When I wrote about the 10 Essential International Spices for Any Kitchen, there was no doubt turmeric would be on the list. This spice, which I had never even heard of before, has become an ingredient I do not let myself run out of. Though it may be new to some of us, turmeric is an ancient spice native to South East Asia. It is used as a dye in Hindu rituals, a medicinal herb and as a common spice in Indian and Moroccan cuisines. Turmeric is found in many spice blends including curry powder, lending its bright yellow color, earthy, aromatic scent and warm, slightly bitter flavor. Turmeric is also very healthy and that means we should be using it as often as we can. Here are some unique and delicious ways to use turmeric more often.
1. Turmeric Facts
Turmeric comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant. It has a tough brown skin and deep orange flesh. Turmeric has an earthy aroma and the taste is warm, peppery and can be bitter, especially if you use too much. Because its color is so similar to saffron, turmeric used to be called “Indian saffron.” Turmeric is related to ginger in appearance and use. Turmeric can be bought fresh and used as you would ginger by cutting, finely mincing or grating it into dishes. Select roots that are firm and avoid soft, shriveled roots. Store your fresh turmeric in an airtight container or plastic bag in the fridge or freeze it so it can last longer.
Dried ground turmeric is less pungent than fresh and it has the advantage of you not having to directly touch it as it can stain. It should be available in most major markets and specialty spice stores. Like most dried spices, store ground turmeric in an airtight container and keep in a cool, dark place. Dried spices are good for up to a year before they lose their flavor.
2. Health Benefits
Turmeric has long been used as a medicinal herb and anti-inflammatory in Chinese and Indian medicine. It contains curcumin which has been found to be comparable in efficacy to over-the-counter and prescription anti-inflammatory agents without the toxic side effects. Turmeric contains a good amount of antioxidants, manganese, iron, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C and magnesium. The health benefits of turmeric include relief from joint pain and swelling, improved digestion and improved skin health. Studies have also found turmeric to help treat inflammatory bowel disease and prevent cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Turmeric has also been found to prevent colds and flu, alleviate pain and help heal cuts and wounds. Even a small amount eaten in dishes is beneficial so we should try to use a bit of turmeric every day.
3. Turmeric Smoothies
If you’re making smoothies, you’re probably already interested in improving and/or maintaining your health. Take that extra step and toss in a pinch of turmeric. In small amounts, it won’t change the taste of your smoothie but it will add lots of anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory properties – perfect for before or after your work-out. Add it to your favorite smoothie recipe, any of these 11 Awesome Green Monster Smoothie Recipes, this Sunshine Smoothie or this Healing Turmeric Smoothie.
4. Turmeric Teas
Teas are good sources of antioxidants for our bodies. They can also help us relax and sleep better, give us energy and help with allergies and other conditions. Add some ground turmeric to make a tea that is delicious and healing. Watch this video to learn How to Make Turmeric Tea. Then try these recipes for Turmeric Tea and these smart cubes that will help you make (Almost Instant) Turmeric-Ginger Tea.
5. Add Color to Egg-Free “Eggy” Dishes
As we mentioned, turmeric used to be called “Indian saffron” because it gives foods a similar color at a much lower price. Whenever you make an eggless version of an egg dish, just a teaspoon of ground turmeric can give it the familiar yellow color. See Tips for Making Killer Tofu Scrambles and then try this Chinese Tofu Scramble, Curried Tofu Scramble and Indian-Style Tofu Scramble. Get that bright yellow color in quiches, frittatas and omelets like this Easy Spinach and Pepper Quiche, Spinach, Artichoke and Mozzarella Tofu Frittata, and Vegan Soufflé Omelet. These Ultimate Genius Vegan Eggs, Eggless Egg Salad and this Perfect Vegan Fried Egg…Sunny Side Up all get their sunny color from turmeric. I also add ground turmeric to my dough when making Vegan Challah to give it its signature “eggy” color.
6. Rice and Potatoes
Turmeric adds color, flavor and nutrients to rice and veggie dishes. Instead of saffron, I use ground turmeric when I make Spanish rice as in my Chile-Rubbed Tofu and Onions Over Spanish Rice or yellow rice for my Moroccan Delicious Casbah Tofu with Yellow Rice. Look how beautiful this Ayurvedic Tomato Rice with South Indian Seasoning and this Restaurant-Style Mushroom Biryani With ‘Homemade Biryani Masala’ are and they are healthy too!
Like rice, potatoes soak up the stunning color of turmeric as in these Roasted Red Potatoes with Turmeric and Thyme, Coconut and Turmeric Roast Potatoes, Chile-Garlic Potatoes and Cauliflower With Turmeric, Curried Hashbrowns, and Spicy Turmeric Twice Baked Potatoes.
7. Indian Delights
Turmeric is very common in Indian cuisine and is one of the components of curry powder. Indian recipes you definitely want to make include Punjabi Chana Masala, South Indian Style Kurma, Beguni (Batter-Coated Eggplant Wedges), Tandoori Cauliflower Wraps, Tandoori Tofu, Healthy Baked Vegan Pakora, Aloo Gobi, Black Chana Vedic Curry and Sprouted Mung Kicheri.
8. Global Dishes
Turmeric isn’t only limited to Indian food. It’s also common in Southeast Asian and Moroccan cuisine but you can put turmeric into any recipe, no matter what kind of cuisine it is. Travel the world starting in Thailand with this Thai Carrot Soup and then jet off to Italy with this Cauliflower Cacciatore. This Sweet and Sour Cauliflower will transport you to China while these Grain-Free Japanese Pancakes with Sticky Mushrooms will take you to Japan. North Africa awaits with these Moroccan-Spiced Lentil Butternut Squash Burgers while these Sweet and Spicy Lentil Dal Tacos are a perfect fusion between Indian and Mexican food.
Let’s not forget American cuisine when we can make Chili Cheese Turnip Fries, “Egg” Salad Sandwiches, Great Northern Bean Dip, Best Quinoa Burgers and Pumpkin Seed-Onion Cream, Cheesy Whole Roasted Cauliflower, Three Bean Chili over Skillet Corn Cakes, Smoky Vegan Mac and Cheese and even Cheesy Cauliflower Popcorn.
9. From Breakfast to Dessert
There’s no better way to start the day then to have breakfast with turmeric in it. It only takes a teaspoon to let you benefit from all the nutrients of this spice. Give your hot cereal an added kick of antioxidants like in this Masala Oatmeal. Enjoy a Chickpea Omelet with Mushrooms, Greens and Vegan Swiss, Spicy Sausage Sandwich Patties, Vegan Eggy Bread with Kala Namak, Tomato Breakfast Tart, Vegan Breakfast Burritos, Challah French Toast or these beautiful Buckwheat Turmeric Pancakes with Warm Berry Sauce.
10. Sauces and Dressings
Use ground turmeric in your marinades, sauces and dressings to add color, flavor and antioxidants. I use turmeric to add color to my hollandaise sauce as in my Asparagus Tofu Tartines with Light Hollandaise Sauce. Broccoli never tasted so good as it does in this Garlic Broccoli with Coco-Peanut Sauce dish. Spice up your salad dressing as in this Warm Root and Lentil Salad with Turmeric Mustard Dressing.
11. Outside the Kitchen
In addition to using turmeric in food and drinks, we can also use it outside the kitchen. It can be used in lotions and skin scrubs to help skin with inflammatory conditions like psoriasis, acne or eczema. Combine turmeric with aloe vera gel to soothe bug bites, chicken pox, poison ivy or burns. Read How to Help Heal Cuts and Wounds with Turmeric to learn how to make a healing turmeric paste.
The bottom line is that there is no dish that couldn’t benefit from a sprinkle or two of turmeric. Try adding it to your dishes today. Your taste buds, eyes and body will thank you for it.
Lead Image Photo: Spicy Turmeric Twice Baked Potatoes