Best Substitutes For Cumin: Guide To Delicious Alternatives

As an experienced chef, I have experimented with different substitute spices for cumin to add different flavors to my dishes. One of my favorite substitutes is coriander seeds.

I pan-roast them for a few minutes before crushing them which helps release the natural flavors fully. The seeds have a warm, sweet, and citrusy flavor that works well with Middle Eastern dishes.

Caraway seeds are another great substitute for cumin. I use them in marinades for meats or sprinkle them on roasted vegetables to add a nutty and earthy flavor.

Read on to explore some of the best substitutes for cumin that you can use in your recipes.

What Is Cumin?

Cumin seeds.
Cumin seeds.

Cumin seeds are the dried fruits of the cumin plant. Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) belongs to the Apiaceae or Umbelliferae family, a group of aromatic flowering plants often referred to as the celery, parsley, or carrot family.

Originating from the eastern Mediterranean region, cumin is now widely cultivated in various parts of the world, including India, the Middle East, and parts of Europe.

Throughout history, cumin has been highly valued for its culinary and medicinal uses. The seeds of the cumin plant are actually small dried fruits, each containing a single seed.

These seeds are typically harvested and dried and can be used whole or ground into a fine powder.

Cumin adds a distinct and pungent flavor to many dishes, and it is a common ingredient in Indian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, and North African cuisines.

In addition to its culinary applications, cumin is also known for its potential health benefits and has been used in traditional medicine for centuries.

Best Substitutes For Cumin

Chili Powder

If you’re looking for a quick and straightforward substitute for cumin, chili powder is your best bet. It is a flavorful blend of spices, including cumin, ground chilies, and other seasonings.

Many store-bought chili powder brands use cumin as a base to give it a deep and earthy flavor, making it an excellent alternative to cumin.

Coriander Seeds

Coriander seeds have a mildly sweet and slightly citrusy flavor profile, making them an ideal substitute for cumin in various dishes.

They are the primary component in ground coriander, a spice that complements the flavors in a curry, stew, or other cuisines that call for cumin.

Garam Masala

Garam masala is a popular spice blend that contains several spices, including coriander, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves. It is versatile and adds a distinct earthy, sweet, and warm flavor to dishes. However, it also contains the same spices found in cumin, making it a suitable alternative spice.

Caraway Seeds

Caraway seeds have a nutty, earthy, and sweet flavor, making them ideal substitutes for cumin.

They are commonly used as an ingredient in European dishes, but they can be a great substitute for cumin in meat dishes, stews, and spice mixtures.

Curry Powder

Curry powder is a combination of several spices, including cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon.

It is widely used in Indian cuisine and adds a warm, earthy, and aromatic flavor to dishes.

When used in place of cumin, it can give your recipe an intense spicy flavor.

Fennel Seeds

Fennel seeds have a sweet and anise-like flavor, which makes them a great replacement for cumin.

They are a common ingredient in Italian and Middle Eastern cuisine.

Smoked Paprika

Smoked paprika is a spice made from grinding dried red peppers. It has a smoky flavor profile and a deep red-orange hue, making it an excellent substitute for cumin.

When using it in place of cumin, be mindful of the smoky flavor it brings to the dish.


What Is The Best Substitute For Cumin In Chili?

Chili powder is the best substitute for cumin in chili recipes. Its flavor profile is similar to that of cumin, and it blends well with other ingredients in chili.

Is Coriander A Suitable Substitute For Cumin In Indian Curries?

Yes, coriander is the best substitute for cumin in Indian curries. They both have earthy and aromatic flavors that complement various Indian spices used in curries.

Can I Use Turmeric As A Substitute For Cumin In Recipes?

No, turmeric cannot be used as a substitute for cumin in recipes because it has a vastly different flavor profile. It has a mild, bitter, and earthy taste, which might not complement the ingredients in a recipe that calls for cumin.


You don’t need to worry about running out of cumin or not wanting to use it in your dishes. There are countless substitutes for cumin, each offering its own unique flavors and complexities.

Experiment with these spices to find the one that best suits your recipe and your taste buds.

Norah Clark

Norah Clark

Norah Clark, the founder and editor of YummyTasteFood! She's a seasoned food writer and editor with over a decade of experience in the hospitality industry as a former pastry chef, sous chef, and barista. When not writing about food, she explores new recipes or travels the world for culinary inspiration.