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CHEFS In Season: Fresh Turmeric
Featured Fresh Turmeric Recipes
About Fresh Turmeric
Turmeric (Curcuma longa), a rhizome and member of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae), is native to tropical South and Southeast Asia. Known for its brilliant yellow color and use as a textile dye, turmeric is an essential ingredient in curries and other South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine. But, just as fresh ginger and powdered ginger differ in flavor and complexity, so do fresh and powdered turmeric.

Look for fresh turmeric in specialty produce sections or Asian food markets – the finger-sized rhizomes often sit next to their ginger root cousins. Although it looks like ginger and wears the same papery skin, fresh turmeric is less fibrous and smaller. Scrape off the skin and you’ll find bright orange flesh that easily stains fingers. In contrast to ginger’s pungency and heat, fresh turmeric is milder though still astringent with a crunchy texture and earthy fragrance. It blends well with traditional Asian staples like lemon grass, ginger, lime, hot chilies and coconut milk.

In addition to culinary uses, turmeric is used in Chinese herbal medicine and India’s Ayurvedic practices. Turmeric contains curcumin, a chemical compound responsible for the yellow color. Because of curcumin’s antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric has potential applications in modern Western medicine.
How to Choose Fresh Turmeric
Fresh turmeric is smaller than fresh ginger. The main section is plump and cylindrical, tapering on both ends. Small knobs may protrude from the main stem. When choosing fresh turmeric, pick rhizomes that are firm, smooth-skinned and mold-free.
How to Store Fresh Turmeric
For peak flavor and texture, use fresh turmeric as soon as possible. Fresh, unpeeled turmeric will keep in the refrigerator for two to three weeks. To store, wipe dry, wrap in a clean paper towel and place in a locking plastic bag. When you’re ready to use the turmeric, cut off just what you need. Then, rewrap the remainder and refrigerate.
How to Prepare Fresh Turmeric
Handle fresh turmeric with care. Its orange flesh can stain skin, cloth, tools and surfaces. To minimize staining, wash hands, tools, cutting boards and storage vessels immediately after prepping. For more protection while handling peeled turmeric, wear disposable kitchen gloves.
Prep fresh turmeric just as you would fresh ginger. Break off a knob or cut a piece of the main stem. Gently scrape off the papery skin with a sharp vegetable peeler or spoon.

Then, slice, chop or grate the root according to your recipe. Because turmeric is less fibrous than ginger, you will use less effort prepping. Store prepped turmeric in a glass bowl until you’re ready to add it to the dish.
How to Cook Fresh Turmeric
Here are easy ways to begin using fresh turmeric in your cooking.

  • When cooking whole sweet potatoes, pierce their skin several times with a fork and bake at 400 F for 40-50 minutes or until fork tender.
  • Use fresh turmeric in any recipe that calls for powdered turmeric. In general, use a double quantity. If the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of dried turmeric, use 2 teaspoons of grated or finely chopped fresh turmeric.
  • When using fresh turmeric in curry, stews, soups, rice, couscous or stir fries, add to the pan after toasting the dry spices or cook in oil with other aromatics.
  • Combine fresh turmeric with fresh ginger when you want a milder ginger flavor. If a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of grated ginger, use ½ teaspoon fresh turmeric and ½ teaspoon fresh ginger.
  • Want to add color to your rice dish or sauce? If you don’t have saffron on hand, substitute a small amount of grated fresh turmeric. The turmeric will give the dish the desired yellow color without changing the overall flavor.
  • Use fresh grated or sliced turmeric as a vegetable in salsa, pickle or chutney recipes. To fully release flavor, heat the turmeric in a small amount of oil or liquid used in the recipe. Then stir cooked turmeric into the remaining ingredients.
  • Substitute fresh sliced or chopped turmeric for some or all of the carrots in soups.
  • Make hot ginger and turmeric tea. Peel and slice equal quantities of each. Place in pot with filtered water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and pour. If desired, add honey to taste.

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