Saffron has been used for over 5,000 years. It has a special, rich grassy aroma, deep honey-like aroma, strong coloring properties, and a very high price, which attracts a lot of dishonest manufacturers. To not waste hundreds of dollars, you need to know where to buy saffron and how to tell if it is real.
We have come up with the best tips on how to choose high-quality saffron, how to do the fake saffron test, and have extensively reviewed over 20 most popular saffron brands and selected the 7 best saffron brands you must buy today.
How to buy saffron? When buying saffron, make sure that saffron threads (stigmas) are red or deep orange and are thinned on one side and slightly flattened on the other. The flattened end should be yellow. Saffron threads must be dry and brittle to the touch. There must not be any frayed edges or musty aroma.
In-Depth Guide to Buying High-Quality Saffron – All Your Questions Answered
Buy saffron in specialized shops or online from trusted manufacturers like Zaran Saffron, Golden Saffron, or Fire Red Saffron. Saffron must come in transparent glass or a metal container. We advise buying saffron in glass to be able to see the color and size of saffron threads and their quality.
If possible, smell the spice – the smell should be grassy and rich with a slight bitterness. If the smell is too bitter or metallic, it is either fake or expired saffron.
Buying Real high-Quality Saffron
To determine fake saffron, rub saffron threads between your fingers – if your skin turns yellow or orange, saffron is real. You can also put a saffron thread in water – if a thread loses its color, it failed the fake saffron test. Real saffron threads are always trumpet-shaped and bulge at one end.
What color should saffron be? Saffron threads should be of deep orange and red colors with a yellow end. If saffron is yellow or pale orange, it is either of low quality (mixed with turmeric), or fake (corn silk threads, safflower, coconut filaments, dyed horsehair, or even shredded paper).
When choosing saffron, there are some criteria you must take into account:
Brittle saffron stigmas must be packed either in a glass, ceramic container, or tin. They must never be sold in paper bags, plastic bags, or boxes. However, we recommend you buy saffron sold in glass as you can see the size, color, and overall appearance of the stigmas. Do not buy saffron powder as it is usually mixed with other spices or even dust to lower the costs. We do not recommend purchasing saffron by weight as it is usually of poor quality and is not stored properly.
Since saffron is the most expensive spice and food in the world, it cannot cost cheap. As of now, 1 g of finest saffron costs $11.00, but the average high-quality saffron price ranges from $7.30 to $8.50. Saffron that costs less than $6.50 per gram is just a low-quality or fake saffron made of corn silk threads, safflower, coconut filaments, dyed horsehair, or even shredded paper.
See also: Why Is Saffron So Expensive? See The Real Facts!
Saffron stigmas must be dry and brittle to the touch. They should be thinned on one side, and slightly flattened on the other. The flattened end should be yellow, while the rest of the thread must be dark orange or red. There should be no frayed edges (frayed edges usually mean it is dyed and flavored cellulose, and not real saffron), or a pungent musty aroma.
High-quality saffron is of deep orange, dark red, or red-brown color, with a pleasant, bitter-floral, and slightly pungent taste. As a rule, counterfeiters try to replace saffron with a product that is similar in consistency and color. It can be safflower (wild saffron without aroma, with inflorescences instead of stigmas, more yellow), Imeretian saffron (dried inflorescences of yellow or orange marigolds with a weak aroma), turmeric powder. Sometimes you can even find a cut, dyed paper or plastic imitation of stigmas.
One strand of saffron can give a golden orange color to a liter of warm water. Put it in water and take a closer look – real saffron does not sink, and after a few seconds, a golden halo begins to blur around it, slowly coloring all the water.
Saffron has a strong floral, earthy, and hay-like smell that reminds of honey and vanilla. The saffron aroma is sweet and musky and gives a unique sweet, honey-like scent and flavor to meat, fish, rice, pasta, bread, cookies, muffins, cakes, lemonades, tea, and coffee. Saffron’s smell should not be bitter or musty.
High-quality saffron has a sweet, honey-like, floral flavor with hints of slight bitterness and spiciness. It has a mild grassy, earthy, sweet aroma similar to vanilla and honey. It has a slightly metallic taste with hints of honey, bitter and spicy at the same time. If saffron tastes too bitter or metallic, it is a cheap substitute that must be avoided.
See also: What Does Saffron Taste Like? Learn The Truth
7 Best Saffron Brands You Should Try Today
What’s the best saffron to buy? Zarran Saffron (Iran), Golden Saffron (Iran), and Fire Red Saffron (Afghanistan) are the 3 best saffron brands to buy. They are rated highly for all quality tests – color, aroma, and taste, and are 100% pure. These saffron brands come without yellow tips, artificial colors, and flavorings.
Good quality saffron threads have deep orange or red color, sweet, honey-like aroma, and floral and grassy flavor. Saffron threads are usually between 1.2 to 3.8 inches long and are very dry and brittle to the touch. When put in warm water, good-quality saffron never loses its color.
With so many choices available, it might be hard to find high-quality saffron. Unfortunately, a lot of manufacturers try to deceive their customers and sell either low-quality or even fake saffron for a lot of money. We have extensively reviewed over 20 saffron brands from Iran, Spain, Afghanistan, Greece, and India and have come up with the 7 best saffron brands you should try today. If you are wondering where to buy saffron, read on.
What is the best brand of saffron? Here are the top 7 saffron brands you must try today:
- Zarran Saffron (Iran)
- Golden Saffron (Iran)
- Fire Red Saffron (Afghanistan)
- Mehr Saffron (Afghanistan)
- Delitaliana (Spain)
- Kiva Gourmet (Spain)
- Redsaff Afghan Saffron Threads
Let’s dive into the description of each brand to help you choose which saffron you should choose.
See also: Cooking With Saffron – What You Need To Know
Zarran Saffron (Iran)
Iranian saffron is known for its unique, strong floral, grassy flavor, sweet, honey-like aroma, and excellent coloring properties. Zarran Saffron is sold in bronze tins, which protect brittle saffron threads from direct sunlight and moisture. Zarran Saffron is highly rated for all quality tests, including taste, aroma, color, and useful properties. It fully complies with the international standard ISO 3632, which defines the quality of saffron.
The price for Zarran Saffron remains stable and is approximately $13.00-$15.00 per 2 g tin. Luckily, the manufacturer offers a satisfaction guarantee – if you are not happy with the quality of the product, Zarran Saffron provides a full refund or a replacement.
Zarran Saffron has a delicate, grassy taste, a rich floral, sweet, hay-like aroma, and outstanding coloring properties. All of the saffron threads were collected manually and underwent all necessary stages of production. Zarran Saffron, with its affordable price and 100% pure saffron threads, is our top pick to add to rice, pasta, meat, poultry, and fish dishes, as well as to bread and desserts.
Golden Saffron (Iran)
Golden Saffron provides the finest quality, smooth floral taste, and deep grassy honey-like aroma. It is one of the best saffron brands since all saffron threads are of grade A and are 100% pure. It has a rich red color, and all threads are dry and aromatic. There are no yellow or pale orange colors or artificial flavorings, GMO products, and preservatives. Golden Saffron is fully tested in the USA with ISO 3632 certificate. Its price starts at as little as $12.00 per 2 g.
The spice has a nice tin packaging and can be a good present for your family or friends. This saffron will give a noble orange hue to your dishes and drinks and enrich them with tons of useful properties. It is suitable for meat, fish, porridge, rice, pasta, tomato-based sauces, bread, muffins, cakes, ice cream, and even dairy products (milk, yogurt).
See also: 8 Best Saffron Substitutes That Will Go Well With Any Dish
Fire Red Saffron (Afghanistan)
Fire Red Saffron is naturally grown and hand-harvested. It does not contain any GMO products or preservatives. Like all top saffron brands, it was lab-tested in the USA and met all requirements to get the highest grade A+ rating. Since it is grown naturally, it has a unique, delicate floral flavor, rich honey-like aroma, and amazing coloring properties. 2-3 threads will be enough to give an unforgettable sweet aroma to any dish, be it seafood or desserts.
We have tried adding Fire Red Saffron to black tea and milk, and the taste was just perfect – saffron added a honey-like aroma and gave a slight, pleasantly bitter aftertaste. It has the same price range like all top saffron brands and comes at as little as $12-$13 per tin of 2 g. This tin lasts for months since 2-3 threads of saffron are enough to make the dish more flavorful and aromatic.
Mehr Saffron (Afghanistan)
Mehr Saffron is hand-picked saffron from Afghanistan that was declared a winner of the Superior Taste Award by the International Taste & Quality Institute and holds multiple certificates for taste, color, and aroma. It has a strong floral taste, rich honey-like scent, and deep red color that instantly gives a noble orange hue to your dishes. The manufacturer offers a full refund if you are not satisfied with the product without asking you any questions.
If you want to get acquainted with saffron but are not sure whether you will like the spice, we recommend trying Mehr Saffron. You will not lose anything as the brand will return you the money if you do not like the quality. We have tried Mehr Saffron with paella, and the aroma was just amazing – the dish acquired a strong, leathery, soft, earthy, hay-like scent and a noble orange color.
This high-quality brand is prized for its unique sweet flavor and grassy aroma. Delitaliana is 100% natural and grown without pesticides or fertilizers. It goes well with any rice and seafood dish and is often added to bread, cakes, muffins, buns, and ice cream.
All saffron threads are brittle to the touch, which means they were properly dried under the sun and properly stored. Delitaliana comes in a transparent plastic container, which allows you to see the shape, size, and color of the threads. Delitaliana saffron fully reveals its flavor once heated, so we recommend you add 3-4 threads before the dish is done.
Kiva Gourmet (Spain)
Kiva Gourmet is premium-quality saffron from La Mancha Region. It was thoroughly hand-picked, so no threads were damaged during collecting and transportation. It comes in a nice glass container, where you can see the size, color, and overall appearance of threads.
The resealable glass jar protects the unique grassy flavor and the delicate hay-like scent of brittle saffron threads. You can be sure that saffron is 100% pure as it contains no additives, GMO products, or artificial flavor. Because of its exclusivity, La Mancha saffron costs slightly more than other similar brands, but we are sure it is definitely worth a try. Add Kiva saffron to your next seafood dish to fully reveal its earthy and sweet flavor.
Redsaff Afghan Saffron Threads (Afghanistan)
Redsaff is another organic saffron brand from Afghanistan that boasts of its strong sweet flavor and a slightly bitter aftertaste. It was lab tested and given an A+ grade, which ensures the product is of the finest quality and taste. It comes in a glass resealable container, which protects brittle saffron threads from air, moisture, and temperature drops. If you store saffron in a dark, well-ventilated place, it will last for a month, giving your dishes an amazing floral taste and unique grassy, hay-like aroma.
Which Country Has The Best Saffron In The World?
Which country saffron is best? Iran makes the best saffron as it has rich soil and the perfect climate for growing saffron flowers (cold and arid weather). 90% of all saffron is produced in Iran. Kashmir saffron (India) is considered of high-quality too, thanks to its deep floral taste and rich honey-like aroma.
Iranian saffron is considered the best and most expensive in the world. Traditionally, Iranian crocus growers use the youngest stigmas of plants, which are no more than two or three years old. Particular attention is paid to the process of drying the harvest since it will impact further taste and aroma properties of the saffron. Iranian crocus fully complies with the international standard ISO 3632, which defines the quality of saffron.
Also, Iranian saffron has the strongest coloring effect. Crocus is produced mainly in the Razavi Khorasan Province. As of now, there are more than thirty spice processing factories in Iran, and the export of saffron is one of the most profitable businesses in the country. If you ever happen to travel to Iran, you should know it is the best place where to buy saffron threads for a reasonable price.
India, especially the Himachal Pradesh valley, has ideal conditions for growing saffron. An optimal climate, rich in minerals, well-drained soil – all this contributes to a rich harvest of saffron. The Indian school of saffron processing differs significantly from the more modern methods accepted throughout the world.
According to Indian harvesting traditions, saffron stigmas are used whole. The collected threads are dried, in contrast to Spanish traditions, in a natural way – under the hot rays of the sun. The saffron is sorted by immersion in water. The stigmas that have sunk to the bottom are considered the highest grade, while those that remain afloat are considered the lowest.
Spain produces high-quality saffron with floral, grassy flavor, unique honey-like aroma, and great coloring properties. There are two varieties of Spanish saffron: Crocus Coupe and Superior. The first variety is more appreciated because they use the uppermost stigmas petals, which are extremely saturated with aroma and color.
Crocus Superior’s flavor is less intense, and the color is not as bright, but it is valued for its delicate and deep floral and sweet aroma. In Spain, saffron is dried in special ovens over a fire.