9 Fantastic Substitutes For Cumin That Will Make You Become An Expert On Spice


Having the best substitute for cumin is a wise move that every cooking enthusiast considers as for a great way of spicing up cooking even without the presence of cumin.

One of the best spices that many would have in their kitchen is the cumin. But how about if you run out of the supply of such spice, what could be the best substitute for cumin? It is very important to always have an alternative one for cumin as your options if you are cooking a recipe that needs the said spice.

With that, even if you have no cumin on hand, you have the variety of options to choose from. There are indeed recipes that call a need for a cumin so having an alternative once you don’t have one is indeed important.


Something About Cumin

Cumin is referred as a spice that is made from the dried seed of the plant called as Cuminum Cyminum. This plant is a member of the parsley family. This is also used commonly in Middle Eastern, Mexican and Indian cuisines.


Along with that, cumin could be used in its whole seed form and also when ground. It has a warm and earthy aroma and flavor. The ground cumin is most of the time added to barbecue sauce, chili, marinades and baked beans.

And also, cumin is known as a typical ingredient used in chili powder. It is often found in some other spice blends like curry powder, garam masala, adobos, achiote blends and baharat. The very common variety of this is a brownish-yellow color though you could also find green cumin, black cumin, and white cumin.

Many are into using cumin as a spice because of the benefits that it could offer. This is also one of the best reasons as to why many would always include cumin into their recipes.

History of Cumin

Let us also learn the history of cumin. Known as an ancient spice grown in the Middle East and Egypt, this spice has been found in almost 4000-year old excavations in ancient Egypt and Syria wherein it was used both as for preserving mummies and as a spice.


Cumin appeared in the bible as well, both in the Old and New Testament. It was as well extensively used in India from the ancient times and by the Romans and Greeks. It also made its way to South American and Mexican cuisine right after the European colonization, particularly by the Portuguese and Spanish.

Cumin Seeds vs. Ground Cumin

Though both seeds and ground cumin could be used greatly as a spice still knowing a bit of difference between them must be considered.

Cumin seeds are known to be small and boat-shaped seeds which resemble the caraway seeds. These seeds have eight longitudinal ridges having oil canals. The seed is being harvested by hand from the annual plant.


The whole cumin seeds are being used in some dishes like it is added to hot oil right at the start of the Indian dish making the flavor infuse the oil and the rest of the ingredients as well.

Once the seed is lightly roasted, more flavor is brought out and could be easily done at home with the use of a dry pan over the medium heat. In most cases, whole cumin seeds could be found packaged right in the spice section of grocery stores.

But, it would be a lot cheaper if you will buy cumin seed at the international market as it caters to those who enjoy North African, Indian, Middle Eastern and Mexican cuisines. These seeds could be kept in the freezer for a long period of time as for maintaining the flavor if you don’t regularly use them.

On the other hand, ground cumin is already available in most grocery stores in the spice aisle. But, more intense as well as nuanced flavor could be experienced through lightly roasting the whole cumin seed then grinding these seeds in the spice grinder or using a mortar and pestle.

Ground cumin has its intense flavor, and you might also take that as a consideration once using measurements for a certain recipe. Ground cumin actually loses its flavor over a certain period of time and must be regularly replaced."

Substitute for Cumin: 9 Things You Should Know

Substitute For Cumin

But there could be instances wherein you run out of a supply of cumin. With that, the best option is to look for a substitute for cumin that will provide almost the same flavor like the said spice. Some of the best options to ever consider include the following:

Caraway Seeds

Caraway seeds are being used in order to flavor different European pastries and pieces of bread and even a liqueur. The same as cumin, these seeds are the fruit of a member of the parsley family and so considered to be highly aromatic. They are similar in terms of flavor and appearance.

Caraway Seeds

The flavor of the caraway seeds could be used in order to replicate the slightly bitter and powerful flavor of the cumin. But, you would also need to half the amount of these seeds to be used.

There are experts that would advise adding anise seeds to make these caraway seeds a lot more like the cumin. This must be carefully done because the flavor of the anise seeds is a lot sweeter and a lot more like licorice. It might easily overpower some other flavors.

Chili Powder

The one with high cumin content is indeed a lot better as an alternative. This could also be found in the spice aisles of grocery stores. Chili powder is referred as a spice mix which contains ground chili together with some other spices and cumin is included. It offers a distinctive flavor, but there will be no bitterness as how cumin offers.

Chili Powder

Chili powder could be used as a great substitute for cumin in most recipes for chili and must offer the same benefits in some other recipes. This mix must also be carefully used too much of this could make your dish too spicy. And keep in mind that pure chili powder will contain no cumin at all making it not a great choice after all.


The same with caraway and cumin seeds, coriander also come from a member of the parsley family and so would share some of the same characteristics of flavor. Once sprouted, the leaves are being referred as cilantro, and the spice is also available in either whole or ground form. You might need to consider the use of a teaspoon of coriander for every ¾ teaspoon of cumin which a certain recipe needs.


Coriander seeds and ground coriander are both great options. Ground coriander will offer the lemony and earthy flavor of the cumin though this one lacks heat. On the other hand, coriander seeds will impart a great taste as well as aroma into your certain dish, and it would blend very well with the Mediterranean and Indian cuisines.

Garam Masala

Garam Masala

Considered as an Indian spice mix, this one includes a healthy dose of cumin. It as well normally includes cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg and cloves that would create a complex flavor which is at once sweet, spicy, earthy and citrusy. The color of this a lot similar with cumin and it wouldn’t change the appearance of the recipe as well.

Curry Powder

Curry Powder

The ingredients in this alternative could vary, but still there is the assurance of cumin’s taste. The said ingredients will include turmeric, coriander, ginger, fenugreek seed, mustard, cinnamon and black pepper.

These would also lend an earthy, spicy and sweet flavor to any dish it is being used. This definitely serves as a great substitute for cumin to consider, but it would also alter the color a bit. Turmeric is known to be bright yellow so just use half of what is needed and simply adjust the said amount.

Taco Seasoning Mix

This one has its ingredients that are the same with the chili powder. Along with the cumin, you could expect paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, oregano, onion powder, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes.

There is a need to consider also the impact of salt in this mix. Those taco seasoning mixes that are bought in most stores would tend to have a fair amount of salt. You might need to reduce the salt amount needed for in your recipe as to compensate for the extra that you will add.



In order to bring out a distinct and vivid flavor in the recipe once there is no cumin, aniseed might also be considered as a great substitute for cumin. This one will not let you miss the taste of cumin on a certain dish. Simply add some for a twist in the taste, and for sure you will love it.

Smoked Paprika

Smoked Paprika

As for getting the smokey flavor that cumin provides, you could also try adding some paprika into your dish. The taste might not be exactly the same as the cumin, but it won’t let you miss the real thing or the touch of cumin.



This one is another very effective substitute for cumin. Simply add some to your dish once you don’t have a cumin and watch as the food instantly transform. This will also add a fresh taste to the dish, and you would love it for sure as well as how you love the cumin.

If you are interested in other ingredients, refer here: Ingredients

Final Thoughts

Those are the best options you could choose from once cumin is out of your sight in your kitchen. Having no cumin as your spice might not always be a great deal since you could have wide alternatives to choose from. And from these options, just simply choose the one that is available and could perfectly blend to your recipe as the best substitute for cumin.

If you’ve found the best substitute for cumin from this writing, please leave your thoughts by posting your comments below.


    Hi There! Welcome to Cooking Is Passio where I can tell you the things I love. My name is Vivian Carpenter. I am not only a foodie at heart but also passionate about cooking. I rely on the support of other cooking blogs like me to get new cooking tips as well as new recipes. This blog is the great way to share my experience and my love cooking with others. And I hope this blog can help you - the cooking lovers like me - cook your favorite dishes.

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