What can I substitute for turmeric powder?

In this short article, we will answer the question, “What can I substitute for turmeric powder?” with an in-depth analysis of the possible substitutes for turmeric powder along with their benefits and shortcomings. 

What can I substitute for turmeric powder?

If you are not having turmeric powder in your kitchen, no need to worry. Here we have discussed some substitutes which you can use as a replacement for turmeric powder. These include saffron, annatto seeds, madras curry powder, yellow mustard seeds, ginger powder, mace and smoked paprika and cumin seeds.

Turmeric powder

Turmeric gives an exciting colour with a tempting aroma to our dishes which is matchless. Adding turmeric to our dishes gives a unique flavour. Especially in dishes like soup, curry, rice, marinades, and beverages. In addition to flavour, colour, and taste it has some health benefits too. 

India is the world’s largest producer of turmeric supplying 94% of the world’s demand. In India, turmeric is cultivated on a large scale and exported as dried rhizomes which are later processed into other products for various end uses (1).

Substitutes of turmeric powder

Following are the substitutes for turmeric powder:


If you are adding turmeric powder to get an exciting yellowish-orange colour for your dish, then the saffron is the best substitute to use. It does not change the taste of your meal, but it adds spice to your meal. It should be used in small quantities so that other ingredients of the dish do not get affected. 

In ancient times saffron was an important dye, but nowadays its main uses are cooking and coloring foods, especially Spanish rice (paella), bouillabaisse and in Cornwall, traditional saffron cakes and loaves. The major components responsible for the coloring strength of saffron are cis and trans crocins. Crocins are unusual water-soluble carotenoids. With concentrated sulphuric acid their red color changes to blue (polychronic). The molecular formula of the most common crocin (a digentiobiosyl ester of crocetin) is C44H64O24. Extracts of saffron have been reported to inhibit cell growth of human tumor cells. Crocins, the water-soluble carotenoids of saffron, are the most promising components of the spice to be assayed as a cancer therapeutic agent. Due to the presence of crocetin it indirectly helps to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood (2).

You should prevent it from direct light, moisture, and oxygen. One drawback that one could be affected by using saffron is that it is more costly than turmeric powder.

Annatto seeds:

These annatto seeds are obtained from achiote trees and if you need to add a yellowish colour to your dish and you don’t have turmeric powder you can use annatto seeds.

It can be best used for rice, casserole, and marinades.

The flavour of annatto seed is peppery, sweet, and nutty, which is sort of totally different from turmeric. However, if you don’t mind messing with the first recipe, then this can be a good option.

Annatto seed contains carotenoids provitamin A and beta carotene and cryptoxanthin, bixin between 1 and 6% on dry matter, other carotenoids such as lutein, zeaxanthin and orelina; tocopherols and tocotrienols in the essential oil, proteins between 13 and 17%, considerably higher concentration of amino acids lysine and tryptophan and to a lesser methionine, isoleucine, leucine, phenylalanine, threonine, 5% fat, 5.4% ash, and high levels phosphorus (3).

Madras curry powder:

Madras curry powder can also be used as a substitute for turmeric powder. Madras includes turmeric in its ingredients along with chilli as the main ingredient so that your dish can get more spice, also, it would give a more red tone rather than yellowish-orange.

If you don’t have anything as a replacement for turmeric powder, you can go with madras curry powder for sure.

If you are using madras curry powder, use less of it because it has a strong flavour. 

Curry powder is a mixture of coriander, cumin, turmeric, fenugreek, ginger, celery and black pepper and smaller amounts of chilli powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, caraway and fennel, either with or without salt. Pepper is an essential ingredient of most curry powders (2).

Yellow mustard seeds:

If you are using turmeric powder to give your food yellowish colour, then it’s the best substitute you could use. 

Another reason for replacing yellow mustard seeds with turmeric powder is, it is rich in such ingredients that are effective in controlling your cholesterol level. It minimizes bad cholesterol levels and enhances good cholesterol levels in our bodies. So, it helps in lowering the risk of heart diseases. 

Mustard seeds are obtained from mustard plants belonging to the Brassica family which also includes cabbage. They have a wide spectrum of biological actions, including its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, antimutag enic, anticoagulant, antifertility, antidiabetic, antibacterial, antifungal, antiprotozoal, antiviral, antifibrotic, antivenom, antiulcer, hypotensive and hypocholesterolemic activities. The soluble fibers in particular are thought to exert a preventive role against heart disease, as they appear to have the ability to lower serum cholesterol (4).

Bones get strong when we add mustard seeds to our diet because they are highly rich in minerals.

Ginger powder:

Ginger powder can be used as a substitute for turmeric powder because they have some benefits. Ginger’s flavour is quite spicy, sweet, and pungent. It may cause taste issues but most of the time it can be a good substitute for turmeric powder. Ginger powder is made by pulverizing dry ginger to a mesh size of 50 to 60 (2).

Ginger helps in treating chronic indigestion. It contains gingerol that has impactful medicinal characteristics. It is also helpful for osteoarthritis. Moreover, taking ginger daily could lower the risk of having various heart diseases. Ginger has excellent antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are increasingly linked to the prevention of certain cancers. It has antimicrobial properties and is helpful in wound healing, inflammation and platelet aggregation (2).

Mace and smoked paprika:

Mace and smoked paprika can be used as a substitute for turmeric powder. It gives spice and reddish colour to our food. Using mace and smoked paprika can give you so many health benefits. It consists of capsaicin in its ingredients that are beneficial for health. It contains antioxidant characteristics that help minimize the risk of cancer and various heart diseases.

Nutmeg and mace are two different parts of the same fruit of the nutmeg tree, Myristica fragrans Houtt. Nutmeg is the dried kernel of the seed and mace is the dried aril surrounding the seed. Both the spices have similar flavour. However, nutmeg is reported to be slightly sweeter than mace and is more preferred in food (2).

Moreover, paprika helps in stimulating and making us energetic because its ingredients help in treating depression, tiredness, and lethargy (5). Paprika is a ground, bright red, usually non-pungent powder used primarily for its color and flavour in processed foods; all paprika varieties are C. annuum; paprika fruits are used to produce paprika oleoresin. Paprika is used in many products where no pungency is desired, but the colour, flavour, and texture of a finely ground powder is desired. These include processed lunch meats, sausages, cheeses and other dairy products, soups, sauces, and snacks such as potato chips (2).

Cumin seeds:

Cumin seeds can also be used as a substitute for turmeric powder. It has a very pleasant and fresh smell like earth. Mostly this substitute is used by Indians to add flavour and unique taste to their dishes. Adding cumin seeds with galangal makes our food yummy.

Cumin seed is an ancient spice with a strong aromatic smell and warm, bitterish taste. It is widely used in Iran and India both as a condiment and flavouring in many eastern dishes. Ground cumin can be added, for example, to lime or lemon-based marinades for chicken, turkey, lamb, and pork, or added to chili, curries or spicy meat stews. It can be added to olive oil when stir-frying vegetables (2).

In addition to adding flavour to our dishes, cumin seeds have health benefits as well. Cumin seed and distilled cumin are used as a stimulant, antispasmodic, carminative and antimicrobial agent. Cumin is used widely in traditional medicine to treat flatulence, digestive disorders, diarrhea and in the treatment of wounds (2). But if we consume an excess amount of cumin seeds it can cause liver or kidney problems due to the presence of oil in them which is highly volatile.


In this short article, we have answered the question, “What can I substitute for turmeric powder?” with an in-depth analysis of the possible substitutes for turmeric powder along with their benefits and shortcomings. 


  1. Nwaekpe, J. O., et al. Promotion of turmeric for the food/pharmaceutical industry in Nigeria. Am J Experim Agri, 2015, 8, 335-341. 
  2. Peter, Kuruppacharil V., ed. Handbook of herbs and spices: volume 3. Woodhead publishing, 2006.  
  3. Carvalho, Roberto Nogueira, et al. Potential of annatto in agroindustries and animal feed: fragrance, flavor, taste and color of Bixa orellana L. derivatives. J Appl Sci Res, 2009, 5, 2482-2488.
  4. Youssef, M. Kamal E., et al. Assessment of proximate chemical composition, nutritional status, fatty acid composition and antioxidants of curcumin (zingiberaceae) and mustard seeds powders (brassicaceae). Food & Publ. Health, 2014, 4, 286-292.
  5. de Souza Nascimento, Simone, et al. Efficacy and safety of medicinal plants or related natural products for fibromyalgia: a systematic review. Evidence-Based Compl Alter Med, 2013.

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!