You’ve probably heard of saffron, the pricey spice known for imparting a mystical golden yellow color to cuisine. If you’re going to spend that much on just a gram or two of saffron, you better get it from the appropriate source.
Which American saffron brands are the most well regarded? Saffron of the highest quality can be found in Iran, Afghanistan, and Spain, three of the many countries in which the spice grows wild. The greatest saffron brands invest in high-quality methods of cultivation, harvesting, drying, and packaging.
Wherever saffron grows naturally is where you’ll find the best quality saffron. This is why saffron from Iran, Afghanistan, and Spain commands such high prices.
This post will introduce you to the finest saffron available in the United States.
You will also find out what kinds of saffron to look for, how to test for them, and the specific steps involved in growing your own.
Buying Saffron, Why So Expensive?
In comparison to the price of many other spices, a single vial of high-quality saffron might cost many times as much.
Why? Because the Crocus sativus flower takes hours to hand-harvest and turn into saffron. To make just one pound of saffron, more than eighty thousand of these blooms are required.
Low-priced saffron is probably not real and was probably diluted with something else.
Fortunately, a little saffron goes a long way when it comes to imparting color and flavor to your food. Saffron is more affordable if you calculate the cost per serving.
You may find saffron to be a bit of an investment if you often consume paella and Persian rice dishes and enjoy adding this delicious spice to stews and sauces.
What Makes High-Quality Saffron?
There are several steps involved in getting saffron from the farm to the store. Everything from how the crocuses are grown to how the dried saffron is stored at the factory determines the final product’s quality.
Ideal Growing Conditions
Countries with a climate that allows the saffron flower to flourish provide the highest quality saffron. The latter prefers sandy soil, scorching summers, and cold, rainy winters.
Countries like Iran, India, Afghanistan, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Morocco, etc., are ideal for cultivating saffron.
As one of the main markets for this vibrant red spice, the United States also cultivates it. Saffron is grown in a number of different states, including Washington and Pennsylvania.
Among the many stages necessary to produce saffron, harvesting is a critical one.
It should come as no surprise that this is performed solely by hand and only at certain periods of the year and the day. Saffron is harvested by hand in the early hours of the morning during the fall.
The saffron flower’s stigma, often known as the scarlet threads, should not be damaged in any way. Good saffron will have these, among other qualities.
A wide variety of saffron exists. All-red saffron and a variation known as negin grade saffron are considered the best varieties (for Persian and Afghani saffron).
The later type, in which the threads cluster in a vibrant scarlet, is prized for its superior quality. Negin saffron requires a high level of expertise and labor.
Sargol saffron is the common name for all varieties of red saffron. The saffron thread’s very end, which is a deep, ruby red, is what this alludes to.
Every reputable saffron producer would identify their product by name and quality.
If the saffron threads you buy have yellowish-white tips, you may be sure the producer is trying to pad them out. Despite their lack of pigmentation, these stigmatic tissues still contribute significantly to the stigma’s distinctive fragrance.
Perfectly Dried Saffron
When it comes to saffron, perfectly dried is the only way to go. After being harvested, saffron threads need to be carefully dried. In terms of texture, they shouldn’t be too dry or too moist.
After the saffron has dried, it needs to be stored in an airtight container. High-quality saffron is rarely sold in a typical plastic spice jar.
How to Test the Quality of Saffron?
It’s important to note that not all saffron brands provide customers with authentic, high-quality saffron. Because of the prevalence of counterfeit saffron, it is important to only purchase it from reputable brands.
In case you have already invested in saffron, this article will explain how to determine if it is authentic, high-quality saffron.
Consider the aroma. Fake saffron does not have the same aroma as the real thing. However, the authentic variety of this spice has a distinct, pleasant scent. There is a musky, floral aroma to it as well.
Try it out. Saffron is a fragrant spice, but its flavor is subtle at best. It has hints of sweetness, flowery notes, and bitterness. Tastes too sweet or has a metallic aftertaste? That saffron is either fake or of very poor grade.
Put it through a water test to see how it performs. You need to soak some saffron threads in water. Fake or low-quality saffron that releases color rapidly likely contains artificial red coloring. Meanwhile, authentic saffron gradually fades, but its threads retain their vivid red hue.
These three “tests” are indicative of the three criteria that ultimately determine saffron’s quality. This group includes crocin, safranal, and picrocrocin.
The pigment crocin is responsible for the hue. The scent of saffron can be traced back to safranal. And the flavor of the scarlet threads comes from a compound called picrocrocin.
12 Best Saffron Brands
Zaran Saffron, Superior Saffron Threads
When it comes to saffron, we choose Zaran Saffron because of its superior quality and enticing flavors. When produced and packaged, saffron is supplied to consumers in tiny containers or tin cans and the saffron frequently seem like strands of fabric.
These tin cans are quite little and the amount of saffron you get may not seem like a lot but you have to remember that it is a very expensive spice. About two grams of saffron are contained in this tin of Zaran Saffron.
Zaran Saffron’s Super Negin Grade Saffron is an indication of the superior quality of the saffron threads it generates. This indicates that it has been designated as some of the top quality saffron in the world.
Crocin, safranal, and picocrocin have all been routinely found in very high concentrations (flavor). These three characteristics are what set apart Zaran Saffron as exceptional, and it scores quite highly in all three.
Its exceptional quality is widely acknowledged. There are others who claim that the slightly bitter flavor and strong floral scent of this saffron are real. Typically, the saffron is sprinkled on top of rice dishes like paella and risotto as a decorative touch. Many people who drink tea or milk do so because they enjoy the flavor and aroma so much.
What we appreciated best was the saffron’s rich flavor and enticing scent. To add additional flavor and vibrancy to our meals, we incorporated it. We used it in our hot water for a little extra flavor and color, and it was perfect.
Though we did notice a faint bitterness, we would have preferred it to be more pervasive throughout the meal. If the saffron taste would have come out more, this would have been the perfect saffron brand.
Golden Saffron, Finest Pure Premium All Red Saffron Threads
It’s important to note that saffron is not a cheap spice. Extreme precision and care are needed in the growing and cultivation of this plant throughout Europe and the Middle East. However, if you’re searching for a more budget-friendly saffron choice, choose the Golden Saffron.
All of Golden Saffron’s saffron threads have been carefully chosen and wrapped in these tin cans, so you can be assured that you’ll be getting a high quality product at a great price. Freshness of their saffron is legendary, and these threads certainly meet that standard.
Just by opening the can, you may smell the typical saffron smells and get a whiff of that sense of freshness. As saffron of the highest quality, its aroma, flavor, and color are exceptionally strong.
The saffron used to make Golden Saffron comes straight from the farms where it is grown. There are no artificial colors or flavors added to the saffron threads, and there are also no preservatives.
Customers of the Golden Saffron brand have reported that it is less expensive than other brands while maintaining the same high quality. They’ve put it in pastas, meat dishes, and even paellas. Saffron rice and aioli both feature this spice prominently.
To top it all off, we found that this particular saffron brand was the most cost-effective option without sacrificing quality. There was no discernible difference in quality between this brand and the competition, therefore we were pleased with our purchase.
The only thing we wouldn’t recommend about this saffron is the flavor. It didn’t have the typical bitter or sweet flavor, but rather one reminiscent of plastic or metal. This unusual flavor was less evident, though, once the saffron was thoroughly incorporated into the meal.
Vanilla Bean Kings Premium Saffron Threads
When looking for saffron, Premium Saffron Threads is another great option. Their saffron is, as their name implies, of the highest quality. This particular saffron is grown and harvested by hand in Afghanistan. It’s worth noting that Afghanistan is responsible for some of the world’s finest saffron.
Since Super Negin Grade Saffron is the highest possible rating for a saffron brand, it stands to reason that Premium Saffron Threads contains some of the world’s finest saffron. Premium Saffron Threads is priced somewhat pricier because of its better quality rating.
Yet, the superior quality justifies the increased cost. Safranal, crocin, and picocrocin all scored perfect 10s, bringing the total grade for Premium Saffron Threads up to an A+.
And many others have agreed with this assessment so far. This saffron is not only utilized in the kitchen, but also in the tea ceremony, where it is said to bring out the tea’s beautiful golden color and flavor. You’ll get the rich flowery aroma you’re after and a delicious end result when you cook with this saffron, as reported by many satisfied customers.
What stuck out to us most about this saffron brand was its aromatic quality. Strong flowery aroma remained even after we added this saffron to our tea to help it steep.
The one thing we didn’t enjoy was that the saffron we used had a tamer flavor than we had hoped for. Though the saffron scent was enticing, the flavor was weak, and at times it was difficult to detect.
Mehr Saffron, Premium All Red Saffron
Mehr Saffron is another high-quality option for saffron. This saffron is packaged in an elegant glass bottle with a cork closure. The cork on this bottle of Mehr Saffron acts like the stopper on a bottle of red wine, keeping the saffron fresh and vibrant for as long as possible.
This container also contains 5 grams of saffron, which is a significant increase over standard saffron offerings. You can expect an exceptional saffron flavor and aroma from these 5 grams of Grade A+ saffron. The saffron is 100% pure and premium red saffron that is packaged in the USA, yet it is from one of the greatest saffron-producing countries in the world in Afghanistan.
This Mehr Saffron has won the prize for Superior Taste from the International Taste & Quality Institute, despite the fact that its origins are a mystery. An international jury of 120 chefs and sommeliers unanimously voted that the Mehr Saffron was the best in terms of scent, color, and flavor.
This organically hand-picked saffron is a favorite among customers who have purchased it. Not only do they enjoy that you receive more saffron in this package, but they also love the freshness of this saffron based off the very aromatic smell they get when they open the bottle and use it in their cuisine.
What we appreciated best was not just the saffron itself, but also the luxurious presentation it came in. The fact that we had to pop the cork on this one-of-a-kind glass bottle and extract the saffron threads by hand made the experience unique and, in our opinion, increased its value significantly.
What we didn’t like: regrettably, as much as we appreciated the overall experience, the saffron we received in this bottle appeared a bit stale and the fragrance of it in our bottle was extremely low. It still gave the food some color, albeit maybe not as much as we had hoped.
The Gathering of Saffron Brand
The Gathering of Saffron Brand saffron delivers on both quality and quantity for those who want them. Although Spain isn’t as well-known for its saffron as, say, Afghanistan, it does produce high-quality saffron, and that’s where this product comes from.
One ounce of saffron (or 28 grams) is included in this bundle, so there will be plenty of saffron for your culinary needs. The Gathering of Saffron Brand could be a good choice if you work in an Indian restaurant or need to cook for a large number of people and saffron is an essential element.
There are no fillers or preservatives in this saffron; it is truly pure. Many saffron aficionados are quick to identify these as additives used to improve the saffron’s flavor and color.
It took more than 70,000 saffron blossoms in Spain to make just one pound of saffron. According to the Saffron Marketing Council, this particular brand of saffron has the maximum possible color category rating of 1. The total quality of the saffron, as measured by the sierra rating, is a 2.
Many satisfied customers have commented on the saffron’s authenticity, which can be confirmed by seeing that its strands have not been bleached. Many reviewers have also commented that this is the finest Spanish saffron they’ve ever tasted, and that it’s on par with the greatest saffron from Iran.
The fact that we were able to acquire more saffron for the same price was the best part of this offer.
What we didn’t enjoy is that we have doubts about the saffron’s authenticity. There was a strange, almost plastic-like odor when we opened the can, and when we tested the saffron’s coloring abilities in water, it produced a vivid red hue instead of the expected yellowish orange.
Slofoodgroup Persian Saffron Threads
Another excellent, well-respected saffron brand is the Persian Saffron Threads. These Saffron Threads, as the name suggests, originate in Afghanistan, a country known for producing a disproportionately high volume of premium saffron.
With a Category 1 rating for their saffron hue, it’s clear that this premium saffron brand has earned a stellar reputation among saffron producers. This spice is carefully packaged in Afghanistan to retain as much of its fresh flavor and scent as possible.
This jar of saffron contains just saffron that was harvested in its natural state; no artificial additives were used to preserve it. Thus, in its natural condition, it yields saffron that is both rich in color and full of floral aroma.
Customers who have purchased Persian Saffron Threads say they steep them in their tea to completely transform the color of the beverage into a deep red. People who have tried dishes colored with this saffron say they liked the flavor and the deeper red color it gave the dish.
What we liked is that the Persian Saffron Threads are available for purchase in a variety of sizes, which is a nice touch. In addition to the 1g saffron choice seen above, they also sell quantities of up to 28g.
The tiny plastic bottle that our saffron came in was another major turnoff for us. Before we even opened the container, the strong plastic scent was evident, and we quickly concluded that the saffron within had been tainted.
Delitaliana Spanish Saffron Tin
The Delitaliana Spanish Saffron Tin is another another option for Spanish saffron. Pure crimson threads make up this premium grade of saffron, which is free of the waste and white plant components that lower the spice’s quality.
This exquisite Spanish saffron is known for its strong reputation for scent, flavor, and color. The manufacturing process and the substances used to create this product are both pristine and unadulterated. Additionally, no chemical fertilizers or pesticides were used in its cultivation.
You’ll get 2 grams’ worth of saffron from this tin, and you can rest assured that it will retain as much of its freshness as possible thanks to the can’s tight seal.
Many claim that this saffron brings out the best in paellas and casseroles, giving them a colorful and flavorful boost. Infusing saffron with hot water is an even better method for bringing out its natural sweetness and aroma.
We found that the airtight container of this Delitaliana Spanish Saffron did a great job of maintaining the saffron’s wonderful aroma and flavor, which was a major plus for us. We concur that this saffron works wonders in paellas and adds a beautiful hue to the meal.
The small amount of saffron contained in the tin was the main source of our dissatisfaction. The label on the can claims that there are 2 grams inside, however when we opened it, the contents appeared more like those of a 1 gram tin. Given how much saffron costs, we would have been devastated to lose even a single extra gram.
Zaraffe Saffron (La Mancha)
The fact that this isn’t really a saffron brand doesn’t change the fact that it’s an excellent substitute. La Mancha saffron is saffron grown in what we assume to be the La Mancha region of Spain, which has a solid reputation for its saffron harvests.
The finest quality saffron can only be achieved by using real blossoms, and these blooms are 100% pure. The fact that this tin contains so much saffron is sure to please its purchaser. Approximately 1 ounce, or 28 grams, of saffron can be found in this massive tin. This is ideal for those who often use saffron in their cooking or who regularly prepare meals for a big number of guests.
Those who buy this Saffron (La Mancha) and aren’t completely satisfied with it can get their money back, no questions asked, because the manufacturers have such faith in their product.
What we enjoyed about this saffron is not just how wonderfully it colored our foods and tea, but also how much of it came in the jar. It was unquestionably more than just a few 1g cans.
The fact that this Saffron (La Mancha) wasn’t sealed made us nervous because we couldn’t tell if it had been opened before or not. Even though we used it with great caution, we believe it was compromised.
Mazaeus Saffron, Premium Saffron Threads
Established in Washington, DC 15 years ago, Mazaeus Saffron is a small, family-run saffron enterprise. Following their success in the restaurant business and their commitment to only employing the finest products, they chose to source and brand their very own saffron under the name Mazaeus Saffron.
Saffron for their products comes from farms in Afghanistan where it is grown naturally and collected by hand. Once in the United States, the saffron is put through rigorous laboratory testing to guarantee the highest quality before being packed for sale.
Because of the natural drying process, their saffron has an incredible three to four years of shelf life. The final product is a saffron with an earthy scent and a lovely floral aroma.
Two grams of Mazaeus Saffron, rated as Premium Grade 1, can be found in a tin. All of the safranal, crocin, and picocrocin in it has been lab-tested, and it consistently scores very high, so you know you’re getting some of the best saffron available.
From the tiny tin can to the wrapping inside that properly protects the saffron, to the saffron itself, many people have praised the Mazaeus Saffron experience. The way it tints rice has been praised by many users.
We like how well the Mazaeus Saffron worked for quickly and easily coloring our food. To our delight, we discovered that we needed to use far less of this saffron to achieve the desired hue than with competing products.
One thing we didn’t like was that compared to other companies selling the same quantity of saffron (2 g) in tin cans, this one was much more expensive.
La Mancha Prime All RED Premium Coup Spanish Saffron
La Mancha Prime Premium Coup Spanish Saffron is another well-respected saffron from Spain. This one is the best in terms of quality of the saffron it produces and the packaging it comes in (a tin can).
Two grams of premium saffron, packaged in a convenient container. It’s cultivated organically, without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, and has an unaltered, pure flavor that comes straight from nature. This means it’s a first-rate saffron. With this saffron, you can rest assured that you’re getting the greatest possible flavor and quality because it was carefully selected from among thousands of blossoms.
La Mancha is a mountainous area in Spain that is well-known for its saffron harvest. It is processed and packaged in Spain before being sent to the United States in an airtight tin container.
The saffron threads produced by La Mancha Premium Saffron are always a brilliant shade of red and of the highest quality. There are no off-putting yellow or white plant bits present to ruin the overall flavor and quality.
What we loved best was that you can purchase this saffron in three different sizes: 2g, 5g, and 10g, and that the bigger the quantity, the lower the price per gram. There is a lot of bang for the buck in any of these three options because none of them is ridiculously huge like a 28g box.
What we didn’t like: and this was something that was echoed by other reviewers, was how difficult it was to open this tin can. It took us well over an hour of frantic effort, but we managed to pry it open in the end. However, they succeed in keeping the contents fresh because to the lid’s airtight fit.
Zand Persian Saffron Threads
Zand Persian Saffron Threads are highly sought after because of their exceptional quality. For good reason, saffron is often referred to as “red gold.” Saffron is considered the king of spices, and Iran is the world leader in manufacturing high-quality saffron.
The crocus blossoms used to make Zand Persian Saffron Threads are farmed in a sustainable manner. Their 2g tin can is said to need the gathering of over half a million blooms.
You may use this saffron to add a unique flavor and a touch of bitterness to any dish you prepare at home. Since it contains no fillers or preservatives, you can rest assured that you’re getting the purest, highest-quality saffron Zand has to offer.
The key saffron features, including its scent, color, and flavor, have all been evaluated and found to exceed the ISO 3632 purity criteria; these saffron threads were gathered by hand in Afghanistan.
This saffron comes in a tightly sealed tin can, and Zand suggests keeping it in a cool, dry area to maintain its peak quality.
Our favorite part was how pleasantly delighted we were by the saffron’s intense scent. Before we could even get our noses close to the jar, we got a tremendous whiff of the distinctive flowery aroma that is characteristic with saffron of higher quality.
The one thing we didn’t like was that our tin can was dented quite significantly during delivery. Thankfully, the dent didn’t go all the way through, or else a lot of the odor would have leaked out. We were also dismayed to find that, compared to other 2g tin cans of saffron, we didn’t appear to get the entire 2g in this one.
Rumi Spice – Hand harvested, Ethically sourced Premium Afghan Saffron (1 g)
The Rumi Spice Saffron is another quality saffron product from Afghanistan. The Rumi Spice Saffron is created naturally and is picked by hand on these Afghan farms.
Due to its natural qualities, organic saffron does not require any additional flavorings or coloring agents to make your meal look or taste more appetizing. You may also use it to add color and a savory, bitter flavor to your tea by mixing it with other ingredients.
This saffron is believed to be more robust in its flavor as many people claim there is a mixture of liveliness but assertiveness when they taste it in their cuisine. Foods that use it benefit greatly from the subtle sweet and savory flavours that it imparts.
It’s no surprise that many Michelin-starred chefs use this saffron, as it’s widely regarded as the gold standard in the culinary world. Since it is so high-end, it is appropriately presented in a sleek, cylindrical glass bottle sealed with a cork. The saffron inside the glass jar weighs out to about 0.5 grams.
The glass bottle and cork made for an attractive package, which we appreciated. It wasn’t the typical metal tins that saffron is sold in. It had a great flavor, but using too much of it in a recipe could give the dish an unpleasant odor.
Our only complaint is that we expected much more saffron to be included in this jar. We considered the larger bottles, but found that the 0.5g bottle was already the same price as 2g packets from competing brands, so we went with that. This saffron was the highest price per ounce out of all the saffrons we tried, and we could have gotten a lot more for our money elsewhere.
Tips for Choosing the Finest Saffron Brand
As the world’s most expensive and rare spice, saffron is typically only available in relatively limited quantities. Saffron is light and airy, like the threads of a fabric, and can be handled in the same way. Tin cans are frequently used to store saffron because they do not release any odors during storage.
This is significant because the quality of saffron can sometimes be compromised by the presence of a plastic aroma in alternative packaging. Because of this, many saffron containers are made out of metal. Saffron stored in tin cans retains its color, flavor, and perfume because of the superior quality of the seal.
Size of Packaging
For this reason, saffron is typically sold in much lower quantities than other spices. Many of the saffron manufacturers we looked at, for instance, packed their saffron into tiny tins containing only a few grams of the spice.
Although 28 grams may not seem like very much, saffron is available in larger quantities from certain retailers. Although it is the most costly spice in the world, most consumers opt for the more affordable smaller tins because of its scarcity and rarity.
Whence it came into being
Fans of the spice can be finicky about where it comes from in terms of production. Saffron is mostly grown in Iran (more precisely Afghanistan) and Spain. Even while the end result, red threads, is the same, the safranal (aroma), crocin (color), and picocrocin (tiny chromosomes) of the two plants are very different (flavor).
The distinctions between saffron from different regions can be subtle to the untrained eye, but saffron veterans often have strong opinions about the origin of the saffron they purchase.
Saffron’s high price tag can be attributed to the fact that it is both a rare and exotic ingredient. Saffron is the most costly spice in the world on a cost-per-ounce basis, despite the fact that a small tin can of saffron can cost as little as $10 or $15.
Saffron can cost anywhere from $140 to $ 180 an ounce. As luck would have it, saffron may be obtained in a wide range of quantities; nonetheless, it’s important to keep an eye on the price per ounce to ensure you’re receiving the best deal possible.
A Few Closing Remarks
As a seasoning, saffron stands alone. Its versatility lies in the fact that it may be used to color everything from food and tea to water and even as a garnish. It has a pleasant and sweet scent.
You should use it sparingly because it is both incredibly pricey and quite potent. However you chose to use saffron, know that you are investing in the best spice on the market, one that requires a great deal of care and attention in order to harvest and bring to market.