Cumin is a very unique spice. You have probably had it if you like Middle Eastern and Indian dishes. In fact, this spice is becoming more widely used everywhere.
Cumin can be strong and too aromatic for some, so it is always best to know how to replace it without altering the final product.
If your recipe is calling for cumin, it must surely be a central part of the dish. This spice is not only used to provide a mild and neutral flavor but rather used to play a bigger role in the cooking process.
Some find the smell extremely unpleasant, but others tend to love its aroma. Whatever the reason may be, we suggest you use this list to pick the next best spice.
What Is Cumin?
Why use cumin, though?
Cumin is a flowering plant from the Apiaceae family, and it is native to Asia. It has a strongly aromatic and lemon-like flavor, which is why it is used in soups, dips, sauces, and stews that need to have a strong taste and smell to them.
It is particularly common in Indian curry dishes, and Middle Eastern meat dishes, and dips, such as hummus.
What Can I Replace Cumin With?
If you can’t use it or find this spice, these are the best cumin substitutes to look for instead:
Preferably ground, coriander can be a great way to replace cumin, as it is part of the same family. Like cumin, coriander is commonly used in Indian, Middle Eastern, and Latin American dishes, but we suggest that you stick to the dry kind, as the fresh one, called cilantro, has a very different flavor.
In terms of amount, we say go for about half of what the recipe calls for, but add more if you think it needs it. Dry coriander can be bought in any grocery store, usually by the rest of the spices. However, if supplies are running low, try a specialty store, or a Middle Eastern market.
#2. Anise Seeds
Not everyone is a fan of the way anise smells and tastes because it closely resembles licorice. However, when in a pinch, you can use these seeds to add aroma to your meal. It is best to add these for thick sauces and stews, otherwise, the flavor can be completely overpowered by these seeds.
If you are using anise seeds, we say stick to ⅓ to ½ of what the recipe indicated for cumin. Anise seeds are commonly used in teas and aromatic desserts, so if you need to find them, they are probably by the spice rack or the baking area of your grocery store.
#3. Curry Powder
Since curry powder already contains cumin, it is a good alternative when you are cooking specific dishes.
Curry powder has a very strong aroma and a spicy flavor. It also tends to be bright orange or yellow, so consider these factors when deciding what dish to use it for. This powder can be bought in any grocery store, but you can also try specialty stores or farmer’s markets for more variety.
If you decide to use curry powder, we suggest you go with about half of the amount, and stick to using it in sauces, stews, soups, and meat dishes, but not necessarily in dips that need to taste fresh.
The turmeric in curry powder tends to turn the food yellow or orange, so use it with darker colors as well for an unnoticeable change.
#4. Caraway Seeds
Cumin and caraway seeds look very similar, as they have a similar shape and color.
Caraway also belongs to the parsley family, so they are somewhat alike, although these seeds are less strong and spicy than cumin. Caraway seeds are common in German dishes, as well as other northern European cuisines.
If you find ground caraway, use it to replace cumin in the same amount, but if your recipe calls for cumin seeds, go for the caraway seeds. You can find both the ground and seed versions of caraway in any grocery store, but ground caraway is more common.
#5. Chili Powder
This choice may come as a surprise, but chili powder also contains cumin as part of its flavor profile, so using it instead isn’t as crazy as it sounds.
This powder also provides additional flavors, such as paprika, garlic, oregano, cayenne pepper, and onion powder. This powder is spicier than cumin and will turn food sort of brown or red, so keep this in mind when using it.
Chili powder is common in Latin American foods, as well as Indian dishes. You can use half of the amount needed because adding too much can change the color of the dish, and make it too spicy. To buy chili powder, check the spice rack in your grocery store.
#6. Garam Masala
While this blend of herbs and spices may seem too strong, it works well in certain dishes.
Garam masala is commonly used in curry dishes, stews, and soups. It is a bit warmer than cumin, so consider adding it at the end of the cooking process, and only use half of what your recipe indicates.
Since it has coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, and black pepper, as well as cumin, this blend is very earthy, sweet, and spicy, and may not be suited for all dishes. You can find garam masala in specialty stores, farmer’s markets, and sometimes in grocery stores.
Yes, you can use turmeric instead of cumin, but keep in mind that turmeric is bright orange and yellow spice that will change the color of your dish. The flavor isn’t the same, but turmeric can add a bit of spice and warmth to your meal.
It depends on what you want to use these spices for. Turmeric has proven medical benefits, such as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. However, cumin also has some healing properties. The truth is, both spices are great for your health.
Yes, you can use cumin instead of paprika and vice versa. Remember, though, that paprika is bright red and somewhat sweet, while cumin isn’t. You should adjust for the flavor to match the sweetness or the spice depending on the dish.
Cumin is a staple in various kitchens, especially if you like Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines. If you don’t like cumin though, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Try these six spices instead, and if you want, mix and match for flavor.
*Photo by AndreySt/depositphotos