The best cumin substitute can really come in handy while cooking. Cumin is one of those spices used often in many recipes. I use it so much that I often run out of it just when it’s time to start adding ingredients to my crockpot.
It’s widely used in Mexican food, Indian food, and as a flavor booster in soups. But when you run out, it can really leave a dish lacking in flavor. Like our dry mustard and coriander substitutes articles, we’ve compiled a list of the best substitutes for cumin to help you out the next time you find yourself without it.
Cumin’s warmth, nuttiness, and earthy qualities make it a difficult spice to match perfectly. There are even some subtle, bright notes to it that make it more rounded. It has a distinct scent to it, too, that makes it hard to compare to other spices.
Worldwide, cumin has found a home in all kinds of cuisine. It is a classic ingredient in TexMex and also shows up in African food. Cumin can also be found as a flavoring in the Middle East. In ancient Greece, it was kept in a dish on the table and used like salt and pepper are used today!
Cumin seeds are harvested from the pods of the Cuminum cyminum plant. Then, they are roasted and ground to form the brown spice we’re familiar with. You can buy cumin seeds and grind them yourself, or you can reach for one of the easy cumin replacements below and add it to your spice organizer.
Cumin Substitute Comparison Table
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Reviews: 5 Best Substitutes for Cumin
Cumin is tricky to match. You want to be aware of what flavor you’re trying to bring out in your dish before you choose a substitute.
These five substitutes are the top choices we could find on the market for each spice. We’ve only selected organic products for our review. This list will help you stock your spice rack with healthy items and a wide variety of options. Whether you’re looking for a bit of spice, or need to enhance the nuttiness of a dish, this list has something for everyone.
In our Coriander Substitutes article, we told you that cumin was the best all around substitute for coriander. It’s also true that coriander is the best all-around substitute for cumin! You can use coriander as a substitute in curries, salsas, dips, and on grains.
Their spice profile is less than a perfect match though. Cumin adds a little bit of heat to your dish while coriander does not. If you like spice and want to use coriander as your substitute, make sure to add in a little bit of heat by using a peppery spice alongside it. You can also simply choose a different substitute.
This organic option from Frontier is a healthy addition to your pantry. It’s from a member-owned co-op and is Non-GMO, Non-ETO, Kosher, and non-irradiated. If you’re looking for a quality ingredient from a responsible, health-conscious brand, this may be the spice for you.
- Non-GMO, Non-ETO, Non-Irradiated, Kosher product.
- Similar flavor profile to cumin.
- Commonly found in lots of other recipes.
- Not spicy enough for some tastes.
- Pricier product for some buyers.
- Flavor profile not as strong as cumin.
This spice is made of a blend of different spices and commonly includes cumin as one of its ingredients. Therefore, it makes it an easy choice when you’re looking to use a substitute with a kick. True to its name, chili powder adds spice to your dish. If you want to make it spicier, just add more.
Simply Organic stores its spices in square, glass bottles which makes it easy to see what’s inside. It also makes it easy to organize the spices on your shelf.
You can use chili powder in all kinds of recipes when you’re done using it as a substitute. The flavor profiles are similar because of the presence of cumin, but there’s a lot more to this spice than cumin. Chilis, garlic, oregano, and allspice are included on the ingredients list so you’ll find this spice to be a well-rounded, but warm addition to your dish.
You can use chili powder in chili, taco soup, tortilla soup, or even ground beef. This substitute works great as a fill-in for cumin. If you’re looking for extra versatility though, this product will work great in many different dishes.
- Cumin is already in the ingredients list, making it a great swap.
- Salt-free, organic, kosher.
- Useful in many different recipes.
- Might be too spicy for some.
- Easy to use too much.
- Not appropriate for all recipes.
Another spice blend, this substitute is notable for having cumin among the list of ingredients. It’s a great choice when it’s time to reach for a substitute, especially when you need one in a Mexican dish. From casseroles to tacos, The Spice Hunter Mexican Seasoning can be a great addition to your recipe.
The brand is salt-free which is nice about this seasoning. With other brands of taco seasoning, the salt content makes it hard to judge exactly how much salt is ending up in your recipe. You won’t have to worry about reducing the amount of salt you add to your recipe if you use this product. You can just do exactly what the recipe tells you and try a 1:1 ratio when you make the switch.
Quality Flavor, Premium Brand
This spice could also go by the name taco seasoning. It’s a great spice to have on hand for the family that enjoys participating in the “Taco Tuesday” tradition. The Spice Hunter is a brand that cares about making quality, organic products. In addition, it’s a Non-GMO and salt-free choice.
- Great for families who love Mexican food.
- Organic, Non-GMO
- May be too spicy for some buyers.
- Not an easy substitute for cumin in non-Mexican food.
- Flavor may not be what every buyer expects.
This product is a great, simple option for a home chef looking for an interesting cumin substitute. Paprika comes in all kinds of varieties, from Spanish to Hungarian to smoky. It is a basic, quality product that will work well in a lot of types of recipes. In addition, the price point is ideal for the budget buyer looking to purchase a healthy option.
We’ve mentioned that the Simply Organic brand is notable for being kosher and organic. However, this product has another benefit. Simply Organic gives 1% of its sales from this product to support organic farming. So if you’re a buyer interested in purchasing a brand that gives back, this might be the product for you.
Watch Your Ratio
This product is a unique option as a cumin substitute. First, you do not want to start with a 1:1 ratio if you choose this spice for your dish in place of cumin. The spicy qualities of paprika are much stronger than cumin and can overpower a dish easily. They do share in common the earthy and smoky notes in their flavor profiles.
You should start by adding a quarter of what is called for in the recipe and then taste your dish. If you like the flavor, leave it alone. But if you want more spice or smokiness, add a little more. It’s easy to add too much so be sure to use your measuring spoons to know exactly what you’re adding.
- Kosher, Organic product that donates a portion of its sales to organic farming.
- Versatile substitute for lots of recipes.
- Great budget option.
- Too much heat for some.
- Not a 1:1 ratio substitute option.
- Overuse can overpower a dish with a bitter flavor.
Turmeric is a great substitute for cumin if you’re looking to highlight its warm, nutty qualities. There’s also a bit of a peppery, ginger kick to this spice that mimics cumin’s heat just a bit. Moreover, it’s a great healthy option with a whole variety of health benefits.
This organic product comes in a large bottle and the 13.25 oz package is a great choice for budget buyers. If you don’t mind storing this jar in your pantry and you use, or plan to use, turmeric a lot, this will be a fantastic choice for you. However, you may want to choose a different substitute or a different brand of turmeric if you prefer to purchase your spices in smaller sizes.
Turmeric has a lot of health benefits. It’s great for those on the keto diet or those looking to get the anti-inflammatory benefits from turmeric root. This product will make a great “Golden Milk”. But you can also use it in all kinds of Asian recipes too.
Lastly, don’t forget that this product will not only change the color of the dish you’re making, it will also stain your countertop and your clothes. So we recommend donning an apron if you’re cooking with this spice!
- Large quantity great for budget buyers.
- Peppery, nutty flavor makes it a great substitute.
- Many other healthy uses.
- May be too large for some buyers.
- Stain risk and can alter the color of a dish.
- Can be too bitter for some.
Cumin Substitute Buyer’s Guide
It can be hard work to find the right substitute for cumin. You’ve got a lot of choices to make and flavor profiles to choose from. In this article, we’ve tried to give you the rundown of your available choices.
Our research has shown you what the best options are on the market. The goal is for you to be able to make a fast decision when it comes time to pick a substitute.
We’ve got just a few more things for you to keep in mind when you’re choosing the best option for your recipe.
What is Cumin?
This spice was planted in the Americas by Spain back in the 1600s. It’s been used in all kinds of cuisine throughout North and South America since then. But its origins are ancient and it hasn’t always been used as a food. In fact, cumin was used during the mummification process in Egypt thousands of years ago!
Cumin comes from the middle east and is a flowering plant when it grows wild. It’s a member of the parsley and dill family. The plant produces a fruit in the form of a pod which contains the seeds. Cumin seeds look very similar to caraway seeds, which, though we don’t suggest it as one of the best, also work as a substitute for cumin. In some Slavic languages, cumin is known as “roman caraway” because the plants are so easy to confuse.
Cumin comes in several different varieties. The most common, black and green cumin, are heavily used in Persian cuisine. Cumin is used in Mexican cuisine primarily in context of chili spice blends and to flavor tacos. In France, it’s used to make bread.
Ground cumin comes from cumin seeds. The seeds can also be used as a substitute for cumin too if you have them on hand. For instance, just use your mortar and pestle or spice grinder to make a powder out of your seeds. Then, add them right into your recipe. You’ll get an added bonus of having the freshest cumin flavor possible if you try this option, even though it takes a bit of extra work.
Flavor Substitutes for Cumin
It’s important to think about what flavor you want to highlight in the dish when choosing the right cumin substitute. Do you need the nuttiness of cumin to come forward? Try using ground coriander. Are you looking to add a little bit of cumin to the dish and emphasize the heat? Try using chili powder or the Mexican seasoning. Would you like to add some smokiness to your dish and emphasize the spiciness of cumin? Use paprika, though be careful not to overuse it!
I love turmeric and am careful to always keep it on hand in my kitchen. You might be a turmeric lover like me, and if so, the bulk buy option might be best for you. This option is great as a substitute for cumin if you want to bring out the earthy, peppery flavors in your dish. If you are a newbie to turmeric or would prefer to work with a substitute that’s less messy, you’ll probably want to check out our other options on this list.
Cumin Replacement Ratios
You’ll be ok to use a 1:1 ratio with ground coriander as a swap on this list. This spice works as the ideal substitute for cumin and you can follow your recipe for the right quantity.
Two of our choices on this list are spice blends: chili powder and Mexican seasoning. You can start with a 1:1 ratio, but you’ll want to taste your dish as you go. It’s best to make sure you’re getting the right flavors. For instance, you might find that these spices make things spicier much more quickly. But on the other hand, you might also find that they don’t alter the dish enough so you will need to add more.
Be careful when using paprika as a substitute. Use just a quarter of the recommended amount to start with. You can always add more, but paprika can easily overpower your recipe. When you’ve put too much in, you’ll find that the dish becomes too spicy or too bitter.
Turmeric has a much milder flavor than cumin. You can start with a 1:1 ratio. But you might find the need to add more to your dish in order to enhance the earthy flavors that are missing without the use of cumin.
What are the Health Benefits of Cumin and its Substitutes?
In Ayurvedic and other traditional medicine, cumin is said to have many health benefits. Cumin is widely said to help promote digestion and might have some cancer-fighting properties. If you’re looking for an in-depth list, we’ve found another great article that details the health benefits of cumin.
Cumin and coriander are both said to help settle the digestive system and fight inflammation. They are ideal substitutes for each other in both flavor and health benefits.
Chili powder and Mexican seasoning, as blends of spices, have a whole host of benefits that are derived from each of their ingredients. They share with cumin some of the health benefits we’ve already mentioned since they contain cumin.
However, each of these spices contain other ingredients that are known to help fight infections. If you’re looking for another great resource on the health benefits of chili powder, check out this video:
Paprika is a great antioxidant-rich spice that is said to be a fantastic addition to the diets of those with auto-immune conditions. Also, it’s said to be great for the eyes and heart. This article has a more detailed list of the evidence behind these claims if you want to know more!
Turmeric is widely cited as a healthy choice by those in the keto community. So if you’re looking for a spice that is anti-inflammatory, aids digestion, and can even help reduce pain, this might be the best substitute for your pantry.
Choosing the Right Substitute for Cumin
All of the products we’ve shown you are organic, but some have other perks as well.
If you’re looking for an environmentally conscious brand, you might want to choose the Frontier product we have on this list. This ground coriander will be a great addition to your pantry.
If you are interested in a low-cost product, you might want to choose the turmeric we’ve included as a bulk-buy option. For an organic, standard-sized choice, you’ll want to try the Simply Organic or McCormick choices on our list.
For instance, if you want a salt-free, versatile spice blend, you’ll be happy with the Mexican seasoning from the Spice Hunter or the Simply Organic chili powder.
It’s up to you to choose the right spice to suit your recipe and your pantry. We suggest you choose from this list according to your taste in flavor, brand consciousness, and budget. If you’re looking for ideas and recipes to spice up your cooking using these substitutes, you should check out these great cookbooks here.
In sum, we hope we’ve helped you make the best decision for your spice cupboard with this list!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the best type of cumin substitute to use?
A: The answer for this depends on how you want to flavor your dish. If you’re looking for the nutty, earthy flavor of cumin to come through, you’ll want to rely on coriander or maybe turmeric. For instance, choose chili powder or the Mexican seasoning if you want a substitute that already has some cumin in it. If you’re just looking to add some spice and perhaps some smokiness, paprika will be your best bet.
Q: Which is better, cumin or coriander?
A: Neither is better than the other, but they are the closest substitutes in terms of flavor profile. Coriander has less of a pungent smell than cumin does, but the flavor of cumin will come through a dish a bit more strongly than coriander will.
Q: What does cumin taste like?
A: Cumin has an earthy, warm taste that also has a bit of nuttiness and heat to it. You’ll recognize it by its smell. It has a strong, distinct odor that makes its presence known in a dish.
Q: Are cumin and curcumin the same?
A: No, they are not. Cumin is a spice. Curcumin is a substance found in turmeric which is said to have anti-inflammatory properties. If you’re looking for more information about curcumin, check out this article from WebMD. You should consider choosing turmeric as your substitute for cumin if you’re looking to get some extra curcumin in your diet.
Q: Are cumin seeds the same as ground cumin?
A: The only difference between these two spices is that the seeds are whole, and the powdered cumin is ground. You can take cumin seeds and grind them yourself to make the powdered form of cumin and use it in your recipe.
Cumin substitutes come in a wide variety of choices and price ranges. You’ll want to choose the best one for your pantry by first determining your budget, deciding what kind of companies you want to support, and then looking to your recipe for guidance.
You might find yourself needing cumin to make tacos, casseroles or chilis. The wide variety of options above will help you bring out the ideal flavor in any recipe that needs cumin. We’ve given you a great set of organic options that have a whole host of health benefits.
If you’ve run out of cumin and need to make a fast substitution, we think one of these choices will work for you. In additon, this list will also help you stock your pantry with a variety of spices so that you’re prepared for your next culinary adventure. With spice blends in hand, spicy options close by, and healthy choices with every product, you’ll be ready for anything. We bet that you’ll find each of these products has a benefit in its own right—not just as a substitute for cumin.
We hope that after reading our detailed cumin substitute reviews and comprehensive buying guide, you’ll have all the information you need to select the best cumin substitute that is perfect for your pantry.