Here are 14 turmeric substitutes. Turmeric is a very fragrant, yellow spice that is used in curries and a lot of Middle Eastern cuisine. It goes great with lemony flavors and often lends its deep yellow color to whatever it’s cooked with.
The 14 Best Turmeric Alternatives
If you’ve run out of turmeric, or you simply don’t keep it in your spice rack, you might be looking for a quick and easy alternative for tonight’s recipe.
As a general rule, if your turmeric is only a small amount - say, less than half a teaspoon - you can probably omit it from the recipe entirely. If you’re looking to make yourself a wonderful, flavorful curry, you’ll want turmeric, or an optimal substitute, to get cracking.
What Is Turmeric?
Turmeric, like ginger, is a rhizome. It’s a fleshy, root-like ingredient native to Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Most people, accordingly, associate its flavor with the cuisines of these regions. It’s usually ground into a fine golden powder for culinary use. Raw turmeric looks a bit like a cross between ginger and sweet potato.
❗ Be wary: turmeric’s strong yellow color will stain just about anything it touches, from your fingertips to your countertop. Keep it away from your favorite clothes, aprons, or wooden spoons.
Fresh Turmeric vs Ground Turmeric
Fresh turmeric is much milder than ground turmeric. The process of producing the powder requires dehydration of the root, removing all its water content, and concentrating the flavor of the solid that remains.
If you’re cooking with fresh turmeric, you might want to consider quadrupling the amount your recipe calls for to get the big, bold flavor you want.
Fresh turmeric looks a bit like ginger with vibrant orange on the inside. Ground turmeric is a characteristically yellow powder. It’s harder to find fresh turmeric at supermarkets outside of Asia and southeast Asian communities. Fresh turmeric also doesn’t have as long of a shelf life as the ground powdered stuff. Ground turmeric will keep for up to two years in an airtight container away from sunlight, while fresh turmeric will keep for about two weeks in the fridge.
Fresh turmeric can have a gritty texture, while powdered turmeric typically offers a smoother texture. Fresh turmeric is better for raw recipes like smoothies, juices, and pickles. Ground turmeric, on the other hand, is best for cooking curries, stews, and rice recipes.
Turmeric Substitutes for General Cooking
The easiest substitute is between different types of turmeric. You can swap fresh turmeric out for ground turmeric and vice versa if you so desire. You can use turmeric paste, too, if you like.
Otherwise, here are our picks for turmeric substitutes.
1. Dried or Fresh Turmeric
You can substitute dried for fresh turmeric and vice versa if you like. Generally speaking, ½ inch of raw turmeric equals about 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric. Remember that ground turmeric has a stronger flavor than fresh turmeric does.
2. Turmeric Paste
Our next best bet is turmeric paste. This is a very easy alternative to turmeric powder because it has a similar concentrated taste. It can be hard to find in grocery stores. Turmeric paste has a stronger flavor than fresh turmeric, but isn’t quite as potent as ground turmeric, so adjust your quantities accordingly when making this substitution.
Saffron’s naturally bold coloration makes it an obvious alternative to turmeric. It’s a very expensive spice, and use less saffron than you would turmeric when substituting it. This way, your dish won’t become overly sweet.
Safflower looks exactly like saffron, but it’s more affordable. It’s an Egyptian alternative to saffron with the same golden yellow color. You can use it in a recipe the same way you’d use saffron.
Paprika, whether hot, sweet, or smoked, is a common pantry staple. You can use it as a decent flavor substitution for turmeric, and if you don’t love spice then sweet paprika is a nice option.
6. Annatto Seeds
Annatto seeds come from achiote seeds. Their nutty, peppery, sweet flavor isn’t exactly close to that of turmeric, but with their yellow color they will look very close. If you’re substituting annatto seeds for turmeric, use a 1:2 ratio of seeds in vegetable oil, and then add the infused oil to your recipe.
7. Madras Curry Powder
Madras powder is a mix of spices that typically includes turmeric powder, chili powder, cumin, and fenugreek. It will have a similar flavor to turmeric, but will give your curry a darker, deeper color, and a little bit of heat, too.
It’s a great substitution if you’re making Indian food, but for other cuisines you might want to steer clear of this aromatic, powerful spice mix. Generally, you should use slightly less madras powder than you would turmeric powder if you’re making this substitution.
8. Yellow Mustard Seeds
This will match the yellow color of turmeric, but not the flavor. Use mustard seeds, not yellow mustard, which is a condiment.
These seeds can be sweet and spicy, so be sure to use less than the recipe calls for.
9. Mace and Smoked Paprika
Mace and smoked paprika in combination can be a useful turmeric substitute. This can be a very spicy combo, so add to your recipe in small amounts.
10. Ginger Powder
Ginger powder’s dynamic, complex flavor can substitute for turmeric in raw food, but we’d advise not using it in cooking.
11. Galangal Powder
Galangal powder has a sharp, almost pine-like flavor. Despite this, it’s a decent substitute for turmeric if you’re cooking Indian or South Asian food. It won’t have the rich, yellow color of turmeric, but will provide plenty of flavorsome kick. Use a small amount based on your own preference.
12. Cumin Seeds
Cumin’s earthy flavor is a little stronger than turmeric. You could combine it with galangal for a savory recipe.
13. Garam Masala
Another substitute best suited to Indian and South Asian cuisines. It is a combination of cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, and black pepper, and has plenty of flavor and spice. Reduce your volume considerably when using garam masala as your choice of substitutiton.
14. Dry Mustard/Ground Mustard Powder
For color and taste, this is a worthy alternative. However, you would be best to use a little less than the recipe asks for.
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