The turmeric spice we commonly use today comes from the root of the plant, so turmeric is also known as “turmeric root.” Flavor-wise, turmeric is earthy and musky, with almost a hint of pepper. Sometimes, though, you may need a turmeric substitute.
Depending on the type of cuisine you’re cooking, turmeric may be one of your most essential ingredients. Either by itself or as part of a curry blend.
If you’re cooking and suddenly realize you don’t have turmeric, you don’t need to panic. There are a few different ingredients you can use as a turmeric substitute in a pinch. You’ll need to be mindful of the purpose of the turmeric in your recipe: Is turmeric used to add distinct color, or for its flavor profile? The turmeric substitute you use will depend on turmeric’s purpose in the recipe.
Dried vs. Fresh Turmeric
Some recipes may call for dried, ground-up turmeric, while others will require fresh turmeric. It’s important to remember that these items can be substituted for each other, as they are the same ingredient in different forms.
Conversions are crucial in this case, as adding too much or not enough turmeric can greatly affect a recipe. When it comes to dried versus fresh turmeric, about 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric is the same as a half-inch of fresh turmeric root. Both will add the flavor and color you need to a dish, you just have to be careful about quantity.
Turmeric and ginger are in the same plant family, so it’s no surprise that ground ginger makes a great turmeric substitute. Ginger is more pungent than turmeric, so you have to be mindful of that when using it as a turmeric replacement. Color-wise, ginger will not yield the bright orange shade that turmeric normally adds to a recipe.
When using ground ginger as a substitute for turmeric, you’ll want to use about what half of the recipe calls for. This is because of ginger’s stronger flavor, and the last thing you want to do is add too much ginger. You can always start with half and add from there, but turmeric is much more mellow compared to ginger, so you’ll probably want that balance.
Mustard and turmeric don’t come from the plant family, but mustard has a similar flavor profile to turmeric. Mustard powder or dry mustard is a great turmeric substitute because it can mimic both the flavor and color that turmeric adds to certain dishes.
Dry mustard may not be a perfect turmeric substitute, but it works in a pinch. It can add a richer flavor depth to a recipe, or add some color to a typically vibrant dish. As for how much to use, it’s always best to start small and add from there. Otherwise, you may overpower your recipe.
Paprika is often a spice staple in a kitchen, so it will work when you’ve run out of turmeric. Its rich color will help keep the vibrancy of different turmeric dishes, while the flavor profile will depend on the type of paprika you have around. There are a few different paprika flavors, and each will add a unique flavor profile to your dish.
You can use hot, sweet, or smoked paprika as a turmeric substitute, but pay attention to potential differences in flavor. Depending on your flavor palette, you may want to experiment with spicier paprika or stick to sweetness if you’re not a fan of spice.
Madras Curry Powder
Madras curry powder is a pre-mixed blend of spices but notably has turmeric in the mix. It also has flavors like fenugreek, chili powder, and cumin for a warmer flavor profile. Turmeric’s presence in the curry powder makes it a perfect choice for a turmeric substitute.
One thing to note, though, is Madras curry powder will not keep the same color as turmeric does on its own. Instead, your dish will come out a darker red. Using Madras curry powder is a perfect substitute for Indian or South Asian dishes as its flavors will enhance the recipe you’re following.
There’s no denying that saffron is one of the most expensive spices available. However, saffron is found regularly at grocery stores, and it makes an acceptable turmeric substitute.
Pro tip: saffron won’t replace the flavor of turmeric, so you need to pay attention to the recipe to see if turmeric is present for flavor or color.
If turmeric is used in the recipe to add a depth of color, saffron makes a great replacement. It will add that same rich, yellow color that some dishes rely on. It’s a fantastic way to make sure your dish looks aesthetically pleasing, even if it’s missing some turmeric.
For more ingredient substitutes and culinary principles take advantage of our wealth of knowledge in the Kitchen Ambition Cooking School.