Cumin is a must-have for many Indian, Mexican, or Middle Eastern dishes. So, here we share some possible cumin substitutes you can use if you ever run short of the original spice.

The best cumin replacements include some of the easily found options such as:

  1. Fennel seeds
  2. Caraway seeds
  3. Coriander seeds
  4. Taco seasoning
  5. Mild curry powder
  6. Garam Masala
  7. Fajita seasoning

So, read ahead to discover how these substitutes help to save your dishes whenever you find yourself out of cumin.

The Best 07 Substitutes For Cumin

It is extremely normal for you to panic if you are in the middle of preparing a dish that calls for cumin but suddenly realize that you don’t have the spice in your spice cabinet. But worry not- we have listed out below the best possible replacement that could bring out a closer flavor as you would usually get when cumin is used.

It is not a secret that there’s nothing quite like cumin that could replicate the exact same taste and flavor. Yet, a few pantry staples are luckily capable of helping us without letting us down. So, check out our article and pick the best available substitute for you.

best substitutes for cumin - SpiceRally

01- Fennel Seeds

Sharing the same family bond, fennel can become a good alternative when you don’t have cumin around. They even look a bit similar, but fennel is more greenish in color. However, this option lacks the warm, earthy flavor that cumin usually has but does not essentially stand out of place.

You can find fennel as whole seeds rather than in their ground form. It will be good to go into dips, sauces, certain curries, soups, and meat dishes in place of cumin. Since fennel has a more licorice-anise flavor, it is always better if you can start with a pinch and adjust the taste as you go.

Even though fennel seeds can be a good substitute for cumin, did you know that they have significant differences? So, if you are curious about those differences, click on this link and refer to our detailed post.

02- Caraway Seeds

Caraway seeds look so much like cumin seeds that many of us tend to get confused between these two spices. This option and our topic leader belong to the same parsley family and could virtually work perfectly as a replacement for cumin.

Caraway seeds are milder than cumin, with a slight licorice hint. You can use whale caraway seeds in place of cumin seeds and replace ground caraway when a recipe calls for ground cumin. You will not experience much of a color difference when using this alternative.

You can begin by using half the amount as you would usually use cumin and increase or decrease the amount as you build up the taste. Nevertheless, this option would work well with sweet and savory dishes equally.

03- Coriander Seeds

This is another versatile spice that you could easily find around your pantry. You can use both coriander seeds and coriander seed powder whenever you need to substitute cumin in a particular dish.

The best thing about this alternative is its flavor replication to our topic leader. You can get an equal earthy, slightly citrusy flavor with coriander seeds. Besides, it is readily available just as cumin, and it will complement a wide variety of dishes, including spice and seasoning blends.

You can start by using half the amount of coriander seeds or powder in your recipes. From there, you can alter the taste with a more or lesser amount depending on your preference.

04- Taco Seasoning

Taco seasoning typically contains a bulk of ground cumin that works well with many Mexican dishes. This is the main reason to list this option in our list; regardless of the complexity, it would add to your dishes more than cumin alone would do.

However, taco seasoning contains a few other additional ingredients like red pepper flakes, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, black pepper, and salt. 

Thus, bear in mind that you should be using this option sparingly, especially a lesser amount than you would generally use cumin. You can always adjust the taste later as you desire.

05- Mild Curry Powder

Curry powder is a spice blend that is commonly used in South Asian dishes. The curry powder you would buy in the Western market typically contains a more considerable proportion of ground cumin.

In addition to cumin, mild curry powder options could also contain spices like coriander seeds, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, black pepper, mustard seeds, etc. So, you will get a more amplified flavor in your dishes with a slight change of color due to the turmeric content in this option.

However, remember to get a mild curry powder version, as there are some other Asian curry powder options that are more robust and spicier. And they could not even be compared with the taste of cumin alone.

So, once you get a mild curry powder, use a moderate amount at the beginning in your curries, soups, stews, or any other savory dish that originally calls for cumin. Adjust the taste according to your preference.

06- Garam Masala

Garam Masala is the king of Indian spice blends that works well with Indian and South African dishes as well. This blend contains cumin and several other spices, including cinnamon, coriander seeds, nutmeg, cardamom, etc.

Each Garam Masala version could have slight differences in its content, but cumin is a staple regardless of the recipe. We recommend using this alternative in rich curries, meat, and vegetarian dishes. But you can also use it with Indian snacks like Samosa or Bhaji.

So, just like curry powder, make sure you initiate by substituting a small amount at the beginning. The complex flavor profile of Garam Masala could easily overpower your dish. So, start moderately and adjust to taste.

07- Fajita Seasoning

While working closely with taco seasoning, fajita seasoning is another blend of spices with cumin as a staple. This option typically contains additional ingredients like chili powder, garlic powder, paprika, dried oregano, salt, etc.

You can use this replacement just as we explained to use taco seasoning as a cumin substitute. This will work the best with Mexican-inspired dishes, including meat, rice dishes, vegetables, and bean dishes. Like all other alternatives, you can begin with a small amount and proceed as you develop the taste.

What Does Cumin Taste Like?

Cumin usually gives a profundity to our dishes with its hearty, rich, earthy, and warm flavor elements with a hint of sweetness and a citrusy touch.

A pinch of cumin can instantly turn your bland dishes into super flavorful ones while offering a number of health benefits. So, if you need to discover some interesting facts about this wonderful spice, click here and refer to our detailed article.

How Spicy Is Cumin?

Even though cumin is paired mostly with spicy dishes, the seed itself is hardly spicy. In fact, it only gets spicy by associating with other potent ingredients. And it ranks on the lowest level (a range from 3-4) on the heat scale.

Best Cumin Substitutes In A Nutshell…

As you see, as long as you have one of the alternatives mentioned above in hand, you don’t have to worry about not having cumin in your kitchen. They might not be able to bring the same depth, and nuanced flavor cumin usually would do. But substitutes like fennel seeds, caraway seeds, coriander seeds, mild curry powder, etc., are options that are really worth giving a try.

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