I have been a longtime turmeric lover. Years ago, when I was throwing it into everything, it was considered wacky and weird. And now? Oh, you know how it goes! Now everyone and their mom (or just mine?) are putting turmeric into and on just about everything. And for great reason! There are so many ways to use turmeric and I'm so excited to share my favourites with you!
Health Benefits of Turmeric
- Turmeric is extremely anti-inflammatory
- Its active component, curcumin, has been shown to be just as effective as anti-inflammatory drugs
- Turmeric is rich in antioxidants
- It's liver protective
- I hesitate to write this one, but by certain mechanisms it can aid weight loss
- The powerful phytonutrients contribute to an elevated mood
- Antioxidant power lends itself to helping our skin glow
- Turmeric has anti-microbial properties
- It has the ability to boost brain power
It might be tough to believe that one ingredient can do all this and more, but it can. That's the magic of using whole, real, powerful foods. They never work on just one action - but have a multitude of applications.
How Powerful Is Turmeric?
Check out this slide from Josh Gitalis' presentations on Crohn's Disease, comparing the anti-inflammatory actions of turmeric as compared with some of the more popular drugs.
"In the botanical world, there is one herb that really shines above the rest, turmeric. I showed a chart which outlined all of the inflammatory compounds turmeric affected, and then I compared that with the inflammatory compounds that some of the most popular drugs target."
How To Integrate Turmeric Into Your Diet
You're going to want to start slowly. The flavour is strong and for many of us, not one we are accustomed to. Typically I'd advise starting with a pinch working your way up. But once you begin using it, you’ll never want to stop!
Here are some of my favourite ways to use turmeric to get you started.
1. Turmeric Teas and Tonics
My turmeric tea recipe is one of the most popular posts on this blog. I first developed this recipe almost a decade ago and have been refining and rejigging it until it reached perfection.
You can brew your turmeric tea with a load of aromatic spices like ginger, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper (that last one helps to improve turmeric’s bioavailability). You can experiment with what spice combination works best for you, as well as how much turmeric you’d like to add.
During cold and flu season, make a turmeric tonic using fresh or ground turmeric, immune-boosting citrus and ginger, and honey. This concoction reminds me of Jamu Juice, a beverage we sipped on regularly during our time in Bali.
2. Dips and Spreads
Take your dips and spreads to the next level with the addition of turmeric. Hummus is the perfect dip for turmeric as it blends amazingly with chickpeas, garlic, tahini, lemon and cumin, but any favourite dip of yours will do.
Turmeric works especially well in vegan cheese-style spreads like cashew cream cheese or nacho cheese sauce, as the bright yellow/orange colour adds that visual similarity to traditional dairy-based dips and spreads.
Add a pinch of turmeric to your next smoothie and enjoy the anti-inflammatory powers. The key to creating a smoothie you won’t regret is dialling down the turmeric, especially if you’re a turmeric newbie. So don’t make turmeric the star attraction until you’re ready for it.
Instead, load up your smoothie with greens, plant-based milk, fruit and a little sweetness like dates or raw honey. Go for ¼ tsp of ground turmeric and then add more as needed. This is a good way to disguise turmeric for your kidlets, too.
4. Gluten-Free Grains
Infuse your grains with the power of turmeric by tossing it into the pot while your grains cook. You can use the powder, or add a few chunks of fresh turmeric and then remove them when you’re ready to serve your dish.
As with turmeric tea, you can certainly add more aromatic herbs into the pot for a tastier flair. Lots of herbs like fresh cilantro and parsley work well when folded into the mix at the end, or you can garnish the grains with chopped nuts or coconut. Suddenly, a plain side dish has a lot more pizzazz. Be warned: this will definitely stain your gluten-free grains bright yellow, but it’ll just be prettier that way.
Turmeric adds a lovely flavour and colour to a variety of marinades for tempeh, tofu, fish, chicken and red meat. One of my favourite ways to use turmeric is in this maple orange tempeh recipe - it's like sunshine in a pan! You can also add tempeh to your salad dressings, too.
6. ROASTED VEGETABLES
Sprinkle a teaspoon of turmeric onto your vegetables with a little olive oil, coconut oil or ghee before you roast them. You can also add a pinch of salt. Any vegetables will work, from the cruciferous family to root veggies to winter squash. This is a simple yet nutritious side dish that can add some turmeric goodness to virtually any meal.
Whenever I am making a stir-fry (or gently frying anything, like burgers, patties, falafel, etc.), I like to add a teaspoon of turmeric - or more - to the pan with some oil and let it fry for a minute before adding the rest of the ingredients to the pan. This helps to offset oxidation from the heat of the pan, and it helps to bring out the volatile properties in the turmeric.
Most commercial gluten-free breads are not the most health-supportive, as they're typically filled with starches and more refined gluten-free flours. Instead, I like to make my own! For an extra dash of turmeric love, mix in ground turmeric with your dry ingredients. If you're concerned about your bread being too orange, tread lightly and use 1/2 teaspoon. Some recipes to try:
My juicer is one of the most well-used appliances in my kitchen. So many of us tend to lean towards green juices or sweeter juices and totally forget that juicing turmeric is super awesome! You can juice turmeric alongside citrus fruits and ginger, and it also works amazingly well with sweet potatoes or yams, green apple and lemon. Go for it!
10. In Fermented nut Cheese
Have you tried making fermented nut cheese yet? If you haven't, get on that right now. I'm a big fan of fermented foods in general, but once I discovered how to make fermented vegan cheese, my life got infinitely better. You can start off with this recipe as a base and then add your favourite herbs and seasonings. Can you guess which one I recommend? Yep, it's the one with turmeric.
11. As a popcorn topping
One of my favourite snacky ways to use turmeric is in popcorn seasoning. Blend ground turmeric with hemp seeds, nutritional yeast and sea salt for the most delicious mixture. Generally, I like to blitz 1/4 cup hemp seeds, 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, 1 tbsp turmeric and 1/2 tsp salt. These are all strong flavours, so you can definitely alter this ratio to suit your own tastes.
This seasoning isn’t only great for popcorn – you can sprinkle it as a garnish on your dips and spreads, blend it into your vegan nut cheese, toss it on your vegetables, and sprinkle it on top of homemade crackers too.
12. In homemade spice mixes
You all know that I prefer to kick it from scratch and that means almost everything, including spice mixes. The spice mix that I blend most frequently is the homemade curry powder in the UnDiet Cookbook. It's a mix of a variety of spices, including turmeric, cumin, coriander, cloves, nutmeg, cayenne and more.
You can also blend turmeric with Italian-style herbs (dried basil, oregano, parsley), with onion powder and garlic powder, with dried fennel and dill, or cinnamon and black pepper. Play around and see what you love the most.
13. ROASTED NUTS AND SEEDS
Ground turmeric is the perfect seasoning for your roasted nuts and seeds, as well as for roasted chickpeas. All you need is turmeric and salt to taste, along with a little bit of oil. I like to slow roast my nuts and seeds at a lower temperature for longer, rather than blasting them at a higher heat.
And, for an even more delicious version, try soaking your nuts/seeds in water overnight with the turmeric and salt. The next morning, drain and dry out in the oven. This really takes the flavour to the next level and helps to remove some of the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors that interfere with our digestion.
14. oatmeal + breakfast porrIDges
Who says oatmeal has to be sweet? I've been seeing a load of savoury oatmeal recipes that include plenty of vegetables, beans and lentils, nuts, seeds, tofu and eggs. This is a great way to combine the comfort of oatmeal with more vegetable power.
Spice up your oatmeal, quinoa porridge or buckwheat porridge with some ground turmeric, herbs and sea salt. You will love this.
15. bone broths + vegetable broths
I always view my bone broths and vegetable broths as opportunities to pack in as much nutrition and superfood power as possible. This means adding the traditional veggies and herbs for sure, but also using more unusual items like goji berries, maca powder and of course turmeric.
You can use ground or fresh turmeric in your bone broth or vegetable broth to really amp up their health-supportive properties. It's a win-win with either!
16. Your Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte
Yes, I know this one is rather specific, but given how cuckoocrazy everyone goes for Pumpkin Spice Lattes, this one gets its very own number on the list. I have a most awesome recipe for a pumpkin spice latte that is dairy-free and processed sugar-free and combines the warmest and most powerful immune supportive herbs, including turmeric. So skip the coffee shop, and make up this spice blend instead.
17. Hearty Soups and Stews
A rich hearty soup is one of my all time favourite ways to enjoy turmeric. Not only will give your soup a rich glow, but typically with all of the other ingredients slow cooked together, you rarely can even taste the turmeric. This is a great introduction to turmeric loving.
18. Tooth whitener
I am not down with those chemical whitening strips and instead choose to use a natural tooth whitener recipe. Recently, I've seen a ton of tooth whitening recipes with turmeric and I'm definitely going to try this the next time my teeth need refreshing. Check out this recipe for a tutorial on how to do it but in a nutshell, it's pretty easy to do - just rub turmeric and coconut oil on your teeth. Easy peasy.
Turmeric is also great for dental health, reducing inflammation and pain, so it's worth trying.
19. soothing compresses
We tend to forget that our skin is our largest organ and what we put on it can permeate through to our insides. It's important to reduce our exposure to the chemicals in conventional beauty care products, but it's equally important to lather ourselves in beneficial ingredients that will soak in to our skin.
When used topically, castor oil can help heal injuries and tamper inflammation. Make a castor oil pack with turmeric to glean the anti-inflammatory benefits of both of these beneficial ingredients.
I think you’ll find that these easy ways to use turmeric can amp up your nutrition game and are accessible, not crazy or off the wall. Try them out and see what you think!
Bonus Turmeric Tips
- Did turmeric stain your blender yellow?
You have a couple options. You can do a quick blend with water and baking soda or try soaking with some white vinegar. My preferred method? Leave your blender out in the sunshine and let the sun work its magic. Also remember, our appliances are meant to be used. It's okay!
- Does turmeric need to be combined with black pepper for optimal absorption?
If doing your own research, you will find several references which say that turmeric combined with black pepper will increase the absorption. This is true. Why don't my recipes include black pepper? Because I'm allergic. Instead I always aim to combine turmeric with a fat so that the fat can help increase the absorption of the fat soluble constituents.
- What's better, fresh or dried?
The best option is the one that is most readily available to you! For most of my recommendations you can use them interchangeably. The typical rule when swapping fresh for dry or vice versa is that 1 part dry spice is equal to two parts fresh. So 1 tsp dried turmeric is the equivalent of 2 tsp of fresh.
Let me know in the comments if I missed your favourite use for turmeric!