I’ve made recipes that included turmeric, and I’ve read articles about its health benefits, but I’ve made the same recipes without turmeric without any noticeable taste difference - the lovely color was missing, but that’s about it. Is this because I’m using powdered turmeric from the grocery spice rack? Or does turmeric lack a definitive taste?
Turmeric does have it's own taste. It can be tasted by adding a pinch or two to lukewarm milk.
Turmeric leaves also have a specific taste, that's why rice cakes are prepared in turmeric leaves, which are peeled off before eating.
Turmeric does have its own flavour, even dried. However it's commonly used with other, stronger, spices. This means that it adds a bit of depth to the flavour but in a subtle way.
The flavour of turmeric also cooks out to some extent (as does ginger, to which it's related) so adding it towards the end of cooking retains more flavour. For a highly-coloured dish I make (a mild curry using Quorn or chicken with a yoghurt- and almond-based sauce) I add some early, and some more after the yoghurt. Without the latter, the flavour isn't as good; without the former the colour isn't as good.
If you want to get an idea of the taste of turmeric on its own, try steeping some in a little vodka, straining, and sipping. I did this recently for other reasons and the taste is quite pleasant, if unexpected in a drink.
Go to an Asian or Indian market and get fresh turmeric root if you want to know the true nature of it. You will find that it’s mildly spicy quite similar to cinnamon and ginger but much milder, don’t get it on any clothing unless you want it to remain that color. It’s remarkable in curried eggs, and boiled eggs at Easter are beautiful and natural with a lovely taste.