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Why Peppery-Sweet Turmeric Is Showing Up Everywhere

March 29, 2016

The first time I ever remember eating turmeric was in an "egg" salad—i.e. mashed tofu, one of my mother's Moosewood-inspired favorites from the 70s. Of course, before my mother was tinting tofu with it, turmeric was beloved for its peppery sweetness and incredible color, its place in Indian (and Persian, among other) cuisines, and its health-buzz roots deeply planted in Ayurvedic medicine.

In 2016, the first things that come up when you Google "turmeric" are not recipes, but health benefits. It's anti-inflammatory! Depression-relieving! May fight drug-resistant tuberculosis! This is all the stuff that makes something buzzy, a "superfood" or a "hot ingredient."

But the rhizome's real draws, in its fresh and its powdered forms, are its peppery flavor, which runs its fingers along the back of your throat, and its gold flesh, so intensely colored it's like someone bumped the saturation on it waaaay up. It brings that color to everything it touches, including your hands and dinnerware.

Turmeric has swung from from the more traditional dals and grain dishes and soups to vegetariana and the world of juicing and beyond. In levels not quite at "avocado toast" or "smoothie bowl," it's showing up all over the internet and on restaurant menus—in juices, yes, but also in sweet and savory oatmeals, turmeric tea (turmeric root steeped with lemon and honey in hot water, sometimes with ginger root and/or black pepper, too), in pre-blended and bottled (or homemade) turmeric honey, in "golden milk," a warmed blend of milk (or alt-milk), turmeric, cinnamon, and honey.

#ginger #turmeric #honey #roasted #carrots 🐰

A photo posted by Gyongyver Szabo (@szgyvr) on

And in vinegary "ciders," salad dressings, pickles, smoothies, tossed with roasted vegetables, added to curry pastes, and sprinkled onto popcorn. And even in doughnuts! Turmeric is popping up all over our (Not)Recipe app.

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Nigella Lawson
Nigella Lawson
Tear or cut a head of cauliflower into smallish florets. put 2 teasps ground turmeric into a large bowl, along with a teaspoon of sea salt flakes (I use Maldon), half a teasp each ground cinnamon and chile powder and mix to a runny paste with oil. Add the cauliflower florets and - wearing CSI gloves - toss everything together to coat the florets. Tip the golden cauliflower into a shallow tray and roast for 20-30 mins in a hot oven. Turn into a non-porous bowl (otherwise it will be forever stained by the turmeric as mine unfortunately now is) and scatter with pomegranate seeds and cilantro.
Mary Reagan Harvey
Mary Reagan Harvey
Turmeric + Early Grey donuts with a cherry glaze. Used a classic cake donut recipe but steeped the tea in the milk and added turmeric and nutmeg to the mix. Top with toasted almonds for the perfect amount of crunch! Perfect alongside a strong cup of black tea or black coffee.
Pick me up soup
Chicken broth to broil with 1/2 onion, garlic, thyme, turmeric and a pinch of salt&pepper
Add a cup of quinoa to cook
Stir in chopped collard greens for 5 minutes
At the last minute, throw in spinach leaves
A dose of lemon juice
Feel better
Nancy Partington
Nancy Partington
Preheat oven to 400F. In a large bowl combine 1 small cauliflower cut into florets, 2-1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (or canned, drained and rinsed), 1 small onion sliced, 1 sliced jalapeño, a few unpeeled garlic cloves. Add a glug of olive oil, pinch each of cumin seeds, fennel seeds, ground coriander, turmeric, kosher salt, black pepper. Transfer to baking sheet and roast until crispy and browned, about 25 min, stirring halfway through. Make a sauce by whisking together a few spoonfuls each of Greek yogurt and tahini with juice of 1-2 lemon and pinch of salt. Serve veggies over grain of your choice drizzled with tahini sauce. #notrecipe #notrecipes
Kristy Mucci
Kristy Mucci
Afternoon tisane: lemon verbena, tulsi basil, fresh turmeric. All from the greenmarket.

How are you using (and seeing, and eating) turmeric? Do you prefer fresh or ground? Tell us in the comments.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Also turmeric stains on plastic can be removed or just made to disappear by leaving the plastic container in the sun (magic) I chuck whole pieces of ginger in our morning green smoothies too.”
— amit

Download our brand-new (Not)Recipes app for iOS and get even more recipe-less cooking inspiration—turmeric-hued and otherwise.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Verdant Kitchen
    Verdant Kitchen
  • amit
  • Panfusine
  • aargersi
  • Caroline Lange
    Caroline Lange
Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.


Verdant K. April 13, 2016
For an easy and delicious way to add some organic Turmeric to your recipes, try Turmeric Infused Honey. We take our USDA Organic Turmeric from our Savannah GA farms and infused it with Wildflower Honey. Try it drizzled over shrimp or scallops and sauteed in a little butter.
amit March 29, 2016
Peel and slice turmeric, pickle with salt and lemon. Eat with each meal as a condiment.

Also turmeric stains on plastic can be removed or just made to disappear by leaving the plastic container in the sun (magic)

I chuck whole pieces of ginger in our morning green smoothies too.
Panfusine March 29, 2016
the leaves from the plant (just stick the rhizomes into a pot and they'll sprout year after year) can be used for steaming rice or corn dough like tamales, they confer the flavor beautifully.
Caroline L. March 29, 2016
what a great tip, panfusine! i will have to try that.
Panfusine March 29, 2016
Asking me how I use turmeric is almost like asking me how I use salt!.. I like to use fresh turmeric as a salad ingredient or pickle them.
aargersi March 29, 2016
I made a white miso, turmeric, and ginger dressing this week that's damn good. And I am thinking about some sort of turmeric cabbage thing tonight, like the suspiciously delicious (and now golden) cabbage from Fivenspice
Caroline L. March 29, 2016
that dressing sounds amazing, aargersi. (bet it would be good tossed with shaved cabbage!)