7 Turmeric Substitutes

7 Turmeric Substitutes

Turmeric, the golden spice that lends a unique aroma and flavor to dishes has been used for centuries in many parts of the world, especially in Asian countries. In addition to its culinary uses, turmeric is also widely popular as a medicinal spice.

The presence of a bioactive compound called curcumin is responsible for the healing effects of turmeric, as well as for giving the spice its rich yellow color. Studies indicate that curcumin possesses a wide range of medicinal properties, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-microbial, anti-diabetic, anti-cancer and anti-aging properties.

Suppose, while cooking, you run out of turmeric and you want to add the same effect of the spice to your dishes, what do you do? Although turmeric has a characteristic taste and aroma, fortunately there’re are a few turmeric substitutes that you can use to get almost the same flavor of turmeric. These substitutes include:


Ginger root or simply ginger, is a rhizome of the ginger plant, used all over the world as an aromatic spice and as a natural remedy for various ailments. A great source of numerous essential nutrients, ginger is used to soothe an upset stomach, provide relief from vomiting, prevent nausea, relieve pain and for various other health problems.

Belonging to the same family of turmeric and having some of turmeric’s medicinal properties such as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, ginger makes a wonderful turmeric substitute. While turmeric is mostly used in the powder form, ginger is used in the fresh root form.

If you plan to use ginger as a turmeric substitute, make sure to use it in moderationbecause too much of this spice can alter the taste and flavor totally from what you would like it to be.

Although ginger won’t give the same yellow color to your dishes, it can offer you many of turmeric’s health benefits such as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection.

Curry Powder

Curry powder is actually a combination of many spices, including turmeric. Because of the presence of turmeric, curry powder usually has a characteristic yellow color. The composition of curry powder may vary from place to place but the main ingredients in it are turmeric, coriander, fenugreek, cuminand chili peppers. Additional ingredients such ginger, garlic, asafoetida, cardamom, clove, cinnamon, fennel seed, caraway, mustard seed, nutmeg, curry leaf and black pepper may also be used in the curry powder.

So, if your dish calls for turmeric, you can use curry powder as a substitution and see how it goes. Due to the presence of such a wide variety of ingredients in curry powder, the levels of curcumin, iron and manganese, which are some of the main nutrients in turmeric powder may not be that much pronounced in it.

Mustard Powder

Grind mustard seeds into a fine powder and you get mustard powder, a spice used widely in various cuisines. Mix the powder with water to make a paste and you get the wonderful mustard paste, popularly used in hot dogs, burgers, wraps and sandwiches.

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The mustard seeds come in three different colors – white, brown and black. Although powdered and dry mustard seeds lacks any taste or aroma, it gains a hot and spicy flavor when mixed with water.

People use mustard in a wide range of ways in cooking, because of which, it is available in many forms and tastes. If you’re using turmeric to add color to your dishes, you can substitute it with yellow mustard seed powder for giving the same golden yellow color to the dishes. It can also mimic the flavor of turmeric to a certain extent. However, make sure to add mustard sparingly, as it has a very strong and pungent aroma, which many people may not like.


Saffron, a perennial spice is obtained from the flower of the saffron crocus plant. The styles and stigmas of the flower, also called threads are collected and they are dried to form the saffron threads that we use to give color and flavor to dishes.

It is one of the costliest spices in the world, because it is a labor-intensive crop that involves the laborious task of removing the threads by hand and gently toasting them to dry.China, Egypt, Greece, France, Iran, Italy,India,Israel, Morocco, Turkey and Spain are some of the countries where saffron is commercially produced on a large scale.

Saffron is a rich source of carotenoids and antioxidants that protect your body from free radical damage. It is associated with numerous health benefits, such as improving cardiovascular functions, treating and preventing various types of cancers, promoting weight loss, alleviating symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), treating anxiety and depression, increasing vitality and many more.

Saffron, also referred to as the priceless spice,not only provides a golden yellow color to foods but also has a similar taste as that of turmeric. Because of this striking similarity, turmeric is often referred to as Indian Saffron. Although saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world, it is your best bet when it comes to turmeric substitutes.


Annatto, an orange-red condiment and food coloring agent is obtained from the seeds of the Achiote tree. With a slight peppery aroma and mild nutty, sweet taste, it is often added to foods to impart the beautiful aroma, flavor and an orange or yellow color to the dishes.

The waxy red colored coating of the seeds is mainly due to the presence of various carotenoid pigments such as bixin and norbixin. These seeds are ground into a powder, infused into oilor made into a paste, which are then added to dishes.Annatto is mainly used in Caribbean and Latin American cooking.

Annatto, also referred to a Cuban Turmeric, is another great substitute for turmeric. To use it in place of turmeric, first boil 1 teaspoon of annatto seeds in ¼ cups of water for half an hour. The water turns yellow, which can then be uses as a turmeric substitute.


A very popular spice used widely throughout the world, cumin is loved by many because of the characteristic aroma and flavor it offers, as well as for its health benefits. In fact, cumin is the second most popular spice in the planet, the first being black pepper! Despite its small size, cumin really packs a punch, when it comes to nutritional value.

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Cumin comes from the Cuminumcyminum plant, which is a small flowering herbaceous plant belonging to theApiaceae or Umbelliferae family. The seeds of the plant are dried and ground into a fine powder to produce cumin powder, which is a staple spice in many cuisines throughout the world, including Indian, Mediterranean and African cuisines. Cumin is also a main ingredient in curry powder.

In addition to its use as a spice, cumin also finds use a natural remedy for various diseases, owing to its numerous medicinal properties. It is an excellent source of vitamins (A, B, C and E), minerals (Iron, Copper, Zinc, Potassium and Manganese) and various antioxidant phyto-chemicals. It is these nutrients that give cumin its impressive health benefitting effects, including weight loss promotion, lowering LDL and total cholesterol levels, lowering blood sugar levels and insulin resistance and relieving digestive problems.

Cumin can be used in place of turmeric when your recipe demands a slightly bitter and spicier flavor. However, make sure to use cumin in moderation because too much of it can be very overpowering. Although it cannot impart the same yellow color and taste of turmeric to dishes, it can still act as a feasible turmeric substitute.

Smoked Paprika and Mace

Paprika is a red spice powder made from the dried fruits of sweet red capsicum or red bell pepper. Mace is another spice obtained from the lacy aril found on the outer shell of the nutmeg seed. The aril is removed by hand and dried to produce mace.

A combination of smoked paprika and mace seems to be a good substitute for turmeric. While smoked paprika imparts the golden color of turmeric to dishes, mace can provide a pungent and spicy taste, which is almost similar to that of turmeric.


Turmeric has a striking golden yellow color and a characteristic flavor that is not so easy to replicate.  Although you can use the above-mentioned spices as substitutes for turmeric in various dishes, the truth is that there is no perfect substitute for turmeric that would lend the same color, aroma and flavor to the dishes.

Some recipes, for example, African-based curries, use turmeric as the key seasoning for a dish. These dishes depend very much on the characteristic flavor of turmeric that nothing else you add would give the same effect. In such cases, the best thing to do would be to wait until turmeric becomes available to you and use it according to your requirements.

So, when it comes to substituting turmeric with any other spice,the most important thing you should do is to think of ways to balancethe existing flavors without overpowering them. By starting with a small amount of the spices and tasting as you go, you can build the flavors by increasing the spice quantity little by little, until you get a dish that is delicious, flavorful and stunning.

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