5 Saffron Substitutes

Saffron is a common ingredient found in a lot of foods, but it is also known as the most expensive spice in the world because it is so rare and harder to farm than other spices. 

5 Saffron Substitutes

It’s not always easy to find when you’re grocery shopping either, so if you’re making a recipe that calls for saffron and you have no way to get hold of it, you’re going to need to use something as a substitute. 

Luckily, there are a few ingredients you can use that are pretty good if you can’t find the real thing, so let’s have a look at some of them! 

1. Turmeric

Turmeric (see also ‘5 Perfect Turmeric Substitutes‘) is often regarded as the best substitute for saffron because it’s closest in taste and texture.

When turmeric and saffron are both added to your dish, they both have the same color too. It’s only when they are dry that you can really tell the difference. 

Turmeric is a lot easier to get hold of as well, and it’s not nearly as expensive as saffron. If you need to get hold of a substitute quickly, turmeric is really your best option. 

2. Ground Cumin

Ground cumin actually tastes a bit different from standard cumin. It is more earthy in taste and it is a bit lighter in color. 

It’s also a little bit more bitter than saffron, but when you add it to your dish, this bitterness won’t be a problem. All you have to do to counter that bitterness is add a bit of sugar. 

Though ground cumin may not be your first choice when it comes to a substitute, you definitely shouldn’t write it off! It’s the easiest spice to find, so if you need a substitute quickly, this is your best option

3. Curry Powder

Curry powder might seem like an odd choice, but you’d be surprised how well it can work as a saffron substitute. 

The color of curry powder will vary depending on what recipe you are making, but when it comes to using it as a saffron substitute, you’re going to have to measure it by intuition and your eyes.

Just add the curry powder bit by bit and make sure you’re constantly taste testing. 

Curry powder is really strong in flavor, so you don’t want it to overpower the rest of your dish. 

4. Safflower

Safflower is a bit blander in taste than saffron, but it’s a great substitute because you don’t have to worry about accidentally adding too much.

Safflower works in a variety of different dishes, from hot to cold, so this is a great substitute you can use. 

It is a little harder to find than some of the other options on this list, but if you do come across it, definitely give it a try. 

5. Marigold Flowers

Besides curry powder, marigold flowers are probably the least common substitute on this list. But they are a great substitute for saffron because you can buy them from flower stores.

Or if you’re a gardener, you can grow them at home, and then you’ll have a consistent supply of free flowers whenever you need them!

You need to take the petals and ground them up into powder in order to use them in your cooking. 


Some of these substitutes might seem a little odd at first glance, but we promise that once you’ve tried them, you’ll use them again and again. 

Saffron is incredibly expensive and it can be super difficult to find at the best of times, so when you really can’t find any, these substitutes will work perfectly for any dishes you’re planning on making. 

5 Saffron Substitutes

5 Saffron Substitutes

Recipe by Jenna

Saffron is an incredibly expensive ingredient that can be pretty hard to find. If you’re looking for a decent substitute, click here to learn about 5!

Course: Substitutes
5 from 1 vote


  • Turmeric

  • Ground Cumin

  • Curry Powder

  • Safflower

  • Marigold Flowers


  • Decide on what substitute you need
  • Pick a substitute from the list above
  • Read what you need to substitute with
  • Create the recipe and enjoy

Recipe Video

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