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Saffron sauce is a thick, liquid food that is often served alongside other food items to add or complement flavor. This food is flavored with a spice called saffron, which is widely prized and difficult to harvest, making it the most expensive spice in the world by weight. It is commonly served with meat or seafood, but can also be served with carbohydrates like pasta or rice. Different varieties of saffron sauce are used in many types of cuisine, including Thai, Italian, and French cooking, but it is usually a creamy-style sauce.
A pricey but powerful spice that is so bright in color that it colors the food containing it, saffron comes from the saffron crocus. Its flavor is often described as slightly bitter or astringent, an effect tempered by the creamy base used to make saffron sauce. Yellow-orange in color and stringy in appearance, it is made from the dried stigmas and styles of the flower.
The main spice used in saffron sauce is made from a small part of the flower, so it takes many flowers to create a small amount of spice. Fortunately, saffron sauce is flavored with saffron in tiny pinches, so the spice does not significantly impact the price of making the dish. Despite the small amount used in the dish, the high cost of saffron gives it the reputation of being a luxury spice, which makes its use in dishes something of a delicacy for food-savvy guests.
Saffron spice is so expensive because it comes from a small flower part that must be harvested with great attention and care. Taking the saffron from the crocus bloom is usually done by hand. Flowers are harvested from outdoors by cutting, then workers cut open the blooms and carefully remove the precious saffron stigma and style. Once the saffron is removed, it is dried at a low heat before it is packaged or used.
Though saffron is the feature flavor in saffron sauce, the sauce is made of a combination of flavor agents. Other flavors commonly seen alongside saffron in a saffron sauce include garlic, onion, and bay leaf. The base of the sauce is most commonly made with cream but can be made with coconut milk instead, a substitution often seen in Thai cooking. Many saffron experts recommend steeping the spice in hot water before adding it to a dish to allow the flavor to open up.