What’s a good substitution for turmeric?

In this brief guide, we will address the query, “What’s a good substitution for turmeric?” We will also discuss the various spices that can be used as a substitute for turmeric as well as what makes turmeric distinct from its other substitutes.

What’s a good substitution for turmeric?

You can substitute saffron for turmeric if you are only looking to replicate that vibrant yellow color of turmeric. 

Turmeric is hard to replace in terms of its flavor because of its complex and distinctive profile, but ginger and mustard can be closer to turmeric due to their flavor profile.

What are the spices that can be used as a substitute for turmeric?

There are many good substitutes for turmeric. Although all of these spices can be used if you ever run out of turmeric in your kitchen, it has to be noted that none of these spices will be able to recreate the exact flavors, color, and aroma of turmeric. Some of these are mentioned below:

  • Ginger
  • Curry powder
  • Annatto seeds
  • Cumin seeds or powder
  • Mustard
  • Saffron
  • Garam Masala
  • Paprika

Let us now take a look at each of these individually. 


Ginger and turmeric come from the same family Zingiberaceae with similar pungent flavors which makes it an excellent substitute for turmeric. Substituting it for turmeric also depends on what kind of recipe you are using it for. 

In some cases, such as smoothies and other kinds of drinks, ginger powder can be a great alternative to turmeric. However, because of its diverse flavors like pungent, sweet, and spicy, it might not be the greatest choice for savory dishes. Too much ginger can make your food bitter so make sure you use the correct amount of ginger paste or powder accordingly.

Curry powder

Curry powder is a spice blend that typically contains turmeric, chili powder, cumin, and fenugreek. This option maintains the flavor the same but adds more heat and a darker, reddish hue so you need to minimize the use of curry powder according to the ingredients used.

Annatto seeds

Annatto seeds, which come from achiote plants, have a nutty, spicy, sweet taste and texture. The achiote seeds are usually yellowish, and that means if you are looking to substitute turmeric, particularly for its color, then it makes a good alternative. However, annatto seeds aren’t the finest substitute if you’re looking for that distinct turmeric flavor.

Cumin seeds or powder

It’s one of the easiest and most popular alternatives you can use for turmeric. Even if you’re out of turmeric, chances are you will have cumin seeds on your kitchen rack.

Cumin seeds have a similar earthy flavor to turmeric but are often stronger so you should use them sparingly if you want to use them as a substitute for turmeric. But they can make a great substitute for turmeric if the dish you are preparing requires an earthy and slightly bitter taste.


This is a great substitute if you’re looking for that vibrant turmeric-like yellow color. Mustard powder mimics the mustard-like flavor of turmeric but it won’t have the same flavor as turmeric. 


Although a bit expensive, saffron is the perfect alternative if you want to match the earthy yellow color of turmeric. It adds great color to your dish but can be a bit expensive in comparison to turmeric.

Garam masala (Hot spice)

Garam masala is a combination of different spices like cumin, cloves, cardamom, black pepper, and cinnamon which can be easily made at home or can be store-bought. Since it is spicier and more flavorful in comparison to turmeric, you should reduce the amount considerably. 


Paprika is an easy ingredient that adds a hint of both sweetness and spiciness to your recipe. It improves practically any dish with its fruity, somewhat sweet, and spicy aromas and vibrant red color. 

Like turmeric, it also adds a somewhat earthy and toasted flavor to your food.
Paprika gives you just the right amount of that smell and flavor which makes it a flavorful substitute for turmeric.

What makes turmeric distinct from its other substitutes?

Turmeric has an earthy flavor, slightly bitter with a strong peppery flavor, and has a mustard-like scent, yellow color, and flavor. While finding an exact turmeric alternative can be tough, many spices do come close in terms of flavor and color. 

Due to its distinctive qualities that make it stand out when used, substituting turmeric while making any recipe is not an easy task. No spice can compare to the taste, color, and health benefits it offers. 

You can find the health benefits of turmeric here.

Other FAQs about Turmeric that you may be interested in.

How much turmeric should you take a day?

Can I use turmeric instead of curry powder?

How to counteract too much turmeric in a recipe?


In this brief guide, we have addressed the query, “What’s a good substitution for turmeric?” We have also discussed the various spices that can be used as a substitute for turmeric as well as what makes turmeric distinct from its other substitutes.