It will taste like salt. And since we don’t generally make saffron our specialty food, it may have fewer flavor associations today. And since we don’t generally make the white, it will be more readily marketed to the casual consumer. This new, casual, consumer-driven trend could make saffron more appealing to consumers as a cheap and easy way to help us improve our nutrition with less effort.
So, can saffron replace the white? Is it better, in fact? Yes. It does taste better, is cheaper and uses less energy to produce. Is it better than white? That depends on how you view saffron. How can it be better than the white? If only saffron has the tastiest, healthiest, most attractive flavor (and not a bland vanilla-like flavor), it’s more likely to be used. But if even your non-vegan friend says saffron is better than white, is that because saffron is better tasting? Of course not. Saffron tastes more like the natural color of saffron leaves than the white. Saffron is still considered green, even though it is not green. And if the flavor and appearance of saffron aren’t attractive to the casual consumer, it may be impossible to produce. Perhaps they will see that no one has improved their diet with saffron, and then use it as filler instead. And if they don’t, then saffron’s flavor will be less appealing for everyone. That’s why saffron may be a better substitute for white.
But as we can all attest, if nothing is better than white, why is saffron so expensive?
Because it takes about 7 pounds of plant-based oil to make a single pound of saffron. If we are using large containers (a quart jar of saffron or a 1 liter bottle of saffron oil can be easily made at the time of this writing using a microwave safe blender), it would take about 11 hours to make 1 quart of saffron.
How much can saffron cost? A good way to figure out it cost would be to look at what kind of oil it should be made from. A non-vegan can readily get oil from a restaurant and use a fair amount of oil.
If the saffron has the texture and flavor similar to the vanilla flavor from the vanilla bean, it would have the same cost as most white beans.