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Top 5 Ways to Use Turmeric

Sharon Palmer

Let’s face it, turmeric is hot! It seems everyone is doing this yellow-orange root in supplements, smoothies, and cooking. Nearly 4,000 years old, turmeric is native to India and has been important as a spice, in religious ceremonies, and in traditional and herbal medicine, especially for arthritis and digestive issues. Although widely recognized for its curcumin content and the accompanying health benefits, there is much more to this ancient spice, often called Indian saffron for its less expensive but similarly pleasing color and flavor.

Turmeric comes from the turmeric root. Similar in appearance to ginger root, it’s no surprise that turmeric is related to ginger and also cardamom. When cut, however, fresh turmeric reveals its uniquely bright orange flesh. The fresh root is becoming more common in markets these days, but you can definitely find it in dried form. A key component of the Indian spice curry powder, it’s what gives curry powder that gorgeous amber-orange shade and warm spicy flavor.

Look for fresh turmeric root in supermarkets and natural food stores.

A major source of the powerful plant compound, curcumin, turmeric is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, such as helping to prevent metabolic syndrome, arthritis, anxiety, heart disease, and even help manage exercise-induced muscle soreness. However, it’s important to ingest it with black pepper so the body can absorb it better.

When fresh, turmeric root can last in your fridge for a few weeks. All you have to do is peel it and add it to your favorite dishes by either chopping it or finely shredding it. When you use it in its fresh form, turmeric is more mild, so you can use a whole root (about 3 inches long) in a single recipe. If you don’t have fresh turmeric, you can enjoy dried, ground turmeric in its powdered form in a variety of recipes.

I love to use turmeric in soups, stews, stir-fries, and more. Check out my recipe for Golden Milk, which is a spicy, aromatic plant-based chai featuring turmeric and other spices. Follow along with me on my video for this recipe, too. That’s why I’m sharing my top 5 ways to use turmeric below.

Top 5 Ways to Use Turmeric

Try my Turmeric Mango Carrot Smoothie—an antioxidant powerhouse of potent ingredients.

1. Blend Turmeric into Smoothies. Bring an instant burst of sunshine when you add turmeric to your morning smoothie, healthy snack, or anytime light meal on-the-go. It’s so easy to whip it together with favorite fruits and veggies like peaches, melon, spinach, and avocado—anything goes! Give my Turmeric Mango Carrot Smoothie a go!

My Turmeric Rice and Black Bean Bowl layers seasonal produce, plant proteins, and fruit.

2. Kick Up Whole Grains with Turmeric. Stir a couple teaspoons of turmeric into simmering rice or whole grain of choice to add a punch of rich color, flavor, and nutrients to your meal. One of my favorite ways to use turmeric rice or quinoa or farro is as the base of a bowl. Bowls are the perfect strategy for simple meal prep: Gather your ingredients—a whole grain foundation, seasonal produce, plant proteins, and fruit—and you’re good to go!

You’ll love this Fresh Turmeric Vinaigrette on salads, veggies, and wraps.

3. Freshen Up Greens. Whisk turmeric, rich in anti-inflammatory compounds delivered in warm, earthy flavor into vinaigrettes to drizzle over salads, sautéed veggies, wraps, and even to marinade tofu. A simple blend of olive oil, lemon juice, and seasonings of choice is all it takes to add this unexpected, but oh so pleasing magic to your meals.

Give fresh turmeric root a try in this recipe for Carnival Squash Soup with Fresh Turmeric.  

4. Stir Turmeric into Soups. It’s become second nature for me to add ground turmeric to soups and stews simmering on my stove for a dash of healthful curcumin compounds, a burst of color, and its signature earthy warm flair. But anytime I have fresh turmeric on hand, I grate the root (about 3 inches) and use it instead. And I like to save a bit to use as a gorgeous garnish to serve!

This recipe for Scrambled Turmeric Tofu with Mushrooms and Greens is sure to become a go-to favorite.

5. Scramble Turmeric with Tofu or other plant-based protein like seitan, tempeh, or vegan egg substitute. There’s no missing the eggs when turmeric joins the scramble. The iconic scrambled turmeric tofu is a dish you’ll always find on vegan menus and in vegan cookbooks—and for good reason! The flavor combination is irresistibly rich and savory. Add in a veg component like earthy greens and tart tomato for an even more complex result.

Check out my crash course on using the turmeric root in my blog here.

Get to know more about how to use plant foods in the following guides:

Top 5 Ways to Use Pumpkin Seeds
Top 5 Ways to Use Quinoa
Top 5 Ways to Use Brown Rice
Top 5 Ways to Use Blackberries

Written by Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN on May 30, 2017; updated February 18, 2020

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