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9 Perfect Substitutes Of Saffron With Nutritional Value To Enhance Taste

Quick Answer: What To Substitute With Saffron?

When it comes to the best option for a go-to saffron substitutes, the best bet is to use turmeric since it is significantly cheaper than saffron is and has many of the same qualities.

While turmeric is the most simple and similar substitute available for saffron, this article will list some other viable alternatives which could be more fitting in different situations or are good if you do not have turmeric already either!

While it may not seem like the most common ingredient which is worth keeping in, you will find this saffron substitutes listed in a surprising amount of recipes.

This would not be such an issue if saffron was not such a notoriously expensive ingredient to buy, and if you are on a tight food budget, it simply is not a viable option.

8 Best Saffron Substitutes

This is why there are so many different substitutes available to replicate the unique aspects of saffron since many people do not want to shell out when this ingredient shows up in a recipe.

You should not have to skip a recipe just because one of the ingredients may be out of your price range, and because of this we have put this list together.

There may be some ingredients on this list which you might already own, so knowing that you do not have to spend anything to get the effects of saffron is an appealing prospect.

So if you are looking for saffron substitutes to save having to break the bank or go out and buy a new ingredient, you have come to the right place!

Quick Table: Saffron Substitutes

SubstitutesCalories (Per 100 Grams)
Marigold Flowers311
Cumin Powder375

The Best Substitutes For Saffron

All of the ingredients listed here will work well as a substitute for saffron, but some will work better than others in different situations, so make sure to read through this guide carefully before you decide which ingredient you want to commit to.

1. Turmeric


As we already covered in our quick answer section, turmeric is one of the best substitutes available for saffron.

This is because it can replicate the delicate flavor which is created by saffron, while also having a slightly different, but quite similar color as well.

When you use turmeric in a dish, depending on the base color, your food will get a yellow tint.

As well as this change in color, turmeric will also lend a slight level of spice as well as an earthy flavor profile.

Deciding how much turmeric to use will depend on how much you want the flavor to impact the dish, as well as how intense you want the color it creates to be.

The earthy flavor created by turmeric is pleasant and subtle, but it can easily become overpowering if you use too much of it, and it will become obvious that you are using a substitute for saffron instead of saffron itself.

When it comes to using substitutes in general, you need to keep in mind the unique trait your food will get from using it, and to balance this strategically.

If you already have turmeric, it is a great substitute which is easily available.

It is also generally sold a lot more widely than saffron is and you should be able to find it in most sizable grocery stores.

And of course, it is a fraction of the price you will end up paying for saffron.

How To Substitute

Turmeric is a spice that can be used in place of saffron in many recipes. It has a similar color, but the taste is much different. Turmeric is typically used to add a yellow color to food, and it has a slightly bitter taste. Saffron is used for its bright orange color, and it has a sweet taste.

2. Safflower


This is a substitute which is less widely available than turmeric, but its flavor will work well as a substitute for saffron.

Its flavor is slightly different from that of saffron, but it is similar enough that it will work as a flavor replacement for saffron.

It does have a slightly more bland flavor than saffron does, but this is sometimes a good thing for a substitute, since we do not want its different flavor to stand out too much.

There are plenty of different recipes which will be able to use safflower as a viable substitute for saffron and you should find plenty of different uses for it.

As previously mentioned, finding safflower can be quite difficult and can sometimes be harder to find than saffron.

However, if you are able to get your hands on it, you should keep it around for different uses. You will need to use quite a bit of it to get the same color of saffron in your food.

How To Substitute

Safflower is a spice that is often used in many Mediterranean dishes. It has a mild, earthy flavor that works well in savory dishes. Safflower can be used in place of saffron in any recipe, including soups, breads, and sauces.

3. Annatto


Annatto powder also functions as a great alternative ingredient to saffron and it will work in plenty of different recipes, it is sometimes cited as one of the most indistinguishable alternatives for saffron.

It does have the occasionally negative label as a poor version of saffron, and while this title may be seen as disparaging, it also displays just how accurate of a substitute it is.

The main difference between annatto powder and saffron is that the color it creates is a bit darker than that created by saffron.

You will usually find annatto in a powder form and this is where it will be cheapest, however if you are getting annatto in its seed form you will have to soak them in water or oil for about 30 minutes to make sure the liquid escapes the seed and this will be used in your recipe instead of saffron.

How To Substitute

You can use annatto powder to replace saffron. The annatto is grown in the region of South America and has a deep orange color. You can use annatto powder in soups, sauces, breads, cakes, and in meat dishes.

4. Marigold Flowers

Marigold Flowers

While this is not one of the most common replacements for saffron, they can be quite easily sourced and you can even try to grow them yourself if you want to keep the plant on hand.

You do not even need much gardening experience to keep this plant alive, so this should not be a worry.

To use this plant as a substitute for saffron, you will want to dry out the petals from a marigold and then crush these.

You can dry the petals in a microwave or a stove, but be careful they do not burn.

This powder will get you the desired yellow color you are after.

How To Substitute

Marigold flowers come as a great substitute to Saffron. Saffron is an expensive spice that is most commonly used in Mediterranean dishes. Marigold flowers are a natural, non-toxic substitute that are easy to find and don’t cost a lot.

5. Curry


Curry is a great option to be a substitute for saffron as it has a delicious flavor and it will give you a very similar color to that of saffron.

Curry powder has a unique flavor from saffron, so you will want to ensure that you will not be creating any clashing flavors, but if this is not going to happen, using curry is a great option.

Curry powder is also significantly cheaper than saffron is and is used in lots of different recipes, so it is a good ingredient to keep in.

How To Substitute

You can use curry powder in place of saffron, but it is not as strong in flavor. For example, a recipe might call for one teaspoon of saffron but only a teaspoon of curry powder.

RELATED: 10 Of The Best Alternatives To Chinese Five-Spice To Use In Your Cooking!

6. Paprika


While paprika will not be the most close option to replicating saffron, it will give you a great flavor which is slightly similar to saffron and it will also give your food more color as well.

The main difference is that the flavor of paprika is a lot more noticeable than that of saffron, and the color it will give your food is more red than the intense yellow of saffron.

You will also want to make sure that the paprika you are using as a substitute is not too spicy as this can alter the flavor of your dish quite drastically.

How To Substitute

Saffron, a spice made from the stigma of a crocus flower, is typically reserved for traditional dishes that include paella, risotto, and chicken and rice soup. However, there are some ways to make dishes with paprika that can help save money and time, such as a recipe for grilled chicken.

7. Cardamom


Cardamom is another seasoning which will work well for substituting saffron, and it will also give your food a slightly yellow shade as well.

Similar to paprika however, its flavor is quite different, so you will want to make sure that it’s flavor will not clash with the dish you are making.

Similar to most of these substitutes, it is much cheaper than saffron, and is a much more versatile ingredient.

How To Substitute

Cardamom is a spice that can be used in place of saffron and creates a similarly yellow color, but also has a floral taste. The cardamom is ground into a powder and mixed with water and sugar to create a syrup that is often added to dishes, such as rice pudding, that traditionally use saffron.

8. Calendula


This is a plant that comes from about 20 different species and you will be able to buy it in stores.

Similarly to the marigold petals, you can dry them and then crush them to get the same color you would get from saffron.

It will of course not have the same color as saffron, but you can use a different spices on this list to substitute the flavor.

How To Substitute

Calendula is one of the best options to opt in place of saffron while cooking. With less powerful taste, it gives vibrant flavor and a little bitter taste in your meals. You need to use Calendula in Moderation.

9. Cumin Powder

Cumin powder is a ground spice used in many cuisines. The powder can be used to add flavor to dishes and to make a dry rub for meats.

Cumin is a spice that can be used in a variety of dishes, from poultry to soups to rice. It is also used as a natural remedy for indigestion, cramps, and gas.

Cumin is a spice that is commonly used in North Indian and Mexican cooking. The dried seed is generally used whole or ground in cooking, as a seasoning and a flavoring agent. It is a rich, earthy spice with a warm, slightly bitter taste.

How To Substitute

When using Saffron in a recipe, one can substitute cumin powder for a cheaper alternative. The unique flavor and color is a simple substitution to add different flavors to the recipe.

Is There A Cheaper Substitute For Saffron?

All of the substitutes on this list will work as a much cheaper alternative for saffron.

If you want to get the closest to saffron as well as save money, you should probably go for annatto powder, but turmeric is often more popular because it is more accessible and has its own unique flavor.

Can Turmeric Be Used Instead Of Saffron For Paella?

Turmeric is often actually recommended for paella as a substitute for saffron, and now some recipes will even recommend using it over saffron.

Since both of these spices have a relatively subtle flavor, you will likely not notice the different flavor either.

Turmeric is generally seen as more versatile than saffron as well.


Hopefully this guide has given you all the information you need to be able to properly substitute saffron for whatever other options you have.

Make sure to work out why your recipe needs saffron while substituting, whether it is the flavor or the color.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Saffron Good For?

Saffron is an ingredient in a wide variety of dishes, such as paella, risotto, and risotto al latte. It is the most expensive spice in the world, and is often called the most costly spice.

It has a pungent and bitter taste, but is often used as a cooking ingredient in dishes because of its unique flavor.

What Does Saffron Taste Like?

The taste of saffron is reminiscent of citrus and honey. It has a sweet, warm, and slightly bitter taste with a slight floral scent. It is often used to add a delicate and exotic flavor to savory dishes such as chicken or seafood.

How Do You Eat Saffron?

Saffron is a popular spice used in many dishes. This type of spice is obtained from the stigmas of the saffron crocus.

To eat saffron, you have to break open the flowers, dry the petals, and grind them into a powder. Saffron has a flavor similar to garlic, nutmeg, and lemon.

8 Best Saffron Substitutes

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Have you seen saffron listed as an ingredient in a recipe you want to try, but you can not justify buying it? This list has 8 of the best substitutes!


  • Turmeric

  • Safflower

  • Annatto

  • Marigold Flowers

  • Curry

  • Paprika

  • Cardamom

  • Calendula

  • Cumin Powder


  • Choose your favorite substitute from the list given above
  • Follow the directions given in the recipe after having substituted the ingredient in the correct ratio

Recipe Video

Jess Smith

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Sunday 25th of February 2024

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Sunday 30th of July 2023

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Monday 26th of June 2023

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