Spice in Focus: Saffron
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!)
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.
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.
- Basteeya (Pastilla) from Foodieverse
- Chilli & Garlic Prawns with Easy Saffron Aioli from The Cook Report
- Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Soup from Posh Journal
- Grilled Garlic Jump Shrimp from Salt and Lavender
- Healthy Indian Mango Lassi from Watch What U Eat
- Kesar Peda - Saffron Infused Mithai (Fudgy Almond Cookie) from Vegan Richa
- Leftover Turkey Sunshine Risotto from Proper Foodie
- Lemon Mascarpone Risotto from Platings & Pairings
- Lemon Saffron Cheesecake Cups from Easy Baby Meals
- Lobster Linguine in Blushing Saffron Sauce from Simple Seasonal
- Mango Saffron Cardamom Jam from At the Corner of Happy & Harried
- Mussels in White Wine, Tomatoes, & Chorizo from Posh Journal
- Mussel Paella with Chicken, Chorizo, Shrimp, and Clams from Avocado Pesto
- One Pot Chicken Saffron Rice with Peas and Olives from Innocent Delight
- Pan Seared Scallops with Saffron Beurre Blanc from What a Girl Eats
- Persian Love Cake from At the Corner of Happy & Harried
- Saffron Clams and Beans with Fennel from My Kitchen Love
- Saffron Mango Macaron from Elegant Meraki
- Saffron Pear Cake from Mon Petit Four
- Saffron Sauce Pasta with Figs from Recipes from a Pantry
- Saffron Shrimp Tacos from Little Sunny Kitchen
- Scallop Risotto with Saffron from Savory Tooth
- Seafood Paella with Saffron Aioli from Platings & Pairings
- Shahi Saffron Pistachio Seviyan from Easy Cooking with Molly
- Vegan Kesar Badam Katri (Saffron Almond Thins) from Jagruti's Cooking Odyssey
Where to Buy Saffron & What to Look For
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. Coupe grade should be around $12 to $20 an ounce and superior around $10 to $15 an ounce.
This saffron classification guide is very helpful for determining color and aroma of quality saffron.