Skip to Content

Why do you peel turmeric?

Turmeric is a bright yellow spice that is commonly used in curries and other Indian and Asian dishes. It comes from the root of the turmeric plant, which is part of the ginger family. Turmeric root is usually sold whole or ground into a powder. But before being used, turmeric root is often peeled.

There are a few reasons why peeling turmeric is recommended:

To Remove the Tough Outer Layer

Turmeric root has a brown, rough outer skin that can be quite tough. This outer layer is usually peeled off before using the turmeric. Peeling helps remove this outer layer, revealing the bright yellow-orange flesh inside that contains the majority of the flavor and health benefits.

To Soften the Texture

The outer layer of turmeric root can be quite hard and even woody. Peeling away this outer layer helps soften the texture of the turmeric, making it easier to slice, dice, or grind into a powder.

To Reduce Bitterness

The outer layer of turmeric root contains more fibrous material and can have a slight bitter taste. Peeling helps remove any bitterness, revealing the more mellow, peppery sweet flavor of the inner turmeric.

To Improve Absorption of Curcumin

Curcumin is the main active compound in turmeric that gives it its vibrant golden color. Curcumin is linked to most of turmeric’s health benefits, including its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer effects. Some research shows that curcumin is absorbed better when turmeric is peeled and cooked rather than eaten raw.

To Reduce Contamination

Since the outer layer of turmeric root is more exposed to dirt, bacteria, and potential contaminants during growth and harvest, peeling this layer away can help reduce the risk of contamination.

When Should You Peel Turmeric?

Turmeric can be peeled right before using it, but it is often peeled and prepped in advance when cooking large batches of food. Pre-peeled and pre-ground turmeric can also be purchased. Here are some of the main times when you may want to peel turmeric:

  • When making curries, stews, soups, and other dishes calling for turmeric. Peel just before adding.
  • When prepping ingredients for making pickles, chutneys, or relishes flavored with turmeric.
  • When juicing or making drinks like golden milk that include fresh turmeric.
  • When drying or powdering large batches of turmeric for later use.
  • When preparing turmeric for use in herbal remedies, supplements, or cosmetic products.

How to Peel Turmeric

Peeling turmeric is easy to do with the right technique. Here are some tips for peeling turmeric efficiently:

1. Select Fresh, Firm Roots

Choose turmeric roots that feel hard and heavy for their size, not soft or lightweight. Avoid turmeric with lots of dark spots or mold.

2. Scrub Under Running Water

Before peeling, scrub the turmeric thoroughly under running water to remove any dirt or debris on the surface.

3. Use a Vegetable Peeler or Paring Knife

A vegetable peeler or paring knife works well to remove the skin. Peel off strips lengthwise from top to bottom to expose the orange-yellow flesh.

4. Rinse After Peeling

Give the turmeric a final rinse after peeling to wash away any remnants of the outer skin.

5. Dry Thoroughly Before Use

Pat the peeled turmeric dry with paper towels or a clean dish towel before chopping, slicing, juicing, or using in recipes.

What to Do With the Leftover Peels

The outer peels, skins, and ends of turmeric roots that are removed during peeling should not be thrown out. Here are some uses for leftover turmeric peels:

Use Method
Dyeing and coloring fabric Boil peels in water to extract natural yellow dye. Soak fabric in dye bath.
Adding color to cuisine Add peels while boiling rice or legumes to tint them yellow. Use to make golden broth.
Composting Bury peels and ends in compost pile. Provides nutrients as it decomposes.
Natural insect repellent Dry and grind peels into powder. Mix with water to make natural garden spray.

Key Points to Remember

  • Peeling turmeric removes the tough outer layer and improves flavor, texture, absorption, and contamination risk.
  • Peel just before use or prep turmeric in advance for recipes.
  • Use a vegetable peeler or paring knife and thoroughly rinse after.
  • Leftover peels can be used for dyeing, adding color, composting, and insect repellent.


Peeling turmeric root before use or when prepping batches of turmeric helps remove the hard outer layer, soften the texture, reduce bitterness and contamination, and improve the absorption of beneficial curcumin. With the right technique and tools, peeling turmeric is simple. And the leftover peels still have many uses so nothing goes to waste. Keeping turmeric roots peeled and prepped in advance helps add this bright golden spice to dishes more conveniently.