Turmeric Substitute – 5 Finest Alternatives That Work

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

It is difficult to find the right replacement for turmeric because of its uniqueness and distinctive properties. However, a genius chef will find an alternative to turmeric with another spice or spice mixtures that have a similar flavor.

Need a turmeric substitute?

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 substitute for turmeric that matches its subtle flavor. So the best option is to simply leave out turmeric from your recipe when you don’t have it at your disposal.

If your recipes have turmeric as the chief ingredient in seasoning for your dish, then you have to rework your menu. Or else you can wait till 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 that you can use instead of turmeric powder.

Curry Powder

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

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

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

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


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

Before you venture out to use 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 in it. It may only result in color change but no difference in flavor.


Using ginger instead of turmeric can produce a sweet pungency 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 a 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 complementing flavors. The absence of any one of them does not alter the taste of the dish.

Cumin has a somewhat stronger flavor than turmeric. For this reason, use a lesser quantity of cumin while swapping it with turmeric.

Smoked Mace and Paprika

A combination of smoked mace and paprika is a beneficial substitution for turmeric. In fact, some dishes taste better with mace and paprika as ingredients in them.

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.

Turmeric Substitutes As Coloring Agents

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. It is easy to give a golden yellowish color to your dishes by adding a small amount of turmeric 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 for the eyes just like the yellowish color of curcumin.

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

Saffron and turmeric have a similar flavor. Its flavor is subtle and it provides a floral-like aroma to the dishes. Just like turmeric, saffron is used for making the golden paste 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 to use in place of turmeric for food coloring.

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

Annatto seeds also work well in most types of seasoning mixture both for adding color and flavor.

Mustard Powder

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

The mustard powder has a much stronger flavor and color. Because of this, use the mustard powder in small quantities when using it as a replacement for turmeric.

The Bottom Line

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

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

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