Substitute for Cumin

Ever sat and wondered about preparing a great meal and then when you think you have all the ingredients a roadblock appears?

That roadblock is an ingredient missing. That could frustrate you, especially, now during these uncertain times where many ingredients won’t easily come to your fingertips like before.

Good thing there is something called substitution. This article is all about the herb Cuminum cyminum, specifically, its dried seed- cumin which is used particularly as a spice. Not only will we expound a bit on cumin but its health benefits and its substitutions too!

Cumin spice on a wooden background

What is Cumin?

Cumin is vastly grown in China, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, North and South America, and Africa. The seeds are dried and are used in many cuisines in the form of both wholes (cumin seeds) and ground (cumin powder).

The leaves are 4.7–10 cm (2–4 inches) long, green, and have thread-like leaflets; whereas the flowers are small and white (or pink). The fruit has an ovoid achene shape with a size of 3.6–5 mm long, containing two mericarps with a single seed.

Cumin seeds are said to resemble caraway, parsley and dill seeds in appearance, where it is yellow-brown in color, oblong in shape and vertically corrugated.

cumin plant, hand picking cumin flower

can stock

 

What does cumin taste like?

 Cumin is earthy, bittersweet with a strong flavor. It has a mildly spicy flavor, it goes well with Indian, Middle Eastern, and Latino cuisines. 

10 Health Benefits of Cumin

So, before we head into the substitutes let’s just do quick health benefits check for cumin! The spice is potent in:

  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Copper
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Vitamin B1 (Thiamin), Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

Traces of:

  • Potassium
  • Phosphorus
  • Zinc
  • Selenium
  • Vitamin A, C, E, K
  • Choline

Macronutrients:

  • Dietary fiber
  • Protein
  • Carbohydrates
  • Sugar

Other components:

  • Terpenes
  • Phenols
  • Flavonoids
  • Alkaloids

A side note to have in mind is that the components listed above are not the only components of cumin, there are more. Amazing right?! Now let’s see what these nutrients, compounds, and minerals can do.

  1. A good antioxidant
  2. Facilitator of digestion
  3. An energy booster
  4. It May help to improve kidney health
  5. Improves the immune system
  6. Helps to mitigate anemia
  7. May help with diabetes
  8. Fights against bad cholesterol
  9. May help with weight loss
  10. Has antibacterial properties

spices substitutes for cumin

Replacement or Substitute for Cumin Powder or Seeds

Whenever you run out of an ingredient you always like to have a good substitute that will blend perfectly with your dish. But on instinct, you’ll maybe try to look for the powder form of an herb to substitute for the seed.

Therefore, if you look for a substitute for cumin seeds with its ground form (cumin powder); then use ½ teaspoon of ground cumin to replace 1 teaspoon of cumin seed. But, in the case where you find that you run out of cumin, the following are great substitutes for the spice.

1. Coriander

Coriandrum sativum is the scientific name for coriander. Where it is also popularly known as Chinese parsley or cilantro. Cumin and coriander come from the same parsley family and are both popular in Middle Eastern cuisine.

Are all parts of the plant edible?

Yes! But the leaves and seeds (popularly called cilantro) are what many people use in cooking. Coriander seeds are the plant’s dried fruit, which is used whole (seed) or ground (powder).

But what does it taste like?

Fresh coriander leaves taste fresh, tart (sour), and a bit of citrus present with a light and tantalizing floral aroma when toasted. While coriander powder has earthy, tart (lemony), and sweet with a hint of the roasted flavor and odor.

Add ¾ teaspoon of ground coriander to your dish to replace 1 teaspoon of cumin seed. Or add ½ teaspoon of ground coriander to replace 1 teaspoon of ground cumin. You can add chili or cayenne pepper powder to increase the heat (peppery/spicy flavor) of coriander being that it is milder than cumin, therefore, use moderately according to the taste and size of your meal.

2. Chili Powder

Chili powder is the ground form of chili pepper and sometimes other ground spices (e.g., cumin-key component, cayenne, paprika, and oregano) blended together. See Chili Powder Recipe.

Chili pepper has several species of very hot and spicy peppers in the Solanaceae family (nightshade family). They are said to be native to the Americas, specifically, Mexico and are grown in warm/tropical climates across the diaspora.

Chili peppers or chili powder is used in many cuisines in order to add spice to the dishes; it’s vastly used in Mexican or Latino cuisines. Use half the amount of cumin required for the recipe, meaning that if the amount is 1 teaspoon then replace it with ½ teaspoon of chili powder.

This just a recommendation for all the substitutes where we provide you with equivalent measurements. You can use alternative measurements where the dish requires it but we advise you to do so moderately.

We recommend half the amount of chili powder alternative to cumin is because of the other blended spices found in the mix-which are quite pungent.

Please note that paprika and cayenne have a strong coloring component that will give your dishes a reddish hue, hence, we advise you to not use it in curry dishes or others that you are trying to have a different color from red-brown or red.

3. Garam Masala

This is a whole spice that is popularly used in Indian cuisine. It consists of whole spices of cumin, coriander, cinnamon, mace, peppercorns, and cardamom seeds; which are roasted in a pan to release their locked up aromatic flavors, then ground to a powder.

Add half a teaspoon of garam masala to replace 1 teaspoon of cumin. Keep tasting the meal and add more moderately to adjust the pot’s flavor if necessary.

4. Curry Powder

Curry powder is a spice mix that contains ground; cumin, ginger, cardamom, turmeric, coriander, fenugreek, black pepper, and cinnamon. The powder gives your dish a yellow hue due to the turmeric present, so if that’s not what you want avoid using this spice. See Easy Curry Powder Recipe.

Curry powder is popularly used in Caribbean and Southeast Asian cuisines. Add half a teaspoon of curry to your dish for the replacement of cumin where 1 teaspoon of cumin is required. You may adjust the measurement according to the taste/flavor or appearance of the dish. Because in cooking it is better to start off small than in excess.

5. Caraway Seeds

Putting cumin and caraway seeds together you will see the resemblance. Not surprising though, as caraway seeds are in the same family as cumin as well as coriander.

It is recommended that cumin seeds are to be replaced with caraway seeds likewise for the ground version- meaning, it is recommended that you can replace ground caraway as a substitute for cumin powder.  

Start off by adding ½ teaspoon of caraway seed or powder for the substitute of cumin. Adjust the amount if necessary, to the meal for more flavoring. Caraway seeds and powder are popularly used in Northern European cuisines, particularly German cuisine, where the taste resembles that of licorice.  

6. Taco Seasoning

Taco seasoning is quite peppery, where it has more heat than cumin and a multifaceted barrage of flavors. Therefore, a recommendation is to use ½ teaspoon of taco seasoning to substitute for 1 teaspoon of ground cumin.

This spice mix/blend has; cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Therefore, add taco seasoning before salt moderately, in order to avoid over-salting the dish. Latino cuisines utilize taco seasoning quite often.

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dried cumin in a wooden bowl with coriander powder in a white bowl

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Phew! A lot of flavourful substitutes if you ask me. So, if you ever run out of cumin again, the aforementioned are great substitutes, whereby, coriander and chili powder are the top replacements. Until next time, walk good! (Jamaican term for be safe!) and bon appétit!

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