Of the many spices you can cook with, turmeric just might be the prettiest. Its vibrant yellow color is hard to miss. It colors every meal you put it in. If you see a yellow food item (like boxed mac and cheese) that says it has no artificial flavors, add-ins, or preservatives, odds are turmeric was used to give it a distinct color. Turmeric commonly gives cheese and mustard their instantly-recognizable colors. It can even be used to dye fabrics.
Turmeric Spice Flavor Profile
Not only does turmeric look cool, but it also tastes great. It’s rich and earthy and bitter—with a hint of spiciness. Turmeric is potent. You don’t need to add much to your recipe to taste it. However, if you’re using fresh turmeric, the flavor won’t be quite as strong. In fact, if you’re substituting fresh turmeric for the powdered spice, you’ll need to add four times the suggested amount for the right amount of spice.
Where is Turmeric Found?
The turmeric spice comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant. These roots can come in all kinds of odd-looking shapes with a rough exterior and bright orange-yellow inside. It’s closely related to ginger, which also comes from a root. You may even have a hard time differentiating between fresh turmeric and fresh ginger if you see them side by side. You’ll have to cut a piece off to know for sure which one is turmeric—its vibrant orangey-yellow will give it away! It looks a bit like a sweet potato. Although some people cook with fresh turmeric, it’s definitely not as common as the turmeric spice.
Turmeric is very common in Asian cuisine, especially Indian. You may be familiar with it because it’s a common ingredient curries and curry powders. South African recipes also commonly feature turmeric.
Turmeric is far from new. It is believed to have been cultivated for the first time in 3000 B.C! The spice’s origins are rooted (pun intended!) in India and Southeast Asia. It’s no surprise that today most of the turmeric in the world comes from India. Erode (in Tamil Nadu, India) produces more turmeric than any other city. Because of this, it’s sometimes referred to as the “Yellow City” or “Turmeric City.” People in India hold this spice in such high esteem that they will even call it their “holy powder.”
Cooking with Turmeric
Turmeric is great in soups and stews. It elevates any rice dish and makes a rack of lamb taste amazing. You don’t have to limit cooking with turmeric to savory dishes. Turmeric can also be great in sweet dishes like smoothies. Try using it as a substitute for cinnamon or ginger to make a truly unique (and delicious) dessert.
Usually, people will use turmeric in their recipes by grating the fresh root or by using the powdered form. But some people will actually chew on the raw root like a vegetable. It will be a little tough to eat, but you’ll reap the health benefits!
How to Use Raw Turmeric
To prepare fresh turmeric, start by peeling away the tough skin. Then you can either mince the root or use a cheese grater to finely shred the vegetable. Because turmeric is even used to make dye, it should be no surprise that the raw root can easily stain skin. Wear latex gloves to avoid yellow hands.
Some common turmeric flavor pairings include coconut, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, cumin, and sweet potatoes. Turmeric can complement any of these ingredients. Turmeric is delicious in a comforting bowl of soup in the fall or in a turmeric spice rub for kebabs during a summer grill out.
Can’t get enough of turmeric? Try drinking it! Turmeric makes great tea. To start your tea, heat up some milk (coconut or almond milk is also great!) with fresh or powdered turmeric. It will color and flavor the milk. You can add some ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and pepper for an extra kick. This tea is soothing, tastes delicious, and is filled with health benefits. This is also known as “golden milk” because of its mesmerizing golden color.
Turmeric Health Benefits
Not only is turmeric great to cook with, but it’s also an effective natural remedy. People in India have been using it for many centuries to treat a variety of ailments. Turmeric gets many of its health benefits from curcumin, which is the spice’s active ingredient. Because of this compound, turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties. It is also a natural antioxidant. Both of these properties make turmeric help with many illnesses and serious conditions.
The benefits of turmeric are not just limited to your physical health. Turmeric can have a positive impact on your mental health by decreasing your depression symptoms. It may be a safe, effective treatment for other mood disorders.
Other Ways to Use Turmeric
Supplements—There are many ways you can take your turmeric besides in just the spice form. There are turmeric supplements and essential oils. Of course, if you want to start taking a turmeric supplement, you should consult with your doctor to make sure it’s right for you. While some people will take turmeric orally to get its health benefits, you can also apply it directly to your skin if you want to use it to combat pain, inflammation, or a skin condition.
Skincare—You can use turmeric to make your own face mask. Just mix a little turmeric with plain, full-fat yogurt and spread the paste all over your face. Let it sit for a few minutes then rinse it off. Your skin will look and feel refreshed! Be careful not to let the yellow spice stain your skin, though. If your skin looks yellow afterward, you can use a facial oil to cleanse it away.
Tooth Whitening—Because turmeric’s staining power is so strong, you may be surprised to hear that turmeric is used as a natural way of whitening your teeth. People have started sprinkling turmeric on their wet toothbrushes, brushing the paste on their teeth, and allowing the spice to sit and work its magic. After a few minutes, you’re supposed to rinse away the yellow color and brush away any stubborn spots. (Note: this method is not proven to work, and it’ll stain your toothbrush yellow—so proceed with caution!)
Oral Health—Although this unique teeth-whitening method may still be up for debate, turmeric’s benefits for oral health are not. Turmeric can improve the health of your gums and enamel. So it may definitely be worth brushing your teeth with turmeric to get these benefits.
If you’re looking for a beautiful spice to change the color of a dish, you should try turmeric! If you’re looking for a new flavor to try, you should try turmeric. And if you’re looking for a spice that offers many health benefits, you should try turmeric. This colorful, powerful spice can do no wrong!
The Popularity of Turmeric Over Time
Sonoran Spice Turmeric Powder
AllRecipes: Turmeric Tea Recipe
Wikipedia: Tamil Nadu
Science Daily: Turmeric: India’s ‘Holy Powder’ Finally Reveals Its Centuries-old Secret
Integrative Practitioner: New uses for curcumin and turmeric in psychiatric disorders
Healthline: Can You Use Turmeric for Teeth Whitening?
Healthline: 10 Proven Health Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin