The Country That Produces Most Of The World's Saffron Supply

Even if you haven't had the chance to experience the nuanced, floral, earthy flavor of saffron, you most likely know one common thing about it. Any guesses? Yep, calling saffron pretty pricey would be an understatement, as it's the most expensive spice in the world. After all, 1 kilogram of authentic saffron costs over $10,000, per Business Insider. Anyone who has ever tasted saffron can argue that its distinctive taste justifies the high price. 

Common in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and North African cuisines, this prized spice's cultivation dates back over 3,500 years (via MasterClass). For ages, saffron has been incorporated into cuisines of all kinds to infuse them with its vibrant character, grassy aroma, and a taste that everyone seems to experience differently. The Kitchn tried to decode this range in perception: "Some say it's floral, some say it's like honey, and some would just say pungent." 

Saffron is derived from a flower of Crocus sativus, AKA saffron crocus. Harvesting saffron is a tedious and laborious task. To put it into perspective, 75,000 saffron flowers give a yield of 225,000 stigmas that helps create just one pound of saffron, per Gardening Know How. But which country is leading these efforts as the biggest saffron producer and exporter in the world? 

Iran is the world's leading producer and exporter of saffron

While countries like India, Greece, Afghanistan, Spain, and Morocco produce saffron, Iran takes the crown as the world's largest producer of finest-quality saffron or "red gold." Such is the supremacy of Iran that it produces an astounding 90% of overall saffron in the world, reports Eater. What's the secret? Well, it has a lot to do with Iran's dry, sunny climate and rich history of growing the spice for thousands of years. Saffron has a significant role in Persian culture and cuisine, and the quality of the country's spice is arguably the best.

Iran exported 206 tons of red gold to 52 countries in 2021 (via Financial Tribune). The increasing demand for organic ingredients and consumer awareness is helping boost sales and market growth of saffron. Moreover, this highly expensive spice packed with antioxidants has numerous potential health benefits, including cancer-fighting properties, preventing nervous system disorders, boosting mood, aiding weight loss, and reducing heart disease risk factors (via Healthline). 

If you want to cook an intensely flavored paella recipe, you'd have to invest in costly saffron, but it will be worth your money. However, you could consider Costco's affordable saffron that is turning heads or even a substitute for saffron.