What is Saffron Used For?

by Kindi Lantz September 06, 2018

A round-up of some of the most famous uses of saffron

If you were to ask ten people, “what is saffron used for”, eight or nine of the answers returned  would be, “paella”, a Valencian comfort food made of rice, vegetables, and various combinations of meat and seafood and traditionally cooked in a large pan over an open flame

Those eight or nine individuals wouldn’t be wrong in their answers. True paella can’t be made without the addition of saffron. But those blood red stigmas are suitable for infusing so many other dishes with rich golden color and unique, earthy flavor.

Allow me to answer your original question:

What is saffron used for?

First and foremost, saffron is a spice, and not just any spice—the most expensive spice in the world, pound-for-pound against other spices. Like any other spice, saffron is used for enlivening dishes and aiding in the metamorphosis of multitudinous combinations of ingredients from bland to delectably marvelous.

Yes, it’s most commonly known for its inclusion in paella recipes, but saffron is a key ingredient in many other classic rice dishes like Italian risotto Milanese, Indian biryani, and French bouillabaisse. It adds brilliant color and piquancy to a mostly lackluster grain.

saffron rice dish

It’s a wonder why paella dishes tend to be the most noted mention of recipes including saffron because it is rarely found in other Spanish dishes.  Yet, is a common addition to many dishes in other regions—gracing plates with the frequency of garlic in Italy or chile peppers in Mexico. For instance, in India and Iran it is found in everything from pastries to beverages and from sweet to savory!

Because the robust flavor is released with the addition of heat, saffron threads are best used to infuse other dishes with some sort of liquid as a carrier of flavor (though lightly toasting it will also bring out the flavor). Because of this, saffron is perfect for adding a level of vibrancy to both the flavor and color of sauces, stews, and braises. I especially like it in tomato and cream-based sauces.  

The uses for saffron have spanned far beyond the culinary realm, too. Saffron’s capability of contributing a vivid golden hue has suited it as a dyeing agent. As a dye, it is most famous for brightening the robes of Buddhist Monks.  But while all of the various robes donned by monks are dyed with various plant fibers, it is specifically the long orange robes worn by the Theravada Buddhist Monks in Southeast Asia that are traditionally colored using saffron.

saffron Bhuddist robes

Saffron also dates back to the beginning of time as a homeopathic remedy for various ailments and continued health. For a more detailed explanation of the proposed healing properties of this super spice, check out this article.

As you can see, saffron is a prolific substance with numerous purposes! So, now that you know what saffron can be used for, it’s time to get started!

Try out some of our favorite saffron recipes:





Kindi Lantz
Kindi Lantz

Author

Kindi Lantz discovered her love of cooking long before she could even reach the kitchen counters; her grandmother gave her access to nearly every ingredient in her kitchen for her (mostly inedible) experiments. Kindi’s culinary capabilities continued to grow even when she had reached her peak height at just under 5’. Her first job was as a Chef’s Assistant on her relatives’ farm at the age of 11. Throughout high school and college, she worked in a wide variety of restaurants—from American pub food to Japanese, Korean to Cajun, and down-home diners to Italian— and with each, she developed techniques and expanded her culinary expertise. For the better part of 10 years, Kindi managed and even took on part ownership of a gourmet catering company in the Portland, OR metro area—it was there, alongside some of the most talented chefs, planners, and entertainers, that Kindi’s passion developed the most. Kindi is obsessed with only using fresh and sustainably-sourced ingredients in the recipes she creates, which is what led her to SloFoodGroup!


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