What to Do With Fresh Turmeric Root

Turmeric is trending! Grab some fresh turmeric root and read on to find out what to do with this exotic ingredient.

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
Episode #453

fresh turmeric

Turmeric is all the rage for it's purported health benefits. Most of us know turmeric as a brilliant orange powder used in Indian and Southeast Asian cooking. It’s one of the primary ingredients in curry powder. And lately, “golden milk,” (a sort of spicy turmeric tea) is trending in everyone’s Instagram feed. 

From a culinary perspective, turmeric adds a warm spiciness and a vivid hue to food. On the health front, turmeric’s big claim to fame is its anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also being studied as a natural hedge against Alzheimer’s disease.

Ground turmeric has long been a staple in my spice cabinet. But a few weeks ago, I came across fresh turmeric in the produce section of my local natural food store. It looks a little bit like ginger root (or, if you’re in a more ghoulish frame of mind, a bit like large insect larvae). Having never seen it before, I bought a couple of pounds and brought it home to experiment.

The flavor of fresh turmeric is much different than the powdered turmeric you may be used to. It's definitely worth checking out ... if you can find it.

Although it took me a little while (and some orange-stained fingers) to figure out what to do with it, I’m now a hardcore fan. The flavor of fresh turmeric is much different than the powdered turmeric you may be used to. It's definitely worth checking out if you can find it. Here are ten fun things to do with turmeric, along with a few tips on how to handle it.

Ten Ways to Use Fresh Turmeric Root

  1. Add grated turmeric root to stews and soups. Although Indian curries are an obvious fit, you can use turmeric in a wide variety of dishes. Try it in a butternut squash or vegetable soup or stir fry.

  2. Add it to rice or other whole grains before cooking. Both the color and flavor will pop.

  3. Stir some grated turmeric root into your tuna, egg, or tofu salad.

  4. Whisk fresh turmeric root into a vinaigrette or any other salad dressing. Drizzle over raw salads or cooked vegetables

  5. Make a compound butter. Mash grated turmeric root and ground black pepper into softened butter and melt over grilled fish or roasted vegetables.

  6. Add a small chunk to your smoothie.

  7. If you own a centrifugal juicer, try juicing some fresh turmeric root and using to spike up other fruit and vegetable juice blends. Pairs especially well with ginger juice.

  8. Add grated turmeric to scrambled or deviled eggs.

  9. Make turmeric tea. Simmer grated turmeric and ginger in hot water for several minutes to make a warming tea.

  10. Try golden milk. Simmer grated turmeric and ginger along with a few black peppercorns, cinnamon stick, and cardamom pods in milk or soymilk for several minutes. Strain and serve with a touch of honey.

Tips for Working with Raw Turmeric Root

Here are a few additional tipsgleaned through personal trial and errorfor dealing with this unusual ingredient.

How to store it: Wash your turmeric root, shake it dry, and then wrap it in a paper towel to absorb any excess moisture and store in an unclosed plastic bag in your vegetable crisper. Stored this way, it will keep for a 2-3 weeks. If you hang on to it for too long, it will either dry out and shrivel up or get moldy. Either way, toss it.

How to prepare it: Use a microplane grater to finely grate the root. (No need to peel it.) Fresh turmeric root can stain your fingers and fingernails so you may want to protect them with latex gloves. It may also leave a sticky orange residue on your grater. A scrub with hot soapy water should remove it.

Boost the benefit: Turmeric’s health benefits are due to a compound called curcumin, but this molecule is rather poorly absorbed from the digestive tract. Piperine, a compound found in black pepper, greatly enhances the absorption of curcumin, so turmeric and pepper make a beneficial spice combo.

Try This at Home

If you’ve never enjoyed fresh turmeric, I hope this week’s episode has inspired you to check it out. Are you already fan of fresh turmeric? Post your photos and recipes for your favorite ways to enjoy it on the Nutrition Diva Facebook page.

Image of turmeric © Shutterstock

About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show. 

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