Have a recipe that calls for turmeric and you’re fresh out or can’t find it at the store? Or maybe you just don’t want that bright yellow color? Here, we’ll take a look at several of the best turmeric substitutes.
- Saffron – Great for adding a bold color with a mild flavor
- Dried Ginger – Ginger is a close cousin to turmeric and will have a similar flavor
- Curry Powder – Most British or US curry powder will already contain turmeric
- Mustard Powder – Great for adding a mild flavor with a similar color to turmeric
- Cumin Powder – Another common ingredient in Indian cuisine, this will have a comparable flavor
But those are only a few!
So below, I’ve listed the top 21 turmeric replacements in this article, which you presumably already have or can simply purchase at your neighborhood grocery store. These substitutes range from other earthy spices to seeds and fresh herbs, all of which can provide the same or similar flavor profile as turmeric powder.
I’ve got you covered with tips on using these substitutes effectively and what dishes they work best with. Don’t let the absence of turmeric powder stop you from making your favorite savory dishes.
Let’s dive into the best turmeric substitutes!
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric is an earthy-flavored spice related to ginger and has a distinct flavor and anti-inflammatory qualities.
Turmeric is most commonly used in fine powder form and is often used in small amounts to provide vibrant color to dishes. However, it can also be used in paste or fresh root forms, similar to ginger.
What’s the Difference Between Fresh and Dried Turmeric
Dried turmeric powder has a more robust flavor and is frequently used in savory foods. Fresh turmeric root is frequently used in Southeast Asian cuisine and is often grated or sliced and added to plates. However, finding fresh turmeric in grocery stores can be challenging, so ground turmeric powder is a good substitute.
The Best Turmeric Substitutes For Your Recipes
Turmeric is a popular and nutritious ingredient that lends a brilliant color and earthy flavor to recipes, particularly those from India and Southeast Asia.
However, it may only sometimes be readily available at your local grocery store or maybe too expensive for your budget. Luckily, plenty of suitable turmeric substitutes can be used in a pinch without sacrificing taste and health benefits.
Saffron is one of the most costly spices in the world, yet a little goes a long way when giving foods a distinct flavor and rich color. As an excellent alternative to turmeric, use a small number of saffron threads or powder to add that distinctive yellow hue to your recipe.
2. Dried Ginger
Ginger, part of the same family as turmeric, can also be a good turmeric substitute. Asian-inspired foods like curries or stir-fries can benefit from the spicy and fragrant addition of fresh ginger root or ginger powder.
Ginger powder, like smoothies and juices, can be used as an alternative to turmeric. However, it may not be the best for savory recipes because of its dynamic flavor complex (pungent, sweet, and spicy).
3. Curry Powder
Madras curry powder keeps the flavor close but will also add some heat and a darker red color. It is an excellent all-purpose substitute for turmeric in savory dishes, especially when making Indian or Thai-inspired meals. Still, it might yield unwanted results for dishes from other cuisines.
Add less madras curry powder than your recipe requires to use this substitution. The best part is that you can easily substitute madras powder using items in your pantry. Check out my recent article to find out how!
Turmeric contains natural & very beneficial steroidal compounds from curcumin as well as other aspects of the turmeric that are critical to calm down outsized inflammatory responses to pathogens.
— Medical Medium (@MedicalMedium) April 22, 2023
4. Mustard Powder
One of the best substitutes for turmeric powder is mustard powder. It is made from ground yellow mustard seeds and has a similar earthy flavor and anti-inflammatory properties. You can use it instead of turmeric powder in small amounts to add a pop of color and depth of flavor to your recipes.
5. Annatto Seeds
Another great option is annatto, which comes from the seeds of the achiote tree, found in Southeast Asia and Latin America. These tiny, bright orange seeds are commonly used in Latin America and Southeast Asian cuisine.
They have a mild, earthy taste and can be ground into a powder that can add vibrant color to your dishes. Annatto seeds also have anti-inflammatory properties, making them an excellent substitute for turmeric.
Safflower can be used as a natural food coloring additive and a plant-based turmeric substitute. It can provide a yellow color to foods without changing their flavor because it has a mild, neutral taste. Safflower can be purchased online or at specialist food retailers.
Indian, Southeast Asian, and Middle Eastern cuisines frequently employ the spice coriander. It tastes warm and citrus with a little undercurrent of earthiness. It won’t give the same yellow color as turmeric, but it can still add a unique taste to your dish.
When a recipe calls for a warm, spicy flavor, nutmeg is frequently used as a stand-in for turmeric. It can give dishes depth with its slightly sweet, nutty flavor. The spice nutmeg may be purchased in most grocery stores and is frequently used in sweet and savory dishes.
Cardamom is a spice commonly used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. It can add depth to dishes, especially curries and spice blends. You can find cardamom in grocery stores in either whole or ground form, and it’s also available in specialty spice shops or online. Crush a few cardamom pods and use them instead of a teaspoon of turmeric.
10. Fennel Seeds
Fennel seeds can be an excellent substitute for turmeric powder in Indian cuisine or other savory dishes that require earthy flavor. They are part of the ginger family, known for their anti-inflammatory properties. However, they don’t add the same yellow color that turmeric does.
Turmeric is an antioxidant.
It has curcumin, an effective anti-inflammatory.
It relieves unnecessary headaches, common colds, and promotes metabolic health.
Turmeric and ginger are similar rhizomes.
Turmeric is orange and ginger is yellowish green. pic.twitter.com/GdKWoS6dWH
— Elvis Simons,MDR• (@_elvis_simons) April 17, 2023
11. Anise Seeds
Anise seeds have a licorice-like flavor that may only be ideal in some dishes. However, it can work well in some savory dishes. Add a pinch of anise seed powder to a teaspoon of turmeric paste on an excellent substitute.
12. Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper has a spicy kick that can replace the bitterness of turmeric. It’s an excellent alternative for people who prefer their food to be spicy. It has also been demonstrated to increase metabolism and decrease appetite.
13. Chili Powder
Chili powder is a spice blend that frequently includes cumin seeds and is used in many Indian recipes. It can be a good alternative to turmeric powder in dishes like garam masala or madras curry powder. However, it may not add the same vibrant color as turmeric.
14. Smoked Paprika
Smoked paprika is a great substitute for turmeric powder. It adds an earthy flavor to your dish and provides the same vibrant color. Made from dried and smoked bell peppers, smoked paprika is a staple in many Southeast Asian and Indian dishes.
Rosemary is another herb that can serve as a good alternative. It has a woody, pine-like flavor that can add depth to dishes, particularly meat-based recipes. Rosemary can add a unique flavor profile to dishes that differ from turmeric. It can be found fresh or dried in most grocery stores or grown at home in a herb garden.
Another herb that can add a particular flavor to your food is oregano. Oregano’s peppery and somewhat bitter taste complements various savory recipes.
Dried galangal came in. Just soak the pieces you need in warm water for 30 minutes or so. Key ingredient for Thai dishes and ginger is not an acceptable substitute. I’m gonna use this stuff this weekend if I can. pic.twitter.com/IDGEkMWKgf
— Patrick Skinner (@SkinnerPm) April 20, 2023
17. Galangal Powder
Like ginger, Galangal is a root extensively used in Southeast Asian cuisine. It has a little hotter and less sweet flavor than ginger but can be used in recipes that demand a modest quantity of turmeric. Galangal is often sold in powder form and found in specialty grocery stores.
Cumin is warm, earthy, and slightly bitter, frequently used in Middle Eastern and South Asian dishes like curry and saag. Turmeric can be replaced with cumin, which has a natural golden tint and deepens the dish. Use a 1:1 substitution of cumin for the turmeric.
Speaking of curry, did you know that Indian and Thai curries are nearly opposites?
Check out the recent article I just linked. It dives deep into every aspect of the two curries, discussing variations in ingredients, flavor profiles, and even which type of curry plant each country prefers.
The dried berries of the Pimenta dioica plant are used to make the spice known as allspice.
It has a distinctive flavor evocative of cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Due to its similar rich color and ability to give recipes depth and complexity, allspice is a fantastic alternative for turmeric. Use a 1:1 ratio of allspice to replace the turmeric.
20. Sweet Paprika
Sweet paprika is made from ground sweet red peppers and has a mild flavor and subtle smokiness. You’ll want to pay attention to the color to use sweet paprika as a turmeric substitute.
Turmeric gives dishes a vibrant yellow hue, so you must use enough paprika to achieve a similar effect. You can adjust the amount if the color isn’t quite right.
It can impart a similar earthy and warming flavor to meals as turmeric and has a mildly sweet and nutty flavor.
Although it can replace turmeric in some recipes, its hue differs from spices. It has also been utilized in conventional medicine for possible health advantages, including better digestion, increased milk supply in nursing mothers, and decreased inflammation.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can you use instead of turmeric?
Saffron is one choice; it has a flavor all its own and is a similar bright yellow color.
But it frequently costs more than turmeric. Ginger, which is somewhat spicy and has some anti-inflammatory qualities identical to turmeric, is another option. Curry powder can also be used as an alternative. If a recipe only calls for a tiny bit of turmeric, you can achieve a comparable color result by substituting a pinch of mustard powder or paprika.
What spice is most like turmeric?
Saffron, also a well-liked spice used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, is another spice comparable to turmeric. Saffron is a beautiful alternative to turmeric in meals where color and flavor are valued because of its vivid yellow hue and mildly sweet flavor.
Are turmeric and cumin the same thing?
No, turmeric and cumin are not synonymous.
Turmeric is a spice recognized for its vivid yellow color and slightly bitter taste, often used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. Conversely, cumin is a prominent spice in these cuisines and has a warm, earthy, slightly nutty flavor.
While both herbs can be used in similar dishes, their tastes are distinct and should only be used interchangeably if the recipe is adjusted correctly.
Turmeric is an ingredient whose mellow yet pungent taste and signature yellow-orange hue have been essential to countless cuisines worldwide. Whether you’re attempting to replicate a dish from India, Fiji, or any other culinary hotspot, it’s vital to know of turmeric substitutes to create that unique flavor with ingredients you already have on hand.
By familiarizing yourself with these turmeric alternatives, you can tailor your dishes perfectly so that the color and taste are right. Remember to adjust the amounts depending on your preference or personal specification.
Together these 21 best turmeric substitutes will bring life and vigor—not to mention color—to whatever delicious meal you have planned!