Why Saffron Is the Most Expensive Spice in the World

A couple pounds of the spice could set you back thousands of dollars.

Saffron threads in a round mug on white wooden backgroundorinocoArt/Shutterstock

Italian risotto, Spanish paella, and Indian curry all have something in common—saffron. People know the spice because of its very distinct flavor, bright color, and high price. Quality saffron can cost around $3,000 for just two pounds.

Saffron’s reputation as the most expensive spice in the world is because of the growing process. Only a small part of the saffron flower—the stigmata—is actually used for the spice. So it takes some 75,000 saffron flowers to make just one pound of spice. The stigmata is delicate, so harvesting and drying them is a costly, manual job.

The plant is just as delicate as the stigmata itself. It only grows under very specific conditions, blooming for only one week of the year. They grow best in full sun and well-drained, rich soil in an area that’s dry in the summer. Indian, Iranian, and Spanish saffrons are the most popular types, though Americans mostly purchase the Spanish variety.

People are willing to pay so much for the most expensive spice in the world thanks to the reported health benefits and hard-to-describe taste. Research shows saffron could improve mood, reduce PMS symptoms, aid weight loss, and more. In the past, the ancient Greeks, Chinese, and Indians used the spice for everything from perfume to medical potions, too. Here are 10 other healing herbs and spices to add to your list.

If you try cooking with saffron, make sure not to buy the ground variety. Some sellers cut it with other spices like turmeric or paprika. Instead, buy from a trustworthy seller. This saffron has 850 perfect customer reviews and won’t break the bank, unlike these overpriced grocery store items you might find on your next shopping trip.

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Emily DiNuzzo
Emily DiNuzzo is an associate editor at The Healthy and a former assistant staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her work has appeared online at the Food Network and Well + Good and in print at Westchester Magazine, and more. When she's not writing about food and health with a cuppa by her side, you can find her lifting heavy things at the gym, listening to murder mystery podcasts, and liking one too many astrology memes.