Turmeric is an incredibly versatile spice that is hard to substitute for no matter what you need it for. Its earthy, pungent, bitter flavor and vibrant orange color elevates soups, curries, rice dishes, and even baked goods to a whole new level. Plus, turmeric is known for its numerous health benefits such as being an anti-inflammatory and being packed with essential oils and nutrients.
If your spice rack is completely devoid of turmeric but there’s no time to run to the grocery store, knowing what your turmeric substitutes can be is important so that rich soup of bowl of curry isn’t lacking in flavor or color. From saffron and mustard seeds to curry powder and maybe a few things you’ve never heard of before, check out our guide for the 6 best substitutes for turmeric that will work wonderfully in its place without compromising your final product.
If you’re looking for the vibrant yellow-orange color that turmeric can provide to a dish, saffron is an excellent substitute. Soups and slow-cooked casseroles can all benefit from a saffron stand-in to get that same vibrant hue, however, the flavor won’t be exactly the same since saffron has some sweet notes that turmeric doesn’t have. Start with a small amount of saffron and adjust accordingly to get the right color and flavor you’re looking for.
2. Annatto Seeds
Another turmeric substitute that can mimic the yellow-orange color is the annatto seed, which comes from the achiote tree. Use annatto seeds in rice dishes, marinades, and casseroles instead of turmeric to get that deep, vibrant color in a 1:2 ratio of seeds and vegetable oil. Annatto seeds have a sweet, peppery flavor profile that is different from turmeric, however, it will still provide favorable flavor to your final product.
3. Yellow Mustard Seeds
Mustard seeds provide a burst of intense flavor to dishes that isn’t quite the same as turmeric, however, it will give you that yellow color you may be looking for. Start with a small amount of yellow mustard seeds in your dish and adjust accordingly to make sure the mustard flavor doesn’t overpower the final product.
4. Curry Powder
A popular spice mix in Indian cuisine, curry powder often includes turmeric so even with the other ingredients in the mix, you’ll still get that turmeric flavor. However, because there are so many other spices in curry powder, be mindful using this as a turmeric substitute in a dish where the intense flavor profile isn’t a good fit.
5. Smoked Paprika
The reddish hue of paprika certainly makes for a great turmeric stand-in if you’re looking for that signature color, plus the musky, smoky flavor will undoubtedly work well in any savory dish you’re making. To get even closer to the turmeric flavor profile, you can mix the paprika with mace powder to get more of that pungent spicy flavor.
6. Ginger Powder
Since turmeric and ginger come from the same family, it’s no surprise that ginger powder makes for a suitable turmeric substitute in a pinch. However, ginger has a spicier, sweeter flavor profile while turmeric is more earthy and bitter, so depending on what kind of recipe you’re working on, ginger powder just may be the perfect fit.