What Can I Substitute For Cumin? All You Need To Know

I always have Cumin in my pantry (whole and ground). There are times though that I run out of this spice. What to do?

Black pepper is the most used spice of all times. Cumin comes in as a close second. Cumin has a powerful smell and taste. It is used in recipes either as a whole seed or ground. I use it often in my soups, stews and Mexican dishes (especially on Taco).

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I just love its unique flavor and aroma. There are times though when I run out of it. Ironically, it always happens when I am in a rush. This dilemma made me realize that I needed to find an answer to what can I substitute for cumin?

Cumin not only tastes and smells great, but it also comes with some health benefits too. Cumin is loaded with iron needed for energy and immunity. Its seeds also aid in the digestion process. Some say it is also good for cancer prevention.

When you add Cumin while cooking (curry dishes), it provides the spicy flavor. It will serve as the garnish for the dish when added after cooking. As much as possible, buy whole cumin seeds. Cumin powder easily loses its flavor.

Anyway, you can easily grind whole cumin with a mortar and pestle, spice or coffee grinder to make cumin powder. A teaspoon of cumin seeds is equivalent to ¾ teaspoon of cumin powder.

If you opt to buy cumin powder, make sure to keep it always tightly sealed and stored in a dry and dark place. Ground cumin / cumin powder can last for up to six months and whole cumin seeds can retain its freshness for up to one year.

Cumin (whole or ground/ powder) is a must have in any pantry. When you run out of Cumin, there are instant substitutes you can use. These substitutes will also come in handy when you are abroad and cannot seem to find Cumin.

Nothing can exactly match the taste of cumin, but you can try these substitutes. To be more on the safe side when using a cumin substitute, measure at first ½ the amount of cumin called for in the recipe. You can simply add more to achieve your desired taste.


Chili powder is a spice mix which contains ground chili, paprika, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, oregano, onion powder and cumin. So, by using chili powder, it is as if you have included Cumin in your dish. Chili powder comes with a unique flavor minus the bitterness of cumin.

Since chili powder contains a lot more other spices other than cumin, you should balance their flavors. You can start by using ½ chili powder for the amount called for cumin so your dish does not get too spicy. You can easily adjust the flavor afterwards.

Note: Be aware though that using chiller powder as a substitute for cumin will affect the color of the dish. Chili powder is red while cumin is light brown.


Using coriander as a substitute for cumin will alter the flavor of your dish. It has the same lemon flavor cumin has but not the spicy flavor. If your recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of cumin, start with ½ teaspoon of coriander and add a dash of chili powder for some heat.

Tip: Conversely, cumin can also be used as a substitute for coriander.


Caraway and cumin both come from the parsley family. They both look similar. They also have the same taste although cumin is more on the spicy side. You can use caraway seeds or powder as a substitute for cumin seeds or powder.

Since cumin has a spicy flavor, start off with ½ caraway as what is needed for cumin, then adjust accordingly to suit your taste. Using caraway as a replacement for cumin will not affect the color of your dish.


Cumin is always an ingredient in curry powder. Curry powder usually also includes black pepper, cinnamon, coriander, fenugreek seed, ginger, mustard and turmeric. These ingredients bring out the sweet and spicy taste of curry powder.

Using curry powder as a substitute for cumin will slightly alter the color of the dish. Use ½ curry powder to replace the amount of cumin powder. Adjust as needed.


Taco Seasoning Mix has almost the same ingredients as chili powder. Aside from cumin, it contains chili powder, crushed red pepper flakes, oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper.

Taco Seasoning Mix already contains salt so you may need to lessen the amount of salt your recipe needs. As always, start off with ½ the amount of cumin needed when substituting with Taco Seasoning Mix and adjust later according to your taste.


Garam Masala contains a lot of cumin. This Indian spice mix usually also contains black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and close creating a sweet and spicy blend.

Garam Masala comes in a color much like cumin. If substituted for cumin, the color of your dish will not be altered. Be sure to at first use ½ Garam Masala as what is needed of cumin. Add as required based on your taste.

It is important to note that when you substitute cumin for another spice you know what to expect with regards to changes in taste and color.

The best tip though, as what has repeatedly been mentioned, is to initially use only ½ measurement of the substitute vis a vis the required measurement for cumin. It is easier to add more than to remedy when you have placed too much.


I have tried all the cumin substitutes mentioned above and I would say I like chili powder the best. Chili powder contains a lot of cumin but does not contain the bitter flavor of cumin. Have you used any of the cumin substitutes mentioned above? Have you used any other spices to replace cumin? Share with us your thoughts on the comments section and let us learn from each other.

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Jenny Hopper

My name is Jenny Hopper, I'm a mother of two cute little kids. To tell you, blogging isn't an easy task. But for me, I feel rewarded for doing the things that I love and one is sharing my experiences with the world and with you. And I definitely welcome any helpful and sincere contribution from you.

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