Kitchen Confidence

A Trick for Stretching Saffron

By • July 18, 2013 • 15 Comments

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Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: How to make saffron more aromatic than ever -- and how to stretch it. 


There are things we approach in the kitchen with care, with hesitation, and, maybe, with a little bit of fear: tempering eggs, making aioli, inverting a just-cooled cake onto a platter.

Cooking with saffron falls into this territory.

We know it's delicate; we know it's expensive. So when we reach for it, we do so haltingly, sparingly. The dishes we use it in -- paella, ice cream, bouillabase -- are saved for special occasions, celebrations, moments we want to savor.

But thanks to Paula Wolfert and her book The Food of Morocco, we can stretch our saffron -- and get more bang for our buck -- while making it taste bigger, bolder, and more aromatic than out of its jar. All it takes is some warm water; once the saffron soaks in the water, the entire jar becomes perfumed. In fact, as Wolfert says, "I’ve discovered that if I soak all the ground spices called for in a recipe in a little saffron water before adding them to the dish, the moistening intensifies and better distributes their combined flavors." Here's how to change your saffron game.

Dry your saffron in a warm skillet, then crush it to pieces. 

Toasting saffron from Food52

Soak the dried, crumbled saffron in warm water; the ratio should be one cup of water for every 1/2 teaspoon of saffron. You can store this in the fridge for up to a week. Two tablespoons of this magic water will equal one good pinch of saffron.

If you want to keep your saffron-water around for more than a week, pour it into non-reactive ice cube trays and freeze. One ice cube will equal 1 pinch of saffron. 

Saffron ice Cubes from Food52

What are your favorite ways to use saffron? Let us know in the comments!

Tags: kitchen confidence, saffron, stretching saffron, spices, how-to & diy

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Comments (15)


over 1 year ago Debbie Hoad

Non-reactive ice trays? How do ice trays 'react'?


over 1 year ago mayK

To get a stronger taste of the saffron I usually soak the saffron in one- two tbsp of vodka ;)
before using it to bake f.ex "lussekatter" or "safron-braid (kringle)"


over 1 year ago Sara

Usually right before cooking we soak saffron in water or rose water. I didn't know it was a trick! :D


over 1 year ago Amanda Bevill

Fabulous idea, and you could do it with so many other spices for iced tea & cocktails.


over 1 year ago Evon Lim

i grind 1 pinch saffron threads with 1/2 cup maldon sea salt. use it in risotto, stew, flavoring my omelette, salads,meatballs, even making sourdough bread!


over 1 year ago Karlene

This is a fantastic idea!! Thank you, I will be trying it.


over 1 year ago Ken Woytisek

Crocus stamens??? It's the stigmas the provide the color, aroma, and flavor. The stamens are the male part of the plant and do nothing; it's the females (stigmas) that do the "work." Not unlike real life, eh?


over 1 year ago sexyLAMBCHOPx

sexyLAMBCHOPx is a trusted home cook.

Right Ken - lol.


over 1 year ago Elizabeth

you can buy good saffron at The Spice House in Milwaukee. I prepared 1 gram bags of the finest grade Spanish saffron today. What a pleasure to reaching into a bag filled with 1 pound!! of the stuff. Thanks for the great idea of toasting, blooming and freezing Paula. I appreciate it.


over 1 year ago Pegeen

Pegeen is a trusted home cook.

Great cost-saving tip and gorgeous photos. Thank you.


over 1 year ago laurenlocally

Lauren is Food52's Director of Partnerships.

Fabulous tip.


over 1 year ago Sarah Jampel

Sarah is Food52's associate editor.

I've been avoiding making anything with saffron just because of the inhibitive price, but now i'm going to be more fearless and go wild. Heidi Swanson's chickpea stew (, here I come!


over 1 year ago Chris Culhane

Excellent idea!


over 1 year ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I love this!! It's brilliant, saffron is so expensive. Such a great idea.


over 1 year ago pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

Very helpful. I'm working with a friend from Valencia on paella tonight. Needless to say we'll be using a lot of crocus stamins.