The most expensive spice in the world

If you've ever started to cook a recipe and realized you needed a specific spice in order to make it, you may have been surprised to find out just how expensive some spices at the grocery store are. You might be even more shocked if you're trying to buy a small jar of the most expensive spice in the world, which can sometimes cost up to $5,000 a pound (via Luxury Insider). 

The spice in question? Saffron. Commonly called for in Spanish, Middle Eastern, Italian, and Indian food, you'll need to shell out a pretty penny for this spice. But why is it so expensive? 

Why is saffron so expensive?

Saffron's high price tag exists for a reason — it's actually a very labor-intensive crop. 

Most saffron is grown in Greece, India, Iran, Italy, and Spain. Saffron is the stigma of the Crocus sativus flower. Each flower has three stigmas, which we know as saffron threads, and they're picked by hand. 

All in all, it takes between 50,000 to 75,000 flowers to make just one pound of saffron, and harvesting that single pound can take up to 20 hours of labor. 

You'll sometimes find inexpensive saffron, but be wary. That's usually either a different product entirely (sometimes "Mexican saffron," called azafran, which is actually dried safflower petals), or saffron that's been fraudulently cut with turmeric or paprika (via Raw Spice Bar). You should also opt for saffron threads over ground saffron, because it's easier to tell if you're getting the real deal or not when the threads are intact. 

How much saffron do I need to cook with?

If you're cooking paella, curry, or Persian rice and find yourself in need of saffron, you might worry that you need to take out a second line of credit on your house just to afford the stuff. 

Yes, it may be expensive, but luckily you only need a bit of this spice to add a unique flavor to your dishes (via Money Inc).

Most recipes call for a pinch of saffron, which is the equivalent of about 1/8 teaspoon of ground saffron (The Spruce Eats). You don't want to use too much, as the saffron flavor can quickly overpower your recipe, so start small and add more if you think the recipe needs it.