What Does Saffron Taste Like?

Saffron, the orange spice that will turn your food golden. As the world’s most expensive spice, it might cost the same as a meal made of gold. When a recipe calls for a pinch of saffron, take that to heart!

Saffron has a complex flavor, it’s both sweet and bitter, with an aroma that is somewhat floral. It tastes vaguely of honey and earth. Using this spice makes your dishes richer, golden colored, and more aromatic.

Due to its cost, it’s likely you don’t keep saffron on hand. It’s generally a spice only purchased if called for in a specific recipe. So, if you’ve never enjoyed saffron before, let’s look at why you might want to try it.

What Does Saffron Do For Your Meal

Is a spice that costs over $2000 an ounce, worth purchasing? What effect will it actually have on your meal?


Saffron is one of those spices that toes the line between sweet and savory beautifully. It enhances the flavor of everything it’s added to. 

Putting this in your meal will result in a rich, earthy taste with hints of sweetness. However, you should use saffron sparingly. Adding too much to your dish can cause it to become bitter.


Saffron is pungent and a little goes a long way.  Using saffron in your dish gives a pleasant aroma that will make people take notice. The aroma might best be described as floral.

Adding saffron to your dish will immediately brighten the smell, making your meal richer for it.


One of saffron’s distinctive qualities is its ability to turn dishes into a beautiful golden color. When we’re eating with our eyes, adding saffron to a dish invites us to want to partake.

Common Saffron Uses

There are some dishes that people swear, without saffron just don’t taste right. If you’re using saffron for the first time, maybe try it in a classic dish. Leave a little without saffron and see if you can taste the difference.

What Doesn’t My Saffron Seem Right

Since saffron is so expensive, there are many cheap and counterfeit versions available for sale. Trying to save some money on saffron is likely to result in flavors and aromas that aren’t right.

Cheap saffron can taste overly bitter, metallic, or like plastic. Also, be concerned if your saffron has a faint aroma or none at all.

How to Tell If Your Saffron is Real

There are a multitude of ways to test whether or not you have high-quality saffron. However, here are the easiest and quickest ways.


As mentioned early, if your saffron is bitter, metallic tasting, or like plastic, chances are you’ve purchased some fake saffron.


What do your saffron threads look like? Real high-quality saffron will be trumpet-shaped. If your saffron threads are the same thickness all the way through, they are probably fake.

You can also rub a thread between your fingers. Afterward, if your fingers are yellow or orange, your saffron is probably real.

Water Test

Another easy way to test your saffron is to toss a thread in a cup of lukewarm water. If the water turns yellow, your saffron is real. This could take up to an hour.

However, if the water remains clear, your saffron is not high-quality.

Saffron Substitutes

When a spice is so expensive, you might find yourself looking for alternatives. While many saffron purists claim there is no substitute for saffron, you can try one of these spices instead:

  • Turmeric
  • Safflower
  • Cardamom
  • Sweet paprika


Saffron, a spice that’s bitter and sweet, tastes like honey and hay, and smells floral, is incredibly expensive. It’s important to have all the facts about it before you spend your hard-earned money to try some.

Hopefully, you feel confident that the flavor, aroma, and beautiful color saffron make your dishes worth the investment.