Best Substitute for Cumin
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Have a recipe that calls for cumin but you’re all out? Check out these easy substitutes for both cumin powder and cumin seeds!
Cumin is used to season a variety of different cuisines, making it a seasoning staple for your pantry. Although it provides a unique earthy flavor with a distinctive heat, there are plenty of substitute options for times when you don’t have it on hand.
Below are seven substitutes for ground cumin and two substitutes for cumin seeds.
What is Cumin?
Cumin is a flowering plant in the Apiaceae family. Each seed is encased in dried fruit. These seeds are harvested and dried for use in seasonings. Both whole and ground cumin are used in a variety of cuisines.
Cumin seeds look similar to caraway seeds and with good reason. These seeds are in the parsley family with caraway and dill. The seeds are oblong and ridged with a light yellow-brown color.
Their flavor is similar to caraway, although they often have a hotter taste. Because of the similarities in appearance and taste, some Slavic and Uralic languages call cumin “Roman caraway” or “spice caraway.”
Cumin is often used as an ingredient in chili powder and curry powder. Its earthy taste and aromatic quality make it perfect for stews, soups, curry, chili, and pickled foods. Although it may have been used in traditional medicine, there is not enough research to determine its effectiveness for therapeutic uses.
7 Substitutes for Ground Cumin & Cumin Powder
The following seven ingredients can be used as a substitute for ground cumin and cumin powder. While many of them can be used alone to replace cumin, some people prefer to mix them together to create the best possible replacement for cumin’s earthiness and heat.
- Ground Coriander
Coriander makes a great replacement for cumin because it’s in the same family. Both ingredients offer a lemony, earthy flavor, although coriander is milder.
To replace cumin with coriander, use half the volume of coriander. If the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of cumin, use ½ teaspoon of coriander in its place. You can add a small amount of chili powder or cayenne to replace the heat in cumin.
- Ground Caraway
Caraway is another ingredient related to cumin. Like coriander, caraway is milder than cumin. To replace cumin with caraway, use half the volume of caraway. If the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of cumin, use ½ teaspoon of coriander in its place. Slowly add more caraway to taste.
- Chili Powder
Chili powder is a good replacement for cumin because cumin is often an ingredient in chili powder. If you’re making a curried dish or other savory recipe, chili powder is a good replacement for cumin. It will, however, make your dish more reddish in color.
To replace cumin with chili powder, use half the volume of chili powder. If the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of cumin, use ½ teaspoon of chili powder in its place.
- Taco Seasoning
Taco seasoning is another seasoning mix that includes cumin. It also contains garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Taco seasoning can be a good replacement for cumin in Mexican food and other savory dishes.
Use caution when using taco seasoning alongside salt. If your recipe calls for cumin and salt, you may want to use less salt to counteract the salt content in this seasoning. To prevent over-salting, add the taco seasoning first and add salt to taste.
- Curry Powder
Curry powder often uses cumin alongside other flavors like ginger, turmeric, and cinnamon. This powder is a great substitute for cumin in Southeast Asian dishes. The turmeric contained in this seasoning will give your dish a yellow color.
To replace cumin with curry powder, use half the volume of curry powder. If the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of cumin, use ½ teaspoon of curry powder in its place. Gradually add more curry powder to taste.
- Garam Masala
Garam masala contains cumin and is often used for dishes in India, Mauritius, and South Africa. It has a citrusy aroma and complements savory recipes.
To replace cumin with garam masala, use half the volume of garam masala. If the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of cumin, use ½ teaspoon of garam masala in its place. Gradually add more garam masala to taste. For maximum flavor, add garam masala shortly before serving.
Paprika has a similar smokiness to cumin, although it has considerably less heat. Like chili powder, paprika will add a reddish tone to your food.
To replace cumin with paprika, use half the volume of paprika. If the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of cumin, use ½ teaspoon of paprika in its place. You may also add cayenne or chili powder to bring more heat to the flavor of your dish.
2 Substitutes for Cumin Seeds
Some recipes may specify the use of cumin seeds instead of ground cumin. If you don’t have cumin seeds on hand, the following two ingredients can be used as a replacement.
- Caraway Seeds
Caraway seeds are related to cumin seeds. In fact, they look so similar that some people struggle to distinguish between the two. Caraway is a popular ingredient in German foods. It is milder than cumin, but offers a fair substitute.
To replace cumin seeds with caraway seeds, use half the volume of caraway seeds. If the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds, use ½ teaspoon of caraway seeds in its place. You may gradually add more caraway seeds to taste.
- Fennel Seeds
Although fennel seeds are related to cumin seeds, they have a different flavor. Their anise-like licorice flavor does not contain the same smokiness or earthiness as cumin. However, fennel seeds can be a good substitute for cumin seeds in a pinch.
To replace cumin seeds with fennel seeds, use half the volume of fennel seeds. If the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds, use ½ teaspoon of fennel seeds in its place. Add a dash of paprika alongside fennel seeds to help replicate the smoky flavor of cumin seeds.