Saffron has been coveted throughout history—not only as a spice, but as a dye, a perfume, and a medicine—and remains one of the culinary world's most precious commodities. Essential to the cuisines of India, Morocco, and Iran, it is also the crucial ingredient in classic European dishes, such as Spain's paella and France’s bouillabaisse. At once floral and pleasantly bitter, saffron is reminiscent of tobacco, hay, and cedar, with nuances of pepper, citrus seed, and menthol. This elusive flavor is best coaxed out by briefly toasting the threads in a skillet or steeping them in hot water, after which cooks often crumble it directly into the pot or use it to infuse a stock or wine. Check out our best saffron recipes below—extraordinarily versatile, the spice enhances seafood, meats, and even desserts.