What Does Turmeric Taste Like? [And What Dishes To Make With It]

Turmeric is one of the trendiest spices out there at the moment. People are trying to think up as many different ways to use turmeric as possible, mainly due to the purported health benefits. Turmeric can also taste great and it is a fantastic way to give your dish or drink a pop of beautiful color. 

Turmeric has an earthy bitterness to it which adds depth to the flavor profile. Due to its bitterness, it is usually combined with other sweeter spices to help balance it out.

The turmeric spice comes from a root, which looks somewhat similar to ginger. Turmeric is native to the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, and it is used especially heavily in Indian cuisine. One of the most striking things about turmeric is the color- in fact, lots of recipes call for a dash of turmeric purely for the visual effect. 

Part of turmeric’s popularity stems from its role in Ayurvedic medicine. Many believe that turmeric has a number of incredible healing properties, helping with conditions like inflammation and chronic pain.

I don’t think you need an excuse to use turmeric- it tastes delicious and gives food and drinks a cozy, warm kick. 

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fresh turmeric roots and dried turmeric powder in a bowl on gray background

Turmeric’s Taste and Texture 

Turmeric is commonly sold in powdered form in stores. This obviously has a different taste and texture to the turmeric root.

The turmeric root is quite bitter, but has an almost citrusy taste, compared to the powder. Turmeric powder is even more bitter than the turmeric root, which is why it’s often combined with other robust flavors- otherwise, turmeric can be quite overwhelming.

Because fresh turmeric is less powerful than powdered turmeric, you need to use about four times as much in recipes that call for powdered turmeric, if you decide to use fresh turmeric instead.

Turmeric also has something of a sweet taste, and it is quite earthy. When you use the powder, you’re unlikely to notice the texture unless you use a substantial amount, but it is somewhat gritty. 

Finding And Choosing Turmeric At The Grocery Store

Supermarkets often sell different kinds of turmeric. If you’re looking for a powdered form, you may be able to find both organic and regular forms of turmeric. Fresh turmeric is relatively uncommon in stores outside of Asia, but you may be able to find some in an international grocer or an Asian supermarket. 

If you manage to find fresh turmeric, you should try to find roots that don’t like shriveled or dried. It would help if you also avoided roots that are soft. Look instead for roots that are strong and firm. 

Different blends of powdered turmeric may vary somewhat, but they are unlikely to be hugely different from one another. You may need to try the various forms to see if you have one that you prefer to another.

Many supermarkets also sell a blend of turmeric with other spices. This can be a great option if you want a single curry powder blend to use with a variety of recipes. 

If you’re trying to find high-quality dried turmeric, the smell is often a better way to tell the quality of the spice than the color is. The color is unlikely to vary much- turmeric is generally yellow to orange. 

Ways To Use Turmeric

Fresh turmeric can be a great addition to smoothies and juices if you can find it. I love adding fresh turmeric to my morning smooths- it really packs a punch, and it is a great way to start the day! If you find it too spicy, you can try sweetening it with some maple syrup or vegan golden syrup. 

Powdered turmeric works great in savory dishes including curries and stews. You can also add powdered turmeric to smoothies and warmed plant-based milk.

How To Store Turmeric Powder And Root

Dried turmeric can usually be kept for up to a year before you need to throw it away. Ensure that you store your turmeric in a dark, cool place- your pantry is perfect.

The container that your turmeric is in should also be airtight, which is important to keep in mind if you don’t buy the turmeric in a jar or shaker. 

You can store fresh turmeric in the fridge for up to two weeks. If you decide to freeze your turmeric, you can keep it for several months before it goes bad. Either way, ensure that you keep your turmeric wrapped up tightly in a plastic bag. 

What are Some Ways to Cook with Turmeric?

Turmeric is one of the most versatile spices out there. Virtually every curry uses turmeric, and it’s a great way to add some heat and heartiness to soups, stir-fries, and warm drinks. Here are some ways to use turmeric in food:

  • Golden lattés
  • Curries
  • Scrambled tofu
  • Sprinkled on desserts (especially pumpkin pie)
  • Salad dressings

I love making golden lattés in the colder months. You mix plant milk with turmeric powder, ginger root, cinnamon, and golden syrup. It’s a fantastic way to warm up after being out in the cold and is free from caffeine. 

I also love adding turmeric to just about any curry I make. It’s a very standard spice in curries and gives many of them a warm, golden tone.

When you use turmeric in a curry, you want to be careful not to add too much, unless you’re also using other strong flavors or something fatty. Turmeric can be very bitter if you’re not careful, so keep this in mind if you decide to experiment. 

Turmeric is a very staple part of scrambled tofu, which is basically the vegan answer to scrambled eggs. If you’ve never tried scrambled tofu, I highly suggest it.

It’s a fantastic way to start your day, and the turmeric gives the tofu a great color, as well as a pleasant heat. Scrambled tofu goes well with all kinds of sides and accompaniments, making it a truly versatile breakfast. 

There’s no reason that you can’t use turmeric with your desserts, too! I like sprinkling a tablespoon or two of turmeric into heartier desserts, like pumpkin pie or anything with pumpkin in it. Pumpkin is a pretty earthy, robust flavor, so turmeric goes very well with the root and makes it that much more satisfying. 

If you’re feeling zesty, why not try adding grated turmeric root into your salad dressing? This gives the dressing a massive boost and enhances the flavor of the vegetables and any fats you might have included in the salad. Turmeric dressing with orange works especially well, I think. The sweetness of orange juice helps cut through a lot of the bitterness. 

Final Thoughts On Turmeric

Overall, turmeric is an earthy and bitter spice that helps ground many other flavors. It’s best used in hearty stews and curries. It pairs best with root vegetables and winter squashes, such as pumpkin.

Turmeric is a spice used extensively in Asian cuisine so you may have already tasted it without knowing. It’s a strong spice and once you’ve tasted it, you’ll easily recognize it in any future dish.

Do you mind turmeric’s bitter taste? What’s your favorite meal to use turmeric in?

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Stephanie Mantilla

Plant-Based Diet & Vegan Lifestyle Expert

Stephanie is the founder of Plant Prosperous, a plant-based vegan living, and parenting blog. She has been eating a plant-based diet for over 24 years along with a B.S. in Biology & Environmental Science. She also has over 14 years of experience working in the environmental and conservation sectors. Stephanie is currently raising her son on a plant-based diet and hopes to help others who are wanting to do the same. You can read more about her here.

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