When you’re in a pinch, these substitutes for cumin might just save your dinner.
They can’t replace it exactly. But they’ll bring warmth and spice to everything from chili to curry.
Top 10 Cumin Substitutes
Cumin brings a ton of depth and smokiness to all kinds of food. And it’s a common ingredient in many spice blends, too.
But what do you do when you run out?
Well, the good news is there are plenty of fun alternatives to ensure your meal will still be mouthwatering.
Sometimes all it takes is a simple switch to make a seemingly “meh” dish instantly amazing!
But other times, you might need to make your own little blend to get the right notes.
Either way, I know you’ll find a cumin substitute below to suit your needs.
1. Coriander Seeds
If you read my post “Substitutes for Coriander” you’ll already know how similar cumin and coriander are.
If not, here’s a quick rundown:
- Cumin and coriander are from the same plant family
- They’re both earthy with mild spice
- Cumin has layers of citrus, just like coriander.
I should note that we’re specifically discussing coriander seeds here. The leaves (cilantro) won’t give you the same flavors.
But when you need deep earthy notes with a hint of spice, coriander is the top choice.
In fact, I bet you won’t even notice the difference.
How to Substitute: Swap 1 teaspoon of cumin with 1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander seeds.
Note: Coriander isn’t as spicy as cumin. Add a pinch of chili powder or cayenne for extra spice.
2. Caraway Seeds
If you find yourself scouring the spice cupboard looking for cumin but coming up empty-handed, hope is not lost.
Caraway seeds are an excellent substitute!
In fact, caraway and cumin have similar flavor profiles, making them interchangeable in many recipes.
With hints of pepper, lemon, and anise, caraway has a more pronounced sharpness. That should bring a ton of complexity to your recipe.
How to Substitute: Swap 1 teaspoon of cumin with 1/2 teaspoon of ground caraway seeds.
Note: Like coriander, caraway isn’t as spicy as cumin. Add a pinch of chili powder or cayenne for extra spice.
3. Fennel Seeds + Coriander Seeds
Fennel seeds work quite well as a substitute when you don’t have cumin on hand.
In fact, they smell a lot alike when toasted.
Like caraway, they have a slightly sweet licorice-like flavor. But there’s no depth or smokiness to them.
That’s why I like to mix them with coriander seeds. And sometimes, I even add a pinch of paprika!
It depends on what you’re making, really. But this swap is best for dishes with bold flavors and lots of tomatoes.
How to Substitute: Swap 1 teaspoon of cumin with 1/4 teaspoon of ground fennel seeds + 1/4 teaspoon of coriander seeds.
Note: Add a pinch of paprika for more smokiness.
4. Taco Seasoning
When you’re in the middle of making a delicious chili or burrito bowl and realize you don’t have cumin, don’t panic!
Taco seasoning is an excellent substitute for cumin in these types of dishes.
It’s also a great starter spice for those who aren’t yet confident in their own blending skills.
Between the chili powder, garlic powder, paprika, and oregano, taco seasoning packs a flavor punch.
It also won’t overpower your dish like cumin can.
How to Substitute: Swap 1 teaspoon of cumin with 1/2-1 teaspoon of taco seasoning.
5. Garam Masala
Garam masala is a fun spice blend often found in South Asian dishes.
And it works as a cumin substitute because cumin is already in the mix. Plus. a few other complementary spices, of course.
Between the cumin, nutmeg, black pepper, cloves, cardamom, coriander, and cinnamon, it’s smokey, sweet, spicy, and citrusy.
Just remember to reduce the other spices if they’re on the ingredient list.
For example, if your recipe calls for nutmeg, pepper, or even garam masala, reduce or remove them.
How to Substitute: Swap 1 teaspoon of cumin with 1/2 teaspoon of garam masala.
6. Chipotle Powder
Chipotle powder is an amazing stand-in for cumin.
This smoky seasoning brightens a dish in a way cumin can’t. The subtle pepper gives a huge variety of dishes zesty zing without overpowering them.
It infuses food with rich flavor and color, too.
Plus, blending in chipotle powder can take away the need for additional salt.
Even when you do have cumin available, chipotle makes a fantastic addition to most recipes.
How to Substitute: Swap 1 teaspoon of cumin with 1/2 teaspoon of chipotle powder.
7. Chili Powder
While it isn’t a perfect swap, chili powder is another bright stand-in for cumin.
It does an admirable job of providing that earthy flavor we all love so much. And it’ll bring plenty of extra zing.
Not to mention, chili powder has a kick to it.
There’s just enough heat to make sure your guests don’t forget about the spice element on their plate.
But it’s pretty one-note overall. So it’s best in recipes with other bold ingredients.
How to Substitute: Swap 1 teaspoon of cumin with 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder.
8. Curry Powder
Like garam masala, curry powder is a spice blend. So it’s more well-rounded than single ingredient alternatives for cumin.
Featuring the savory notes of turmeric, cardamom, and coriander, it’s punchy and earthy. But there’s also spices like ginger, garlic, and red pepper.
The variety of flavors will keep your dishes fresh and flavorful without overwhelming the taste buds.
Add some warmth with a teaspoon of mustard seeds or chili flakes. Then add it to curries, stews, and chicken dishes.
How to Substitute: Swap 1 teaspoon of cumin with 1 teaspoon of curry powder.
Paprika is the perfect pinch of glamour when you don’t have any cumin!
It’s a luxurious red that instantly adds color and vibrancy. Plus, it’s sweet and mildly spiced, so it won’t overpower your recipe.
It’s surprisingly complex, too. The spectrum ranges from a boisterous smokiness all the way to a subtle sweetness.
It allows you to select the right intensity for each of your dishes.
How to Substitute: Swap 1 teaspoon of cumin with 1 teaspoon of paprika.
10. Star Anise
When the recipe calls for cumin, few spices can compete with its unique flavor.
But star anise can hold its own. And its savory notes enhance various dishes from Asian to Mexican cuisine.
Using star anise as a substitute will add a new twist to your meal. Plus, it saves you the hassle of having to race out (or wait for delivery).
If you want that perfect dinner without any added stress or panic mode, reach for star anise instead of plain, old cumin.
How to Substitute: Swap 1 teaspoon of cumin with 1/2 teaspoon of star anise powder.
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