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Dec 18, 2012 03:02 PM

Ok, what the heck are THESE things and how do I use them?

My GF got these in Mexico recently. I was able to determine that "azafran" is "saffron". It just doesn't look like any saffron I know. A Google search for brown saffron pods gave **nothing**. Even an image search for "El Sazonador" "azafran" turned up *nothing*.

So if these pods are saffron, how is it used and why can't I find any info on it??

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  1. Not sure what they are used for but another name is maybe zaffron pellets

    Azafran de bolita will render a fair number of results

    2 Replies
      1. re: TeRReT

        Thanks, dude. That gave me a clue at least, which led to this:

        "Ditaxis heterantha Zucc. (azafrán de bolita), a plant of the
        Euphorbiaceae family, grows wild in the semiarid regions of Mexico. Its
        seeds are used by the inhabitants of the regions where it grows to give
        color and to enhance the flavor of food."

        Which translates to "saffron ball". ....But alas, that doesn't mean anything in our language. I have to surmise, there is no english (or other?) equivalent of the Spanish name for this spice, as it only grows in parts of Mexico. "Whole saffron" is just the saffron threads that are commonly known, so that's not what these pods are called.

        I now find there's a thread on this very site from 2008, that discusses this mysterious spice. The OP also didn't get much info on it, even after asking Rick Bayless! Apparently, it may be hallucinogenic if eaten straight...

        Rick Bayless needs to consult Yahoo! Answers. That's where I found some of the only precious little-to-nonexistent internet information on how to use this hard-to-find spice. The respondent says:

        "It is used in rice in Mexico. Add 3 or 4 berries while the rice is cooking. It will also make the rice a brighter color."

        What makes it *most* confusing, is there are completely different products that go under the same name; "azafran". There is an "azafran" that looks just like saffron threads, but it is derived from safflower. And so, I would guess the azafran de bolita is related to safflower (aka Mexican saffron), than traditional saffron.


        Wikipedia knows it as: "Ditaxis heterantha" (They say its related to *neither* saffron nor safflower...).

      2. So it's pseudo-saffron. A yellow coloring agent, used mostly in rice, to mimic saffron. Ta-da.

        2 Replies
        1. re: pdxgastro

          or psychedelic saffron if you eat it straight

          1. re: pdxgastro

            Yes, but I'm hoping it also imparts a flavour to the food, like saffron (or turmeric) does. I've yet to try it, so we'll see.

          2. I used to live in Mexico and your replies are fairly accurate. You will get the coloring that real saffron would give, but thats about all. The average Mexican could never justify the purchase of saffron, it would be more than the entire meal. Don't expect any saffron flavor. A small vial of the real thing goes a long way.

            1 Reply
            1. re: robt5265

              Achiote (annato) is even more widely used in Latin America to impart a yellowish color to rice and other dishes. Except in the quantities used in the Yucatan, it imparts little flavor.

            2. Boil chicken bone in for flavor, for as long as you want. Add any seasonings or veggies for flavor. Crack the bolitas, we use about 20,and put them in a blender with some of the juice from the chicken. We like to take the chicken out and shred/chunk it or legs. Blend well and add to the chicken soup along with diced tomatoes and onion. Add rice, a cup is probably enough depending on how much juice you want left. We top it with lime juice and eat with tostadas or chips.