Saffron is a spice used as a seasoning and coloring agent in food. It is the world’s most expensive spice. It is priced according to its weight. It thrives in hot climates such as places like the Mediterranean, middle east, and North Africa countries. Saffron is derived from the flower of Crocus sativus also known as “saffron crocus”. The threads are dried stigmas of the saffron crocus flower. It produces only three stigmas. These stigmas are harvested only three weeks a year. All of these factors are what contribute to its high price.
The wholesale price of saffron varies between $500 to $5000 per pound. Saffron threads have a yellow tendril on one end and a flute on the other. It has a red/orange color. In powder form, it has a beautiful golden color. Its pungent aromatic flavor and earthy taste help to enhance the flavor of dishes.
Saffron for many years has been used in food, medicine, perfumes, dyes, and beverages. It is suitable for vegan, gluten-free, and Paleo diets. Due to its cost, not everyone can afford saffron. Other times, one may run out of saffron, or they might not be readily available for purchase. This and a few other reasons necessitate the substitution of saffron in dishes. This article highlights five substitutes for saffron threads.
Uses of saffron threads in recipes
Saffron is required for a variety of uses. Some of these recipes include the following;
- Saffron rice
- Moroccan saffron chicken
- Chicken scallopine with saffron cream
- Creamy saffron risotto
- Garlic shrimp with saffron and white wine
Substitute for saffron threads
Unfortunately, no herb can closely mimic the taste and flavor that saffron gives to dishes. However, there are other ingredients that can be used in place of saffron.
Turmeric is a popular spice that can be found in almost every kitchen. It works similarly to saffron in giving dishes a bright yellow look. It is a dietary fiber high in Iron, vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, etc. Tumeric has a bright, bold, and earthy taste. This makes it a good substitute for saffron in terms of adding color to a dish. To substitute, use ½ teaspoon of turmeric where a large pinch of saffron is required. You may add ½ teaspoon of paprika to enhance the flavor if you wish.
Although this sounds like it comes from the same place as saffron, it is different. It won’t give the pungent flavor and aroma of saffron. However, Crushed safflower florets will help add a little flavor and color to your dish. Use 1 teaspoon of crushed safflower florets where saffron is needed.
Shilgochu Chile threads
This is an Asian spice commonly used in Japanese, Chinese and Korean cooking. They are shredded red peppers. They are most commonly used to garnish meat or fish recipes, noodle soups, etc. One serving is equivalent to 2 ounces and about 5 calories.
Shilgochu Chile threads are lightly sweet with little heat, a chewy texture, and a slightly salty flavor. When it comes to garnishes, this will serve as an excellent substitute. Use this ingredient as desired keeping in mind their heat.
Interestingly, Annatto is also referred to as ” poor man’s saffron”. They are gotten from the seeds of the achiote tree. They have a slightly sweet and peppery taste with a nutty, peppery, and floral aroma. It is yet another great substitute for saffron. However, before use, you will need to add one teaspoon of annatto seeds to ¼ cup of water or vegetable oil and allow to sit in for 30 minutes. Afterward, you strain the liquid in the recipe but ¼ cup due to the annatto liquid.
The Marigold flower has a mildly citrus-like and subtly spicy taste. It belongs to the family of daisies. It has bright yellow leaves and almost looks like a sunflower. They have a good number of health benefits as well. Its petals are also used as tea. To use, simply pick off the Marigold flowers and dry them in the microwave for about 15 seconds. Afterward, crush them into powder form using a mortar and pestle. Add to your dish as desired.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Are saffron threads necessary?
If you have paella, then yes, saffron is necessary. It is a very important ingredient in making Paella. Other times, one may require the unique taste and flavor that icky saffron can provide. In these two instances, they are necessary. But when it comes to food coloring, there are other ingredients that can substitute saffron threads in dishes.
Which is better, Saffron threads or saffron powder?
The answer depends on what you wish to use it for. If you wish to use it as a spice and don’t want it to be visible, saffron powder is a better option because it easily dissolves into dishes. Saffron threads also dissolve, however you may decide to use the threads as a garnish.
What is imitation saffron?
This is fake saffron. They are made from corn silk threads, or safflower, or coconut filaments, etc. However, the color comes off these very quickly unlike actual saffron threads.
Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. Its unique taste and flavor make it second to none. It is no surprise that people will be in search of something close to it. Unfortunately, there are no spices that can closely mimic the taste and flavor of saffron. Although there are other reasons a person may need a substitute for saffron threads, such as running out of them in your pantry. However, when it comes to adding color and attractiveness to food, there are spices that could easily substitute saffron. This article has discussed five excellent substitutes for saffron threads. This was done after putting all the above-listed factors and more, into consideration. I do hope you found him helpful.