Made from the root of a tropical plant native to Asia, turmeric, also called yellow ginger, gives mustard and curry their bright yellow color. Use it to give southeast Asian or Middle Eastern dishes their typical yellow color and slightly bitter or acidic flavor, or to bring those same colors and flavors to any of your recipes.
Look for fresh turmeric roots in Asian markets and powdered turmeric in the spice aisle of any grocery. Fresh turmeric has more spiciness and brightness than the powdered variety, which has a flavor that is more muted, though its color is equally as bright as the fresh root.
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In Ethnic Recipes
- Add 1 tablespoon of turmeric along with 2 teaspoons each of cumin and coriander instead of curry powder to give Indian curry a less sharp and hot, but more earthy, flavor.
- Add powdered or fresh turmeric to the spices and herbs in Middle Eastern dishes such as rice pilaf, or a chermoula herb sauce for meats, fish or vegetables.
- Use either fresh or powdered turmeric in any Thai-inspired dish from a vegetable stir-fry seasoned with garlic, lime juice and chopped cilantro to a noodle entree with shrimp and lemon grass.
Powered turmeric losses its flavor over time, even though it stays safe to eat for 3 to 4 years, according to the Still Tasty website. Buy powdered turmeric in small quantities and use it within 6 months of purchase for the most flavor.
In Other Recipes
- Stir 1 teaspoon of powdered turmeric into tofu scrambled eggs or egg salad to replicate the color of real eggs.
- Stir 1 teaspoon of minced, fresh turmeric into cooked vegetables, such as cauliflower, eggplant, green beans, potatoes or sweet potatoes, to give them spiciness and additional flavor.
- Add about 1/2 teaspoon of powdered turmeric to each 2 pounds of cucumbers when you make pickles to add both color and subtle flavor.
Substitutes for turmeric include saffron for color, although its flavor is stronger and more spicy than turmeric; or achiote, also called annatto, a somewhat musty-flavored, yellow-orange paste found in Mexican groceries.