Turmeric.  The golden spice.  It can turn a dull looking dish into a colorful treat and it’s used in almost every recipe.  While it does not add any particular flavor, it’s the rich golden color that makes this spice so desirable.  It gives curries their luscious rich color.  Add it to bland looking dishes such as cauliflower, potatoes or paneer and your dish will transform into a golden meal fit for royals. Actually,  depending on the dish, whether it’s alkaline or acidic, the turmeric can turn either yellow or red.  Mushroom Tikka Masala and Malai Kofta, both of which use a base of tomato tadka will turn red, while daals, eggs and garbanzo beans will turn yellow.

Turmeric (which happens to be pronounced: ter-mer-ic) is also known as “the poor man’s saffron”, as it lends the same rich color as those coveted saffrons strands at much less the cost.  It’s even cheaper if you buy it in bulk from the Indian store.  Don’t have an Indian store?  No worries, turmeric is a common spice sold in every well stocked grocery store.


What To Do With Stains

The rich color of turmeric does have some side effects. Take a peak into Indian kitchen cabinets and you’ll see stacks of Tupperware stained with gold.   Turmeric will stain anything it touches, including your teeth.  So I try to remember to use mouth wash after eating.

Tupperware: If pristine looking Tupperware is important to you, just soak the container overnight in a mixture of water and bleach  and it will be good as new by the morning. Pour a tablespoon of bleach into your tupperware, fill it with water and close the lid (so the kitchen doesn’t smell of bleach by the morning. Rinse it along with your morning dishes.

Teeth: Since most of the foods I eat contains some amount of turmeric, I rinse with mouth wash after eating.  This also has the added bonus of cavity control.

Fingernails:  Whether I’m kneading a batch of potato stuffing for Punjabi Hot Pockets, or eating Indian style – with my hands – my left hand always seems to have turmeric tinted fingernails.   I found this only lasts for half a day or so, but if you want to clear out the color, soak your nails in nail polish remover for 5 minutes then scrub them with a nail brush or spare toothbrush.  Of course, you could always paint your nails, or do as I do and just keep them short.


Turmeric also has many health benefits in ayurvedic medicine.  It’s full of antioxidants and has immune boosting properties.

Here’s a small list of the health benefits found in turmeric:

  1. Boosts antioxidant protection
  2. Regulates blood sugar
  3. Promotes joint health
  4. Helps liver function
  5. Promotes healthy skin
  6. Aids digestion
  7. Helps maintain lower cholesterol
  8. Supports the female reproductive system
  9. Aids eye health
  10. Boosts immune system support
and it makes the food look pretty. A win-win.

read more here.


Turmeric is also used as a traditional beauty treatment in India.  Before a traditional Indian wedding, the bride and groom are bathed in a paste of turmeric (refer back to Health Benefit #5).

On my pale skin, this would turn me yellow but this beauty treatment has been around for thousands of years and it’s fun to see the bride and groom cringe as their mother, sisters and cousins smother them in globs of yellow paste.


Like most spices, you should keep turmeric in an air-tight container.  I buy a large bag of turmeric at the Indian store and once I get home, I transfer it to a medium sized air-tight container. If you buy your turmeric from a mainstream grocery store, it probably comes in small spice containers, which will work just as well.

I keep about a month’s worth of turmeric in my everyday spice box.  This way, only a little of the spice is exposed to air during my daily dip.  The rest is kept fresh and I only open it when I need a refill.

Turmeric has become one of my favorite “go-to” spices.  Most other cuisines seem to agree as it’s widely used and easily available.  Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly it’s used as a color enhancer in unexpected ways.  Mustard, for example, gets it’s neon yellow hue less from the actual mustard and more from the added turmeric.  Turmeric is also used as a dye in clothing (more so in villages rather than high fashion).  It seems it’s got universal appeal in more ways than one.

Not to mention, it’s keeps teeth whitening in good demand.

here’s a full list of recipes with turmeric


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  1. 7-16-2012

    Great post! I really enjoyed reading this, Colleen.

    • 7-23-2012

      Thanks Jess!

  2. 7-17-2012

    we use turmeric in peruvian food as well.. we call it “palillo” and there are certain dishes that wouldn’t be the same unless we used it..not just for color either.. it doesn’t add much flavor in small amounts but you can definitey tell when you’ve added too much… gives things kind of a bitter taste i think…originally from SF but transplanted down south a bit further.. haven’t found any indian grocery stores down here, or much of any ethnic diversity really, so i have to stock up on all my favorites when i go home for visits… i always have to stop at the indian, japanese, and chinese groceries when i’m up there! ohhh i miss home!

  3. 7-17-2012

    Gracias, Lupe. You make me excited to go to Peru. I plan to travel there in a few months and look forward to savory dishes sprinkled with palillo. Is that what makes me love your ceviche above any other?

  4. 7-18-2012

    Now I gotta get my hands on some ceviche. What is it?

  5. 7-25-2012

    LOL..no peruvian will ever reveal what their secret ingredient in their ceviche is! for my family at least there isn’t any turmeric in the ceviche. ceviche is raw fish “cooked” in lime juice, then various other things added to it. It is sooo yummy but some people can’t get past the raw fish.. definitely requires the freshest fish possible. Peruvian cuisine is interesting in that there is so much variety and so much influence from other cultures..much like anywhere i guess! my grandma says that turmeric is an herb that pretty much grows wild everywhere over there so the preference is to use it fresh.. when they came here they had to start using the dried powder since it was near impossible to find fresh. one of the more well known dishes that uses turmeric is papas a la huancaina, or potatoes in the style of huancayo.. so simple and so yummy! sorry for such a long post!

  6. 4-26-2014

    Turmeric does not stain teeth! On the contrary – it whitens them. I have been using Turmeric as a “toothpaste” for several months, and my teeth are much whiter. I also use Turmeric to rinse my mouth, it is a disinfectant. I do not use any “chemical” mouthwash. I am careful though not to let it touch much the area around the lips on the outside – it can get yellowish, though not for very long. Of course, anything else Turmeric gets in contact with – stains.

    • 5-5-2014

      Wow, I had no idea!

    • 10-25-2015

      Really! After reading on Turmeric I thought I would try it in a drink with lemon, oh boy, I had yellow fingers, yellow wash cloth, yellow hand towel, my wife was at me “what the heck are you doing?” I looked at the counter top and said, “Nothing!”

      Well after I cleaned up, that took me a half hour, I thought, I better brush my teeth before they are yellow too. I sure hope you are right So, my question, Why doesn’t it yellow teeth.

      • 10-26-2015

        Here’s what Google has to say:

        The turmeric itself can cause staining, but when the root or powder is used for its abrasive qualities, it is able to remove some extrinsic staining and whiten teeth. The fresh root will be more effective because the fibrous root will rub stains off teeth more vigorously than brushing with the powder.

  7. 7-14-2014

    I agree Franta, I have used turmeric as a toothpaste for almost a year with amazing results. My teeth have whiten dramatically and feel great. My dentist said my teeth and gums are in great shape, after sharing my secret with her, she was very interested in checking it out. I’m looking forward to seeing her at my next cleaning and asking if she too has tried turmeric yet.

    • 7-14-2014

      Hi Alicia & Franta,

      I gotta try this. I must admit, spreading intensely-colored yellow all over my already slightly yellow teeth seems off putting. But I’ve got two good recommendations from you ladies…I’ll give it a go.

      Do you just brush with it? Leave it on? How long does it take to start working? Do I need to lay off the morning chai to see a difference? Please say no to that last question 😉

      • 1-15-2016

        I’ve been researching about using turmeric for brushing teeth and there’s lots of info about it. I was wondering if any of you here knew if it would stain caps? I have two capped teeth right in front! I would hate to try this and end up with two orange teeth in the front of my mouth.

        • 1-15-2016

          Hi Ron,

          I wish I knew! I don’t know the effect it might have on caps. Anyone have an idea?

  8. 12-31-2015

    Excellent article! Well written and great photos. I love my turmeric too, especially for health benefits.

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