Top 11 Turmeric Substitutes and Why You Should Use It

Turmeric Substitutes
Turmeric Substitutes

Turmeric Substitutes and Why You Should Use It

Turmeric substitutes usually come in handy when turmeric is out of reach and cannot be gotten immediately.

Most times, it’s the chefs looking to try out a recipe with a different ingredient as an alternative to turmeric.

If you are searching for substitutes for turmeric, you may as well have to search your pantry shelves. Most of the best alternatives for turmeric are actually not too far from you because they are lurking around in your kitchen cabinet or shelves.

Turmeric is a spice rich in flavor and is mostly incorporated into recipes or dishes. It is derived from the root, Curcuma longa.

It is bright yellow and has a reputation for staining the palms even though it is touched slightly, your aprons and even spoon – so, be careful.

The taste of turmeric is earthy, pungent, and most times, bitter like the ginger plant (its cousin).

Asides from its rich and unique flavor, turmeric contains antioxidants and nutrients that can offer lots of health benefits such as reducing inflammation, lowering the risk of heart disease, cancer, arthritis, depression, etc.

Curcumin is an active ingredient in turmeric and is also responsible for majorly all of turmeric’s amazing benefits.

There are a thousand and one ingredients that are rich in flavor and stand a chance to replace turmeric.

These ingredients are also capable of delivering benefits similar to that of the turmeric plant.

When choosing substitutes for turmeric, a lot of important tips must be considered. First of all, is turmeric the main ingredient for the dish, or it’s more of a supporting ingredient?

Picking the wrong turmeric substitute for a dish that requires turmeric may ruin the taste and flavor of the dish.

Some dishes require the unique, warm and rich flavor of turmeric to make it tasty and palatable. You do not want to ruin a classic dish by choosing the wrong substitutes for turmeric.

Plus, some recipes or dishes do not need turmeric. In such cases, alternatives for turmeric can be used – when the main stuff (turmeric) is unavailable.

In this article, we have selected top turmeric substitutes that can come in handy.

11 Best Substitutes for Turmeric That Work.

Turmeric Substitutes

  1. Saffron

Saffron is richer and sweeter than turmeric. And when there is no turmeric available to whip up that quick dish, saffron might be a better option.

Saffron has a vibrant yellow-orange color and stains hands more than turmeric does. Rice, soups, casseroles and other foods that require a vibrant yellow color will benefit from the addition of saffron.

Since saffron is richer and sweeter, it’s best to use small quantities in order not to overshadow the taste and flavor of other ingredients.

If a recipe calls for a tablespoon of turmeric, we recommend you use half a tablespoon of saffron.

The cons of using saffron are that it is super expensive since it is normally hand-harvested.

  1. Madras curry powder

Madras curry powder is a great turmeric substitute and is most useful in preparing Indian dishes.

One of the ingredients in madras curry powder is turmeric and this means your dish will have two contrasting flavors (turmeric and madras curry powder).

A downside to using this alternative to turmeric is that it also has chili as a key ingredient. We all know chili is red and hot, hence, your dish will be hotter with a vibrant red tone as compared to turmeric.

Madras curry powder is appropriate for only Asian or Indian dishes. If it’s not an Indian dish, another turmeric substitute is required.

If used for dishes from a different cuisine, it may ruin the food.

  1. Dried or fresh turmeric

Most recipes usually require dried turmeric. In cases where dried turmeric is missing and nowhere to be found, fresh turmeric is appropriate.

On the other hand, fresh turmeric is required at times to spice up a dish. Dried turmeric can be used as a replacement for fresh turmeric.

As always, dried turmeric is flavorful than fresh turmeric.

Turmeric Substitutes

  1. Ginger powder

Ginger powder is finely grounded ginger. The ginger plant and turmeric plant are in the same family, Zingiberaceae.

And as such, this means that they both share similar physical attributes and health benefits. Ginger is spicy, hot, sweet, and pungent.

Therefore, ginger powder is one of the best turmeric substitutes. Lacking turmeric powder? Try ginger powder.

  1. Mace and smoked paprika

These two spices work hand in hand. To make that savory dish, you do not only need the pungent spiciness that mace delivers. You also need the red and musky notes of paprika.

  1. Galangal powder

Another great substitute that can overshadow other ingredients if used in large quantities is galangal powder.

Galangal powder is super rich in flavor and is a great addition to Indian curries.

Although it may not give vibrant colors to casseroles and soups, it can boost their flavor, more than turmeric.

We can say that galangal powder, is a triple dose of flavor.

  1. Cumin seeds

If you do not like the idea of incorporating turmeric into your recipe, you can try cumin seeds. These seeds have an earthy and rich flavor – just like galangal powder.

Combining little quantities of galangal powder and cumin seeds can make a fantastic Indian curry suitable for dishes.

  1. Yellow mustard seeds

Most times, seeds could do magic when incorporated into dishes, just like powders.

Yellow mustard seeds are bright yellow in color and can assist in giving your dish that desired yellow color.

This turmeric substitute has a robust flavor that may not be suitable for every dish. It’s best to reduce the quantity of this ingredient if your plan is to make a palatable and excellent dish.

  1. Turmeric paste

Although turmeric paste may be difficult to find in local stores, they still remain an amazing substitute when turmeric is unavailable.

It is weaker in flavor and as such, needs to be incorporated in larger quantities. If the dish requires a tablespoon of turmeric, you could add 3 tablespoons of turmeric paste to boost its flavor.

  1. Annatto seeds

Annatto seeds are vibrant in color just like turmeric. These seeds come from the achiote tree and have a nutty, peppery, and sweet flavor.

To make the most of this ingredient, mix seeds in vegetable oil in the ratio of 1:2 and add the just made oil to your dish.

For example, you can mix a cup of annatto seeds with 2 cups of vegetable oil. It all depends on the recipe for the dish.

  1. Garam masala

The last and most amazing turmeric substitute on our list. The key ingredients in garam masala are clove, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, and black pepper.

These ingredients are also spices. Hence, garam masala will be extra flavorful and spicier than turmeric.

Use this ingredient sparingly so as not to taint the characters of other ingredients in the dish.


You might want to choose a substitute for turmeric for many reasons. One of the reasons might be to mimic the color, taste, or just play with similar ingredients.

You can use turmeric as a substitute for other ingredients to avoid allergies or just because it (turmeric) is unavailable.

Whatever the reason is, as long as the turmeric substitute wouldn’t ruin or alter the taste and flavor of your dish, it can be used.

Saffron and annatto seeds are amazing in giving delicious pickles their signature yellow color.

As for soups, a little bit of saffron, yellow mustard seeds, mace, and smoked paprika will just do the job.

To mimic the color of turmeric, annatto seeds or saffron are suitable.