Saffron is a beautifully fragrant spice that is known as the most expensive spice in the world.
Due to this, it can be hard to get the opportunity to taste it, which might lead you to ask: what does saffron taste like?
Saffron has a mild earthy flavor with floral notes and a hint of sweetness.
When it comes to expensive ingredients, it’s important to know what they taste like so you can avoid spending money on something you won’t like. But if you like the finer things in life, you definitely want to try saffron.
In this article, we will be learning a bit more about saffron and letting you know exactly what it tastes like and how it can be used.
- What is Saffron?
- What Does Saffron Taste Like?
- What Can Saffron Be Used For?
- How Do You Use Saffron?
Let’s dive in!
What is Saffron?
Saffron is a spice that is made from the dried stigmas of the Crocus sativus or saffron crocus.[*]
The flower is a vibrant purple with five red stigmas per flower.
The bright red stigmas have the ability to dye your food a golden yellow, which is unexpected from threads that are so red. The deeper the thread color, the stronger the saffron is.
It has been cultivated for thousands of years and can be found growing in Spain, Greece, Turkey, and Iran, among other Southern European countries.
It is used as a seasoning, dye, medicine, and perfume.
It is known as the most expensive spice in the world. It can sell for up to $5000 per kg.
This is because each individual stigma needs to be picked by hand, making harvest very laborious. Each flower only blooms for one day a year, so the yield is low.
It can take up to 80 000 flowers to produce one pound of saffron.
After they are picked, they are dried and packaged in very small portions of up to 10g to make them more affordable and to keep them fresh.
What Does Saffron Taste Like?
Saffron has a very subtle flavor that is earthy with a bit of sweetness and a floral note. [*]
It has a totally unique flavor that is hard to replicate with any other ingredient.
Unlike some other spices, saffron is such a delicate flavor that other flavors can easily overtake it. You need to be very careful what you pair with saffron, so it has the chance to shine.
Since it is so costly, you want to use this flavor to its full advantage, so you aren’t wasting your money on merely a colorant.
Saffron is a versatile flavor that goes well with seafood, chicken, and vegetables in particular.
What Can Saffron Be Used For?
The true origin of saffron is debated, with many areas claiming it, but it is used most commonly in Persian, European, Indian, and Arab dishes.
Due to its origins, it is common to see saffron used in curries and other Asian Dishes.
However, the spice trade means that saffron became a sought-after spice all over the world.
It can be used in savories as well as desserts where it pairs well with vanilla.
Saffron is often paired with rice in both sweet and savory dishes because the color shows up the best, and it gives flavor to the bland grain.
The most popular dishes that use saffron are:
- Bouillabaisse– France
- Saffron rice– Iran
- Saffron rice pudding– India
- Saffron Chicken Tagine– Morocco
- Risotto– Italian
How Do You Use Saffron?
Saffron threads are not often added as they are to the recipe. While they are edible, they are stringy and can get stuck in your teeth.
They can be toasted and ground, which is risky because it is easy to burn.
You can buy powdered saffron, which is easier to work with but has a weaker flavor and is worse overall than using the threads.
You may also find ground saffron as an ingredient in some premade spice mixes.
If you are using the threads, there is a particular way to incorporate them into your dish. To get optimal color and flavor, we recommend steeping the saffron beforehand.
Follow these simple instructions to steep your saffron:
1. Set aside a small amount of cooking liquid.
Most often, this will be water, but it may also be stock, coconut milk, white wine, or milk. Set aside a few tablespoons before you start cooking; you will be adding it back in later.
2. Place in two or three threads.
Saffron is very potent, so you only need a few strands to make a significant impact.
Keep the rest of the threads in a tightly sealed container away from heat and light to retain their flavor and color.
Leave the threads to steep while you prep the rest of your ingredients; the longer you steep it, the stronger the flavor and color will be.
Steep for a minimum of 30 minutes to really draw out the goodness.
4. Remove the threads
Once the steeping is over, you can remove the threads from the liquid. If you want to save some cash, you can dry the threads and use them one more time.
5. Add the steeped liquid to the dish.
Now all that’s left is to add the golden liquid to the dish and let the color and flavor make their way into the dish.
Does turmeric taste like saffron?
While they have similarities, turmeric is not a direct substitute for saffron because it doesn’t have its floral sweetness.
They are often mixed up or used in place of one another because of the earthy notes they share and the golden color they give.
Is saffron very spicy?
While saffron is referred to as a spice, it doesn’t mean it is hot in flavor.
It is used to impart an earthy sweetness and a bright yellow color rather than to add heat to a dish.
Saffron and chili go well together, so they are often used together to get a balanced flavor.
Does saffron good for you?
Yes, in fact, saffron is not just delicious but also beneficial to your health. [*]
It contains antioxidants that protect your cells from free radicals and oxidative stress. This can ultimately benefit your brain health and inflammation.
It also contains a carotenoid compound, which helps protect your body against infection and even some cancers.
It is high in vitamins A and C, riboflavin, folic acid, niacin, potassium, copper, magnesium, selenium, iron, and zinc.
It may be small, but saffron really packs a punch in flavor and health benefits.
Learn more: Does Saffron Go Bad? How Long Does It Last?
Now that we have learned a little more about this wonderful spice, what can we take away from this?
- Saffron has an earthy flavor with a bit of floral sweetness.
- It is the world’s most expensive spice.
- It is best used in curries and other spiced dishes.
We hope this has taught you something new and encouraged you to try this beautiful spice the next time you get the chance.