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How To Use Saffron

Saffron Salt

Delicate, floral, luxurious, slightly bitter…the taste of saffron is truly unique. You'll find saffron in well-known dishes around the world and it's surprisingly easy to incorporate into your favorite dishes too.

You probably know that saffron is one of the most valuable spices in the world, but do you know how to use it? Saffron is harvested from the plant Crocus sativus. The iconic bright red-gold saffron threads are the stigma and each flower only grows three of these saffron threads which are only harvested and prepared by hand. It takes 80,000 flowers to produce one pound of threads, which is why it is so expensive and essential to know how to use and cook with saffron.

How To Use Saffron

The culinary use of saffron dates back thousands of years. Today, it's used in a variety of well-known dishes from cuisines around the world; you might know about tahdig or crispy Persian rice, biryani from the Indian subcontinent, Italian risotto, paella from Spain, and more! You might notice that all of the dishes we just mentioned are rice dishes, we'll talk more about that later.

What is the best way to use saffron?

There are two common preparations for saffron, grinding to a powder or blooming/brewing. Once powdered, saffron can be added directly to a dish while saffron threads need to be steeped or brewed to withdraw the incomparable flavor and golden color. 

How to use saffron threads (aka: How do I activate saffron?)

We've already said that saffron threads need to be steeped or brewed in liquid to withdraw the incomparable flavor and golden color. This is sometimes called blooming the saffron and it's easier than it sounds. For example, just add a couple of threads to a pot of uncooked rice for a huge flavor boost. As the water heats, the saffron will bloom and the infuse the water with that distinctive flavor and color. The rice will then absorb the saffron water which will impart a subtle and delicate flavor.

How much saffron to use

Saffron is best used sparingly. In small doses, the flavor is subtly sweet and delicate with floral and honey notes. But too much can overpower a dish with a bitter flavor. A good rule of thumb is to use about 2-3 threads per serving when making a dish — so for a dish that serves 6, you'll want to use about 15 threads.

You might also see a recipe call for a "pinch" of saffron. Not all pinches are equal but in standard recipes, a pinch of saffron roughly equates to 20 threads. If your recipe calls for "a large pinch" is about double that.

How To Cook With Saffron

As we mentioned at the beginning, many culinary traditions pair rice and saffron. Buy why? If you've ever tasted plain rice, you'll know that it's bland and unimpressive. This is exactly why it's the perfect canvas for saffron. The uncooked rice can soak up the delicate notes of saffron and, without competing flavors, the saffron can shine. Try Crispy Persian Style Rice.

Risotto is sometimes known as being a little "fussy" as the traditional technique involves adding liquid slowly and stirring until it's almost completely absorbed. We've transformed it into a nice and easy Spice 'n Easy Saffron Risotto that uses a pretty hands-off cooking method and only needs butter and parmesan to create a satisfying, floral, earthy meal.


The floral, honeyed notes of saffron also make it ideal for use in desserts. It's excellent paired with milk-based desserts, try adding to ice cream or panna cotta. It's equally good with fruits so try adding it to clafoutis or when poaching fruit.

Our Saffron

Moroccan Saffron: This saffron comes from the fields of Suktana, a town just south of Taliouine, Morocco.

Spanish Coupe Saffron: Our Spanish saffron is of the Coupe grade which is the best saffron you can get from the La Mancha region.

Saffron Salt: This Savory Spice original is available only in February! This is a vibrant, floral salt with a delicate vanilla note.

Saffron Salt - Only Available in February!

This rare spice is a pleasure to cook with and even more exciting to eat. Share your creations with us on social media using #savoryspiceshop.

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Savory Spice - June 21, 2023

Hi Julie,

Many recipes call for a 1/2 teaspoon. Either the Moroccan Saffron or Spanish Coupe Saffron would be great in breads!

julie constenius - June 21, 2023

I want to use saffron with baking bread. What type of saffron do I use, and how much do I use?

Savory Spice - February 25, 2022

Kris – We suggest using it to finish a dish. For example, use it to make a salad dressing, drizzle a bit over soups or other dishes before serving. The flavor is likely to shine in rice and seafood dishes too.

Kris - February 21, 2022

We were given a bottle of saffron infused oil. What is the best way to use this precious gift?

Patricia Cocetti - February 17, 2022

Enjoyed the article about
Saffron. We have a family friend from Iran. Brought me a gift of Saffron . I will be stopping in soon to the Littleton store!

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