It may not be as popular as ginger, which is of the same family, but turmeric still finds its way and takes its rightful space in traditional Filipino cooking. Known for its orange color, which can leave stubborn stains on hands and clothes, this mighty rhizome lends an earthy, mustard-like, slightly bitter flavor and a bright golden yellow tinge to dishes. It isn’t as spicy as ginger or citrusy as galangal, but turmeric still packs a punch. And no, it isn’t curry, although turmeric makes up 25 percent of most curry powders in the market.

Fresh turmeric can be prepared just like ginger. You can use it whole, unpeeled, or pounded. It can also be peeled and sliced, then julienned, finely chopped, or grated. Filipino cooking makes use of turmeric in all these forms, proving that the spice is not at all foreign to the country. It is used in everyday cooking such as when preparing paksiw na bangus, tinola, kinulob na tilapia, and arroz valenciana. Some even use it to give popular comfort food like arroz caldo, chicken inasal, and java rice a nice yellowish hue.

In Batangas, locals add turmeric or luyang dilaw to their adobo, a brighter yellow version compared to the usual all-brown dish. Turmeric is also added to Bicol’s coconut milk-based stews to give their sweet sauces a nice earthy contrast. In the province of Samar, turmeric finds its way into their version of escabeche, a dish of fried fish enrobed in a sweet and sour sauce. Further south of the archipelago, turmeric is a staple in many kitchens. In Zamboanga, turmeric is sometimes added to the popular satti for added color. The spice also finds many uses in Maranao cooking. It is added to the yellow spiced rice called kyuning and in a dish of chicken cooked in coconut milk called manuk na piaparan. All of these prove that the oft-overlooked turmeric is an essential ingredient in Filipino homes. Try out the recipes below and experience the wonders of this spice!


Ginataang Manok sa Luyang Dilaw

Serves 4
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cooking Time 30 minutes


  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 15 grams turmeric, peeled and sliced into strips
  • 500 grams chicken pieces
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 green finger chili, sliced in half
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce (patis)
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 bunch chili leaves (dahon ng sili), picked and tough stems discarded
  1. Heat oil in a pot over medium heat. Sauté onion, garlic, and turmeric until fragrant.
  2. Add chicken pieces and sear until light browned, about 5 minutes per side.
  3. Add coconut milk and bring to a boil.
  4. Add finger chili, fish sauce, and pepper. Lower heat and simmer until sauce is thick, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add chili leaves and simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat and serve.


Samar-style Escabecheng isda

Serves 4
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cooking Time 25 minutes


  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 500 grams whole fish or fish fillets, cleaned (you can use lapu-lapu, hasa-hasa, tilapia, labahita, or any other fresh white fish) 
  • ½ cup cane vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • 20 grams whole turmeric, unpeeled and pounded
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 native tomato, sliced into wedges
  • 1 small carrot, sliced into rounds
  • 1 red onion, sliced into rounds
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch, dissolved in 2 teaspoons water
  1. Heat oil in a frying pan. Fry fish until crispy and golden. If using fish fillets, you may dip fillets in egg and coat with breadcrumbs. Set aside.
  2. Combine vinegar, water, turmeric, and salt in a saucepan. Place over medium-low heat. Bring to a boil then lower heat to simmer.
  3. Add sugar and mix until dissolved.
  4. Add tomatoes, carrots, onions, and bell pepper. Simmer until just tender, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add dissolved cornstarch and simmer until the sauce is thick, about 5 minutes.
  6. Serve fried fish topped with sauce and vegetables.


Kyuning Rice

Serves 4 
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cooking Time 25 to 35 minutes


  • 1 cup uncooked rice, washed
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon coconut or vegetable oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon ground fresh turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 lemongrass, bruised and tied
  1. Combine all ingredients in the pot of a rice cooker and stir well. Cook rice until tender, about 25 to 35 minutes. Serve warm.