If you’re a fan of using cumin in your recipes, you know that it has its own flavor. But what do you do if you are in the middle of cooking a recipe that calls for cumin and you realize you are completely without it?
Short of jumping in your car and making a mad dash to the spice section of your local grocery store, you do have some options. If your pantry is well stocked, you probably have a variety of different ingredients that can pinch hit for cumin in the recipe you’re working on.
Cumin is a commonly used spice in recipes all over the world including India, Latin America, Asia, and Africa. It lends an earthy smoky flavor and some heat to recipes, but it also has several health benefits. Cumin has been known to treat illnesses and diseases such as the common cold, bronchitis, asthma.
It is also credited with curing piles, helping to aid in digestion and prevent diabetes. If you’re using cumin in your recipes for specific health benefits, you’ll want to explore the health benefits of whatever cumin substitute you choose as well.
Best Cumin Substitute Ideas:
- Ground Coriander
- Chili Powder
- Chipotle Seasoning
- Garam Masala
- Curry Powder
- Taco Seasoning
- Caraway Seeds
One of the go-to substitutes for cumin is coriander. Since it originates in the same family of plants as cumin, it’s one of the best substitutes for cumin in just about any recipe. Coriander has a similar but much stronger flavor than cumin, so you’ll want to use approximately half of the coriander than what the recipe instructs in cumin.
To make sure you get the right flavor, start out with half and then gradually increase in small amounts until you get the flavor you want. For a slight twist on using just coriander as an alternative to cumin, you can mix a 1 to 1 ratio of coriander and oregano to get the perfect cumin substitute as well.
When it comes to health benefits, coriander has been said to aid in digestion and help treat food poisoning as well as improve cholesterol, lower blood sugar, and help with urinary tract infections.
What pantry doesn’t have chili powder on hand? And it’s a good thing too because traditional bottles of chili powder consist of a variety of spices which make one of the best cumin substitutes around. Half of the cumin called for in your dish is a good starting place. Increase the amount incrementally to get the right kick to your dish. But be careful, if all you have is a specialty chili powder or pure cayenne chili powder, skip this substitute and use one of the others on this list instead.
Chili powder contains antioxidants and carotenoids as well as capsaicin which may assist with regulation of insulin. It has been said to boost metabolism, help heal infections and minor injuries, and strengthen your immune system.
For those southwestern dishes that can stand a little smoky heat, you can use chipotle seasoning as a close cumin substitute. Most chipotle seasonings include cumin in them as well as paprika, oregano, and thyme. Be careful when using chipotle seasoning to replace cumin, start with just a tiny amount in the beginning and add more to suit your taste preferences.
This smoky seasoning contains capsaicin, as well as a variety of other nutrients including phosphorus, magnesium, iron, potassium, and Vitamin B6, K, and C. Capsaicin have been known to help relieve pain, lower blood pressure and high cholesterol, and prevent blood clots.
One of the best substitutes for cumin is the earthy sweet taste of garam masala. The flavor is so very close to cumin. It often includes cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, cloves, and black pepper so you might detect a very subtle difference. It’s best, to begin with, half the cumin instructed and add gradually until you get the desired flavor for your final dish.
This handy little spice has been used to relieve pain, build immunity, encourage weight loss, soothe digestive issues such as heartburn and gas. It’s also good for helping your body absorb other vitamins, proteins, and minerals.
Curry powder can be a great substitute for cumin in your favorite recipe. There are different forms of curry powder but as long as you choose one that includes cumin as one of the first few ingredients in the list, it should be fine. Use half the amount of cumin called for in your original recipe and keep in mind that curry powder with turmeric as one of the ingredients can give your dish a slightly yellow color to it. If the visual appearance of your recipe is important to the presentation, skip the curry powder and use coriander instead.
Curry powder has anti-inflammatory properties, it aids in digestion, and has been used in anti-cancer therapies and has shown promise to help protect against Alzheimer’s disease in people who use curry regularly.
Believe it or not, taco seasoning mix can serve as one of the best cumin substitutes if you find yourself devoid of cumin when you’re in the midst of preparing a favorite dish. Taco seasoning is typically made from a fair amount of cumin along with paprika, onion, oregano, and chili pepper.
If you’re going to use taco seasoning as a substitute for cumin, you simply swap the taco seasoning for the cumin called for in the recipe. Unless you want to really have a dish with some fire to it, use a mild taco seasoning and reduce the salt the recipe calls for to balance things out.
Since most taco seasoning mix contains a mix of many other spices found in cumin, you’ll find it has some of the same health benefits of cumin. You’ll want to use an organic taco seasoning that you mix yourself if you desire to gain the health benefits.
That dark brownish red spice that you usually use to brighten up your deviled eggs makes a mild substitute for cumin in your recipes. In fact, if you are looking to make a recipe that calls for cumin but would like it to have a little less heat, paprika is one of the best substitutes for cumin.
It has less heat than cumin but some of the same smoky flavor. For dishes that require the spicier flavor of cumin, use 1-part pure chili powder to 2-parts paprika. You’ll get the smoky heat of cumin and only the pickiest of palettes will be able to discern the difference.
Since paprika comes from the family that includes a wide variety of peppers, you’ll find it provides similar health benefits including capsaicin which can help lower blood pressure, iron, and four different carotenoids.
Another of the best substitutes for cumin is caraway seeds. The two are both in the Parsley family so the flavors are similar in taste. Caraway seeds are a great cumin substitute for those dishes where the color of the final dish is part of the appeal.
Caraway and cumin are similar in color, so the visual presentation of the final dish won’t be altered. Again, you’ll want to conservatively start with just half of the caraway seeds to cumin. Caraway seeds are not quite as spicy as cumin so increase the amount until you get the desired flavor and no one at your dinner table will be the wiser.
These can be one of the best alternatives for cumin. They provide many of the same health benefits including helping with digestive issues such as bloating, heartburn, gas, and stomach upset.
So to select the best cumin substitutes for your recipes to be sure to consider any health benefits you desire as well as how any additional ingredients might impact your original recipe. Some of these cumin substitutes will work better for specific recipes than others but in the end, your guests won’t notice the difference. If they do happen to question you about your secret ingredient, just smile and say you used a little cumin magic.
Our some other substitutes ideas: