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★ What is SAFFRON? | Recipes for Saffron Desserts & Meals ★

Updated on April 7, 2015

Find Out About Saffron Plus Great Recipe Ideas

Saffron is a spice which is used as a dye for textiles as well as lending it's signature golden yellow colour to many different meals and desserts.

I have written a brief summary of what saffron is on this page, as well as compiling a list of inspiring recipes which include saffron (in the form of powder or threads) as a star ingredient.

I hope you find this page interesting and useful :-)

Photo of saffron threads is by Feride Buyuran - find her cooking blog here.

Saffron Crocus Flower


Saffron is a spice harvested from the flower of the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus). The central stigmas of the flower are the parts that are collected, and these are then dried.

In cookery, the dried saffron is added to foods as a unique taste and as a coloring - it turns foods a very distinctive sunshine yellow which is difficult to replicate with other colorants.

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world (by weight) and can cost £3000 per lb, with saffron being available at different grades representing different quality, with the higher grades obviously being the most expensive. The good news is that it is only used in very small amounts when cooking, so a little can go a long way. The price therefore shouldn't put you off using the spice at home.

The reason for the cost is the difficulty and the time consuming nature of removing the saffron threads (stigmas) from the flowers by hand, as well as the fact that the flowers actually only bloom for one month a year so supply is limited. It takes around 85,000 flowers to supply 1 kilo of threads!

Harvesting Saffron


Saffron is harvested from the fields as you can see in the photo above. About 300 tons of saffron is harvested per year in many countries including Iran, Spain, India, Morocco, Azerbaijan and Italy, with Iran being by far the main producer.

'Coupe' refers to the highest grade (quality) of saffron you can buy, and out of the total amount harvested each year, about 50 tons is coupe. If you would like information on buying saffron, including approximate prices and other interesting facts, click here.

And to learn more about saffron's 3000 year history, please click here.

You will find saffron available in two forms; as a powder and as dried 'threads', and both are used to add flavoring and a golden yellow color to food, especially in Iranian, Spanish, Indian, Turkish, Asian and Morrocan cuisines.

You will be pleased to hear that saffron also has health benefits: firstly, it is an anti-oxidant which is great for general health, plus it could apparently help your eyesight too.

- Information source - click if you would like to read more.

Saffron in the Marketplace


This is a spice selling stall in Tunisia which is selling both saffron threads ('pestiles') and powder.

You can of course try both the powder and the threads in your food to see which you like best, however chefs seem to recommend the threads as much better quality. Make sure the powder is high-colouring strength for a better result. To use the powdered saffron option, make sure it is high coloring strength (for a better result), and all you need to do is add it directly to the food like you do with other spice powders. With saffron threads however, a bit more preparation needs to be done to release the flavor and color into the food without leaving the strands in the final meal. You will need to immerse the threads first in an acidic, alcoholic or hot liquid for several minutes - the recipe should say how long to do this for.

Grade I (coupe) is the best, and therefore most expensive grade of saffron.

Click here for excellent information on saffron from an expert's perspective.

Spanish Potatoes

Photo by Robin.

If you'd like to see the recipe for these potatoes, click here.

Recipes Using Saffron

Please Note: Try not to put too much saffron in your dishes because this will cause your food to taste soapy.

Saffron Tortellini

Photo by Amelia.

Click here for the recipe (which uses saffron pasta).

Saffron Yoghurt Mousse

And it's fat-free! (Click here for the recipe.)

Photo by Soma.

Top Books About Herbs & Spices

Saffron Cooking Videos

Cod in Saffron Sauce


Do you cook with saffron?

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    • profile image

      othellos 4 years ago

      Interesting information about saffron. A main ingredient in my kitchen. Thanks for the info:=)

    • profile image

      saffrondust 5 years ago

      nice lens :) I love cooking with saffron its an amazing spice !

    • profile image

      rogerrph 6 years ago

      great lense about saffron. Need to try some recipes with it.

    • PamelaU profile image

      PamelaU 6 years ago

      I use saffron quite a bit, especially in an Iranian dish we're fond of here. I've also made saffron ice cream, but not for a while.

    • profile image

      miaponzo 6 years ago

      I adore saffron!!!! We use it in everything here in Kuwait.. great lens! Blessed!

    • hsschulte profile image

      hsschulte 7 years ago

      I've only tasted saffron once. Someone asked me if I knew the spice. I said, "No," and put a little pinch in my mouth to taste it. He said, "You probably just ate $20 worth." LOL.

      Interesting information about where it comes from. I like the picture of them harvesting it.