Saffron, mustard powder and marigold can all replace turmeric in a recipe. If these ingredients are unavailable, annatto extract can be used, as can ginger and cumin.
Saffron, the world's most expensive spice, has a similar flavor to turmeric and can color a dish in the same way. It is used to give food a bright yellow color.
Mustard powder can replace turmeric in a recipe, but it does not color food. A mixture of mustard powder and saffron brings color and flavor to a dish.
Marigold has a very mild flavor but is a similar color to turmeric. When substituting it into a recipe, multiply the quantity of turmeric by three to four times to calculate the necessary amount of marigold.
Annatto extract is similar to marigold in that it colors food without imparting a lot of flavor. Steep annatto seeds in boiling water for 20 minutes, and use the water to color the food.
Cumin is another bitter spice that can replace turmeric; while it has a lot of flavor, cumin does not alter a dish's appearance.
Ginger has a spicier flavor than turmeric, so should be used cautiously when substituting. However, ginger and turmeric powder are both made from aromatic plant tubers, so there are similarities in flavor.
People have used turmeric when cooking and making medicine for over 4,000 years.