Turmeric might be best known for its inclusion in curries. But it also adds flavor and color to soups, an array of rice dishes, and much more.
While in its raw form it looks very similar to ginger, inside it’s a burst of bright, electric yellow. Turmeric has an earthy, sweet taste that’s also bitter and spicy with an orange and ginger aroma.
According to The New York Times, turmeric is one of the fastest-growing dietary supplements. People are putting it in everything lately, from curries to teas to face masks.
Its yellow color is notorious for staining everything it touches. So make sure to take caution when working with this spice.
A Complex Flavor Palate
Turmeric is a spice that checks a lot of boxes. It’s earthy, sweet, and bitter. In addition, depending on which form you use it in, turmeric will display different qualities.
Raw Turmeric Root
In its raw form, turmeric is fairly bitter with citrusy notes. There is also an earthy flavor and a hint of sweetness.
When raw, it can also be somewhat spicy, so use sparingly.
When powdered, turmeric is overly bitter with almost no citrus. In this form, it’s often overwhelming and commonly combined with other spices or used in foods with hearty flavors.
Similar to saffron (what does saffron taste like?) and paprika, turmeric is also used as a way to change the color of dishes. Adding just a pinch of turmeric can help brighten up dishes. If you can picture a bright orange curry, that’s probably turmeric at work.
In fact, you might be tempted to use turmeric in dishes just to get some color. It works with saffron, right? Due to its bitter nature, this is not a good idea.
Unless turmeric actually goes with your meal, using it as a color enhancer will generally ruin your food.
Texture of Turmeric
Fresh turmeric should generally be the same texture as fresh ginger. It should be firm and fairly hard.
Dried turmeric can have a slightly oily texture. This is normal due to its chemical compounds.
When to Use Powdered Turmeric and When to Use Fresh
Whether to use fresh or powdered turmeric is often decided by what you’re cooking. Depending on your goal for the dish, one might be more optimal than the other.
When to Use Powdered Turmeric
Traditionally, powdered turmeric was used more often in dishes. Perhaps that’s why most recipes call for powdered turmeric.
That said, oftentimes, it’s best to use powdered turmeric in dishes that are slightly sweeter. This helps to provide a nice balance in the dish. Popular uses of powdered turmeric are to mix with chocolate, coconut, pineapple, and honey.
When to Use Fresh Turmeric
While none of this is cast in stone, it’s often more common to use fresh turmeric in savory dishes.
Fresh turmeric is often used to make marinades. It gives a nice spicy bite to the flavor as well as adding a little bit of texture to the dish.
In addition, fresh turmeric is often used, as many spices are, by brewing them into teas.
People have a lot of opinions about turmeric, but it’s not expensive and has a unique flavor palette. It’s peppery, earthy, bitter, somewhat sweet, and bright yellow.
With lots of uses and a beautiful flavor, turmeric could be the spice you’re looking for.