What Is the Difference Between Coriander, Turmeric, Saffron & Cardamom?

Spices may look the same in the bottle, but they can have both mildly and wildly different flavors.

The best cooks know how to add just the right touch with flavoring agents. It only takes a little experimentation to learn that dried herbs and spices are not always interchangeable. Even those that look alike in the jar can provide subtle or vastly different experiences on your taste buds. Still, substitutions are sometimes necessary, so it helps to know which herbs or spices can stand in for others.



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Coriander comes from the seeds of the cilantro plant, but they have a very different flavor. It can be purchased as whole seeds or preground and is used in cooking only in ground form. It has a slightly citruslike scent and is found in dishes from around the world. Turmeric, saffron and cardamom are not good substitutes for coriander.

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Turmeric is quite common in Indian dishes and used mostly for its strong yellow color, not its flavor, which is very mild. It is relatively interchangeable with the very expensive spice saffron for color purposes only. You can also use mustard powder in place of turmeric. It comes in powder form.


Primarily used for its golden color, saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. It comes from the crocus sativus flower's stigma, which is referred to as a saffron thread. Imitation saffron is abundant in powder form because of the difficulty of processing saffron and resulting high cost. Turmeric is a good substitution for color, but not for flavor.



This seedpod spice is often found in baked goods, combined with cinnamon or nutmeg. In fact, equal parts of nutmeg and cinnamon may be used in cardamom's place. Cardamom is not listed as a good substitute for coriander, turmeric or saffron. Cardamom starts out as seeds encased in pods, which are to be removed. Preground cardamom seeds are less flavorful than those purchased in the pod.




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