Turmeric is an herb traditionally used in Eastern medicine to help ease minor body discomfort.
Turmeric is used in a variety of cuisines to add a warm, earthy flavor and a golden color to dishes.
Turmeric can be used in a variety of recipes, including savory breakfasts, soups, casseroles, smoothies, sauces, dressings, and baked goods.
You’ve probably heard turmeric referred to as a superfood and seen it added to supplements for its antioxidant content. Turmeric is also a common ingredient you can find in most grocery stores. It can be used in a variety of dishes to add flavor, color, and extra nutrition.
Keep reading to learn what makes turmeric so great, tips for cooking with turmeric, and three recipes to help you incorporate turmeric into your meal plan.
What Is Turmeric?
Turmeric is a plant that’s closely related to ginger. The roots of the turmeric plant have been used in Middle Eastern cuisine and traditional medicine, such as Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine, for many years. Today, turmeric is used as a cooking spice and as an ingredient in dietary supplements for antioxidant benefits. 
Turmeric root resembles ginger root but has bright orange flesh when peeled. Dried turmeric is also orange-hued and adds a golden color to whatever you add it to. Its flavor is a versatile combination of earthy, peppery, and mildly spicy.
Benefits of Cooking with Turmeric
The health benefits of turmeric come mostly from curcumin, the main active substance in turmeric that gives the spice its trademark golden color. Researchers have linked turmeric and curcumin with antioxidant properties.  Turmeric and curcumin are being studied for their effects on reducing oxidative stress and supporting a healthy inflammation response in the body.†
One of the easiest ways to benefit from turmeric is to cook with it. Besides extra tastiness, adding turmeric to your recipes provides antioxidant benefits..†
Turmeric does have a distinct flavor and its bright orange color is prone to staining. If those are turn-offs for you, you can still get turmeric into your day with a dietary supplement, such as Nature Made Turmeric Extra Strength.
How to Cook with Turmeric
When shopping for turmeric, you may find it in fresh or dried forms.
Fresh turmeric root resembles ginger root and may be available in your grocer’s produce section. Fresh turmeric is a good choice if you want a stronger flavor or plan to add it to juiced recipes. To use fresh turmeric root, scrape away the skin with a spoon or vegetable peeler. Then, slice, chop, or grate the turmeric to use in your recipe. Fresh turmeric should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
You may also be able to find fresh turmeric that’s already been peeled and pureed into a paste in the refrigerated produce section. Not all stores carry this form, but it can be a time saver in a pinch.
Dried turmeric is typically a powder that can be found in your grocer’s spice aisle. Dried turmeric has a less intense flavor than fresh. It should be stored in a cool, dark place, such as a pantry, and can be measured by the teaspoon or tablespoon.
Consider adding ground black pepper to turmeric recipes. Studies have found a piperine, a compound in black pepper, aids the absorption of curcumin, the main active compound in turmeric.
Turmeric Recipe Ideas
Turmeric is a traditional ingredient in curry dishes, but it can be used in a variety of recipes including savory breakfasts, soups, smoothies, sauces, dressings and marinades, and even baked goods.
Here are three easy recipes that feature turmeric to help you incorporate more of this golden spice into your diet.
This classic Middle Eastern dish is excellent for weekend brunch or breakfast for dinner. Eggs and veggies are simmered in a tomato sauce spiced with turmeric, cumin, and smoked paprika. Fun facts: cumin is another antioxidant-rich spice and tomatoes are a good source of Vitamin C and the antioxidant lycopene.
To make it:
Chop 1 medium yellow onion and 1 red bell pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add onion and pepper and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Mince 4 cloves of garlic and add to the skillet along with 1 teaspoon ground turmeric, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, ¼ teaspoon optional red pepper flakes, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper. Stir and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more.
Stir in 1 tablespoon of tomato paste and a 28-ounce can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes. Heat until mixture begins to bubble, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer the sauce for 5 to 10 minutes.
Use a wooden spoon to make 4 wells in the tomato sauce. Crack one large egg into each well (4 total) and cover the skillet with a lid. Cook until egg whites are set, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Spoon 1 or 2 eggs onto each serving plate with the tomato sauce. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley, if desired, and enjoy.
Turmeric Mango Smoothie
This smoothie might as well be called sunshine in a glass. It’s a beautiful, bright orange color and tastes bright, fresh, and punchy. In addition to turmeric’s antioxidant content, the mango and orange are sources of Vitamin C to support normal immune function. Mango is also a source of Potassium and Vitamin B6.
For one smoothie:
Place in a blender ¼ cup milk of choice, ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt, ½ peeled banana, 1 peeled mandarin, ½ cup frozen mango pieces, 2 tablespoons hemp seeds, and ½-inch piece of fresh turmeric (or ½ teaspoon dried turmeric) in a blender. Process on high speed until creamy and smooth, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Pour into a glass and enjoy.
Golden Turkey Noodle Soup
Turmeric adds a beautiful golden hue to this soup, as well as a slight peppery flavor that pairs well with earthy vegetables, including carrots, celery, and onions. This recipe is a great way to use up leftover holiday turkey. For an anytime weeknight meal, use shredded meat from a store bought rotisserie chicken in place of turkey. Feel free to add additional veggies, like broccoli, squash, or spinach. For additional protein and/or gluten-free, use chickpea or red lentil pasta.
To make it:
Chop one medium yellow onion, 3 carrots, and 4 celery stalks. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and sauté the vegetables until tender, about 5 minutes.
Mince 3 garlic cloves, add to the pot, and cook for 1 minute more.
Stir in 1 teaspoon ground turmeric, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon ground black pepper.
Pour in 6 cups of low sodium chicken stock. Bring the stock to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low.
Stir in 4-ounces of small pasta, like elbows, and 3 cups cooked and shredded turkey or chicken breast. Cook until noodles are cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and ¼ cup chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley or dill. Ladle into bowls and enjoy.
The Bottom Line
Cooking with turmeric may support your antioxidant intake and offer several wellness benefits. Like anything, the health benefits of turmeric are most effective when it is consumed consistently. Turmeric supplements are specially formulated with higher amounts of curcumin than is found in culinary turmeric. A supplement can be a good way to get your turmeric in when it’s not on your plate.
Sharon Lehman, RD is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and a health writer. She specializes in intuitive eating, recipe development, food photography, and hormone health. She shares healthy living tips and recipes on her blog www.heartandstove.com
Kalyn is a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist and a Science & Health Educator with the Medical and Scientific Communications team at Pharmavite. Her experience in the field of nutrition prior to joining Pharmavite has included community and public health education, media dietetics, and clinical practice in the areas of disordered eating, diabetes, women’s health, and general wellness. Kalyn received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Arizona State University in Phoenix, Arizona, and completed her dietetic supervised practice in Maricopa County, AZ, with an emphasis on public health. Kalyn is certified in Integrative and Functional Nutrition through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, where she is an active member in addition to memberships in Dietitians in Functional Medicine, Women’s Health Dietitians, and the International Federation of Eating Disorder Dietitians.