So, you made it through the full sweep of the fall/winter pumpkin spice craze. Good for you! But if you thought you were finally going to get a little peace and quiet in the spice obsession department, you thought wrong. Because for some reason, everyone has decided the latest obsession is turmeric.
If you have a well-stocked spice cabinet or like to cook Indian curries, you’re probably already familiar with turmeric. But if you’re more of a salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning mix kind of seasoner, then you might be wondering what the heck turmeric even is and how you should use it.
Don’t worry. I’ll explain.
So what is turmeric?
Turmeric is nothing new. It’s been used in South Asian cooking for hundreds of years, and it’s been no secret in other areas of the world either. My (not South Asian) parents always had a container in their spice rack when I was growing up.
The vivid yellow powdered spice comes from the orange-colored root, which is a relative of ginger. This connection comes out in turmeric’s flavor, which has a bit of a bite and bitterness to it, along with some nice warmth. If you have curry powder, turmeric is what gives it that yellow hue.
While we’re talking about the color of turmeric, it’s worth mentioning that while it can make your food super pretty, it can also stain the heck out of everything it touches—fingers, countertops, and bowls.
How do you use it?
Turmeric has long been an ingredient in curries. My favorite reason to fish out a container of the stuff is 101 Cookbook’s absolutely killer red lentil soup with lemon, which is hearty, zesty, and full of flavor. I once had a roommate who would eat big bowls of Greek yogurt topped with turmeric, honey, and nuts and that was delicious, too.
But lately turmeric has also appeared on cafe drink menus in the form of a golden milk (or “golden mylk”) latte, which is basically a hipsterized version of haldi doodh, a turmeric-and-milk beverage you can find in places like Pakistan. Often a combination of nondairy milk, turmeric paste, cinnamon, and ginger, a golden mylk latte is kind of like chai with turmeric instead of black tea, colored a beautiful shade of foamy golden yellow. Make your own, or order it at your local coffee shop.
Are there health benefits?
No article about turmeric would be complete without at least acknowledging that the reason for this turmeric craze seems to be an ever-growing list of supposed health benefits.
I’m not a doctor. I don’t know if it will help you lose weight, cure cancer, or lower your body’s inflammation. In fact, those health claims are linked to inconclusive evidence. Is it possible turmeric really is a miracle spice that can cure everything that ails you? Sure, it’s possible. But the only thing I know for sure is that if nothing else, it’s tasty.