Saffron Spice Guide

Ever wondered how to use saffron? This saffron guide will answer all your questions - how many saffron strands to use, where saffron is grown, what are the best recipes using saffron, and where to buy saffron. Saffron is a gorgeous spice and a little goes a long way (which is good, because it’s not too cheap!)

Saffron Spice Guide | This Healthy Table

What is Saffron?

Saffron is the most expensive food on the planet – a pound of it can sell for $1500 or more. Saffron comes in long, thin strands – it’s actually the stigma of a small, purple crocus flower grown in Iran, Greece, India, and Spain. It’s so expensive because each flower has only three stigmas. The flowers are finicky and only bloom for one-week each year - the stamens must be picked by hand because they are so delicate. 150 flowers are needed to produce a single gram of saffron! It takes an acre of land and 75,000 flowers to yield a pound of saffron.

When you’re cooking with saffron you only need to use a few strands at a time. Because it’s used so sparingly it’s not much more expensive than other spices.

Saffron can be used in a variety of dishes and is quite versatile. It’s very common in rice dishes (risottos, pilafs, and paellas), chicken soup, bread, desserts (custard and cookies), and fish stew.

Persian Love Cake from At The Corner Of Happy And Harried

Persian Love Cake from At The Corner Of Happy And Harried

Recipes Using Saffron Spice

These are some of the best recipes using saffron from bloggers around the world. Their recipes use saffron strands in both unique and traditional ways.

Where to Buy Saffron & What to Look For

Saffron is available in most grocery stores, specialty grocers, and online. Penzeys sells very good coupe grade and superior grade saffron.  

Make sure to buy dark red saffron. The cheaper, yellow-ish saffron has had the stamens left in and has a diluted flavor. Good saffron will not be cheap (sorry!) and should have a lovely floral aroma. When buying, look for the words coupe and superior – they are the highest grades of saffron.

This saffron classification guide is very helpful for determining color and aroma of quality saffron.  

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Guides, Spice GuideEmily Wilson