Cooking with Turmeric Root: A Complete Guide

Turmeric has long been used in Indian and Southeast Asian cuisines not just for its vibrant color but also for its health benefits. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. If you’re new to cooking with turmeric root, fret not. This complete guide will walk you through the basics, from selecting the right turmeric root to preparation tips and delicious recipes.

Cooking with Turmeric Root: A Complete Guide | Eat Urban Garden
Cooking with Turmeric Root: A Complete Guide

The History of Turmeric Root

Turmeric root, also known as Curcuma longa, is a plant from the ginger family that is native to India and Southeast Asia. It has been used for over 4,500 years in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, and its use dates back to ancient times, where it was incorporated into religious ceremonies and rituals.

The Origins of Turmeric Root

The origin of turmeric root can be traced back to India, where it was first cultivated in the Harappan civilization, which existed between 2600 BCE to 1900 BCE. Turmeric root has been mentioned in the ancient Sanskrit texts, the Rigveda, where it was referred to as “golden spice” and was used as a natural remedy to heal wounds, digestive issues, and colds.

The Historical Uses of Turmeric Root

Turmeric root was used in ancient times as a dye, and its vibrant yellow color was used to color clothes and food. In traditional Indian medicine, or Ayurveda, turmeric root was used for various purposes, such as treating skin disorders, liver diseases, and digestive issues. Chinese medicine also utilized turmeric root for treating conditions such as menstrual cramps, liver problems, and bruises.

  • In medieval Europe, turmeric root was known as “Indian saffron” and was used as a substitute for the expensive saffron spice. Turmeric’s bright yellow color was used to dye clothes, and it was also used in the making of paints and cosmetics.
  • Turmeric root was brought to the United States by Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the early 1500s and first appeared in the American Culinary scene in the early 1600s. Today it is widely used in cooking as a spice for dishes such as curries, soups, and stews.

The Health Benefits of Cooking with Turmeric Root

Cooking with turmeric root can offer many health benefits that have been utilized for centuries in traditional medicine. The active ingredient in turmeric root, curcumin, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that are said to be beneficial for a wide range of health issues.

Reduces Inflammation

One of the most well-known health benefits of turmeric root is its ability to reduce inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been linked to a range of health issues, including heart disease, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis. Turmeric root’s anti-inflammatory properties have been shown to help reduce inflammation in the body, making it a potentially powerful natural remedy for these conditions.

  • Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric root, has been shown to be a more effective anti-inflammatory than aspirin or ibuprofen in some cases.

Aids Digestion

Turmeric root has traditionally been used to treat digestive issues, and recent research suggests that it may be an effective natural remedy for a range of digestive problems, including:

  • Indigestion
  • Ulcers
  • Constipation
  • Gas
  • Bloating

Turmeric root has also been found to increase the production of bile, which helps to break down fats in the body and aids digestion.

How to Select and Store Turmeric Root

Before cooking with turmeric root, make sure you know how to select and store it properly. Here are some tips:

Identifying Fresh Turmeric Roots

Fresh turmeric roots should be firm and plump. They should not be wrinkled or soft. Look for roots that have a bright orange-yellow color with a smooth skin. Avoid turmeric roots that have cuts or bruises.

Selecting the Right Amount

If you are new to cooking with turmeric root, start with a small amount. You can always add more later if needed. A thumb-sized fresh turmeric root will typically yield about 1 tablespoon of grated turmeric.

Storing Turmeric Roots

The best way to store fresh turmeric root is to keep it in a cool, dry place. Avoid storing it in the refrigerator as exposure to moisture can cause mold growth. You can store fresh turmeric root in a paper or plastic bag in a pantry or cupboard.

  • If you are not planning to use the turmeric root immediately, you can also freeze it. Simply wrap the turmeric root in plastic wrap or foil, and place in a zip-top bag.
  • You can also keep fresh turmeric root in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Wrap the turmeric root in a paper towel and place it in an airtight container or plastic bag.

Ways to Use Turmeric Root in Cooking

Turmeric root is a versatile spice that is commonly used in Indian and Southeast Asian cuisines. Apart from adding a distinct flavor to dishes, turmeric root is known for its health benefits. Here are some ways you can use turmeric root in your cooking:

Add it to Rice Dishes

If you want to add some flavor and color to your rice dishes, turmeric root is a great spice to use. When cooking rice, add a grated turmeric root or a pinch of turmeric powder to the pot. The result is a beautiful golden-yellow color that tastes as good as it looks. Turmeric rice pairs well with grilled meats, vegetables, and curries.

Make a Turmeric Paste

A turmeric paste is a simple yet versatile ingredient that you can use in many ways. To make the paste, place grated turmeric root and water in a pan over medium heat. Cook until the water evaporates and the mixture thickens. You can use the paste as a marinade for meats, add it to curry sauces, or mix it with yogurt for a healthy dip.

Brew Turmeric Tea

Turmeric tea is a delicious and healthy beverage that you can enjoy anytime. To make turmeric tea, simmer grated turmeric root and water for about 10 minutes. You can add honey, lemon, or ginger to taste. Turmeric tea is a great alternative to coffee or traditional tea and is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Use it as a Seasoning

Turmeric root is a great seasoning for vegetables, meats, and soups. A pinch of turmeric powder can add a warm and earthy flavor to any dish. You can also mix it with other spices like cumin, coriander, and paprika to make your own curry powder. Turmeric pairs well with almost any vegetable, particularly cauliflower and potatoes.

Turmeric Root Substitutes

If turmeric root isn’t available in your local store, not to worry: you still have options. There are many ingredients that can be used as turmeric root substitutes, including ginger and curry powder. Here are some of the most common substitutes:


Ginger is a fantastic replacement for turmeric root, as it offers a similar flavor and aroma. You can use fresh or ground ginger, depending on the recipe. When using fresh ginger, peel the skin and then chop or grate it. If you are using ground ginger, use about half as much as you would have used turmeric root in the recipe.

Curry Powder

If you’re making a recipe that calls for turmeric root and other spices, you may be able to use curry powder instead. Curry powder is a blend of several spices, including turmeric, cumin, coriander, and others. It won’t taste exactly the same as turmeric root, but it will provide a similar flavor profile to the dish.


If you’re looking for a substitute for turmeric root that can also provide a vibrant yellow color to your recipe, saffron is an excellent choice. However, saffron is much more expensive than turmeric root, so use it sparingly in your recipes.

Annatto Powder

Annatto powder is a brightly colored spice that is often used in Latin American and Caribbean cuisine. It has a mild, nutty flavor and can be used as a substitute for turmeric root in some recipes. While it won’t provide the same flavor as turmeric root, it will add a pop of color to your dish.

Mustard Powder

Mustard powder is a blend of ground mustard seeds and other spices that can be used as a substitute for turmeric root in some recipes. It won’t provide the same flavor profile as turmeric root, but it will add a slightly spicy kick to your dish.

Cooking with Turmeric Root: Tips and Tricks

Turmeric root is a popular spice that has been used in cooking and medicine for thousands of years. It has a distinct flavor and an intense yellow color that can add depth and complexity to any dish. However, it can be tricky to work with due to its staining properties and strong flavor. Here are some tips and tricks for cooking with turmeric root:

1. Choosing Fresh Turmeric Root

The best way to get the most flavor out of turmeric root is to use it fresh. Look for roots that are firm, smooth, and have a bright orange-yellow color. Avoid roots that are soft, wrinkled, or have mold or discoloration.

2. Preparing Turmeric Root for Cooking

When preparing fresh turmeric root, it’s important to wear gloves and work on a non-porous surface to avoid staining your skin and countertops. Use a vegetable peeler or small knife to remove the skin and cut the root into small pieces or grated for use in cooking.

3. Avoiding Stains

Turmeric root can stain everything from your hands to your clothes and kitchen utensils. To avoid staining, wash your hands and utensils immediately after use, and spot-treat any stains on fabrics with a mixture of baking soda and water.

4. Best Methods for Cooking with Turmeric Root

Turmeric root can be added to a variety of dishes, including soups, stews, curries, and rice dishes. One of the best ways to extract its flavor is by cooking it in oil or ghee before adding other ingredients to the dish. You can also steep grated turmeric root in hot water or milk for use in teas or lattes.

5. Pairing Turmeric Root with Other Spices

Turmeric root pairs well with many other spices, including cumin, coriander, ginger, and cinnamon. Experiment with different spice blends to find the perfect combination for your dish.

6. Turmeric Root Recipes to Try

Looking for some new recipes to try with turmeric root? Here are a few ideas:

  • Turmeric Chicken Curry
  • Golden Milk Latte
  • Turmeric and Ginger Soup
  • Spiced Carrot and Turmeric Soup
  • Turmeric Basmati Rice
  • Turmeric Roasted Vegetables

Thank You for Reading!

We hope you enjoyed this complete guide to cooking with turmeric root! Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a beginner, turmeric root is a versatile and delicious ingredient that can be used in many different dishes. From curries to smoothies, there’s no end to the ways you can incorporate this healthy spice into your diet. If you have any other tips or recipes for cooking with turmeric root, we’d love to hear about them in the comments section below. And don’t forget to visit us again later for more informative articles on cooking and nutrition!

Cooking with Turmeric Root: A Complete Guide | Eat Urban Garden

Cooking with Turmeric Root: A Complete Guide

Learn everything you need to know about cooking with turmeric root, including tips, recipes, and nutritional information.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Asian
Servings 4
Calories 200 kcal


  • 1 lb chicken breast
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric root
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


  • Begin by chopping the onion and garlic. Set them aside.
  • Cut the chicken breast into large chunks, then season with salt and pepper.
  • In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  • When the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic to the pan. Cook until softened.
  • Add the chicken to the pan with the onion and garlic. Cook until it is browned on all sides.
  • Add the turmeric root, cumin, and coriander to the pan. Stir until the chicken is coated in the spices.
  • Pour in the coconut milk, then reduce the heat to low. Let the mixture simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked.
  • Serve the chicken and sauce over rice or noodles. Enjoy!
Keyword cooking with turmeric, turmeric root, turmeric recipes, turmeric health benefits

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