This Is What the Most Expensive Spice in the World Tastes Like — Discover Saffron

Being the most expensive spice in the world may come with a number of expectations. Let's explore saffron's unique smell and taste.

Kori Williams - Author

Feb. 12 2024, Published 4:59 p.m. ET

Saffron spilling out of a glass jar onto a wooden table.
Source: iStock

If you're a big foodie, you may have heard of saffron. Many people use it in various dishes worldwide to ensure that things taste just right. But it's probably best known for its use in Middle Eastern foods. It's a spice made from a flower called the saffron crocus. Plus, it's an orangy-red and stringy-looking addition to your meals that can give it a distinct flavor.

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If you've never seen this spice, it might not look that tasty. But what does saffron actually taste like? Does it add a bold flavor to food, or is it more of a subtle sensation? The taste and smell could make you want to make new dishes ASAP.

A saffron crocus on top of saffron.
Source: iStock
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What does saffron taste like?

Food Network says that saffron has a few different flavors. It's kind of sweet yet bitter, and there's an earthy aspect to it. On Reddit, one user said they thought the spice would taste a certain way. After actually trying it, it's nothing like how they imagined. They believed saffron would taste sweet and compared the idea to honeysuckle — but it's a taste they can't compare to anything else.

In the Reddit comments, people agreed that everyone seems to have a different experience with saffron's taste. One person even called the spice a mystery because of its unique flavor profile. So, if you want to experience the spice yourself, now is your chance! You can buy saffron in grocery stores and online.

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A closeup of saffron.
Source: iStock

According to Taste of Home, in addition to having such a unique flavor, saffron is also the most expensive spice in the world. The writers at Taste of Home agree that this particular spice has earthy flavors to it and says that it tastes best in rice-based dishes.

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What does saffron smell like?

Regarding saffron's fragrance, it seems people can't agree. In another Reddit thread, someone asked if this spice is supposed to smell like bubble gum. Commenters gave other aromas they got when they smelled saffron, including earthy scents and latex, and someone even compared the smell to band-aids.

According to Selected Saffron, saffron can smell like many things. Some people believe that saffron is sweeter in scent, like a blend that includes vanilla. However, most sources seem to agree that spice has some kind of earthy scent.

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A bowl of saffron with a saffron crocus.
Source: iStock

Did you know saffron can also be used in perfumes? In a YouTube video by Sebastian Jara, a.k.a. The Perfume Guy, he talks about his experiences with saffron as a perfume scent and for cooking. Jara says for him, saffron has a leathery scent to it.

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Why does my saffron taste like plastic?

According to Rumi Spice, if your saffron tastes like plastic, it could be because it's not saffron but an imitation. As the most expensive spice in the world, it's not a stretch to assume that would create cheaper, fake versions of this highly sought after spice.

You can check for certain things to ensure your saffron is the real deal. The color should be a certain consistency that shouldn't rub off on the inside of its container. That's a sign that your product is something else that has been dyed to trick you. Fake saffron can taste like plastic or have a metallic flavor.

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