Cumin is an aromatic and versatile spice used in various cuisines. The seeds have a small, oblong shape, similar to caraway seeds. They harvested from a Cuminum cyminum plant, a member of the parsley family.
Cumin seeds are most commonly used in Latin American, North African, Indian, Middle Eastern, and many other cuisines all around the world. The most common type of cumin has a brown-yellow color, but there is also cumin with black, green, and white colors.
If you are making a recipe that calls for cumin but you have run out of it here are some other spices you can use instead to get a similar flavor to cumin.
Let’s learn more about each substitute below!
Best Cumin Substitutes
Cumin seeds have a warm, earthy, slightly sweet-bitter, and slightly spicy flavor which intensifies if toasted. They are available as whole and ground in powder form.
Depending on your recipe you can use cumin powder or add whole cumin seeds earlier in the dish so they have time to release their flavor.
Cumin is usually used in various dishes like sauces, curries, soups, stews, marinades, meat, rice, and vegetable dishes. But it is also used in various spice blends like curry powder,garam masala, adobos, achiote blends, baharat, and berbere.
If you need to replicate the flavor of cumin you can use any of the next spices instead. You only have to choose the right substitute and the proper amount depending on the dish you are preparing to get a similar flavor to cumin.
1. Ground Coriander
Ground coriander is one of the substitutes you can use instead of cumin in your recipes.
Coriander belongs to the same parsley family as cumin but doesn’t have the same flavor. It has a floral, sweet, and lemony flavor and light aroma, whereas cumin is nutty, bitter, and spicy with a stronger aroma.
Ground coriander is used in stews, soups, meat and vegetable dishes, and various spice blends. There are also many recipes where cumin and ground coriander are used together.
If your recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of cumin you can use ½ teaspoon of ground coriander and a bit of chili powder to add some heat to your dish.
2. Chili Powder
Chili powder is usually made from chili pepper, paprika, cumin, onion and garlic powder, and oregano. There are varieties of chili powder with other ingredients and added salt.
Depending on the type and amount of chili pepper added, this popular powder can be mild to moderately spicy. Some of the chili peppers used in this powder include cayenne, jalapeno, chipotle, ancho, pasilla, Aleppo, and Chile de Arbol.
If you are using chili powder as a substitute for cumin you will also get different flavors from the ingredients used in chili powder and it may also affect the color of your dish.
You can use chili powder in recipes like chili, curry, pilafs, and baked beans. Substitute one teaspoon of cumin with ½ teaspoon of chili powder. You can always add more if you like a spicier dish.
3. Curry Powder
Curry powder has an earthy, spicy, and sweet flavor.
It is often made of cumin, coriander, ginger, turmeric, fenugreek, mustard, cinnamon, and black pepper. However, there are variations of this powder with other herbs and spices added.
You can use curry powder as a substitute for cumin in different soups, sauces, stews, marinades, salad dressings, etc. Note that it will give yellow color to your food because of the Tumeric.
Use ½ teaspoon of curry powder as a substitute for 1 teaspoon of cumin and add more to the taste.
4. Caraway Seeds
Caraway seeds are aromatic and have an earthy, mild anise flavor with hints of pepper and citrus. They work well in baked goods, soups, curries, stews, vegetables, and many other dishes.
Caraway seeds are one of the better substitutes for cumin because they look similar to cumin as well as similar but milder flavor.
Substitute 1 teaspoon of cumin with half a teaspoon of caraway seeds. You can always add more if needed.
5. Taco Seasoning
Taco seasoning is a spice blend made from chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, salt, black pepper, oregano, and red pepper flakes. It has a spicy, warm, and smoky flavor and is usually used in stews, soups, casseroles, dips, and other dishes.
Taco seasoning will give many different flavors to your dish. You only have to adjust the salt amount because it contains salt. Use ½ teaspoon of taco seasoning as a substitute for 1 teaspoon of cumin.
6. Garam Masala
Garam masala is Indian originated spice blend with many regional variations.
Usually, garam masala has toasted and ground cumin, coriander, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, and black pepper.
Garam masala works great in different curries, stews, soups, marinades, vegetables, meat or fish dishes, etc. You can use it as a substitute for cumin to provide warm, slightly spicy, sweet, earthy, citrusy, and floral notes to your dish.
Garam masala is added at the end of the cooking time to season and gives a nice aroma to the dish. Substitute one teaspoon of cumin with ½ teaspoon of garam masala.
7. Fennel Seeds
Fennel seeds can be also used as a substitute for cumin even if they don’t have a similar flavor. They have a sweet, herbal, and licorice flavor and blend well in stews, curries, sauces, dry meat rubs, soups, desserts, bread, spice blends, and beverages.
Fennel seeds will not give the same flavor to the dish as cumin does but will enhance its flavor and make it taste even better. Start with a ½ teaspoon of fennel seeds as a substitute for 1 teaspoon of cumin and add more to the taste.
8. Nigella Seeds
Nigella seeds are used as a spice in various recipes like bread, pastries, soups, stews, vegetable dishes, and curries. They have an aromatic pungent, smoky, slightly bitter flavor with hints of oregano, cumin, and onion.
Nigella seeds have a similar earthy and herbal flavor to cumin, so you can sprinkle them on your bread and salads or use the nigella seeds powder in soups, stews, sauces, and curries.
Nigella seeds have a black color, therefore, they will affect the color of your dish. You can substitute cumin with nigella seeds in a 1:1 ratio.
9. Anise Seeds
Anise seeds are small, aromatic, and brown-gray seeds with a sweet, slightly spicy licorice flavor. You can use them whole or ground in different baked goods, pie fillings, seafood, ground meat, and beverages.
Anise seeds have a different flavor than cumin but if they are the only spice you have you can use them instead of cumin in your recipes.
Start with ½ teaspoon of anise seeds as a substitute for 1 teaspoon of cumin. You can add more if needed.
10. Chipotle Powder
Chipotle powder is mildly spicy chili powder made of smoked, dried and crushed jalapeno peppers. It has an earthy, smoky flavor and works well in different dry meat rubs, soups, curries, stews, sauces, meat marinades, vegetables, salad dressings, sandwiches, pizza, and seafood.
You can use chipotle powder to give a mildly spicy, smoky, and earthy flavor to your dish. Use ½ teaspoon of chipotle powder as a substitute for 1 teaspoon of cumin and add more to taste.
11. Star Anise
Star anise has a strong, distinctive, sweet, warm, and spicy flavor. It is a staple in Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, and Middle Eastern cuisines.
Star anise can be used as a whole and ground in many recipes. Whole star anise pods work well in soups, curries, marinades, and broths. And they are removed after cooking. Ground star anise, on the other hand, is used in spice blends, baked goods, beverages, and other sweet and savory recipes.
If you want your dish to have a sweet, spicy licorice flavor use star anise as a substitute for cumin. Substitute one teaspoon of cumin with ½ teaspoon of ground star anise or 2-3 star anise pods.
Paprika can be also used as a substitute for cumin in your recipes.
It doesn’t have the same exact flavor as cumin. However, you can use it to add a smoky and spicy flavor to your food. It is made of dried and ground sweet and hot red peppers. Therefore, its flavor depends on the type of peppers used for its preparation.
Paprika is mostly produced in Spain and Hungary and has a sweet, mild, spicy, or smoked flavor. All the types of paprika will give a lovely red color to your dish. However, you can also use it as a seasoning and to garnish food.
Paprika works great in marinades, sauces, spice blends, meat rubs, stews, or sprinkled on top of various dishes like deviled eggs and hummus.
You can use 1 teaspoon of mildly spicy paprika as a substitute for 1 teaspoon of cumin in your recipes and add more if needed.
If you are using sweet paprika you can mix the same amounts of paprika and chili powder to get a spicy flavor. Just have in mind that paprika will alter the color of your dish.
Cumin Vs Chili Powder: What’s The Difference?
Chili powder usually consists of chili peppers like cayenne, jalapeno, chipotle, ancho, or other types of chili peppers. It also has paprika, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, and oregano.
There are many varieties of chili powder with other ingredients and added salt. And depending on the amount and type of chili pepper used chili powder can be mild to moderately spicy.
Chili powder has many different flavors depending on the type and amount of the added ingredients. People usually add it to different stews, soups, meat rubs, chili, sauces, tacos, fajitas, enchiladas, seafood, and other dishes.
Cumin is one of the ingredients in chili powder, so it makes a good substitute for cumin in your recipes. Besides the cumin’s unique flavor, you will also obtain the other flavors from the spices in the chili powder in your dish.
Their flavor will affect the flavor and color of your dish, therefore, you have to consider how they will work with the other ingredients in your recipe.
What Does Cumin Taste Like?
Cumin has a warm, earthy, slightly sweet-bitter, and slightly spicy flavor which intensifies if toasted. It is available as a whole and ground in powder form.
People use cumin in different dishes like sauces, curries, soups, stews, marinades, meat, rice, and vegetable dishes. However, it is also used in many spice blends like curry powder,garam masala, adobos, achiote blends, baharat, and berbere.
Can I Use Paprika Instead Of Cumin?
You can use paprika instead of cumin if you don’t mind the red color that it will give to your dish. For best results use mildly spicy paprika to get a spicy flavor similar to cumin.
You can also mix equal amounts of sweet paprika and chili powder and use them as a substitute for cumin in your recipes.
Substitute cumin with mildly spicy paprika in a 1:1 ratio in your dish for the best results.
Cumin is one of the main spices in many cuisines like Indian, Mexican, African, Asian, etc. People use whole and ground cumin in different recipes like marinades, soups, sauces, vegetables, meat dishes, and spice blends.
However, if you don’t have cumin on hand that doesn’t mean you can’t use some other spice or spice blend that has a similar flavor to cumin or in which cumin is one of the ingredients.
You will not get the exact cumin flavor but some hints of cumin will be present in your dish.
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We hope that some of the substitutes suggested in this article will help you to mimic the cumin flavor and enhance the flavor of your dishes.
What are you using as a substitute for cumin? Do you have any other suggestions on what we can use as a substitute for cumin? Share your experience in the comment section down below!