7 Cumin Substitutes You Have to Try

Cumin Substitutes You Have to Try
Cumin Seeds

Ever found yourself in the middle of your cooking only to realize that your cumin seed tin is empty? We’ve all be there, and it happens even to the best of us. It is not carelessness on your part, but rather being engrossed in your cooking that you forgot little bits here and there. The good news is that there are 7 cumin substitutes you have to try.

While leaving out spices in some dishes is a cardinal sin, you still have spice options to make a happy ending with your cooking. If it is not cumin, there is a pretty broad variety of spices that you can use to substitute it. But do you know them? Do you have them on your spice shelf?

Well, we have been there and done that. The lack of cumin should not dim your hopes for a great meal. In fact, you should be excited about this opportunity to explore other spices. In this post, we will tell you about cumin substitutes that would make your meals devilishly delicious. We have tried them all, and we know that they are worth the shot.

But first things first.

What is Cumin?

Arguably, cumin is as equally popular as black pepper. While that qualifies it to be a universal spice, there are those who don’t know about its potency and history. Its seeds come from the Cuminum cyminum, a plant from the Parsley family. The seeds, whole or ground, are added to an array of cuisines from North Africa, Asia, to Latin America. In baked beans in America, rice in North Africa, curries in India, to guacamole in Mexico; cumin has become a global household spice. And all these because of its alluring aroma and the earthy taste it leaves on taste buds.

Cumin Substitutes You Have to Try
Cuminum Plant

7 Cumin Substitutes You Have to Try

We are lucky to have sampled hundreds of spices. And, by the way, we are still trying to come up with our list of spices. But one thing is for sure, cumin is going to make the top ten. However, we try as much as possible to explore as wildly as possible with our spices and that is how we landed to a score of cumin substitutes.

So when you run out of spice; here are 7 cumin substitutes you have to try

Caraway Seeds

Cumin and caraway seeds are like cousins. They belong to the same family: parsley. If you find both seeds placed side by side for the first time, it may not be easy telling one from the other. Both are consistent in their brown-mustardy color and oblong shape.

However, they still have their differences. Caraway seeds have a mild flavor and taste. Nevertheless, they make an effective stand-in option for cumin. Just like cumin, caraway can be used both as whole grain or can be ground.

One rule of the thumb is to begin by using half the portion of the caraway as you would with cumin. You can scale up the amount later once you are comfortable with the spice.


Both Coriander and cumin come from the same plant family. It is not a surprise that you can use one in the place of the other. However, there is a difference in their taste, with coriander coming out with a richer flavor. Additionally, coriander pulls a first on cumin with its leaves served as a garnish with a lot of Mexican dishes. Since coriander is more potent, you would want to watch out the amount you put in your food. Usually, half the portion of cumin would be a good start. Once your palates are accustomed to the new flavor, you can add up more to your liking.

Cumin Substitutes You Have to Try
Coriander Spices


Undeniably, paprika belongs to the spices’ hall of fame. Just like cumin, it is a popular addition to meals across cultures and cuisines. Therefore, it is not a surprise that it would be a perfect alternative to cumin. But instead of straight paprika and it’s substitutes, it is smoked paprika that comes closest to the smoky flavor of ground cumin.

One of the perks of smoked paprika is that it carries way less heat compared to cumin. Therefore, it is the compromise spice for those who want the rich taste but be spared from the stinging heat of cumin. Notably, use double or more quantities of paprika to get close to the spiciness you would expect from cumin.

Chipotle Seasoning

When you are looking to get the same level of smokiness and heat as cumin, chipotle seasoning comes to top off the mind. For the lovers of Mexican cuisine, chipotle seasoning is one spice that never runs out in your cooking arsenal. Amazingly, you can make it at home.

You should also know that chipotle spice comes in a range of flavors. And while they have more or less the same heat, their ingredients vary considerably. It is advisable to sample each flavor until you find your favorite one. Start out with a little spice and increase to taste without risking overpowering the heat.

Fennel Seeds

In terms of flavor, fennel and cumin seeds are like north and south poles. While cumin seeds have a signature heat, fennel seeds are uncharacteristically sweet for a spice. Nevertheless, it does not mean that fennel seeds will not offer an alternative in the absence of cumin. In fact, the fennel is a well-known dip and will work perfectly with meatballs and Italian sausages. Also, ground fennel can be used with a dozen of other foods.

Yes, fennel spice may not taste like cumin; but it is still an option on the table when you have no other spice left.

Chili Powder

One of the spices that never run out from kitchen cabinets is chili powder. It is readily available and a favorite in almost every household. So, when every spice tin is empty, check your chili powder can and you may have something to spice up your food. Generally, chili powders are a blend of other spices. For instance, some versions have both oregano and cumin. These strains of chili powder are the best alternatives for cumin. However, be on the lookout to avoid cayenne chili powders as they are 100% versions of chili powder.

Garam Masala

Indian cuisine is notorious for using various versions of Masala, and garam is among the most popular. It does a great job giving your food a rich taste and not-too-much heat. Deservingly, garam is a cocktail of spices such as cloves, cumin, coriander, black pepper, and cinnamon. It is no brainer then that this masala would be an effective alternative when you run out of cumin.

True, garam may not give you the heat of cumin, but it will make sure your food is not bland. It has that rare and rich earthy taste and adds a unique aroma to your dishes.

Cumin Substitutes You Have to Try
Ground Garam Masala


It is not unheard of to run out of your favorite spice and only notice when your meal is almost ready. It is such a time when your creativity should kick in. For those who cannot think of a tasty dish without cumin, there are plenty of cumin substitutes that can give an equal flavor if not better. We have given you 7 cumin substitutes that you have to try, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of others out there. Explore and let us know what you find out in the comment section below. Just like a great meal, good things only get better when shared. And remember to keep it here as we are only warming up to exploding your taste buds with recipes, spices, and all manner of cooking information.

Recent Content