7 Best Cumin Substitutes [Cumin Seed & Powder Alternatives]

Desperately need a last-minute cumin substitute? Here are the best seven backups to get you out of trouble.

Cumin Substitutes

Cumin is a popular spice in the Mediterranean, South Asia, and even South and Central America. It is a member of the parsley family and usually comes in the form of dried seeds. It is popular in curries, Mexican sauces, and even spice mixes.

Cumin’s earthy yet hot flavor helps to add complexity of flavor and a little bit of spice to a dish. Even if you are using other spices in your cooking, its absence will be noticeable. It adds an herbal aroma to your dish that will be missed if you just skip it altogether. Curries, sauces, and even hummus feel blander without cumin.

ground cumin

Luckily, there is a happy medium between skipping cumin and using too much of it. If you don’t have any cumin seeds on hand, there are a few herbs and spices that you can use as a substitute.

Since cumin is part of the parsley family, the best cumin substitutes are other members of that same plant family. Parsley itself is too mild, but a spice such as coriander can replace some of the flavor profiles of cumin. Coriander has a similar earthy flavor, but is not as spicy as cumin.

Ground Coriander

Powder coriander, which is also known as ground coriander, is a popular spice in Indian cooking. However, you can also find it in a lot of different dishes and cuisines. This is because it is versatile. It easily adapts to the dish used. One can describe it as being mellow and accommodating. Coriander seeds are dried and then ground to produce the powdered version. 

The relationship between cumin and coriander powder is relatively close. They both have an earthy flavor. They also have bright and lemon-like notes. These similarities make them a good substitute for each other. To use powder coriander in place of cumin, use half the amount. Coriander is slightly sweeter than cumin.

Caraway Seeds

caraway seeds

These are from the caraway plant. They have a strong anise flavor. This means they have a licorice flavor to them. They look like cumin seeds and can sometimes be confused by each other, but they are not seeds but rather the plant’s dried fruit. Also, cumin and caraway seeds have similar flavors and hence can be substituted for each other. 

They are both from the parsley family. The flavor from caraway seeds is milder than cumin. 

They are often used in baking, probably because of their sweet flavor. As such, you can use them in the place of cumin when the recipe calls for a fragrant spice. To use cumin, you will need to use half the amount. You may, however, add more to get to the taste that you want. 

Chili Powder

Chili Powder

Chilli powder is the product of dried, ground chili peppers. It can be more than one type of pepper. It can also be used as a substitute for cumin. In most cases, cumin is one of the ingredients in chili powder. As you can probably guess, chili powder is meant to add a spicy kick to the dish. Cumin also has some heat that it adds to a dish, and substituting it with chili powder, is a good way to get the same kick. 

Chilli powder also has a red hue that it may add to your dish. This is mostly due to the paprika and the cayenne pepper that is in the chili powder. The strength and pungency may vary depending on the mixture of peppers. 

To use it as a substitute for cumin, use half the amount. This translates to you putting half a teaspoon of chili powder if the recipe says you should add one teaspoon of cumin. Chilli powder is hot and has a bitter flavor, so be sparing with it as you add it to your dish, or risk ending up with an inedible dish. The many ingredients in chili powder mean that there are different flavors it will add, so before you use this as a substitute for cumin, make sure that it works well with your recipe. 

Taco Seasoning

Another substitute that you can use is Taco seasoning. It is quite similar to chili powder and contains cumin. Taco seasoning is a mixture of different ingredients, which are paprika, chili powder, cumin, garlic, onion powders, oregano, sugar, salt, coriander, and cornstarch. It is a combination of dry pantry ingredients. Some use fresh ingredients to make it. 

This blend of spices brings a variety of flavors to the dish, thanks to the various components. It’s a great addition to Latin dishes. However, it is important to remember that it has its salt content, and as such, it needs to be added to the dish before adding other ingredients that have their salt content, such as Worcestershire sauce.

Curry Powder

Another substitute that is often used for cumin is curry powder. Now the tricky thing here is that curry powder can be made of different ingredients. This is why you find you may prefer a certain brand over another. You will need to make sure that the curry powder that you choose can complement the recipe. However, most curry powders have similar ingredients such as coriander, turmeric, ginger, mustard, fenugreek seed, black pepper, or cinnamon. 

The ingredients will also change the color of the dish, so be aware of this. Turmeric will turn the food mostly yellow. As a substitute, use half the amount of curry powder needed for each part of cumin. One of the reasons why curry is a good substitute is because it contains cumin. As such, it will blend well. 

Garam Masala

garam masala

This Indian spice is a blend with a sizable amount of cumin. In addition to this, It has coriander, cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg as well. The resulting flavor is earthy and somewhat sweet. This is why it makes a good substitute for cumin. The good thing about cumin is that it has the same color as cumin, so you will not change color.

To use it in place of cumin, use half the amount of garam masala as you would use cumin. So if the recipe calls for a tablespoon of cumin, you can use half a tablespoon of garam masala. 


smoked paprika

This spice has a bright color that is unmistakable in food. If you do not want to turn your food red, this may not be the right substitute. It is also a different color from cumin which has a nutty brown color. However, the two spices have very similar flavors. In fact, we often use cumin as a paprika substitute, so it stands to reason that this can be reversed.

Paprika has a sweet and smoky flavor. So does cumin.  Paprika is a good cumin substitute because the smokey flavor in paprika will complement the smoky flavor from cumin. Also, paprika has some heat but not too much. So if curry powder and chili powder are a little too much for you, then paprika will do good for you. 

However, paprika does not have cumin in it, and so you will need a dash of cayenne pepper. You can use half the amount of paprika for the required cumin in your recipe.