Cumin Substitute

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Cumin Substitute. Photo © Erin Huffstetler

When a recipe calls for cumin, and you don't have any on hand, use one of these substitutes in its place:

Caraway Seeds - Cumin and caraway are both in the parsley family. They are similar in appearance and taste, though cumin has a stronger, hotter flavor. Use caraway seeds in place of cumin seeds, or ground caraway in place of ground cumin. Start with half as much as the recipe calls for, and adjust upwards to suit your tastes.

This substitute shouldn't affect the color of your recipe.

Ground Coriander - As another member of the parsley family, ground coriander is another option, though using it will change the flavor of your recipe some. It has the earthy, lemony flavor of cumin, but lacks the heat. Start with half as much coriander. Then, consider adding a bit of chili powder to add the heat back.

Chili powder - Cumin is one of the main ingredients in chili powder, so using it as a substitute is a way to get some cumin back into your recipe. Since chili powder typically also includes paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and oregano, you should consider how these additional ingredients will work in your recipe. They'll affect the flavor, but they'll alter the color, too. Cumin has a nutty brown color, while most chili powders are red. Use half what is called for, so you don't overdo the heat. You can always add more.

Garam Masala - This Indian spice mix includes a healthy dose of cumin. It also typically includes, coriander, cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, creating a complex flavor that is at once earthy, sweet, citrusy and spicy. The color is very similar to that of cumin, so it won't change the appearance of your recipe significantly.

Half as much is again a good place to start. It's so much easier to add than it is to subtract.

Curry Powder - The ingredients in curry powder vary, but cumin always figures in heavily. A typical curry powder also includes, coriander, turmeric, ginger, mustard, fenugreek seed, black pepper and cinnamon. These lend an earthy, sweet and spicy flavor to whatever dish the curry powder is used in. If you decide this substitute seems like the best fit for your recipe, know that it will alter the color quite a bit. Turmeric is bright yellow. Use half what is called for, and adjust from there.

Taco Seasoning Mix - The ingredients in taco seasoning are very similar to those in chili powder. In addition to cumin, you can expect, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, pepper and salt. Be sure to consider the impact of that last ingredient. Store-bought taco seasoning mixes tend to have a fair amount of salt. You may find it necessary to reduce the amount of salt called for in your recipe to compensate for the extra that you're adding. And again: start with half the measure called for, so you can tweak the recipe to your tastes.

Have Cumin Seed, But Need Ground Cumin?

Pop them in a coffee/spice grinder, and give them a quick whirl. One teaspoon of cumin seeds will yield about 3/4 teaspoon of ground cumin.

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