What Spice Is Most Similar to Saffron? 

We use saffron in most of our recipes because it adds flavor, aroma, and color. Saffron is the richest spice in the spices category due to its taste, color, and fragrance. However, it is one of the most expensive spices, and there is limited availability of it in nearby grocery stores.

What spice is most similar to saffron?

Ground turmeric is considered the closest substitute for saffron because of its color tone, which is similar to saffron. However, turmeric does not fit in all meals as saffron, but it is still one of the best choices. If you seek the same saffron flavor, then combine paprika with turmeric.

Turmeric belongs to the ginger family and has an earthy and bitter flavor that does not sound like saffron. Still, the color tone resembles a lot, so it is a recommended alternative. 

Unlike many other spices, saffron is very delicate and has a sweet, luxurious taste that is hard to replicate. If you want to learn more about substitutes for saffron, then continue reading.

In this guide, we’ll explore the topic of what spice is most similar to saffron in detail.

What Spice Is Most Similar to Saffron

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Is There a Cheaper Substitute for Saffron? 

There is a list of spices in the market that substitutes saffron so well, cheap, and readily available in your local grocery stores. It is nearly impossible to substitute for saffron perfectly, but a few features make these spices resemble saffron in terms of aroma, fragrance, and taste.

Following are some of the cheapest substitutes for saffron:

  • Turmeric is the most suitable substitute as it is more affordable than saffron and is readily available in any supermarket. Also, its beautiful yellow-orange color resembles a lot of saffron.
  • Safflower resembles saffron in appearance, and many people confuse safflower with saffron. But safflower is much cheaper and has a similar flavor to saffron, making it a perfect choice for dishes like pasta, paella, risotto, and biryani.
  • Cardamom has the same earthy, spicy, and sweet taste as saffron and is a cheaper substitute. The amount of cardamom is half that of saffron since it has a strong aroma and flavor, but it is an adequate substitute for saffron.
  • Annatto Seeds is another cheaper substitute for saffron as it is a food coloring ingredient that gives your food a beautiful color like saffron. But other spices need to be added with it for aroma and taste. 

These are the most affordable alternatives for saffron that give similar results, either used solo or combined with other spices to balance the flavor. Moreover, they are easily accessible in every grocery store, meaning you don’t have to exert much effort to find them.  

How Much Turmeric to Substitute for Saffron? 

Turmeric is often considered a close substitute for saffron due to its beautiful color gives life to your food without adding expensive saffron. The signature color of turmeric makes it an excellent choice to substitute for saffron. 

But the quantity of saffron is needed to be precise and measured adequately before adding it as it has a strong aroma and flavor, so a large amount of it can ruin your food. If your recipe requires a large pinch of saffron, add a half teaspoon of turmeric for similar color and results. 

Half a teaspoon of turmeric for color and half a teaspoon of paprika for flavor make a perfect combo and a perfect substitute for saffron.

Can I Use Paprika Instead of Saffron?

Paprika is considered another excellent substitute for saffron because of its color and flavor that resembles saffron. Three types of paprika are available: sweet paprika, spicy paprika, and smoked paprika. 

The best-suited paprika is smoked paprika, as it replicates the flavor of smoked saffron. Avoid using the spicy paprika as it would not give the sweet taste of saffron. A combination of sweet and smoked paprika also works well to substitute saffron, as it provides the same subtle sweet flavor to your food. 

The color of paprika is a bit stronger, so you can go for turmeric for color and paprika for the sweet notes of saffron. It is also very cheap and is readily available in your nearest grocery shops and supermarkets.

Can You Substitute Cumin for Saffron? 

Saffron has many substitutes that have distinctive features, making them a perfect choice and much cheaper than saffron. Cumin seeds are another excellent substitute for saffron that is cheaper and easily accessible. 

Although cumin seeds have more of an earthy and bitter flavor that does not resemble saffron, a small quantity of it can substitute saffron. Cumin is the most versatile spice used in almost every dish, even baking. 

To substitute saffron, add ⅔ teaspoon of cumin seeds for every full teaspoon of saffron. But for flavor and aroma, add a combination of spices with cumin seeds to balance the same taste, smell, and color.

Are Safflower and Saffron the Same?

Safflower and saffron resemble each other a lot, and sometimes most of you get confused between both spices. But they both are different in many terms, but safflower is used as a substitute for saffron as it is much cheaper than saffron and has a few similar features. 

The main difference between both spices is that the flavor of saffron is metallic and earthy, while the taste of safflower is relatively subtle. Both spices belong to different families and genres, which differentiates them more. 

The price difference between these two is huge as one is expensive while the other is less expensive and readily available. Saffron is only available for a week in a year, making it more unique, while safflower is easily available. 


Saffron is an expensive spice that is not easily accessible, so many substitutes for it are cheaper and easily accessible. These are turmeric, safflower, annatto, cumin, paprika, and different spices.

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