As the most expensive spices in the world, you don’t want every pinch of saffron spice to go to waste.
And if you have a container of saffron that you have stored for a long while, the question “Does saffron go bad?” or “Does it still retain its potency?” gets you wondering.
Yes, saffron does go bad. Just like other spices on your condiment rack, it is expected to lose its potency as time goes by.
Depending on its storage condition, it can hold its prime for one year or two at room temperature. If kept in the freezer, it can stay up to three years.
In this post, we will unravel the answers to these questions related to saffron:
- What is the shelf life of saffron?
- Can it go bad? How long does it last?
- How to tell if saffron has gone bad?
- How to store saffron properly?
- …. And other frequently asked questions about Saffron!
So, keep reading…
What Is Saffron?
Saffron is a type of high-end spice that comes from the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) flower. The deep red stigma and styles of the saffron flower are called threads.
This is a highly-priced spice, but most recipes will only need a small amount of the tiniest thread. If you add too much saffron into your dish, it will end up having a soapy and weird taste.
How is saffron processed? The whole flowers are harvested by hand. Each flower only contains a few threads, and it should be carefully plucked by hand as well before drying them under direct sunlight.
Did you know? For a company to produce one pound of saffron spice, they’ll need to harvest 75,000 flowers! On a serious note, they should be literally hand-picked! That explains why it is known as the world’s costliest spice by weight. (*)
Saffron spice works best in dishes such as paella, risottos, and other rice dishes. Today, saffron is produced in different parts of the world, such as Greece, Morocco, the USA, and India.
There are 2 forms of this spice in the market that you can choose: ground or whole saffron strands.
What Is the Shelf Life of Saffron?
If you have kept your ground saffron at room temperature or in a cool dark place, it has a shelf life of 6 to 12 months. Some may say that it can still be usable after a year as long as it is still in good quality.
Whole saffron threads
For whole saffron strands, they have a longer shelf life compared to ground saffron. It can hold its prime for more than a year.
If you keep it in the freezer, it can stay there for up to 3 years as long as you carefully place it in a safe area.
How To Tell If Saffron Has Gone Bad?
If you’re wondering if saffron threads spoil, the answer is no. That’s in regards to food safety. However, potency can decline over time, especially if kept under bad storage conditions.
Note that poorly stored saffron will not hold the same flavor as fresh. Here are a few ways for you to find out if your saffron is still suitable for consumption:
1. Check the printed date.
Whether you have ground or whole saffron threads, we advise that you should be mindful of the printed date to be guided.
Every pack of saffron comes with the harvest date, sell-by date, best buy or expiration date. These dates are your basis on how long the saffron spice you have can hold its prime.
If you find out that your saffron has passed the date, it does not immediately mean that it has already gone bad. Check the quality first before you decide to throw it away. If it smells and looks fine, there’s no harm to using it for your dishes.
2. Check the appearance.
Saffron strands are deep red or orange-yellow in color. If you notice that the color of your saffron has significantly faded, Then it’s not in its best state anymore. You need to get a new one.
3. Inspect the smell and taste.
Pick a small strand and rub it between your fingers. Then, do a taste and smell test of the saffron spice. If the taste and aroma are weak, this is your sign that you should get a new pack. It will be useless if you try to save it because it will not greatly create an impressive impact on your dish.
4. Check the texture
If your saffron strands brittles easily when rubbed, that’s a sign that it is already old.
Remember that high-quality saffron is dried under high temperatures. Thus, the moisture content of your saffron is particularly low. A saffron spice that has been exposed to moisture or water will likely lose its potency and become a breeding ground of bacteria and molds. (*)
How To Store Saffron Properly?
Storing saffron spice requires special care. Remember that this is not your ordinary spice.
1. Keep it in a cool, and dark place.
Note that exposure to heat, light, moisture, and oxygen is saffron’s enemy. A little exposure to any of these factors can quickly deteriorate the freshness of your expensive spice.
The back part of your kitchen cabinet would be the ideal place for you’re saffron spice. Before tossing it in the storage, get a silver foil and wrap it around the saffron container. The foil will help block any chances of light exposure. This should be done when you don’t have a dark cupboard or pantry.
2. Don’t put it in the refrigerator.
The most important thing that you should bear in mind is that… Saffron should never be refrigerated!
Yes, it is true that the refrigerator can provide a cool food storage temperature, but the moist environment will destroy the quality of your saffron spice.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the taste of saffron?
Saffron has a subtle grassy, earthy flavor, with notes of luxurious sweet and floral taste.
If you have something that tastes so unlike saffron, like bitter or metallic, it indicates that you got an imitation version of the spice.
That’s why you better grab the to taste the authentic ones!
2. Can you Freeze saffron?
Yes, you can freeze saffron. Freezing it can effectively extend the shelf life of your expensive spice for up to 3 years.
If you’re wondering how to freeze saffron, here’s how to do it:
- On a paper towel, place the desired quantity that you are going to freeze.
- Make sure to remove any impurities or bad strands.
- Get a silver foil and carefully wrap your saffron. Make sure that it is fully covered. This is a delicate spice that requires special handling.
- Put your silver foil-wrapped saffron in an airtight container. You can use Tupperware or anything that has a well-fitting lid. If you run out of extra containers, you can use a heavy-duty freezer bag.
- Place the saffron in the freezer. Make sure that it is safely seated in an area that won’t get crushed.
3. How is saffron used in a dish?
If you’re planning to prepare an elixir for your rice dishes like paella, or a special dessert, this is how it is commonly done:
- Prepare 2 teaspoons of saffron threads, a sugar cube (or a pinch of coarse salt).
- Grind all the ingredients using a spice mill or mortar and pestle.
- Add ¼ cup warm water into the grounded ingredients and let it cool.
4. What will happen if I eat saffron spice?
Eating saffron carries a low health risk as long as they’re consumed in minimal amounts of not more than 1.5 grams. Researchers found that taking 5g of saffron is considered a toxic dose.
Saffron is treated like diamonds in the kitchen. It’s the world’s most expensive spice that requires laborious handwork in harvesting and collecting the saffron strands from each flower.
Saffron can lose its potency over time, just like any spices you have in your kitchen. It can last for a year or more at the best room temperature condition; and up to three years when carefully stored in the freezer.
It’s a no-no to store saffron in the refrigerator. It can eventually rot due to the moist environment. Don’t forget that!
Putting it in the deep part of your cupboard is better than storing it in the refrigerator!