Turmeric is widely used as a spice in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking. Many Persian dishes use turmeric as a starter ingredient. Almost all Iranian khoresh dishes are started using onions caramelized in oil and turmeric, followed by other ingredients. The Moroccan spice mix ras el hanout typically includes turmeric.

In India and Nepal, turmeric is widely grown and extensively used in many vegetable and meat dishes for its color; it is also used for its supposed value in traditional medicine.In South Africa, turmeric is used to give boiled white rice a golden color.

In Vietnamese cuisine, turmeric powder is used to color and enhance the flavors of certain dishes, such as bánh xèo, bánh khọt, and mi quang. The powder is used in many other Vietnamese stir-fried and soup dishes.The staple Cambodian curry paste kroeung, used in many dishes including Amok, typically contains fresh turmeric.
In Indonesia, turmeric leaves are used for Minang or Padang curry base of Sumatra, such as rendang, sate padang, and many other varieties.

In Thailand, fresh turmeric rhizomes are widely used in many dishes, in particular in the southern Thai cuisine, such as the yellow curry and turmeric soup.