by Jade 

February 14, 2018

For a chef who owns an Indian restaurant, running out of cumin is a total deal breaker due to its unique flavor and aroma. Actually, I’ve had many encounters with my kitchen helpers because they keep on using too much cumin in various dishes (can’t blame them because it’s a signature seasoning of every Indian restaurant).

Little did I know there are actually good substitutes for cumin that you can find stocked in your humble pantry. You don’t need to keep on running to the grocery to buy cumin because you might find an excellent substitute just right in the corner of the room.


Replace Cumin With Coriander

The most common substitute for cumin is coriander.

cumin substitute

Whether your recipe indicates using ground cumin or cumin seeds, coriander is the best substitute simply because both cumin and coriander come from the same plant family. While their flavors don’t exactly match, they are very similar in giving that unique aroma to certain dishes.

Whether your recipe indicates using ground cumin or cumin seeds, coriander is the best substitute simply because both cumin and coriander come from the same plant family. While their flavors don’t exactly match, they are very similar in giving that unique aroma to certain dishes.

Let me share you a chef’s secret on how much coriander you should put in a certain recipe: first, check how much cumin seeds or ground cumin the recipe calls for. Then, use half the amount of fresh coriander or cumin seeds.

Coriander is a stronger spice than cumin, so you’ll want to reduce it if you're going to use it in lieu of cumin. You can adjust the flavor to your liking.

Moreover, you can watch the video below to learn how to grow cumin plants.

Grab For Caraway Seeds

If you still want that cumin flavor and aroma in your dish, another great substitute would be caraway seeds. Like coriander and cumin, caraway comes from the same plant family.

It also has the same appearance with cumin so using it will not change the expected color of your dish.

cumin substitute

However, cumin seeds have a hotter and spicier flavor profile compared to caraway seeds. So, I recommend you use half the amount of caraway seeds and then increase the amount according to your taste preference.

While they are not the same in flavor, cumin and caraway both helps in preventing hearing, hair, and digestive diseases so you might want to consider this for a healthier dish.

Watch the video for tips on how to harvest and grow caraway seeds.

The Power Of Anise Seeds

I know a lot of chefs will disagree in using anise seeds as a substitute for cumin because it has a strong licorice flavor compared to the nutty-earthy flavor possessed by the previous spices mentioned on this list.

But if you try using anise along with caraway, you will be surprised that your dish will have that cumin-like flavor minus the bitter taste.

I recommend using half of the intended cumin amount in the dish, but you may change it depending on your liking.

cumin substitute

Chili Powder Is Your Friend

Don’t be afraid that chili powder may overpower the taste of your dish -- it’s one the best substitutes for cumin!

Unlike other bottled spices like “cayenne chili powder” which is 100% made from chilies, the common chili powder contains mix spices and is a great substitute for cumin.

A bottle of it may contain spices like oregano, paprika, chilies, and even cumin! This is why it’s one of the best substitutes for it because it probably contains cumin.

But be careful in using it because there are other specialty chili powders that might be heavy in garlic, lemon, or other spices. Always make sure it has cumin powder in the label.

If you’re going to substitute it with cumin in your dish, start with half the amount and gradually add to your liking.

Instead of buying store bought chili powder, the video below shows a DIY recipe on how to make it at home.

Add A Pinch Or More Of Taco Seasoning

Taco seasoning is another DIY recipe that is a perfect substitute for cumin also because taco seasoning has cumin in it.

If you're going to buy taco seasoning, I suggest you check the ingredients because it may have other strong spices and can be very salty. But most taco seasonings are made of the following spices:

  • check
    Chili pepper
  • check
    Cumin powder
  • check
    Paprika powder
  • check
    Oregano powder
  • check
    Onion powder

Watch the video below on how to make your own taco seasoning.

Curry For Your Thoughts?

Curry has a lot of ingredients, and many of those ingredients most likely includes cumin as a main component.

If you’re going to use curry powder as a substitute for cumin powder, the first thing you must do is look at the ingredients. It may include salt, mustard, garlic, turmeric, cumin, and other spices. As long as cumin is present, you’re good to go brother!

I suggest using half the amount called for in the recipe. Because it has a lot of spices, it may add too much flavor and aroma if you don’t regulate it.

The flavor profile of curry powder is sweet, earthy, and may give your dish a yellowish appearance because turmeric is present.

Paprika Will Make Sweet To Love To Your Dish

Anyone who loves paprika knows its smoky flavor, but what others might not realize is that the smokiness of paprika compliments for the smokiness cumin features.

Paprika is a great substitute for those who want to have less spice in a dish, as paprika carries little heat. Actually some of my chef friends intentionally leave out cumin to get rid of the heat and instead use paprika.

If you’re going to use paprika, try this tip: add 2 parts paprika to 1 part chili powder. The chili powder will add little heat and make up for the lack of cumin in paprika.

Go For Gold! The Garam Masala

Another great substitute for cumin is a spice mix called garam masala. Some people mistake garam masala for chili powder because it has the same ingredients. But technically, they are different spices.

Garam masala has a complex, earthy and sweet flavor profile. And guess what spice it has a lot of? Cumin! Garam masala has a lot of cumin in it and also coriander, cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, etc.

As with the other substitute mentioned above you should use half the amount of garam masala in your dish.

cumin substitute

Chipotle Seasoning Is Here To The Rescue

For a smoky and spicy substitute for cumin, you can use chipotle seasoning can be in your dishes.

If you love Mexican cuisine, give chipotle a try! In fact you can make your own at home. Watch the video below.

Chipotle seasoning typically contains sweet chipotle, thyme, oregano, cumin, smoked paprika and other spices that give it a unique, earthy flavor. While the flavor may not be identical to that of cumin, it’s best used in Southwestern dishes made with cumin.

To use chipotle seasoning, just add a little amount at first and adjust the taste to your liking.

Give Oregano A Try!

I didn’t believe at first that oregano can be a good substitute for cumin. But when my friend who also happens to be a chef recommended it to me, I had to give it a try.

cumin substitute

While oregano is typically used in Italian or Mediterranean dishes, it’s actually present in a lot of spice mixes. I recommend using fresh instead of the powder and ground form because it gives more aroma and flavor.


Whether you decide to use any of the spices above, you can expect them all to give a cumin-like taste or aroma. Use them in different dishes so you can hopefully discover the greatest substitute for cumin that works for you.

cumin substitute

Did you find this article useful? What cumin substitute/s have you tried and loved? Feel free to comment below! Don’t forget to share this post. Take care folks!

About the author 


{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Subscribe now to get the latest updates!