Inside the Spice Cabinet: Turmeric

updated May 2, 2019
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Many of us probably have a little jar of turmeric sitting somewhere in our cupboards that we bought for one specific recipe, and then haven’t really used since. Right?! Take a look at this vibrant spice that’s good for more than golden milk or the occasional curry.

What Is Turmeric?

Taste: Bitter
Most Popular Use: Curries, spice blends, beverages

Turmeric comes from the underground stem, or rhizome, of a plant in the ginger family, and in fact it looks much like ginger when fresh. The stems are boiled, dried, and then ground into a powder.

The plant is native to South Asia, so it’s not surprising that turmeric spice is most widely used in the cuisines from that part of the world. Turmeric has a pungent, earthy aroma and adds a slight bitterness and astringency to dishes.

How To Use Turmeric

Turmeric isn’t often used on its own. Instead, it’s used to round out spice mixes for things like curries and meat rubs. Turmeric is also great with fish and seafood, and it can be used to help season a pot of grains.

Turmeric is also highly valued as a coloring agent. Just a little of the powder tints an entire dish yellow! Here’s a tip: if you don’t want to pay big bucks for a packet of saffron, you can substitute a few pinches of turmeric. The spices have different flavors (saffron is more floral), but they are both powerful coloring agents.

Recipes for Cooking with Turmeric