turmeric powder and root turmeric powder and root The beneficial ingredient in turmeric root is a compound called curcumin, known for its anti-inflammatory properties. (Photo: tarapong srichaiyos / Shutterstock)

The rise of turmeric: How to use it in your favorite foods and reap the benefits

This storied spice has some serious health potential. It also tastes great in recipes.

Have you heard the buzz about turmeric? It's only been going on for the last, say, 4,000 years. In case you haven't, here's some background: Turmeric, affectionately known as the "golden spice," is derived from a perennial plant in the same family as ginger. The plant is harvested for its rhizomes, which is where the bright yellow turmeric spice comes from. And in India it’s been used as a medicine for centuries, associated with the treatment of everything from jaundice to cancer to smallpox.

Nowadays, turmeric is the breakout star of a category known as "functional foods," and India grows, produces and exports nearly all of it. It’s a popular ingredient in many Indian and Mediterranean dishes, including a potent tea that some call “golden milk.” And, did you ever wonder what gives curry that distinctive yellow color?

So if you're wondering how to take advantage of this power-packed plant, we suggest you start with your next meal, with these six inventive ideas.

Roasted popcorn cauliflower

Popcorn cauliflowerRoasted popcorn cauliflower. Try it at your next movie night. (Photo: Sarah F. Berkowitz)

In the words of the uber-popular "Eat This, Not That" book: don't eat popcorn, eat popcorn cauliflower! This is yet another ingenious way to use cauliflower not just as a side dish with dinner, but as a healthy, tasty snack. And it's quite attractive with that rich golden color, achieved by – yes, you guessed it – turmeric.

Get our Israeli Kitchen recipe for roasted popcorn cauliflower.

Green chicken soup

Chicken soup with riceChicken soup with rice (Photo: Miriam Kresh)

You know that steamy bowl of chicken soup your mom used to make for you when you got sick? And when you felt better, you totally credited that chicken soup with saving your life? (And Mom, too, if you knew what was good for you.) Well, Israeli Kitchen's founder, Miriam Kresh, took that remedy-recipe to new heights with the addition of not one, but two super spices: turmeric and cardamom. Both find a happy home in many Mediterranean, African and Indian recipes, and in this soup, it's just heavenly.

Get our Israeli Kitchen recipe for green chicken soup.

Grilled shawarma-spiced chicken cutlets

Shawarma-spiced chickenEnjoy a Mediterranean-themed dinner with this spicy, comforting shawarma-spiced chicken. (Photo: Sarah F. Berkowitz)

Shawarma, meet chicken. Chicken, meet shawarma. It's a popular street food in Israel for hungry customers, cooked and served on pita bread and stuffed with veggies. It can take many forms, including as a lamb, beef or chicken dish. This is Israeli Kitchen contributor Sarah Berkowitz's take on shawarma, using turmeric (among other spices) to produce a zesty coating. If you're pressed for time, you can buy a premixed shawarma spice blend at many Mediterranean stores.

Get our Israeli Kitchen recipe for shawarma spiced chicken cutlets.

Overnight beef stew

Overnight beef stewOvernight beef stew (Photo: Fanfo/Shutterstock)

Time is every chef's greatest companion. (Yeah, we just made that up.) In other words, rushing through a recipe that's meant to be prepared slowly will only weaken the final product. Chefs know this, and that's why meals like this overnight beef stew are so timeless and widely favored. Assemble it in minutes, and all you have to do after that is wait. And don't forget the turmeric for an exotic touch to this very cozy dish.

Get our Israeli Kitchen recipe for overnight beef stew.

Fish patties with herbs and lemons

Fish patties in herb and lemon sauceFish patties, enhanced with turmeric, make an excellent and elegant dinner. (Photo: Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock)

Just a half a teaspoon of turmeric is all that's needed to imbue these fish patties with a world of flavor and satisfaction. "The combination of onions, plenty of coriander and lemons, mellowed together with a little pungent turmeric, makes a most delicious tangy sauce for the light fish cakes," recipe author Kresh said of the recipe. "We loved the dish. I had to promise the Little One that I’d make it again, many times."

Get our Israeli Kitchen recipe for fish patties with herbs and lemon.

Turmeric tea

turmeric teaTurmeric tea is used in many cultures as a remedy for several ailments. (Photo: NADKI/Shutterstock)

Golden milk. Golden tea. Liquid gold. Whatever you call it, this turmeric-infused hot drink is one of the best ways to reap the benefits of this super-spice. Its most effective role, medical experts say, is as an anti-inflammatory agent, and many Eastern medicine practitioners swear by it. And as if its health-enhancing powers weren't enticing enough, it takes only a couple of minutes to whip up this warm, inviting beverage.

Get the recipe for turmeric tea, by Dr. Josh Axe, author of "Healthy Recipes."


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Related Topics: Healthy eating, Recipes

The rise of turmeric: How to use it in your favorite foods and reap the benefits
Turmeric recipes: How to use the storied spice in your favorite foods and reap the health benefits.