How-To & Diy

A Trick for Stretching Saffron

June 14, 2016

Saffron is a precious thing, so we're revisiting this great trick to make it last and last and last.


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.

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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!

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Brette Warshaw

Written by: Brette Warshaw

I'm a reader, eater, culinary thrill-seeker, and food nerd.


amir June 15, 2018
zarin saffron esmailzadeh one of the best company you can provide pure saffron from this company, I have exprienced it

website address :
William T. July 25, 2015
I love to use it in cream cheese icing
Debbie H. August 31, 2013
Non-reactive ice trays? How do ice trays 'react'?
mayK August 28, 2013
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)"
Sara August 19, 2013
Usually right before cooking we soak saffron in water or rose water. I didn't know it was a trick! :D
Amanda B. August 3, 2013
Fabulous idea, and you could do it with so many other spices for iced tea & cocktails.
Evon L. July 22, 2013
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!
Karlene July 21, 2013
This is a fantastic idea!! Thank you, I will be trying it.
Ken W. July 19, 2013
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?
sexyLAMBCHOPx August 3, 2013
Right Ken - lol.
Elizabeth July 18, 2013
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.
Pegeen July 18, 2013
Great cost-saving tip and gorgeous photos. Thank you.
laurenlocally July 18, 2013
Fabulous tip.
Sarah J. July 18, 2013
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!
Chris C. July 18, 2013
Excellent idea!