Last Updated: Oct 19, 2021 @ 1:21 pm.

What's the best saffron? With roots tracing back to 2000 BCE, saffron is often cited as the world's most expensive spice. Why? A single pound of saffron requires the stigmata from 75,000 flowers! This labor-intensive process makes saffron expensive to produce. To find the best bets, we tried out several brands of saffron in our favorite paella recipe. Which had the best flavor? Aroma? Here are our favorites.

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What is the Best Saffron?

To find the best saffron, we ordered in several brand and started cooking. We made batches of paella and saffron rice . . . and then started tasting.

What is saffron supposed to taste like? 

Well, that is a matter of debate.

In our opinion, the best saffron has a slightly floral taste and sweet aroma. But let’s be honest: the flavor is very subtle.

For some folks, saffron has a hay-like aroma . . . and others claim the taste is more bitter than sweet.

We chalk up the differences to how folks prepare the saffron. Saffron threads are typically ground up and made into a slurry (with a touch of warm water).

We wonder if the vastly different ways folks perceive saffron flavor and aroma is caused by different preparation—hard water versus soft, how much water is added to activate it and more. Then you consider the complex flavors of a dish like paella, where saffron may interact in ways that aren’t quite clear . . . at least to us, amateur cooks.

30 seconds of Saffron History

Yes, saffron has been around for a long time—since the Bronze Age to be exact. Use of saffron was depicted in Minoan cave paintings from 2000 BCE on the isle of Crete. 

Early on, saffron was used as a dye for cosmetics. Monks mixed saffron with egg yolks to create a paint-like ink for manuscripts. 

Most saffron grown today is imported from Iran, although Greece, Morocco, Italy and India also cultivate saffron.

Now that you know a bit more about saffron, here are the winners from our taste tests:

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Best Saffron For Paella

Persian saffron threads
We loved the floral notes in this saffron, which is our go-to for paella. Imported from Iran, this saffron has a very subtle taste, with hints of honey. That sweet profile works well in paella!
$12.95 ($185.00 / Ounce)

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Best Saffron For Bouillabaisse

Rich, earthy aroma
This fragrant saffron is the best bet for bouillabaisse—great flavor and color. Imported from Iran and flash dried. Complimenting shellfish in traditional bouillabaisse, this saffron is a favorite.
$11.95 ($169.50 / Ounce)

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Best Saffron for Risotto

Easy on the wallet
We loved the convenience of this saffron powder—yes, it is in powder form, which takes away much of the work required when using saffron threads. We loved this saffron in risotto. Imported from Italy.
$3.32 ($240.58 / Ounce)

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Best Budget-Friendly Saffron

Great for Moroccan tagine
Yes, saffron can get rather pricey—if times are tight, we'd recommend these saffron threads. Imported from Spain, we loved the saffron in tagines.

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