Best Turmeric Substitutes – 4 Flavorful Ingredients

Turmeric is a member of the ginger family and has numerous health benefits.

You may be finding that turmeric is suddenly everywhere. In this connection, wellness, food bloggers, and vloggers deserve special appreciation.

Long a staple ingredient in Indian curries, both for color and flavor, turmeric is now a key ingredient in many recipes across the globe.

The subtle flavor of turmeric may not be palatable for some. In such a situation, you may want to try a turmeric substitute.

Finding the right swap for turmeric is difficult because of its uniqueness and distinctive properties. However, a genius chef will substitute turmeric with other spices or spice blends with a similar flavor. 

Best Substitutes For Turmeric Powder 

Turmeric does not provide any distinguishing flavor to your dishes except the color. I don’t deny the immense health benefits associated with curcumin. But when you don’t have turmeric, you may not require a turmeric substitute in most cases.

Your dish will have the same flavor even without turmeric. You will never find a great substitute for turmeric that matches its subtle flavor. So the best option is to leave out turmeric from your recipe when you don’t have it.

If your recipes have turmeric as the chief ingredient for seasoning your dish, you must rework your menu. Or else you can wait until you have turmeric at hand.

As an exception, some of the Indian and African curries just don’t work without turmeric. But most others can do without it.

In case you don’t agree with our suggestion, here are a few ingredients you can use instead of turmeric powder.

1. Curry Powder

The first option is to use curry powder in place of turmeric. It is a clear frontrunner because curry powder is a blend of turmeric and other spices.

Be careful; curry powder has a stronger flavor than turmeric. It contains strong spices like chili powder, ground cumin, ginger, coriander, and pepper. Please note its careless use can alter the delicate taste of your dishes.

You can also substitute turmeric with Madras curry powder, a popular spice blend used in cooking.

For this reason, only some recipes can benefit from using curry powder as an alternative to turmeric. It won’t work for recipes that have a delicate or complex flavor.

In most curry-like recipes, curry powder is the perfect ingredient for adding turmeric flavor. You must be clear about whether this substitution will make or break your dish.

2. Ginger

Ginger is a fantastic turmeric substitute in dishes that call for a spicy flavor.

Before you venture out to use ground ginger as a replacement for turmeric, please note there is a lot of difference between them in flavor and aroma. Use the ginger sparingly; otherwise, it might alter the desired flavor of your dish.

Interestingly, ginger and turmeric go hand-in-hand in many recipes that intend to produce spicy dishes. In most cases, you can easily leave out turmeric when ginger is already included. It may only result in a color change but not a difference in flavor.

Instead of ginger, you can use galangal powder when you don’t have turmeric on hand.

3. Cumin

Using ginger instead of turmeric can produce a sweet, pungent flavor. If you don’t like such a flavor, instead of ginger, you can use cumin as a substitute for turmeric, and vice versa.

Cumin is suitable for people who enjoy a slightly bitter taste. Earthy cumin very well mimics and produces the soft flavor of turmeric.

Curiously enough, you will find that cumin and turmeric are common ingredients in most curry dishes prepared in India. They both have complementary flavors. The absence of one of them does not alter the dish’s taste.

Cumin has a somewhat stronger flavor than turmeric. For this reason, use less cumin when swapping it with turmeric.

4. Smoked Mace and Paprika

A combination of smoked mace and paprika is a beneficial substitution for turmeric. Some dishes taste better with mace and paprika as ingredients.

Smoked paprika has the muskiness and color of turmeric. Similarly, smoked mace produces a pungent spiciness akin to turmeric.

You can use them at a substitution rate of 1:1 instead of turmeric.

Substitutes for Fresh Turmeric Roots

A few ingredients are similar to raw turmeric roots in terms of flavor and health benefits. Here are some alternatives:

Ground turmeric 

Use turmeric powder in place of fresh turmeric in most recipes. However, the flavor and color may differ slightly, as fresh turmeric has a more intense flavor and produces a brighter orange-yellow hue. When substituting with powder, use about one tablespoon of turmeric powder for every inch of fresh turmeric called for in the recipe.

Fresh ginger

Ginger has a slightly different flavor profile than turmeric but is still savory, spicy, and earthy. Like turmeric, ginger has anti-inflammatory properties and can aid digestion.

Fresh galangal

Galangal is a root of the ginger family and has a flavor profile similar to turmeric. It is commonly used in Thai and Indonesian cuisine.

Fresh tamarind

While not a root, fresh tamarind has a tangy, sour flavor similar to turmeric. It is frequently used in Indian and Southeast Asian cuisine to add acidity to dishes.


Saffron is a very expensive spice but has a strong flavor and color. It can be used as a substitute for fresh turmeric roots in dishes where flavor and color are important.

Remember that these ingredients may have similar flavor profiles to turmeric. They are not exact substitutes and may not provide the same health benefits as fresh turmeric root.

Turmeric paste

You can also use turmeric paste instead of ground or raw turmeric in many recipes.

Turmeric paste is made by cooking turmeric powder with water or other liquids. Also, oil or black pepper is added to it to increase its bioavailability.

The paste has a milder, sweeter taste than the powder and can be used in dishes like curries, soups, and stews.

What to Use in Place of Turmeric for Food Coloring

Turmeric doesn’t have much taste. Usually, it is popularly used for its yellow color, especially in Western cooking.

Perhaps, it is the strongest homemade food coloring of them all. Adding a small amount of turmeric is easy to give a golden, yellowish color to your dishes.

Fortunately, there are enough natural coloring substitutes for turmeric.


Saffron is an excellent coloring agent that can replace turmeric in your cooking. The saffron color is appealing to the eyes, just like the yellowish color of curcumin.

Just like curcumin, it is also known for its several health benefits.

Saffron and turmeric have a similar flavor. Its flavor is subtle, providing a floral-like aroma to the dishes. Like turmeric, saffron makes golden paste for food coloring and decoration. Saffron can be easily integrated into several dishes that call for turmeric.

What is discouraging about saffron is its high cost. For most people, it is not affordable to use saffron in cooking, whereas turmeric is cheap and commonly available.

Annatto seeds

Annatto seeds are a great option instead of turmeric for food coloring.

Just combine a small amount of annatto seed with your choice of substitute flavoring. It livens up the appearance of your dish, just like the turmeric you use.

Annatto seeds also work well in most seasoning mixtures for color and flavor.

Mustard powder

For coloring reasons, the mustard powder is a suitable alternative to turmeric. However, it may slightly alter the intended flavor of your dish.

The mustard has a much stronger flavor and color. Because of this, use ground mustard in small quantities as a replacement for turmeric.

Final Thought 

You can easily omit turmeric from most dishes without looking for a substitute. It won’t make much difference to the output except for the color.

Honestly, none of the substitutes can match the unique flavor of curcumin.

At the end of our discussion, curry powder was our pick as the best replacement for turmeric. Other possible alternatives to turmeric are saffron, cumin, ginger, and annatto.

Continue reading other posts here on advieh spice, achiote powder, and list of spice substitutes.