Depending on your taste preferences, certain spices—including but absolutely not limited to oregano, cayenne, and cinnamon—may be staples in your pantry. One less common spice that you may not keep in stock is saffron. Maybe that’s because you’ve yet to try it and aren’t sure what dishes it pairs well with… or perhaps because it’s known to be the most expensive spice in the world.
So what, exactly, is the deal with this luxurious and often elusive spice? Ahead, two dietitians share the benefits of saffron, how it can inspire your home cooking, and more.
What is saffron?
Saffron derives from the dried stigmas of the plant Crocus sativus L., explains Brooklyn-based dietitian Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN. “The dried stigmas look like threads or strands, are often a bright reddish-orange, and are used throughout a number of cooking applications,” she continues.
As for the taste, Feller says it’s challenging to describe. “It’s earthy yet subtly sweet,” as well as “very recognizable and unforgettable” once you try it. Moreover, she notes that the flavor can be polarizing: “Either you love it or you don’t, and most love it.” Gaby Vaca-Flores, RDN, a dietitian based in Los Angeles, adds that saffron “has an earthy bold flavor that can be described as both semi-sweet and bitter.” Flavoring purposes aside, saffron is also used as a natural dye for foods and cosmetics given its signature bold hue