What’s the Best Turmeric Substitute?
Turmeric is used as a coloring and flavoring in various dishes. But what do you do when your recipe calls for it but you have run out or don’t fancy the taste? How can you replace turmeric? Here are the best turmeric substitutes most similar in terms of aroma and color.
Turmeric belongs to the ginger family and is a plant native to India and Southern Asia. The plant’s rhizome is boiled in water, dried, and ground into an orange-dark yellow powder. It’s used in many dishes since it provides plenty of color and flavor. Before we dig into what to use instead of turmeric, let’s find out about its aroma.
What is turmeric and what is it used for?
There are many turmeric alternatives for you to try. While in terms of color it’s easy to identify the hues you need, in terms of aroma, a flavor profile might be helpful.
Turmeric has a warm aroma. You know how mint has a cooling effect? Well, turmeric has a warming effect. It has a slightly sweet taste and it’s quite pungent, as in you can feel it on your tongue. It has a slightly bitter taste that is slightly peppery.
Turmeric doesn’t only resemble mustard in color; it is also similar in flavor. Turmeric has an earthy, spicy flavor that reminds you of mustard. That’s because of curcumin, which also provides a certain oiliness and richness to this condiment, even in its powdery state.
It’s said that turmeric has many health benefits. For instance, curcumin is recommended as a potent anti-inflammatory agent. Nutritionally, turmeric is quite complex. Here is what 100 gr of turmeric contain:
- Calories: 312
- Total fats: 3,3 gr, of which 1,8 gr are saturated fats (4% of the daily intake)
- Sodium: 27 mg (1% of the recommended daily intake)
- Carbohydrates: 67 gr, of which dietary fibers are 23 gr and sugars 3,2 gr
- Protein: 9,7 gr
- Calcium: 168 mg (13% of the daily intake)
- Iron: 55 mg (306% of the recommended daily intake)
- Potassium: 2,080 mg, aka 44% of recommended daily intake
Quite the powerhouse for such a tiny ingredient. Just a pinch and not only do you add color and flavor but a dose of health!
Turmeric: fresh, powder, paste?
While we’re talking pretty much about ground turmeric, recipes can call for fresh turmeric. If the dish requires fresh turmeric, you’re good to go with these suggestions as well. Since fresh turmeric can have a milder aroma than ground turmeric, you need to adjust the flavoring. Ground turmeric is about four times more potent than the fresh version. You can also use turmeric paste if you have it lying around. You need to adjust the amount as well. Add a little more of it than the recipe asks for since turmeric paste has a more delicate flavor.
And now that we have covered its magical properties, here is how to substitute turmeric if your recipe calls for it and you don’t have it around or there’s something about its flavor you don’t like.
Here are some turmeric substitutes for a similar flavor!
What can you replace turmeric with? Well, in terms of aroma, turmeric is quite distinctive and has a complex profile. This is the challenge. While we can find some replacements, it’s best to understand there’s no 100% match. What also helps is to ask yourself two questions:
- Does the recipe stand without turmeric?
Some recipes require turmeric as a flavoring or coloring agent but this ingredient doesn’t make or break it. If your recipe requires a pinch of turmeric and it’s overpowered by other condiments, you can either leave it out or try a substitute.
- Is it impossible to make this recipe without turmeric?
Some recipes really need turmeric or require a large quantity. Such is the case of sauces and curries in African recipes. Just as you can’t make a fully authentic Indian curry without well, curry powder, there’s no way to make African curries without turmeric. Using a replacement can alter the dish’s flavor profile since the recipe relies heavily on the ingredient’s aromas.
All these details aside, here’s what you can use as alternatives for turmeric to replicate its flavor:
1. Curry Powder
Turmeric is used a lot in Asian cuisine. It’s also a staple in African recipes. Known as a star in Indian and Thai dishes, turmeric can be easily replaced by curry powder. “Can I use curry powder instead of turmeric?” is one of the most popular searches online. So, to clarify things, yes, curry powder is a good substitute.
Curry powder is a blend of spices, including turmeric. Now, since curry powder is a mix of flavors, it’s safe to say you won’t only get the aroma of turmeric. Make sure to add curry powder at the beginning of cooking so it fully releases its flavors.
2. Madras Curry Powder
Madras curry powder is a particularly good alternative to turmeric. It contains turmeric, chili powder, cumin, and fenugreek and will provide a similar flavor. It will also add some kick, being spicier. And when it comes to color, it will give a darker, red tone. It goes perfectly in South Asian and Indian recipes, but it’s better if you keep tasting the dish if using it for other recipes.
Having a complex, fragrant palette, it’s ideal to start with ½ tsp of Madras curry powder per 1 tsp turmeric. Add it to savory dishes: curries, stews, sauces, soups, and marinades for fish, seafood, and meat.
Ginger, especially ground ginger, is a great alternative for turmeric. Still, remember that ginger has a more pungent, spicy, and sweet aroma so you need to cut back on the amount when using it as a replacement for turmeric. Start with ½ tsp ginger per 1 tsp turmeric. Add it to drinks (hot, such as tea, or cold, such as lemonades), sweet dishes, sauces, curries, and smoothies.
Can I substitute turmeric for cumin? You might well ask. And yes, it’s a good alternative. Cumin has an earthy, slightly bitter flavor, with a tangy, sweet, and yet pungent aroma, with nutty and citrusy undertones.
It can mimic the flavor of turmeric, especially in sauces, soups, marinades, and Middle Eastern or South American cuisine. When it comes to ratio, it’s safe to start with ½ tsp cumin per 1 tsp turmeric.
5. Garam Masala
An Indian ingredient, Garam Masala is also a mix of spices. With cumin, clove, cardamom, cinnamon, and black pepper, it can give some of the heat and deep aromas that turmeric has.
It’s important to use a smaller quantity when it comes to Garam Masala. Compared to turmeric, Garam Masala has a more robust, intense, and spicier flavor.
6. Smoked Paprika + Mace
Another popular question online is “can I use paprika instead of turmeric?” To obtain a similar flavor, smoked paprika would be best, especially if mixed with some mace. Paprika will lend the color and some of the spiciness, sweetness, and mild muskiness, and the mace (derived from nutmeg) will add the earthy, bitter aroma that will remind you of nutmeg, pepper, and cinnamon.
The ratio is ½ tsp blend per 1 tsp turmeric. This mix works best in sauces, soups, marinades, all things savory, and meat, especially poultry.
7. Galangal Powder
One of the best turmeric substitutes is galangal powder. Although it may seem bizarre to have galangal in your store cupboard and not turmeric, should that be the case, you can swap them.
Galangal has a similar flavor to turmeric, but it will also add some sharpness resembling pine or mint. Its aroma is rather intense so use a small amount. Also, keep in mind that, in terms of flavor, it will not alter the aspect of the food. Galangal can make a great combo with cumin to make it even closer to turmeric’s flavor palette.
What’s a good substitute for turmeric in terms of color?
Well, we covered the substitutes for turmeric when we want to replicate its taste and aroma palette. Let’s see the spices that will give you that familiar turmeric color without giving a similar flavor. For instance, if you want to color your pickles or make yellow rice, these ingredients work best.
Saffron is a popular choice and it will give your dish the same bold, intense color as turmeric. You’ll get the same vibrant, shiny, bright yellow with these ingredients. In terms of flavor, saffron is subtle, flowery, and pungent with a sweet undertone.
Just make sure to add it at the end of cooking, since it loses its flavor when added at the beginning. Start with ¼ tsp saffron per 1 tsp turmeric. It compliments risottos, rice, stews, curries, marinades, sauces, and seafood.
Resembling saffron, safflower is cheaper and it offers your dishes a smoother color. It’s still a good option for “dyeing” your food in the absence of turmeric.
“The poor man’s saffron”, annatto comes from South America. Annatto seeds, to be more specific, will give your food the same look as you’d get using turmeric. Made from the seeds of the achiote tree, annatto provides dishes with an orange-yellowish color. In terms of flavor, it has a mild earthy and peppery aroma. It’s sweet, nutty, and has a mild undertone of nutmeg.
Regarding ratio, use a 1:2 ratio, compared to turmeric. Infuse annatto seeds in oil or add them at the beginning of cooking to get the flavors flowing. Use it in marinades, baked goods, smoothies and drinks, rice, and meats, even sausages.
4. Yellow Mustard Seeds or Powder
While you can add mustard paste to obtain the same color, in terms of taste the vinegar in it will ruin the dish. But mustard seeds are a great choice for replicating the hue of turmeric. Mustard powder is also a good turmeric replacement for getting the same bright yellow color.
In terms of taste, mustard powder and the seeds have a rich, pungent, spicy, nutty taste. They work best in Indian dishes and anything saucy or curry-based. Start with a½ tsp mustard per 1 tsp turmeric ratio.
What can I use as a substitute for turmeric? Can I use paprika? To replicate the color, yes! To add some of the flavor, go for smoked paprika for its deep, smokey, earthy flavor. If you want the color of turmeric and none of its spiciness, paprika can be a good choice.
Who knew there’d be so many turmeric substitutes? We’re pretty sure you have some of them in your pantry. And we’re pretty sure some will make you think you need more spices. But fear not, when it comes to spices and shoes you can never have too many!