Why Saffron Plays A Crucial Role In Traditional Paella

Overview of traditional paella in pan
Overview of traditional paella in pan - Fortyforks/Shutterstock

For those of you who are unfamiliar, saffron is a spice that has an earthy flavor with some sweet undertones. Saffron is arguably most known for being a key ingredient in paella, the iconic Spanish rice dish.

If you're going to set out to make paella at home, then it's highly recommended that you take the time to seek out saffron because it plays a crucial role in the dish. The spice — which is reddish brown in color — contributes to paella's golden color, as well as its distinct flavor and aroma. Saffron is also used frequently in Spanish cooking, so if you want to make authentic paella, then it's best to stick with saffron, if possible.

However, there is one problem with saffron: It's quite expensive. In fact, the spice is sometimes even referred to as "red gold" because of its steep price — the cost ranges from $10 to $20 for just one gram. The high cost is because of limited supply; the spice has to be harvested by hand. Further, saffron comes from the flower, called "crocus sativus", and it takes about 150 of those flowers to produce just one saffron gram. With all of that in mind, it makes sense that it's such an expensive and coveted spice.

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How To Replace Saffron If You Need To

Pile of saffron on spoon
Pile of saffron on spoon - beats1/Shutterstock

Because of its price and limited supply, some recipes do use a substitute in place of saffron. The most common substitute is turmeric, which is also yellow in color and will give paella the golden hue that it needs. If you need to use turmeric instead, use ½ teaspoon of turmeric for each pinch of saffron that a recipe calls for. It's important to stick to a small amount because turmeric has a bolder flavor, so you don't want to overpower the other desired flavors of paella. If you can't use saffron, you'll want to make sure that you have all of the other correct ingredients, so that the taste of paella is as close to the real thing as possible.

Of course, you should only use turmeric as a last resort, as your homemade paella will taste best if you're able to get your hands on saffron. The good news about the saffron in paella is that you only need a small amount — Tasting Table's classic seafood paella only calls for a pinch of saffron. So, if you're able to splurge the extra 20 bucks, it'll be worth it.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.