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What Is Saffron Sauce?

Saffron sauce is a luxurious, aromatic condiment that elevates dishes with its unique, slightly sweet and earthy flavor. Derived from the precious saffron spice, this golden-hued sauce adds a touch of elegance to seafood, risottos, and pastas. Its rich color and distinctive taste are a testament to saffron's title as the "king of spices." Curious about how to incorporate it into your next meal?
H. Bliss
H. Bliss

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.

Dried saffron.
Dried saffron.

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 flowers (more accurately known as saffron crocuses).
Saffron flowers (more accurately known as saffron crocuses).

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.

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Discussion Comments


@SteamLouis-- Saffron sauce works well with chicken and meat as well. I have used it before with chicken breasts, veal fillets and meatballs.

I've also seen vegetarian recipes where creamy saffron sauce was used for stuffed pastas like ravioli. I bet it could be used as a dip for fried appetizers as well. So there really are many uses for this sauce. It just takes some imagination.


Saffron sauce teams up beautifully with seafood. Fish, mussels, shrimp, prawns, all of it can be served with saffron sauce which is basically butter, stock, cream and saffron strands.

I recently made fish fillets and poured some saffron sauce on top. I first heated the butter, then added the stock, cream and saffron. It boiled for a while for the color of the saffron to fully release and the sauce became thicker. Spices could also be added, fried in the butter before the other ingredients go in. I chose to keep the sauce simple. I think that saffron has a nice aroma and I wanted to keep it that way.


I love saffron cream or milk. Technically, it's not a sauce. It's whole fat milk spiced with saffron and other spices like cardamom. Sometimes ground almonds can be added as well.

This is like a night-time drink or a dessert. People in the Middle East and India have this often after meals or before bed. Moms also use it as a remedy for colds and flu because it is believed to strengthen the immune system. It's an acquired taste but many people enjoy it and swear by its benefits.

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    • Dried saffron.
      By: Marco Speranza
      Dried saffron.
    • Saffron flowers (more accurately known as saffron crocuses).
      By: robert casacci
      Saffron flowers (more accurately known as saffron crocuses).