Learn How To Bloom Saffron Threads & Recipes!

5 from 2 votes

Blooming saffron is key to adding the exotic aroma, flavor, and bright color of the spice to your dishes! Learn the important factors to get it right.

Bloomed saffron in water.

This guide on how to bloom saffron will show you the key steps to getting the most out of your precious spice!

This delicate spice provides a unique flavor profile that can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. Its bold color and unique taste cannot be duplicated with any substitute for saffron. 

I’ve used this spice extensively as it is very common in Indian cuisine, especially Indian sweets! I highly recommend trying out Greek Yogurt Shrikhand as an introductory way to use the spice in a simple sweet.

It can be used in so many ways such as Saffron Pistachio Ice Cream, Saffron Water, Saffron Milk, or as an ingredient in Saffron Rice.  

Upclose image of saffron strands.

Quick Facts

In case you are new to the spice, here are a few notes on saffron:

Price: A single pound of saffron is made up of approximately seventy thousand flowers. It’s the world’s most expensive spice.  But don’t worry, a small pinch of saffron goes a long way.

So, you definitely want to use it the right way to get the most out of it!

Where it comes from: This spice is derived from the dried stigmas of the Crocus sativus flower. The saffron flower only blooms for a few weeks in early fall!

Where is it used: Middle Eastern,  South Asian, and Mediterranean cuisines most commonly use it. But it is used across many.

Taste: Unique flavor! Saffron can’t be easily substituted.

Coloring agent – It adds a bright yellow-orange appearance to dishes.  

Saffron in water.

Importance of Blooming Saffron

Saffron needs a little time to release its flavors into the dish it is added to.  The goal of blooming is to extract flavor, aroma, and color into the dish.

 It can be bloomed in cold or warm water, yogurt, or even directly in your dish. Depends on what you are making

It’s the best way to get maximum flavor.

Depending on what you are making, grinding and adding saffron to it will allow the natural pigment and oils in the saffron to infuse into the liquid.

Saffron bloomed in a bowl of water and a bowl of milk

By blooming saffron before using it in a recipe, you can ensure that the spice is evenly distributed throughout the dish and that the flavors are fully incorporated. 

The end result? A more complex and nuanced flavor profile and a brighter colored dish.

Grinding  

 So, the first step is to grind or crush saffron strands.  If you have a mortar and pestle, that’s the easiest way to ensure a fine grind.

Mortar and pestle.

  1. Mortar and pestle
  2. Back of a spoon – It is not ideal but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do!
  3. Crush the strands between your clean fingers  – the strands crumble easily

A spice grinder isn’t the best choice because you need very small quantities of saffron for big flavor so it likely won’t work well.

 In some cultures, adding sugar or salt to the saffron strands is common practice.  It is believed it will help grind the saffron.  Honestly, I think this is unnecessary.  Saffron is very potent and grinds just fine without the addition of sugar or salt.

Method To Bloom Saffron

The short: Saffron is bloomed by adding ground saffron to water, milk, broth, or even yogurt.  Give it 20-30 minutes minimum for the color and flavor to incorporate well into the dish.

Ground saffron in a bowl.

The details:  So, I’ve used saffron extensively for Indian cooking.  The answer to the best method is to take into consideration two factors:

What are you making?:  

Water: As detailed in the saffron water recipe, steep saffron threads in a cup of water.  This can be even done at room temperature water.

Using lukewarm water can help speed up the process. 

Milk: If I’m making Saffron Pistachio Ice Cream or Saffron Milk Cake, I want to ensure I bloom the saffron in a bit of milk before adding it to the ice cream mixture.

Making Saffron (Kesar) Milk, on the other hand, means I can add the saffron directly to it and let it steep.

Yogurt: For shrikhand, it is best made the day before so it can bloom the saffron flavors overnight in the fridge.

Ice cube method:  I’ve read about this method and I don’t think it is necessary but certainly works.  Place the crushed saffron on an ice cube.  Once the ice melts that is an indication it is ready to add to your dish.  

Time

While some dishes like shrikhand taste best made ahead of time, giving the saffron time to permeate throughout sometimes you want to serve the dish quicker.

In instances like these, blooming the saffron in a little milk or water helps you to incorporate the flavor throughout the dish more quicker.

Shrikhand cheesecake.
Saffron cheesecake!

Culinary Uses + Recipes

Beverages – Saffron (kesar) chai (saffron tea), Mango Milk, and Saffron Milk are just two examples of delicious drinks made using this expensive spice. People even add it to Mango Lassi!

 Desserts: In Indian cuisine, it is a very popular ingredient in sweets.  From Saffron Ice Cream to Saffron Pistachio Kulfi or Saffron Peda the types are endless!  It is popularly paired with cardamom.

Gulab Jamun Cake uses heavenly homemade saffron syrup!

Savory dishes:  Biryani and Biryani Rice are two savory Indian dishes that use it.  Other global cuisines use it in paella, risotto, or even in a creamy sauce for pasta.

Storing

 Bloomed saffron can be kept stored in an airtight container.  In fact, you can make it the night before to really give it time to soak,

 

Have you tried blooming saffron? If so, I would greatly appreciate it if you could take a moment to leave a comment and rate it with stars. It would mean a lot to me to hear how it turned out. If you’re on Instagram, feel free to tag me so I can see your creation. Thank you for your support!

Saffron water in a small bowl.

Learn How To Bloom Saffron

Shilpa Joshi
Blooming saffron is key to adding the exotic aroma, flavor, and bright color of the spice to your dishes! Learn the important factors to get it right.
5 from 2 votes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Indian cooking, indian spice
Cuisine global cuisines, Indian
Servings 1 cup
Calories 0.02 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 mortar + pestle to grind saffron strands
  • 1 small bowl

Ingredients
  

  • 1/16 tsp saffron strands
  • ¼ cup water or milk depends on what the saffron is being used for!

Instructions
 

  • Grind saffron strands using a mortar and pestle.
  • Place ground saffron into water or milk. Give it at least 20 minutes to absorb the flavor oils and color.

Notes

Bloomed saffron can be used for desserts, drinks, and more!
A little goes a long way.  If you are making a small batch, like a glass of saffron water, you only need a few strands. 
See post on saffron recipe ideas and inspo, like saffron ice cream!

Nutrition

Calories: 0.02kcalSodium: 3mgPotassium: 0.1mgVitamin A: 0.03IUVitamin C: 0.01mgCalcium: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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Shilpa

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