Turmeric has become increasingly trendy in the United States over the past few years (turmeric latte, anyone?), but we’re late to the party– it’s been used for thousands of years, in both edible and non-edible ways. Learn more below.
What is turmeric?
Turmeric is a flowering plant and also the name of the spice that results when the roots of that plant are dried and ground into powder. The roots are used in cooking, perhaps most notably in curries, both fresh and as a ground spice.
The first evidence of common turmeric appeared in ancient India, but has been found in old texts and ancient locations across Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Different varieties of the plant itself have also been discovered across Asia. Its bright yellow color has made it a popular choice for dye, such as that which colors the robes of Buddhist monks and priests. It has also been used ceremoniously, such as for religious rites, and maintains a significant place within alternatives to Western medicine. Its purported anti-inflammatory and pro-digestive properties have kept it in folk medicine remedies.
What does turmeric taste like?
Powdered turmeric has an earthy, mustard-y aroma and a bitter, peppery taste.
A compound called curcumin, which gives turmeric its bright yellow color, has been said to be anti-inflammatory, though at present there is a lack of widely-accepted clinical evidence proving this effect.
Cooking with Turmeric
Turmeric is a key ingredient in many iconic dishes across Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. As a principal component in curry powders, it adds color and earthy complexity to curries, like our recipes for Aloo Matar and Curried Chicken with Red Lentils. Turmeric is typically included in the Moroccan spice mix called ras el hanout, as well as in some blends of the spice blend baharat. It features in Southeast Asian dishes like the Padang (also known as Minang) curry base, Satay, and our Southeast Asian-inspired Spicy Coconut Pork.
Turmeric is an ingredient in countless cuisines and dishes both savory and sweet. To see turmeric’s sweeter side, try our recipes for Pumpkin Bread and Coconut Turmeric Oats. Turmeric is also used in beverages, including a hot drink called haldi doodh (aka “golden milk” or “turmeric latte”) now available at many cafes and chain locations.
Where to find turmeric
Find the ground spice in the spice aisle at your local supermarket. The fresh root is more difficult to find, but may be carried by some specialty grocers.