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Substitute for Turmeric (10 Flavorful Options!)

Looking for a substitute for turmeric? Discover 10 flavorful alternatives that can add color and depth to your dishes.

Are you a big fan of turmeric flavor? It happens to the best of us; we choose a spice we love and include it in everything we cook. Check out the list below for substitutions for turmeric on the days you run out or can’t find this spice.

Spice jar filled with turmeric spice.

What is turmeric?

Turmeric is a yellow-colored spice derived from the root of the Curcuma longa plant, which belongs to the ginger family.

This spice has a warm, earthy, slightly bitter, and spicy flavor. It is often described as having a peppery and mustard-like taste.

This yellow powder is commonly used as a spice in cooking, especially in Indian, Middle Eastern, and Southeast Asian cuisines. It imparts a warm, earthy flavor to dishes and is often found in Indian curries, stews, yellow rice dishes, and marinades.

Why do you use turmeric in cooking?

Turmeric is used in cooking for several reasons:

  1. Firstly, it adds vibrant yellow color to dishes, enhancing their visual appeal.
  2. Additionally, turmeric has a warm, earthy flavor that contributes depth and complexity to various recipes. It is a key ingredient in many traditional dishes, particularly in South Asian, Middle Eastern, and Southeast Asian cuisines.

Best Substitute For Turmeric

Here is our list of the ten best substitutes for turmeric:

1. Fresh Turmeric

Fresh turmeric root and powder turmeric on the table.

If you immensely enjoy the flavor of dried turmeric, it’s worthwhile to try it fresh. You’ll be able to taste it more strongly in dishes.

In its fresh form, you can use it in a few different ways. Chop it into small pieces and include it in sauces, marinades, soups, and even in egg dishes. If you decide to juice the turmeric, you can utilize it in salad dressings or drink it as juice.

It’s recommended to peel fresh turmeric before both slicing and juicing it to avoid the tasteless peel. Though, the skin can be consumed once appropriately washed.

Cooking Tip:

To substitute for dried turmeric, use one tablespoon of the fresh version for every teaspoon of the powder.

Make sure to use gloves and a dark cooking apron when dealing with fresh turmeric. It can stain hands, cutting boards, and clothes very easily. If you don’t, you might be left with yellow fingers for a few days.

2. Saffron

Small bowl filled with red saffron spice.

Saffron is a beautiful expensive spice that is red and considered very rare. It is a good turmeric substitute as it provides a similar color to dishes. The flavor of saffron will vary, though, as it has a sweet and flowery taste.

Because saffron is quite costly, you may occasionally run into an imitation instead of actual saffron. To check if it’s good quality, the saffron threads shouldn’t have a bitter taste. You can also tell by the appearance; it should be dark red with orange ends.

It is commonly used for dishes like paella, other rice dishes, and even delicate desserts.

Cooking Tip:

When using saffron as a turmeric substitution, don’t cook it; it loses its taste very quickly. Instead, add it in at the very end of your recipes.

Take ten strands, grind them, and soak them in water before adding them to any dish. This will replace ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder.

3. Safflower

Wooden spoon with safflower spice.

Safflower is another excellent alternative to turmeric if you’re not interested in paying the high cost of saffron.

It provides a similar color as saffron, but it is lighter. It also has a more delicate and sweet taste.

Since the flavor is more subtle, it will take more safflower to add the same amount of flavor to a dish.

This spice works well for salads, soups, and stews.

Cooking Tip:

Prepare the same way you would saffron – soak it first before adding it to a dish. Ensure you use the correct amount to provide a similar color and flavor.

Use one teaspoon for every teaspoon of turmeric. If you want your dish less sweet, you can start with ¾ teaspoon and adjust to your liking.

4. Ginger

Sliced fresh ginger and spoon with powdered ginger on the table.

Since ginger root is so similar appearance-wise to fresh turmeric, it’s no wonder that this is considered a great replacement. You won’t get the pretty color provided by the turmeric, though, as ginger has a much lighter beige tint to it.

The flavor is not an exact match, though they are in the same plant family so it will be similar.

Ginger has a more intense and spicier flavor, so you might want to use less in your dishes than turmeric. It can be used both in its powder form and as a fresh spice instead of turmeric.

Use this substitute to season meat, in sauces, or even in juices (ginger root).

Cooking Tip:

Ensure you chop fresh ginger finely before including it in recipes. It will be unpleasant and quite spicy if you bite into a large piece of it during mealtime.

Use ½ teaspoon of ginger powder for each teaspoon of turmeric powder.

5. Annatto

Brown bowl filled with yellow annatto powder spice.

Annatto is one of the best turmeric substitutes. This is mainly due to its similar color. It’s also used as a multi-purpose spice. In Latin countries where it is grown, you’ll often see it used as a dye for clothes and makeup.

It does have some similar flavor notes, like turmeric, including pepperiness and earthiness.

Annatto works best for dishes you want to add colors, such as rice and sauces.

Use annatto seeds to make your own spice blend.

Cooking Tip:

This spice is meant to be included at the start of the cooking process, unlike saffron or safflower. Add it into oil at the start of your recipe.

Use it in a 1:1 ratio as a replacement for turmeric.

6. Garam Masala

Wooden bowl with Garam Masala spice spilled on the table.

Garam masala spice is one of the good turmeric alternatives. It’s a mixture of spices commonly used in Indian dishes. It typically includes cloves, cumin powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, peppercorns, cardamom, and bay leaves.

Since turmeric is often used in Indian dishes, it makes sense that garam masala would be a good option as a substitution. Because of the black peppercorns, this spice blend does have more heat than turmeric, so it’s best to use a smaller amount in recipes. It also has a sweet flavor.

This spice works well, replacing turmeric in curries and as a seasoning for lentils.

Cooking Tip:

If you can’t find this spice at the store, it’s easy to make your own at home. Take the above ingredients, ensure they are all ground into powders, and combine them.

Use ½ teaspoon of garam masala for each teaspoon of turmeric.

7. Curry Powder

White bowl with curry spice and measuring spoon next to it.

Curry is a great turmeric substitute. It’s a mixture of spices most used in Indian cooking. One of the main ingredients that add golden yellow color to this spice mix is turmeric.

Using this spice in the mixture means you’ll get a similar color and the flavor notes that turmeric usually provides.

Other spices included in curry are cumin and fenugreek. There is no heat in a standard curry mix, and it works well with most savory dishes. As there are other seasonings included in this mix, it will not be a perfect replacement in all recipes.

Cooking Tip:

Curry is best used in dishes that have sauces or a liquid base. Do not use this swap for drinks (like a turmeric latte). The other spices are too strong and do not bode well in sweet drinks.

Start with ½ tablespoon of curry powder to replace every tablespoon of turmeric. Adjust as needed by slowly adding more until your preferred taste is reached.

8. Paprika

two bowl with different type of paprika spice.

Paprika can work as a good substitute due to the peppery taste and slight earthiness it offers. Unlike turmeric, paprika provides a sweeter taste. There will be a flavor difference when used in recipes.

There are multiple varieties of paprika, ranging from smoky to hot and sweet paprika. Depending on the recipe you intend to recreate, you can adjust which paprika version you use to complement other flavors better.

The paprika color varies from red to a darker reddish-brown, so it will not offer the same golden yellow as turmeric does.

Cooking Tip:

Use sweet paprika as the closest flavor match. While smoked paprika and hot paprika are tasty, these varieties include additional flavors that alter the recipe’s taste.

Start with ½ tablespoon of paprika of choice, then add more if needed.

9. Cumin

Glass jar with cumin spice and measuring spoon filled with spice.

Since cumin and turmeric are ingredients often used in curry powder, it is clear that cumin complements other flavors/spices normally incorporated with turmeric-based recipes.

Cumin provides an earthy taste like turmeric. However, you will find it to have a much stronger taste.

Don’t use too much cumin as a replacement, or it can create an unpleasant taste in your recipe. This spice is most often used in Indian and Mexican recipes. Use cumin in sauces and seasonings for meat (especially beef and pork).

If you can’t find cumin powder, use cumin seeds and grind them into powder.

Cooking Tip:

When using cumin, it’s best to use a smaller quantity initially. This way, you can adjust the taste and ensure the flavor does not overpower other ingredients.

To substitute turmeric, use ½ tablespoon of cumin for every tablespoon of turmeric in recipes. If you prefer a more robust cumin flavor, you can increase it to ¾ tablespoon.

10. Dry Mustard

Bowl filled with mustard seeds and measuring scoop inside.

The most common form of dry mustard found at the grocery store is dry yellow mustard.

Dry mustard comes in a variety of colors and flavors, varying from brown color to white. It is created by grinding mustard seeds into powder.

These seed varieties each provide a different taste when used in dishes, with yellow mustard being the mildest. They offer a similar flavor to the prepared mustard you would find on the grocery shelves.

You can make your own dry mustard by grinding yellow mustard seeds into the powder.

Cooking Tip:

This swap works best for savory recipes. Use dry mustard when making sauces and as dry rubs for meat and poultry.

Use ½ tablespoon of dry mustard to replace one tablespoon of turmeric powder.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does turmeric taste like?

Turmeric is described as having an earthy flavor, pepperiness, and bitterness. It has quite a strong flavor and is one of the primary flavors that come through in curries.

Can I use paprika instead of turmeric?

Yes, you can use paprika instead of turmeric. Of course, the color of the final dish will be red instead of golden, and the flavor will differ. It is recommended to use a combination of mace and smoked paprika to create the closest flavor combination.

Is turmeric powder the same as curry powder?

No, turmeric is not the same as curry powder. However, turmeric is often used in curry powder to help provide color and flavor alongside spices like cumin, coriander, ginger, and fenugreek. It is another great replacement for turmeric powder.

Are turmeric and cumin interchangeable?

No, turmeric and cumin are not interchangeable. They have distinct flavors and provide different characteristics to dishes. Turmeric has an earthy and slightly bitter taste, while cumin has a warm and nutty flavor. They are used in different cuisines and cannot be directly substituted for one another.

Is fresh turmeric root better than Powdered turmeric?

Fresh turmeric certainly has a more pungent taste than powdered turmeric. It also allows more recipes to be created since they can be sliced or juiced. So, yes, fresh turmeric is better than powdered turmeric.

What balances out the taste of turmeric?

Black pepper, ginger, citrus, coconut milk, sweeteners like honey, and yogurt can all balance out the taste of turmeric. Black pepper adds warmth, while ginger complements its earthiness. Citrus provides tanginess, and coconut milk adds creaminess. Sweeteners counter the bitterness, and yogurt brings a tangy and creamy element. Combining these ingredients can create a harmonious flavor profile, enhancing the overall taste of dishes with turmeric.


Next time you reach for your beloved turmeric powder bottle, try one of the above options instead. Give fresh turmeric a try for a bolder flavor that will kick your dishes up a notch. Adding to your spice repertoire is a great way to become a better chef. Plus, if you ever run out of turmeric, you’ll have a whole list of replacements to swap in easily.

Recipes with Turmeric

Spice jar filled with turmeric spice.

Substitute for Turmeric

Natalia-Flavorful Home
Are you looking for a substitute for turmeric? Here's a simple recipe for a homemade turmeric substitute using common spices. This homemade turmeric substitute is not an exact replication of turmeric, but it can be a flavorful alternative when turmeric is not available.
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Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course spice blend


  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom  (optional, for additional warmth)


  • In a small bowl, combine all the spices: ground ginger, ground mustard, ground cinnamon, ground coriander, ground black pepper, and ground cardamom (if using).
  • Mix well until all the spices are evenly blended together.
  • Taste the mixture and adjust the proportions of the spices to your preference. If you want a more pronounced heat or sweetness, you can add a little more ground black pepper or ground cinnamon, respectively.
  • Store the homemade turmeric substitute in an airtight container or spice jar.


  • This turmeric substitute can be used in recipes that call for turmeric in both savory and sweet dishes. However, keep in mind that the flavor won’t be exactly the same as turmeric, but it can provide a similar warmth and earthiness.
  • Adjust the quantities of the spices according to your taste preferences or the specific dish you’re preparing.
  • When using this substitute, add it to your recipe in the same proportion as you would use turmeric.
  • If you prefer a more vibrant yellow color, you can add a pinch of ground annatto or saffron to the spice blend.


Calories: 35kcalCarbohydrates: 6gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0.2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.3gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 2mgPotassium: 110mgFiber: 2gSugar: 0.3gVitamin A: 8IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 32mgIron: 2mg
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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!
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