Cooking With Turmeric: Everything You Need to Know

We're here to walk you through the basics of buying, storing, prepping, and cooking with this colorful root.

Turmeric skyrocketed in popularity recently, but it’s not new to the spice scene. This bright yellow-orange spice has been traced back to 600 B.C. Turmeric is related to ginger, and the two look pretty similar until the bold color of turmeric gives it away when you start peeling. To help you incorporate this peppery herb into your cooking, we’re sharing our top tips for cooking with turmeric. We’ll also share some of our favorite turmeric recipes that feature its bold flavor so you can taste it for yourself.

preparing yams side of ginger
Carson Downing

How to Buy Turmeric

Like most herbs and spices, turmeric will have the best flavor when you buy it fresh. Usually, you can find it in grocery stores near the ginger and garlic, but if your store doesn’t carry it, try specialty stores and Indian markets. Thanks to its recent rise in popularity, you shouldn’t have too much trouble tracking it down. If you can’t find it fresh, look for dried or ground turmeric. Like most herbs and spices, the drying process will make its flavor less strong, but it’ll still add flavor and color to your recipe.

How to Store Turmeric

If you buy fresh turmeric roots, don’t toss them on your counter. Turmeric is best stored in the fridge, unpeeled, where it’ll keep for up to two weeks. If you buy the ground spice, you can add it to your pantry alongside all the rest, and it should last for about six months in a cool, dark cabinet.

How to Prep Turmeric

You can peel fresh turmeric by using a vegetable scrubber or metal spoon to scrape away at its thin skin. Most fresh turmeric recipes call for grated turmeric (again, like ginger), but you might also encounter recipes that call for thin slices. For grated turmeric, once you have a section peeled, slide the peeled part of the root across a microplane grater until you have the amount that your recipe calls for.

Test Kitchen Tip: When adding fresh turmeric to a recipe, you’ll probably want to cook it rather than serve it raw. Raw turmeric can have a strong, pungent flavor, but it mellows as it cooks.

How to Clean Turmeric Stains

While turmeric’s brightness can add a beautiful pop of color to your plate, it also causes stains. Turmeric binds to alkaline ingredients, which means baking soda can be your best friend for cleaning up stains. Try using a mixture of baking soda and soap to scrub turmeric off surfaces and out of fabrics. If you’re using wooden utensils when you’re cooking with turmeric, treat them with mineral oil first to help seal the wood so the bright color doesn’t seep in. Or make life easier and use metal or silicone utensils when cooking with turmeric.

Turmeric's Health Benefits

Part of turmeric’s popularity comes from its long-standing reputation as an anti-inflammatory food. But while turmeric is tasty and has high levels of the antioxidant compound curcumin (this is what gives it its bright color!), there hasn’t been enough research to back up its health food reputation. Even though we can’t prove some of the claims behind turmeric, it’s still a yummy addition to a lot of Indian-inspired recipes, and you can even use it to make some delicious drinks.

Start incorporating turmeric into your weeknight dinners, refreshing drinks, and even dessert! As you explore its flavor, use our turmeric recipes as a guide, then branch out by experimenting with turmeric in your own creations.

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