I'm a bit confused with how much saffron to use in a paella recipe. I've seen numerous recipes that state to use 1gram. However I have a 1gram jar and that seems like a lot of saffron to me. I've spotted some recipes that say to use 1/2 a teaspoon and they state that this is about equal to 1gram. But my jar of saffron is a lot more than 1/2 a teaspoon.

10 Answers 10


I agree with the others that 1 gram is way too much saffron. Unless you're making one of those huge outdoor pans of paella which feeds 20 people.

Exact quantities depend on how much paella you're making, and the freshness of the saffron involved. I tend to use a hefty pinch, which would be around 12-20 threads, for a paella for 6 (2-3 liters). I'll adjust that downwards for very fresh saffron, and upwards for old stale saffron. You can tell how fresh your saffron is by (a) smelling it, and (b) soaking it in a small amount of warm water. Fresh saffron will smell strongly floral/spicy, and will turn the water bright yellow very quickly.

I like saffron a lot though, and also tend to err on the side of more rather than less.

  • 2
    Good information based on your experience (12-20 threads for 6-person paella). I have and make a paella recipe (for a 14" pan, 2-4 servings) that calls for a "large pinch". I have never cared much about being exact, but decided to see what the internet says. This article claims it is 50 threads, which seems like a lot. Regardless, next time, I will pay more attention and use the 12-20 for 6 servings as a gauge. Jul 11, 2017 at 19:16

Err on the side of caution. Too much saffron can be overwhelming to the point that it will destroy the dish.

  • A couple (4-6) of threads should do it. Buy whole saffron. Soak it in warm water, and yes, don't use too much of it. Aug 25, 2011 at 21:33
  • @BaffledCook has got it right- maybe even six is too much! One horrible experience 18 months ago and even the smell of it sickens me to this day.
    – Doug
    Sep 15, 2011 at 4:20
  • 3
    Not to mention it's an expensive mistake.
    – Preston
    Feb 14, 2015 at 0:34

A gram is an awful lot. Most recipes I'm familiar with call for a pinch or sometimes a specific (small) number of threads.

Crush the threads first; don't add them whole or you won't get as much out of them.

If your goal is the bright yellow color, soaking the crushed saffron threads in a little wine or vinegar for 10 minutes or so helps quite a bit. I don't know if this makes a difference on how much saffron flavor you get. (And obviously this has to be in a dish that won't mind a couple tablespoons of wine or vinegar.)


I add saffron sparingly, starting with a medium pinch of the threads as I'm cooking, and adding slowly as I go, with pauses for steeping of the flavor. Have occasionally used the powdered (really expensive) saffron and warn you to be extremely careful with that product - once ruined a beautiful seafood stew trying to 'tap' the powder out of the bottle.

Bottom line:

Start with small amounts and taste. It is an extremely powerful spice (used a lot by medicine manufacturers) and can end up making your dish taste like vitamin pills if you aren't careful. Experience will guide you as you use it more.

  • 4
    An interesting note for those interested: The yellow robes worn by Buddhists are colored with saffron. This fragrant spice was used to cover the smell of the original robe(s?), which were recycled death shrouds.
    – Frankie
    Aug 24, 2011 at 0:13
  • I'd read the color was supposed to be saffron, for the symbolism, but the dye used was turmeric, jackfruit, or other cheap plant-based yellow dyes since saffron is very expensive and to acquire it in sufficient quantities for dye would not seem in keeping with Buddhism's ascetic ideals. article of monks' robes and saffron color here
    – Megha
    Jan 21, 2019 at 4:07

Take it from an old burned-out hotel chef of 40 years...You are going to have to use trial and error until you have mastered this spice or any other spice.

Heat the liquid you are using, add an average pinch for three cups of rice and go from there. If it works, good. If not, add more (or less) next time.

Add garlic powder, if there's too much saffron, to compensate. If not enough, add paprika and cumin to cover your mistake until next time you make the dish.

Eventually you will master the spice, just endure patiently...


One gram does seem like too much saffron. From what I've seen, most recipes call for 1 pinch to 1/2 teaspoon of saffron.

To make a pound of saffron, over two hundred thousand stigmas from crocus sativus flowers must be harvested by hand. That's why saffron is the world's most expensive spice, and also why so there are so many fakes on the market. Fortunately, a little of the good stuff goes a long way--it only takes a few threads to add saffron's distinct yellow color and earthy aroma to a family meal of paella or bouillabaisse.



I have read that 2 to 3 strands per person is as much as you need to use when it comes to Saffron. Its not just overpowering to the dish but is also toxic in high amounts.

One medical site states that a medical overdose of saffron, whether used in a dish or medicinally (caps), is five grams and the symptoms range from vertigo, jaundice, vomitting, nosebleeds, bloody evacuations as well as death. Yes I know. Death. LOL.

On the lighter side just use very little saffron. The two to three strands per person seems like the best "rule of thumb" until u are more accustomed to the spice.

  • 2
    It is VERY hard to poison someone with Saffron since most Saffron are sold in little 1-2g jars. Unless you buy several jars of it and dump it all into a dish, this should be a non-issue. (There are much cheaper ways to poison someone...)
    – Jay
    May 30, 2013 at 6:03

I'm going to disagree with the other answers a bit, and say you can have a recipe, a good recipe, that asks for a lot of saffron. Whether that's a recipe (or a flavor) you like is a different story, it is just not an automatic fail to ask for a larger amount.

I have a bread recipe that asks for a gram and a half of saffron (it does make two loaves)(oh, but it's so, so good). I use the whole amount, and do not regret it because I really like the flavor and color it gives. I have a few other recipes, a saffron and garlic mayo dip, and a risotto recipe, that I use saffron pretty generously for - starting with a heavy pinch (thumb-to-side-of-finger pinch) and occasionally adding a bit more to taste. I do make the most of the saffron I add with grinding, hot steeping, and rinsing spice dust into the dish, and I do admit I make these dishes very rarely, since saffron is dear, but that's how it goes.

And again, it isn't wrong to be sparing or prefer less, it's just also not wrong to be generous or prefer more. Mama would use a scant pinch, or a few threads, to give her (usually sweet)(often large quantities) dishes a bit of a saffron scent and that's enough for her. Plenty of people like it like that. But there's my brother, who has said that saffron "only gives a bit of color, right, there's no flavor to it" (based on history with mama's very light usage), and might benefit from a stronger-saffron'd dish if he was here to taste it. Along the same lines if I would get three dishes out of the same amount that gives her ten dishes, I like my three dishes enough more to go seven dishes without, so it's worth it to me.

So, to bring the whole thing back to your paella, I'd suggest finding a recipe that looks good (pictures, instructions, and reviews all appeal) and trusting it whether it asks for threads, tsp(s), or gr(s). And if in the end, the flavor of the saffron is a bit light or elusive, next time you make it you can add a bit more, and if it's a bit strong or feels out of balance, next time add less.


Saffron is one of the most appreciated (and expensive by weight) spices, due to the laborious process of obtaining it from the flowers. It is growth mainly in the Mediterranean area. You only need a small amount (0.15g or 3-4 threads) for a 6 people paella.


As a person who is in the business for Saffron, and who loves cooking ., i would say it depends on the quantity. generally 3 to 4 strands should suffice.

  • Of course it depends on the quantity - I think you mean to say quality. Which does not mean much if you do not explain what quality to look for. Can you add more info?
    – user34961
    Jan 8, 2019 at 12:38
  • Actually, i meant quantity of Paella, like how many servings. Sorry for not being very clear.
    – Zainab
    Jan 10, 2019 at 11:26
  • As for the quality, well, there are so many ways to look for a "good quality". The most important one is differentiating between real and fake Saffron. To test whether Saffron is fake or real, put a few strands in a glass of water. if the color of strand changes, then it is fake. also, if the water has orange color within 5 minutes, it is fake. real Saffron leaves a bright yellow color and the red color of the strand does not change. Fake Saffron is generally made of meat shreds or corn threads.
    – Zainab
    Jan 10, 2019 at 11:38
  • Provided you have REAL Saffron, the higher quality Saffron is measured by multiple factors. 1. the color dark red/maroon vs red (Afghan Saffron is considered of highest quality with dark red color), 2. The length of the strands (longer is better), and 3. the Freshness of Saffron.
    – Zainab
    Jan 10, 2019 at 11:40
  • The Freshness part is very difficult to tell, if you are not very experienced. Generally, when you buy Saffron, the stronger the smell, the more likely the Saffron is old . This is because it has already let some of its smell out. A lot of people think that stronger smell after opening the bottle is an indication of high quality, which is not true. it only indicates that Saffron is old.
    – Zainab
    Jan 10, 2019 at 11:40

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