You are here

How To Substitute Saffron Threads In Food

Bubbly's picture


Many like to substitute saffron threads as it is the most expensive spice.  You get this spice from the flowers of saffron crocus; the red stigma in the flower is dried and used as saffron threads. It is very popular spice used in variety of Asian, Iranian, and European cuisines. The bold color, special flavor and aroma are the distinct features of saffron threads. One should be careful while buying saffron threads; it is usually red in color with orange tip. If you are unable to find the orange tip, then it is evident that the saffron threads are adulterated. They may be dyed or may be the petals of other flowers. Nothing can substitute saffron threads properties, however here you can find few options that would help to replace this wondrous spice.


Ingredients substituting Saffron threads

Use Turmeric to substitute saffron threads

Include turmeric instead of saffron threads to dishes. Add a very little quantity as turmeric imparts a strong flavor to the dish. Turmeric would provide the color of the saffron and is popularly known as "Indian saffron".  It is too intense and also gives an off flavor when it  is added to delicate and light recipes.

Mexican saffron or American saffron 

You can add the same quantity of safflower in the place of saffron threads.  It is also called American or Mexican saffron; it is an inexpensive substitute for saffron. Though its offers the desired color like saffron lacks aroma and flavor.

Marigold blossoms

While substituting marigold blossoms for saffron, ensure to add twice the amount that you would for saffron.  The pungent flavor and the yellow color are similar to saffron. Dry the flower heads in a microwave or air dry them. Grind it to a fine powder and add it to pastries, risottos and variety of dishes as an alternative for saffron threads.


It is derived from achiote trees and known as "Roucou".  The annatto seeds are sweet and peppery and are used in Latin American recipes instead of saffron. Filipino and Caribbean dishes too include annatto seeds to color butter and cheese. These triangular shaped seeds are brick red in color and are referred as "poor man's saffron.

You can also use annatto seeds extract by boiling it with water. After boiling the seeds for 30 minutes, remove the seeds and use the liquid.  Add this liquid in place of saffron and decrease the water content in the recipe.

Substituting saffron is very hard; the above ingredients may impart color and some amount of flavor to the dish, but would not have special taste and aroma like saffron. However if you do not like to add flavor and only concerned about the color, then the above items are the best substitute for saffron threads.

Image credits:

Rate This

Your rating: None
Average: 4.3 (3 votes)
How To Substitute Saffron Threads In Food