One Guide with 6 Economical Saffron Substitute + Spicy Paella Rice Recipe

Saffron Substitute

Saffron substitute is searched for the only one reason, that is, BUDGET. Yes! Saffron, without a doubt, is the most expensive spice to have in kitchens.

Due to being very expensive, it is also called the world’s most legendary spice, as you need to pay around $10,000 for only a KG of Saffron. Isn’t that huge?

Why is Saffron so expensive? Because of its taste, demand, or any other reasons? Upon research, we came to know that the reason is the low-yield of Saffron.

“One flower gives only 0.006 grams of saffron that makes it expensive spice.”

So, what economical herbs can be used as a Saffron Substitute?

Saffron Substitute or Replacements

When you search for a substitute for Saffron, you must consider three things:

  1. Saffron Taste
  2. Saffron Seasoning
  3. Saffron Color
One pinch = 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon saffron powder

Available in two forms, threads and powder, lets check all the saffron substitutes:

Saffron Powder Substitute:

substitutes for saffron

Here are some recommended substitutes of Saffron:

1. Turmeric:


Turmeric, a famous spice, belongs to the ginger family. It is one of the most recommended saffron substitutes, and unscrupulous merchants sell it in place of real Saffron as it provides a similar yellowy texture to dishes when added.

Turmeric and Saffron are recommended as substitutes, but they aren’t that similar.

  • Turmeric and Saffron have different families: Saffron is obtained from the crocus flower family, while Turmeric is from the ginger family.
  • Saffron and Turmeric belong to different regions: Saffron is native to Crete, where Turmeric is an Indian herb.
  • Turmeric and Saffron Have disparate Taste: Saffron flavor is light and mild in flavor, while Turmeric is pungent and harsh than Saffron.

Therefore, when substituting Saffron with Turmeric, you got to consider the quantity.

For a perfect saffron zest, here is the formula from famous American Chef Geoffrey Zakaria:

Saffron Substitutes

Did you get it?

Substitute saffron with Turmeric for similar taste & texture:

Use 1/4 teaspoon turmeric + 1/2 teaspoon paprika = 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of Saffron

Besides this, Turmeric is quite economical than Saffron to use in dishes and food items. If you ask, Turmeric price per pound, for the answer, you should know that Turmeric is sold in two forms.

One is the root form, and the other one is in powdered form. Turmeric root, also called turmeric rhizome, is purer compared to powder because shopkeepers often contaminate it with food coloring and other additives.

  • 226 grams of Turmeric can be bought for around $ 13.

2. Food Coloring:

If you don’t want to use anything specific yet want to get a similar zest, food color can play the best part.

Use two drops of yellow food coloring and one drop of red food coloring to get a similar saffron texture and color.

3. Safflower:

Saffron Substitute Safflower

The third most recommended and best swapper of Saffron is safflower. Safflower herb belongs to the daisy family and is mostly used in making safflower oil.

Do you know: Safflower has more names like Mexican Saffron or Zofran.

However, despite calling Saffron, it is not exactly similar to the saffron herb.

Safflower spice doesn’t have a harsh taste. However, it is recommended to get a mild yellow and orange texture in the dishes.

Another difference between safflower and Saffron is that Saffron is obtained from the flower’s stigma, while safflower is obtained from daisy flowers’ dry petals.

Despite this, safflower can be the most inexpensive substitute for Saffron because it costs only $4 – $10 per pound.

How much safflower vs. Saffron?

Use the following formula for replacement:

1 Tbsp of Saffron = 1 Tbsp of Safflower

4. Paprika:

Saffron Substitute Paprika

Paprika, another spice, is also known as an excellent saffron alternative. The spice is available in powdered form and obtained from sweeter capsicum annuum plant varieties.

You find blends of different peppers in this herb. It is also a perfect substitute for cayenne pepper.

However, when used as a saffron substitute, it is mixed with Turmeric.

Paprika and Turmeric make the perfect Spanish Paella recipe. The recipe is added to the sections coming ahead on this blog.

5. Annatto:


Last but not least, annatto is the cheapest Saffron substitute. Yes, where Saffron is the most expensive spice, annatto is one of the top listed, inexpensive spices.

Do you know? Annatto is known as the poor man’s Saffron?

Annatto is actually the seed of achiote tree and cultivated in South and Central America. Annatto is recommended as a saffron substitute for both saffron seasoning and saffron color.

However, as it is available in the seed form, so you need to do a few preps before using it as a substitute. For this,

  • Make the powder by grinding


  • Make its paste with oil or water

Annatto taste is earthy and musky, making it one of the greatest substitutes for paella dishes to replace Saffron.

6. Marigold flowers:

Marigold flowers

Marigold, once again, is a flower with yellow leaves, making the best replacement for Saffron color. Marigold belongs to the sunflower family, and it is native to America.

It is used as an herb as well as a spice in an array of dishes for its fresh yellow texture. Its petals are dried in the sun or oven to make marigold-spice.

Do you know: Marigold spice is known as Imaret saffron.

It is best used in Georgian cooking for the formation of sauces. When dried and poured into dishes, marigold flower petals also give a yellow color. Therefore, it becomes one of the good Safran’s replacements.

Marigold makes the best saffron replacement for soups and rice dishes like paella.

7. DIY saffron substitute By a Web-Surfer:

DIY Saffron Substitute

We haven’t tested this recipe by ourselves but found on a random forum where somebody created a saffron substitute with their unique formula and understanding of herbs.

We believe all women are great kitchen witches and know to experiment with herbs and spices.

Therefore, we’re adding to see if it can help:

Saffron seasoning & color Substitute = ½ TBS lemon juice + ¼ TBS cumin + ¼ TBS chicken stock (powder) + 1 TSP Turmeric

Cooking with Saffron Substitutes:

Here you will find some tasty recipes that you will make using herbs and spices in place of Saffron.

So, let’s start cooking good without breaking your bank:

1. Paella seasoning recipe:

Paella seasoning recipe without saffron

Paella, we believe, is the most searched query when it comes to making a recipe with saffron substitutes.

Well, it should be because life feels incredible when you have spicy fresh paella out of the pan.

Saffron plays a crucial role in making paella rice, so it is absolutely essential. But what if Saffron isn’t available or you cannot afford it?

Here is the paella recipe you can make with saffron subs:

Basic Ingredients you will need:

Ingredients Quantity Texture
Rice (Paella or risotto) 300 grams Raw
Chicken breast 2 pounds Boneless/chopped
Seafood mix 400 grams Frozen
Olive oil 2 tsp To marinate

Herbs & Spices you will need:

Ingredients Quantity Texture
Saffron sub Turmeric
¼ teaspoon
½ teaspoon
Cayenne Pepper 1 tsp or as per taste Powder
Garlic 3 – 4 tbs Powder
Black paper 1 tsp Ground
Salt For taste Powder
Onions 1 Chopped
Red pepper 1 tsp Crushed
Oregano 2 tsp Dried
Bay leaf 1 Leaf
Parsley ½ bunch Chopped
Thyme 1 tsp Dried
Bell pepper 1 Chopped

For Cooking:

Ingredients Quantity Texture
Olive Oil 2 Tbsp Oil
Chicken stock 1 quart Liquid

Note: You can use any caraway seed alternative to replace dried oregano.

Utensils You Will Require:

A chopper, One medium bowl with an air-tight lid, spoons, paella pan, defrosting tray

Step by Step Method:

Before you on the stove,

  1. Marinate the chopped chicken in a medium bowl with two tablespoons of olive oil, paprika, oregano, salt, and pepper. Cover with an air-tight lid and place in the refrigerator.
  2. Put frozen seafood on a defrosting tray for thawing.

After that, start cooking,

  1. Set stove heat to medium and place paella pan over it. Add rice, garlic, and red pepper flakes to it and keep stirring for three minutes.
  2. Add all other spices along with chicken stock and lemon zest and wait for the boil.
  3. After boiling, diminish the heat, and let the stew simmer for 20 minutes.

During these 20 minutes:

  1. On the other side of the stove, put a pan on medium heat. Add 2 tsp of olive oil and stir in the marinated chicken chops.
  2. After some minutes, add bell pepper and sausage and let the ingredients cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add seafood and let it cook until you see they start getting reddish brown

Now the last part, serving:

Spread your cooked rice on a serving tray along with seafood and meat mix as the top layer.


Do not forget to tell us how cooking went with the saffron substitute and did you feel anything different in the taste by commenting below after trying this recipe.

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