Learn About Saffron

Author: Chef Sydney

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What is Saffron?

Saffron is a flower-grown spice grown mostly in the Middle East.  It grows as threads from bright purple saffron crocus flowers. Once picked, saffron goes through a drying process.  Saffron is bright red and made of long, thin threads, which are the stigmas of the crocus flower.  It has a sweet, grassy smell. Despite being red, foods cooked with saffron turn a warm yellow-gold color.  Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, but very little is needed to flavor dishes.

What Does Saffron Taste Like?

Everyone who tries saffron describes its taste differently.  To most people, saffron has a light, sweet flavor, though some describe it as bitter.  

Learn About About Saffron
Saffron threads in a dark bowl.

How Do You Eat Saffron?

Because saffron is a spice, people enjoy it cooked into other foods.  It is recommended to soak dried saffron in warm liquid before use to bring out its flavor.  Saffron is a key spice in bouillabaisse and paella, adding a floral flavor and yellow color.  It is a popular addition to rice, such as in saffron rice or rice pilaf, or risotto.  It pairs well with chicken recipes, pasta dishes, and sauces.  Some people enjoy saffron in their tea.

Where Can You Buy Saffron?

Look for saffron in the spice aisle of the grocery store.

How Do You Store Saffron?

Store saffron threads in a sealed, airtight container, such as its original spice jar, in a cool, dry place.

Fun Facts About Saffron

Saffron used to be a popular material for dye because very little was needed to dye clothing yellow.  Because of its soft smell, saffron has been used in perfumes.  In ancient times, saffron was used as a medical treatment for certain ailments.

Did You Know?

Each saffron crocus only produces 3 saffron stigmas, which are handpicked.

Recipes Using Saffron

Saffron Rice

Spice up your regular rice dish with saffron. Soak saffron threads in hot water for 3-5 minutes until the water turns golden-yellow. Prepare rice as directed and drain. Add rice, saffron water, and chicken stock in a pan and cook until liquid evaporates.

Fancy Vegetable Soup

Spice up a big pot of vegetable soup. Place vegetable stock, onions, carrots, potatoes, and peas in a large stock pot. Add salt, pepper, and saffron and simmer until vegetables are soft.

Saffron Tea

Create a delicious and delicate tea with saffron instead of tea. Boil water and set aside to cool. As it cools, add saffron, honey, lemon juice, ground ginger, and ground cinnamon.

Spaghetti with Saffron Marinara

Mix canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, and Italian seasoning in a large skillet. Add in soaked saffron threads and simmer sauce. Boil spaghetti for about 8 minutes or until done and drain in a colander. Serve marinara sauce as is or use a hand blender to blend until smooth.

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