recipe, saffron was added just due to its color, using safflower would be a great substitute.

You can use safflower oil or powder, it depends on your recipes.

safflower taste and color

3.Marigold flower

Marigold flower is not a common saffron substitute, but it has a simple accessibility. You can find it in all stores. Also, you can cultivate it in your own garden. Growing Marigold flower does not need especial conditions. It also needs no experiences.

You should grind the petals of marigold flower, and make a powder of them. Then you can use this powder in your recipes instead of saffron.

The marigold flower could add yellow color to your dishes. It has also good aroma that will change the smell of your dish.

The powder of marigold petals is called marigold spice. You could find this spice in the spice stores.

marigold flower taste and color


If you need to add saffron to an especial recipe due to its exotic aroma, and the color is not important, use cardamom. Cardamom is a great herb with fragrant aroma. This spice could not add color to your dish, but it would change the smell of it.

In some recipes, cardamom and the golden spice are used together; this will make the final product incredible. The combination of these two is usually used in beverages.

Cardamom is a great substitute of the sunshine spice, in case that the aroma is more important than the color and taste.

Take care when you add cardamom to your recipes, it is blander. That means using too much amount of it can make the final product bitter and uneatable.

cardamom taste and color

5. Curry

Curry is one of the most famous Indian spices. This spice is the combination of many different spices like pepper and turmeric. This combination has a good smell and because of turmeric it could releases the yellow color.

There are many different combinations for curry, but in all these combinations, turmeric is used. The powder of some different spices is mixed together and it is called the curry powder. The curry powder is one of the main ingredients of Indian cuisine.

You can add curry and other ingredients into your recipes to have better taste. Almost in all Indian foods, curry is common spice.

curry taste and color

Is using saffron substitute recommended?

Experts believe that the golden spice has lots of health benefits properties. According to expert’s recommendations, if you use the red gold due to its health benefits, it is not replaceable. However, chefs and restaurants using this spice due to other properties like aroma, color and taste.

When you these kinds of properties you could use its substitute. In these cases, you should check that which properties are more needed in your recipe, then use the substitute, or even combine two of them.

For example, in the rice recipes the color is more important than the taste and aroma. The rice has a great aroma itself in good cooking. According to this point, you can add turmeric, safflower spice or marigold spice to the rice dishes. While in seafood dishes you need aroma, it is better to use cardamom, curry or both of them in seafood recipes.

This is very important to know that it is better to use these substitute instead of fake saffron. Fake saffron or the poor quality of this spice could cause unpleasant effect, not only in your recipes, but also on your health factors.

If saffron is a pricy spice for you, search for the substitute for saffron, and find and use one of them. Do not buy fake saffron. It is better to say do not buy cheap red gold. When you see, this expensive spice is sold very cheap, do not trust, it should be fake.

The usage amount of replacement for saffron

As we peruse in the other Queen of Flowers article, saffron has lots of health benefits, but you are not allowed to use lots of it per day. The experts prescribe that at least 30 mg of this magical spice per day is enough to affect the body and health problems. They also emphasize that using this herbal treatment more that 150 mg per day could cause health problems.

Now you may ask what about a replacement for saffron? Actually, using each spice has limitation. Of course, all these spices that are used as saffron substitutes have not health effects, but most of them would change the taste of the dishes. Among the 5 top substitutes for saffron that we mentioned above, turmeric and cardamom have health benefits and you should use them more carefully.


One of the most popular spices is the stigmas of the saffron Crocus flower, which is called saffron. These saffron threads are expensive and infrequent. You may need to find a saffron replacement to make foods like rice dishes. In this article we introduce 5 top replacements for saffron. You can use them instead of this magical spice. Do not forget to consider the replacement conditions.

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