14 Good Cumin Substitutes
Replicating the flavor of cumin may take some spice guru knowledge. But if you don’t have this aromatic ingredient at hand, you may need to work your magic. You’re not alone! Here are the best cumin substitutes that mimic its complex flavor profile!
Cumin Flavor Profile
Cumin is a spice with a recognizable savory flavor. It’s used in many cuisines around the world, with different approaches. Cumin is a main spice in Latin American dishes, throughout America, in Middle Eastern cuisine, in Indian food, and European dishes.
Cumin has a complex bouquet of flavors. It has a sharp, pungent aroma. It combines an earthy, nutty taste with a citrusy, zesty undertone. The spice offers a little heat, due to its spicy vibe, and a mouthful of warming, tingling sensations. Cumin will also leave a bittersweet aftertaste, a certain smokiness, and a peppery hint.
So, you might deduce cumin is hard to replace. Well, you’re not wrong! Cumin has a distinctive aroma, so running out of it may make you quiver. It can be tricky to obtain the same assortment of flavors this spice has, but there are ways around it!
1. Ground Coriander Seeds
This is one of the best substitutes for cumin, hands down! Coriander seeds give the same warmth as cumin. They also pack some sweetness and a hint of lemony-citrusy goodness.
The thing you’ll miss is the spicy vibe of cumin. Also, coriander packs more sweetness and freshness, whereas cumin is more nutty and bitter. Sprinkle some chili or cayenne and you’ll turn up the heat.
In terms of ratio, use ½ teaspoon of ground coriander for every teaspoon of cumin powder the recipe calls for. Also, use about ¾ teaspoons of ground coriander to substitute 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds.
Many people are wondering if they can use paprika instead of cumin. Well, paprika has that earthy aroma. It also packs some of the smokiness you find in cumin (even more so if we’re talking about smoked paprika!).
What you’ll miss: the heat and spiciness of cumin and the citrusy undertones found in cumin. A touch of lemon zest could fix it! And a ½ ratio will do.
3. Garam Masala
Since cumin is an important component in garam masala, it makes sense that this spice blend can replace it. Garam masala has the spicy, earthy, citrusy, and mildly sweet aroma of cumin.
Still, pay attention to the ingredients in this mixture, since they could overpower your dish if you use this alternative. Cardamom seeds and cinnamon are quite noticeable. If the recipe asks for 1 teaspoon of cumin, start with half the amount of garam masala and gradually add more as you go along.
4. Caraway Seeds
How to substitute cumin to get its full flavor? Caraway seeds have great potential and they look so much like cumin seeds. Cumin packs more intensity and hotness, but you can get over that. The only minus: caraway seeds are a milder version of cumin seeds and they have a slight hint of licorice or anise.
Also, caraway has a lemony aftertaste while cumin will leave you with a slightly more bitter finish. About ½ teaspoon of caraway can replace a teaspoon of cumin. If you sprinkle a pinch of paprika on top, even better!
5. Fennel Seeds
Fennel seeds and cumin seeds are related but they have different flavor profiles. Fennel doesn’t have that smokiness, heat, and earthiness of cumin. They also have a hint of anise or licorice, but they can be added to your dish in a pinch.
Start with less than half the amount of fennel for the recommended quantity of cumin and add them to minced-meat goodies, such as sausages or meatballs.
6. Fenugreek Seeds
Very fragrant and aromatic, fenugreek seeds are a good option as a cumin seeds substitute. With a sweet taste, a rich, nutty undertone, and a tangy vibe reminding you of mustard, fenugreek will only need some heat to get close to cumin.
Maybe sprinkle a little cayenne or paprika to make fenugreek seeds a great cumin replacement. Use them in Indian and Middle-Eastern recipes. A 1:2 ratio is the right amount to start with.
7. Anise Seeds
Anise seeds are a good replacement for cumin. While they don’t have a similar flavor, anise will enhance the aroma of the food, just like cumin does. Sprinkle it in Indian and Asian food.
8. Taco Seasoning
Taco seasoning, believe it or not, is a good alternative to cumin powder. And that’s due to its cumin content. But the thing with taco seasoning is that it contains other distinguishable flavors such as onion, garlic, and paprika. Use it in a 1:2 ratio and only in Mexican dishes that call for cumin.
9. Chili Powder
In terms of cumin powder substitutes, chili powder is an appropriate fit. Chili powder will add some heat. But it will also add flavor from cayenne, garlic, onion, oregano, and paprika. Start with a 1:2 and go from there.
10. Curry Powder
If you’re looking for cumin substitutes for curries and meats, curry powder is a good choice. Beware though that curry powder also contains coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, mustard, ginger, black pepper, and fenugreek.
All these ingredients will rather alter the taste and the color of the dish. It’s best to keep curry powder as an alternative for cumin in Indian food.
11. Chipotle Seasoning
Just as curry is the perfect sub for cumin in Indian dishes, Chipotle seasoning is one of the best cumin alternatives in Mexican food. This powder combines the smokiness and heat that cumin has. In fact, it contains a blend of cumin, smoked paprika, thyme, oregano, and other spices.
So, while it may have that earthy, spicy flavor with a hint of heat that cumin has, Chipotle may bring other aromas upfront. Southwestern dishes can benefit from this. Add a sprinkle of it and go from there.
12. Panch Phoran, aka Indian Five-Spice Mix
Often used in Bengali cuisine, Panch Phoran is a suitable cumin replacement, especially in Asian recipes. To be fair, this blend of spices will not give you the same aroma as cumin but it will add depth and complexity to your dish.
With fenugreek seeds, cumin, nigella, fennel, and celery seeds, Panch Phoran is earthy and sweet, with potent fragrant tones. If you want the fire of cumin, you’ll have to add some chili flakes or cayenne pepper.
A couple of blends of spices and herbs you’ll have in your kitchen
We know home chefs are the best at creativity. Surely, you’ve tried a few spice blends to replace ingredients. While we have already suggested a couple of mixes, here are some more suggestions for replacing cumin. These cumin substitutes are calculated to replace 1 teaspoon of cumin. Have you used these blends before?
- Caraway seeds (½ tsp) + pinch of paprika
- Ground coriander (½ tsp) + a pinch of cayenne pepper
- Ground coriander (1 tsp) and cayenne (½ tsp) with a hint of oregano (1 tsp)
Can you substitute ground cumin for its seeds? Yes, but…
In terms of cumin substitutes, the seeds and the powder can be swapped. However, adding the powder will make the flavor spread out evenly while adding the seeds will give intense bursts of aroma when biting into them.
Also, some dishes are better with ground cumin, while others will require seeds. You don’t want to add cumin powder in baked goods, just like it’s best not to come across cumin seeds floating in your curry.
Can you use turmeric instead of cumin? Not really, no! Here’s why!
What to use instead of cumin? While some may say turmeric is a good fit to replace cumin, the two shouldn’t be used interchangeably. Well, not if you want to obtain the same aroma or color.