Good Cumin Substitutes: What Can I Substitute for Cumin?

Cumin Substitutes

Looking for some good cumin substitutes? Stick around as we share some top alternatives to cumin.

Nothing beats the feeling of coming up with something to cook on a whim and you finding your pantry complete with all the ingredients you need.

However, this is not always (perhaps even rarely) the case. In many circumstances, when you make a dish on the fly, you will be missing at least one component in your kitchen.

If you find yourself rummaging for cumin in your pantry, then there is no need to fret. Chances are, you have at least one ingredient which you can use as a substitute.

Want to know what they are? Read on.

The Role of Cumin in Your Kitchen

Cumin is a spice that is known for its distinctive smell and taste. It is known to have a sharp and smokey aroma while giving dishes a slightly spicy and bittersweet flavor.

Because of this, you want to make sure that you use just the right amount of this spice. Use too much and you risk making your dish overpowering.

On the other hand, put in too little and you are wasting the dynamic taste and aroma this spice has to offer.

The reason why this ingredient has a concentrated flavor is that it is made from cumin seeds.

The distinct attributes of this ingredient can be found in different cuisines, such as Indian and Middle Eastern food.

There is no wonder as this spice is actually native to Eastern Mediterranean, with India being the primary producer followed by Syria, Iran, and Turkey.

However, keep in mind that there are other cuisines that use this component, namely Mexican and Mongolian foods. Some French cheeses and bread also have this spice.

Cumin Substitutes – What to Use When You’re Out of It

Now that you know the flavor profile of cumin, you might be itching to know what other spices or ingredients you can use as a substitute for it. Here are some of the most effective replacements.

  • Caraway Seeds

One of the best alternatives for this spice is caraway seeds. This is because both spices come from the parsley family.

They even have similar appearances and tastes, being highly aromatic ingredients. As cumin is slightly stronger and spicier, you might want to use more caraway seeds.

Alternative to cumin is Caraway

However, the best way to use this substitute is to start with half the amount needed. So, if the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of the original spice, add a half teaspoon of caraway seeds.

Then, add a bit more until you get the taste you are looking for.

  • Ground Coriander

Coriander, or cilantro, is a staple in many of the cuisines that heavily uses cumin, so you can bet that this will be a great alternative.

It bears the same earthy and lemony aroma and flavor of the original ingredient. However, it does not have that spicy kick and slightly pungent profile.

Substitute cumin with Coriander

The best way to use this is to add a bit of chili powder to recreate the heat that your dish calls for.

However, be careful when using this additional component as too much can make your meal too hot for some people.

  • Chili Powder

Another great alternative to cumin is chili powder. As mentioned above, adding this is a great way to give your dish some heat.

The typical formulation of chili powder includes various powdered components, including paprika, cayenne, garlic, onion and oregano.

With the diversity of elements added to this powder, you can definitely use it to reproduce the taste and aroma of the original ingredient.

  • Curry Powder

Curry powder bears the same pungent profile as cumin. It makes use of various elements to arrive at that perfect combination we all know and love.

However, you might be wondering what type of curry to use as there are many varieties of curries out there.

Substitute for Cumin is Curry Powder

When choosing, you might want to select a variety that has coriander, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, mustard, fenugreek seeds, and black pepper.

This way, you can expect a similar flavor as the original spice. Moreover, there are types that already include cumin, so you are bound to get that distinct taste and aroma.

  • Honorable Mentions – Garam Masala and Taco Season Mix

Garam Masala and Taco Season Mix are two other alternatives that contain the original spice. They both bear a similar profile to cumin, but with slight alterations.

Nevertheless, you can never go wrong when adding these ingredients, especially since they also offer such a dynamic taste and smell. Just add these components in small quantities until you get your preferred flavor.


Cooking with one essential ingredient missing can be frustrating. However, you can take it as a challenge and experiment with what you have in your pantry to recreate the distinct aroma and flavor you are after.

With these replacements, you can definitely cook up your dish with no problem.

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