Do saffron threads add flavor, or just color?

Just wondering if it's important to use them when a recipe calls for them, or if it's okay to substitute turmeric? Thanks!

  • Posted by: Thistle
  • June 25, 2012


bobading November 13, 2020
I have been growing saffron crocuses in Michigan for over 30 years and have been using it in many recipes. So my saffron is high quality and fresh. I can attest that when using saffron in recipes that it is so dilute that it contributes absolutely no flavor to a recipe what so ever. Color is another story and it provides a beautiful golden color to rice dishes, puddings and the like. I typically use about 20 threads for every cup of rice in the recipe. In saffron rice I use the saffron, plus cardamom, clove and cinnamon with salt and a bit of sugar and the flavor is wonderful. Omit the cardamom, clove cinnamon and sugar and it tastes just like plain rice but still has the great saffron color. Try it sometime and see for yourself.
Thistle November 13, 2020
It is brilliant that you grow the crocuses! I am inspired to try that as well as your spiced rice dish. That sounds absolutely incredible. Thank you!
bobading November 15, 2020
Thanks for the compliment. So here is little tip. When I make a dish with saffron I reserve a bit of the water for the dish and I take the saffron threads and put them in a mortar along with the salt for the recipe. I then grind the saffron with the salt and add them to the dish. I then rinse the mortar and pestle with the set aside water and add that to the recipe also. This insures the maximum extraction of the saffron essence into the recipe rather than leaving the threads whole with much of their goodness still in the threads. Good luck in your cooking endeavors.
Thistle November 16, 2020
I have just figured out how to make rice so that the grains remain separated. So, I’m definitely going to try this. Thank you for the great help!
saffroncrocuses September 15, 2015
Turmeric will never add the specific unique flavours of saffron. Saffron works in various ways depending on saffron quality (very difficult to find real and good saffron, fraud is massive), ingredients in your recipe, cooking procedure, dosage, etc. It makes this spice somehow alchemical and a bit difficult to use : it may fade away as well as overpower and ruin the gustative landscape. If you are just after adding color to your dish, use anything cheaper than saffron. But if you have good quality saffron at hand, use it since it deteriorates with time and loses its powers after 4 years postharvest. This website teaches a lot on saffron :
Thistle September 15, 2015
Thanks for the information, and so well put. In the years since asking the question, I have been able to experience real saffron. I agree it is unique and wonderful.
Red S. October 1, 2013
if you use high quality saffron, try to use it not so much, just couple of stigmas will give food the real gold coloring and the taste is slightly bitter if you taste it directly, that is why I prefer use saffron properly. You can also use saffron powder, that you can use for dressing also .
Thistle June 26, 2012
Thanks for the passive-aggressive help ChefOno. : ) I now know... what it isn't.
Thanks everyone~ I'm sure you've just improved my Moroccan Lentils immeasurably.
pierino June 26, 2012
Good one ChefOno. Saffron does add flavor and there are times when I go overboard with it. What does not add flavor is saffron powder which is made from safflower and all that does is add color. And then there are dishes where turmeric just does not belong...period.
Reiney June 25, 2012
Nice one, ChefOno. Made me chuckle.

The flavour can actually be very overpowering and distinct if used excessively, so be careful with those pinches. When using, brew it like a tea in a few Tbsps of hot water before adding it to your dish - this draws out the flavour (and allows you to use fewer strands).
bigpan June 25, 2012
The flavor is very slight, the color similar to turmeric without the harshness.
I would not do a paella without it.

Voted the Best Reply!

ChefOno June 25, 2012

Without seeing the recipe, let me put it this way: Saffron isn't the most expensive spice in the world because of its color.

ChefJune June 26, 2012
Added caveat: if you add more than just a little, you can make your dish have a very medicinal flavor. Just a little saffron goes a long way.
Panfusine June 25, 2012
Saffron does add a slight creamy/ smoky aroma to dishes that turmeric does not. Saffron gives a soft mild buttery yellow color whereas turmerics shade is much more intense.
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