Saffron is a spice that’s known for its golden-yellow or orange color. If you’re here, you likely know what saffron is anyways, and that means you know how expensive it can get.
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There are many reasons for this, some of which we’ll go into, but we’re here to learn about the five best saffron brands you can get your hands on in the USA.
Since saffron is often more expensive than other spices, you want to make sure you get the best samples without sacrificing quality.
The best saffron is usually the kinds that are sourced from Iran, Afghanistan, and Spain, making Persian, Afghani, and Spanish saffron in high demand for discerning shoppers. Not only is this where saffron grows naturally and in high quality, but it’s also where a lot of saffron found elsewhere in the world has been imported from.
Along with a short buying guide that you can use to find the best saffron, we’ve also reviewed some of the best saffron brands that sell their product online and are based, or ship to, the USA.
The 5 Best Saffron Brands
With all of that covered, here are the five best saffron brands that we’ve found that are both high-quality and easily available online for US citizens.
As per the information above, our recommended brands are all sourced from Iran, Afghanistan, and Spain.
OUR TOP PICK
It’s not going to be much of a surprise that Persian saffron tops our list of saffron brands.
The first thing anybody should notice about Zaran Saffron is its circular canister with a bronze tin and a red regal design. It’s no clear plastic tub, that’s for sure.
It can’t always be guaranteed all the spice comes from Iran but Zaran guarantees that at least 90% does. Being Persian saffron, it’s classified as negin grade, the best saffron that you can currently buy.
As per ISO 3632 testing, Zaran Saffron is rated very highly for all three of the quality tests that we outlined above – crocin (color), safranal (aroma), and picrocrocin (taste). These results come with the guarantee that this super negin saffron is 100% pure.
If you’re not happy with your order for whatever reason, Zaran Saffron offers a satisfaction guarantee that can offer a replacement or a full refund in cases where you don’t enjoy the product.
Here’s some more Persian saffron, though this time it’s sargol saffron, more commonly referred to as all red. It shows too, as the saffron itself is a deep red-auburn color and is housed inside a gold and black container.
As grade A Persian saffron, Golden Saffron is up there with the best all-red saffron that you can buy.
The fact that it’s grade A guarantees that this is some of the best saffron out there for aroma and taste, with no yellow tips or artificial colors and flavorings. All that’s in these tins are what comes from the saffron fields back in Iran.
Packaged in a gloomy black tin that’s decorated with red and gold trimming, Super Red Saffron definitely lives up to its name.
The saffron threads themselves are vividly red and, while the packaging claims that it’s Persian saffron, most of the threads have come by way of Afghanistan and not Iran.
It’s a slight difference since Afghanistan has a Persian heritage too, but Persian usually means Iranian in the world of saffron production.
Like Golden Saffron, the Fire Red Saffron is a grade A+ super negin harvest that has a clear color advantage over the previous options. That’s only part of the equation, of course, but if you want bright red saffron for aesthetic purposes then Super Red cannot be denied.
Like with the others, there’s nothing added to alter the taste or aroma, either.
As we move into our last recommendations, let’s take a look at Delitaliana Spanish Saffron. Remember, Spanish saffron is still up there in terms of saffron quality, so our last saffron recommendations might still be the best ones for you.
Inside these rectangular cans of Delitaliana Spanish Saffron, you’ll find all-red threads that have been cultivated without fertilizers or any added colorings and flavorings.
Within the world of Spanish saffron, there are separate classifications that are used to describe its quality. In Spain, Coupe saffron is the better spice, being equivalent to Persian sargol saffron, so it’s in good company as a category 1 product.
Our last saffron recommendation is Kiva Gourmet Spanish Saffron, which is a premium grade saffron that lacks a little in aesthetic.
At first glance, its resealable glass jar is different from the metallic cans we’ve covered so far. It doesn’t look as good but the glass jar is best for preserving the saffron inside for a long time.
That all said, inside you’ll find category 1 La Mancha saffron. As you may have suspected, La Mancha saffron isn’t as good as Coupe saffron, but it is second-best in the Spanish sphere.
La Mancha is pretty exclusive, growing in a small region of Spain, and is dried in a special way that makes them smell and taste smokier than other variants.
Because of its exclusivity, La Mancha can cost more than Coupe or Persian saffron sometimes, which brings into question whether the saffron is worth the cash. Do your due diligence to see if La Mancha is your best financial option before committing to it.
Best Saffron Brands In The USA Buying Guide
Why Is Saffron So Expensive?
Saffron pricing can get confusing, so let’s go through that first. If you buy a set of spices that includes saffron, you can oftentimes get a small amount of saffron (along with the other spices) for much less than what a standard saffron jar can cost.
This is because a lot of effort goes into harvesting saffron, so higher quantities need to cost more so that the growing operation can be profitable. They’re taken from the Crocus sativus species, otherwise known as saffron crocus, which are recognizable as small purple flowers.
It can take up to 80,000 of those flowers to source just a pound of usable saffron, which is why it can get so expensive to buy genuine saffron. That’s right, genuine saffron is expensive but there is also so-called cheap saffron. Usually, these are fabricated to justify the lower prices at which they’re offered.
Fortunately, you won’t be using much saffron when you do need it. It only takes a little to get the full benefit of the spice, so keep that in mind when considering the price. A helpful way to think of it is that the price of saffron is split between every dish you’ll use it with, making its price more understandable.
That depends on your specific diet and how often you need to use the saffron, of course, so you should keep your expected saffron use in mind when buying. If you make paella or a lot of sauces that need saffron, you’ll be using more of the spice than the average person.
We’ve mentioned that certain saffron products are of a higher quality than others, so what makes this the case?
As with any product, saffron has quite the journey before it lands on supermarket shelves. The origin, handling, and distribution of the saffron will determine its grade and how much you can expect to pay for it.
Let’s go through the important parts of this process:
Saffron flowers grow well in cold or wet winters, warm summers, and in sandy soil. That sounds like a pretty expansive climate for a plant, so why is this so important? Saffron is grown globally but, as we said, the best places for it are Iran, Afghanistan, and Spain.
These are three countries known to be warm and sandy with a rugged mountainous environment at higher altitudes, making saffron growth much easier in those nations. The highest-quality saffron is cultivated here.
Otherwise, you can expect to find saffron growing as far as Greece and India and as close as the United States of America, particularly in Pennsylvania.
Bountiful and healthy cultivation of saffron flowers is only the first step, however.
These tend to be one of the more important steps during the saffron supply chain process. Since it’s taken from flowers, saffron needs to be gathered by hand.
Not only does this drive saffron prices up through labor costs, but it’s also limited in when you can pick them. Once mature, it should be picked in autumn, and pickers start early in the morning to make sure they get them all as soon as possible.
When picked, the gatherers remove the red threads that are found in the flowers. They are really sensitive and must remain undamaged throughout the whole process to bring a higher-quality of saffron upon processing.
The best saffron is known as all red saffron, with no prizes for guessing why, and there’s a distinction called ‘negin grade’ for the saffron harvested from Iran and Afghanistan. Negin grade saffron is where the red threads, or stigma of the saffron flower, have formed together into a red cluster. Processing this takes even more work on the part of the gatherers, making it even more expensive to buy.
Before you buy any saffron, check out the manufacturer’s type and grading for the spice they’re trying to sell you. These can tell you a lot about how the spice has been grown and harvested.
A sure sign of adulterated saffron is where the saffron has yellowed or whited ends on them. This adds weight, saving the manufacturer valuable saffron to sell to the next customer. This is generally considered to be of lower quality. Think of it as watering down a drink to save expensive alcohol.
Before saffron hits your store shelves, it needs to be dried. As you can imagine, incorrectly drying saffron can damage the spice if not done correctly.
There’s a sweet spot that spice makers try to hit without leaving the saffron too moist or over-drying it until it’s useless.
Drying ensures the saffron lasts a long time, perfect for exporting all over the world and sitting in your kitchen for a long while as you make your way through it.
Like with many products, the packaging can be used to discern the best saffron. If your saffron is in a featureless plastic container, it’s probably not the best spice.
Let’s say you’ve already got some saffron as you’re reading this. How can you test it to see if it’s good?
There can be a lot of money in hawking subpar saffron to the masses, so it’s always best to get your saffron from trusted brands.
You can tell the quality of saffron in three ways:
- The Smell – Saffron has a smell. If you already know what it smells like but don’t recognize it coming from the saffron in front of you, it could be fake. Look for a floral aroma with a slight sweetness to it. This is a measure of the safranal in saffron.
- The Taste – Despite its smell, saffron has a very muted taste. It has an odd taste profile, being floral and sweet but also bitter. If your saffron seems like it’s trying hard to taste sweet, the chances are that it has been faked or artificially enhanced. This is the measure of picrocrocin in the saffron.
- The Test – If you don’t trust your senses, simply add the saffron to water. If it starts coloring the water quickly, your saffron may be fake or low-quality. Once again, consider if the saffron was made to ‘try too hard’ as a spice. Real saffron doesn’t lose its color when in water and will change the water color over time. This test measures the crocin of the saffron.