So you are in the kitchen, and that chef in the youtube video is helping you with your favorite dish. You arranged all the significant ingredients you needed to make the recipe one day in advance. Now you are about to start with the recipe, and the first thing you need is cumin, but there’s no cumin?
Well, you are not alone. We all have been there. That’s probably the reason you are looking for a substitute for cumin. What if I tell you that there are a few things in your kitchen which you can use as a substitute for cumin?
Yes, you heard that right. In this article, we will explore all the different alternatives you could use for cumin if you are out of those. We will also see how each substitute is other from cumin and how you could make good use of them.
However, if you want to know precisely what cumin is and why you should include it in your meals, here is brief information. Otherwise, you can straightaway jump to the list of substitutes for cumin.
What is Cumin?
If you, too, are a newbie like I was a few years ago, you may wonder what cumin is. Cumin is a spice made from the seeds of a plant known by the scientific name ‘Cuminum Cyminum.’ But yes, you can call it a cumin plant as it is widely known.
It has been in use since ancient Egyptian culture and is getting a lot of popularity nowadays. This plant has middle east and southwestern Asia origins, and thus you will find that cumin is most widely used in Indian food and North American food.
On the taste part, cumin has unique flavor characteristics. It has an earthy and nutty flavor along with a limey twist to it. Cumin is an essential ingredient as it will make your dish complete and add that depth to the taste.
Cumin is used only for seasoning food, and I don’t recommend replacing cumin with any of its alternatives. Cumin has some great health benefits and uses, which you will hardly get from anywhere else.
We will discuss all the health benefits of cumin later in this article. But first, let us see what all ingredients can work as a substitute for cumin.
A list Of Ingredients To Be Used As Substitute For Cumin.
So in case you are out of cumin, then there is no reason to worry as you can still complete your recipe by using these possible alternatives, which can serve their purpose as a substitute for cumin:
- Ground coriander
- Caraway seeds
- Fennel seeds
- Taco seasoning
- Chili powder
- Curry powder
- Anise seeds
- Garam masala
- Fenugreek Seeds
So, even if you are out of one spice, there are these ten substitutes ready to help you get to the end of your recipe. If you want to know how much of these ingredients will compensate for one tablespoon of cumin, then stick with me till the end of this article.
Let us take a detailed look at what these substitutes are, how to use them in place of cumin, and most importantly, in what proportion.
Substitute For Cumin
1. Coriander Seeds
Coriander can be an excellent substitute for cumin as both of them belong to the same biological family. They belong to a family termed as ‘Parsley family,’ and hence they share many similarities in flavors.
However, please do note that here we are talking about coriander seeds and not the leaves. The leaves and stem are used as it is. But as a substitute for cumin, the seeds of coriander fried and grounded into powder form are best suited.
When it comes to similarities and differences, though they belong to the same family, there are slight differences between coriander seeds and cumin seeds. Cumin is on the bitter side, whereas coriander seeds are slightly on the sweet side.
Another difference is that when used as a spice in food, cumin adds heat to the dish. In comparison, coriander seeds are slightly minty. Therefore, if you plan to use coriander as a substitute for cumin, then add a pinch of pepper to compensate for that heat.
- For 1 tsp of cumin: Use ½ tsp of ground coriander seeds + pinch of cayenne or pepper
2. Caraway seeds
Just like we discussed regarding coriander, caraway plants also belong to the same Parsley family. Moreover, if you are new to the kitchen, you may not even be able to determine which one is cumin seed and which one is caraway seed.
Both the seeds look almost identical in shape, size, and color. Therefore, Caraway seed is one of the best substitutes for cumin seed. Also, you can use ground caraway seeds in replacement of cumin powder.
Talking about taste, these caraway seeds are bitter than the cumin. Therefore, it is advised to use just half of the caraway seeds to get the same taste. Caraway seeds have the same amount of spice, but if you need to add that extra spice to your recipe, a pinch of pepper can be used.
- For 1 tsp of cumin: Use ½ tsp of caraway seeds/powder + pinch of pepper
3. Fennel Seeds
Fennel seeds aren’t the best substitute available out there for cumin, but in case you have no other option left, fennel seeds can come in handy. Even these belong to the same biological family we discussed before. Yet, they are pretty different from cumin and the rest of their family members.
There are many differences between cumin and fennel seeds, but when used in a dish, even fennel seeds can elevate the taste of any dish. But fennel seeds have a licorice flavor, unlike cumin.
Also, fennel lacks the earthy flavor and smokiness offered by cumin seeds. But you can always try and combine the number of spices mentioned here and get your desired taste similar to cumin. For example, here, you can add a little paprika to get that missing smokiness of cumin.
- For 1 tsp of cumin: Use ½ tsp of ground fennel seeds + pinch of paprika
4. Taco seasoning
Taco seasoning, as you might have guessed, is a Mexican blend of several spices. It is often used in various Mexican dishes to enhance the flavors of the recipe. Therefore, if you are out of cumin and going for a Mexican dish, this unique blend of spices might help you.
Taco seasoning is a blend of spices, including garlic powder, chili powder, onion powder, oregano, paprika, ground coriander, and ground cumin. As it already contains cumin, it can be a substitute for cumin.
However, do note that taco seasoning also contains kosher salt; hence while using taco seasoning in place of cumin, do pay special attention to the salt content of your dish. It is advised that before adding any salt, add taco seasoning first and then add salt as required.
- For 1 tsp of cumin: Use ½ tsp or less taco seasoning.
5. Chilli Powder
Like taco seasoning, chili powder also contains cumin as one of its ingredients, making chili powder a possible substitute for cumin. However, chili powder is a lot different from cumin in terms of taste and even color.
Chilli powder is a combination of onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and also it may include paprika and oregano. Thus, chili powder can be a suitable substitute for cumin if your dish requires the ingredients already present in the chili powder.
Chilli powder can be used in most South Asian dishes, but it may not be suitable for middle eastern recipes. Also, note that if you use chili powder instead of cumin, it will impart a striking red color to your dish.
- For 1 tsp of cumin: Use ½ tsp of chili powder
6. Curry Powder
Curry powder is one such spice that can act as a suitable substitute for cumin as it can offer that exact earthy flavor cumin offers. If you do not have cumin at home, you can always make curry powder at your house to replace it with cumin.
Curry powder is a mixture of several spices like coriander, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, mustard, fenugreek seed, black pepper, and much more. Curry powder varies in the number of ingredients depending upon the manufacturer.
As this blend of spices contains turmeric, you will get a yellow tone to your dish along with the earthy flavor and magical aroma of these spices. You can consider curry powder as a substitute for cumin if you are going for some southeast Asian recipe.
- For 1 tsp of cumin: Use ½ tsp of curry powder
7. Anise Seeds
Yes, I know that anise seeds are a lot different than cumin seeds, but even anise seeds can serve the purpose of elevating the overall flavor of your dish. These seeds do taste considerably different from the cumin seeds.
You can consider these anise seeds as a substitute for cumin for Indian recipes or some middle eastern dishes. You can also use ground anise seeds which will look similar to the ground cumin seeds.
However, it can not deliver the same heat/spice as cumin if you need it for your recipe. Avoid using anise seeds as a substitute for cumin if you are working on some Mexican recipe.
- For 1 tsp of ground cumin: Use ½ tsp of ground anise seeds
- For 1 tsp of cumin seeds: Use 3-4 anise seeds
We all know that paprika is mainly used to impart smokiness to the dish with a slight sweetness. Paprika consists of various bell peppers, primarily red and sweet bell peppers. However, paprika lacks the heat which cumin would have provided.
When paprika is heated and cooked, it releases a bitter and earthy flavor similar to cumin. Therefore, paprika can be a good substitute for cumin. Use it for garnishing your dish, and it will make your dish smoking red.
As I said, paprika lacks heat. If you want, you can add a tiny amount of pepper or cayenne to get that missing heat.
- For 1 tsp of cumin: Use ½ tsp of paprika + pinch of pepper (if required)
9. Garam Masala
You may find the name of this spice quite different from the rest of the spices. That is because garam masala is an Indian blend of herbs, and if it is translated to English, it would mean a mixture of hot spices.
It is most commonly used in recipes of India, South Africa, and Mauritius. Garam masala contains cumin as one of its ingredients, and the rest of the ingredients are green cardamom, coriander, fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and black and white peppercorns.
If you need your dish to have an earthy, warm, and citrusy flavor, you can use garam masala as a substitute for cumin. Garam masala is primarily famous for its mouth-watering aroma and is a magic ingredient of many Indian dishes.
- For 1 tsp of cumin: Use ½ or less tsp of garam masala
10. Fenugreek Seeds
If you don’t want to use cumin, not because you don’t have it, but because you don’t need that earthy and bitter flavor of cumin, then Fenugreek Seeds is something you can consider as a substitute for cumin.
Fenugreek Seeds can be used as whole or as powder, whichever way you prefer. It can be the best choice if you need your dish to be aromatic with an attractive scent to your food. Consider this substitute for recipes like roasted veggies and curries.
Talking about look and taste, they are bright yellow and have a sweet and mustardy flavor. If you need to add heat to your dish, you can always count on pepper or cayenne.
- For 1 tsp of cumin: Use ½ tsp of fenugreek seeds
These were the ten best possible substitutes you can use in place of cumin. However, each of these substitutes has its benefits in terms of taste as well as nutrition.
Conclusion | Substitute For Cumin
To sum up, everything that has been said so far, Caraway seeds turn out to be the best substitute for cumin. It has similar looks, characteristics, and, most importantly, a similar flavor as cumin. Hence, you can give it a try in case you are out of cumin.
However, you can always choose from any substitute for cumin from which we mentioned above and choose one depending upon the recipe and your requirement.
Cumin indeed has its unique flavor, which you wouldn’t want to compromise on. But you can always try different combinations of spices to get the desired taste, and well, cooking is all about experimenting and discovering new dishes.