Cumin is a popular spice found in many Indian dishes.
It’s an essential ingredient in curries, stews, and lentil soups.
But what can you do if you don’t have it on hand?
You may not realize it, but cumin has a lot of different uses beyond Indian cuisine.
Cumin is versatile enough to be used as a topping for meats and desserts.
You can also sprinkle it over salads or try adding it to your morning coffee.
In this article, we’ll discuss what you can substitute for cumin and how to find other spices online.
What can I substitute for cumin in a recipe?
If you’re looking to replace cumin in a dish and don’t know where to start, there are plenty of options.
For starters, you could look up recipes that call for cumin and see what ingredients they suggest replacing with.
If you already have some spices on hand, you can easily substitute them into a recipe.
The best part about making substitutions is that you get to customize your meal however you like!
Before we get started, let’s take a quick look at what cumin is made out of and what else you might want to consider using instead.
What are some common substitutes for cumin?
While there are plenty of recipes that call for cumin, you might not know what else you can use instead of it.
Here are a few options to consider:
Onion powder (or onion flakes)
What can I use in place of cumin?
If you only have cumin on hand, you can still create delicious meals with it.
Here are some things you can substitute in its place:
1. Use it as an extension of customer service
When you’re running out of cumin and need something else to add to your dish, why not ask your customers about their preferences?
Find out what they like best when making your curry or soup.
Then you can incorporate a similar flavor into your meal.
For example, you could give them a choice between spicy and mild dishes.
Let them choose which of those they prefer, and then use that information to create your dish.
This method will help you avoid any complaints from your customers that you didn’t include their favorite spice.
The more specific you are with your customers’ requests, the easier it will be to meet their needs.
2. Use it as an extension of customer service
Another way to get around having cumin on hand is to let your customers know exactly what they should expect when they come to visit you.
If they’re coming to buy a product, let them know ahead of time whether they’ll receive a strong or mild flavor.
This way, they won’t feel as though you’re trying to surprise them with something unexpected.
They’ll understand your intentions better than if you just left it up to chance.
A good rule of thumb is to always aim for consistency.
When you’re working with something as important as your customer experience, you want to make sure that you stay true to your word every single time.
3. Use it as an extension of customer service
As a business owner, you want to make sure that you provide excellent customer service at all times.
When you’re running low on cumin, you can find another way to offer your customers exceptional service by providing them with a quick option for replacements.
For instance, if you run out of cumin, you can offer customers who would rather have a mild flavor the option of using turmeric in its place.
By offering this type of swap, you’ll ensure that your customers are satisfied even if you don’t have cumin on hand.
It shows that you care about their needs and wants while also ensuring that you continue to deliver great customer service.
Is there a cumin substitute that I can use?
There are a variety of options when trying to replace cumin.
Here are some suggestions to help you get started.
Use whole-grain mustard instead of cumin powder.
Whole grain mustard contains similar amounts of mustard seeds (which are the source of the spice) and is a good alternative to cumin powder.
Try turmeric. Turmeric is another common spice used in Indian cooking and is often paired with cumin.
The two together create a nice flavor profile.
Use curry leaves.
Curry leaves are one of the most beloved spices in Indian cuisine and are often used to add a unique flavor to dishes.
Find these leaves at Asian markets or online.
Get creative with herbs and vegetables.
There are plenty of ways to add flavor to recipes without using cumin.
For example, you could substitute coriander (cilantro), fenugreek, fennel, garlic, ginger, or onion.
Make your own spice blends.
If you’re looking for more exotic flavors, consider making your own spice blend.
You can buy premade blends at the grocery store, but you can easily mix up your own spice blends by combining dry ingredients like salt, pepper, paprika, chili flakes, black pepper, and ground cardamom.
Look to ethnic restaurants.
Some Indian restaurants will offer cumin substitutes for customers who need them.
These substitutions will likely include turmeric, mustard, or curry leaves, so look around before ordering.
What can I use instead of cumin in a recipe?
If you’re looking to replace cumin in recipes, here are some good options.
Nutmeg- This nutmeg is native to Indonesia and is often used to flavor cakes, cookies, and drinks.
If you don’t have fresh nutmeg, you can swap it out with ground cinnamon or cardamom.
Turmeric- Turmeric is often used in Indian cuisine along with cumin.
Try substituting turmeric for cumin in any Indian dish that calls for the latter.
Chili powder- Chili powder is another common replacement for cumin.
In fact, you could even add chili powder to a dish that already contains cumin.
Saffron- Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world, but it adds a unique savory taste to food. Saffron is widely used in French cooking and is often added to rice dishes.
Cardamom- Cardamom is a small pod-shaped seed that’s often used in desserts like ice cream. If you don’t have fresh cardamom pods, you can use ground cardamom instead.
Black pepper- Black pepper is often used in savory dishes alongside cumin. If you don’t have black pepper, you can use white pepper or ground red pepper flakes instead.
Of course, there are plenty of other spices you can use instead of cumin.
You can always check out our list of alternative spices for more ideas.
What can I use as a cumin substitute?
If you don’t have cumin on hand, there are several alternatives that you can use.
For example, you could replace cumin with another Indian spice, turmeric.
Turmeric looks similar to cumin and tastes very similar too.
You can also use chili powder, which comes from chilies like peppers and tomatoes, instead of cumin.
If you prefer, you can even use curry powder as a cumin substitute.
1. Use onion powder
Onion powder is a common ingredient in Indian food.
It adds a strong flavor to any dish. Onion powder will give you a milder taste than cumin, but it still won’t taste like cumin.
To use onion powder as a cumin replacement, add one tablespoon of powdered onion to a pan with two tablespoons of water.
Bring the mixture to a boil before removing it from heat.
Let it cool completely before using in your recipes.
2. Use coriander seed
This spice is sometimes referred to as “cilantro.”
Coriander seeds have a distinctive citrusy taste that makes them perfect for Indian recipes.
They come in whole form or ground up into a powder.
If you only have ground coriander seed, you can grind it yourself in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle.
3. Use cinnamon
Cinnamon comes from the bark of trees native to India.
It gives Indian dishes a warm flavor that’s often paired with sweet foods such as puddings and cakes.
Cinnamon is commonly added to hot drinks like tea, coffee, and cocoa.
You can also use it in baked goods, sauces, and savory snacks.
When you don’t have cumin on hand, you should look for a good alternative.
Try using cinnamon as a cumin substitute.
This spice is easy to find at most grocery stores.
4. Use nutmeg
Nutmeg is a spice that’s usually found in desserts or sweet foods.
But it works well as a cumin substitute when you need a spicy flavor.
The nutmeg in Indian food usually comes from the fruit of the nutmeg tree.
Nutmeg is available at most grocery stores.
If you don’t have a large supply of this spice, you can purchase it online.
You can buy nutmeg in both powdered and ground forms.
Nutmeg doesn’t give off much of a smell so you won’t notice its presence until you put it in your mouth.
5. Use ginger
Ginger is another spice that has a distinct flavor.
In fact, it’s often used as a replacement for black pepper.
Ginger is great for cooking Asian-inspired meals because it gives them a bit of spiciness without overpowering the rest of the dish.
Ginger can be purchased at most grocery stores.
However, if you don’t have access to fresh ginger, you can purchase it in powders and capsules online.
You may also find it in specialty shops.
Just keep in mind that ginger isn’t always easy to find.
6. Use paprika
Paprika is another spice that’s commonly used in Indian dishes.
It gives them a nice smoky flavor.
Paprika is typically used as a topping for meats and vegetables.
It’s also used in some desserts as well.
You can purchase paprika at most grocery stores.
However, if you don’t have access to the spice, you can order it online.
Some places sell paprika in powder form while others offer it in liquid form.
Be careful when purchasing paprika in liquid form because it can stain your clothes.
7. Use chili powder
Chili powder is another spice that’s commonly used in Indian dishes.
It’s a staple in curries as well as lentil soup.
Chili powder is easily accessible at most grocery stores.
You can even find it in powdered form online.
Because of its bright red color, chili powder is frequently used to season meat.
It’s also useful for baking and making marinades.
What can be used in place of cumin?
If you’re looking to replace cumin without going too far outside of its normal range of applications, there are several options that work well.
Here are some suggestions:
These spices will give you flavor similar to cumin without the same level of heat.
If you prefer more heat, though, you can always add cayenne pepper or paprika to any dish with cumin.
These are both milder versions of cayenne and paprika, so they won’t overpower your dish.
To get started replacing cumin with these alternatives, just follow the same steps outlined below:
What can I use as a substitute for cumin?
If you want to make a dish with cumin, here are some substitutes you should consider:
Chili powder (or paprika)
Ground mustard seed
These are all good options, but they aren’t exactly the same flavor as cumin.
If you want to replicate the taste of cumin, look for a spice blend that includes cumin seeds.
This will give your dish a similar flavor without the bitterness of ground cumin.
Once you find a cumin-based spice blend, you can replace the cumin with turmeric and add a pinch of black pepper for extra flavor.
Or, you could even swap out the whole thing with chili powder for a less bitter alternative.
Is there a substitute for cumin?
If you don’t have any cumin on hand, you might worry that you won’t be able to cook up a delicious meal.
But rest assured, substituting cumin for another spice is easy if you know where to look.
Cumin is a member of the parsley family.
The most common substitutes for cumin are coriander (cilantro), caraway, and dill seed.
But before you start shopping for those spices, take a look at these other ideas.
1. Use cilantro instead of cumin
If you’re looking for a quick fix, consider using cilantro instead of cumin.
This herb tastes similar to cumin, so it will work well in many recipes.
Just keep in mind that some people prefer cilantro to cumin, while others like the taste of cumin better.
If you’re unsure, test out both and see which one you prefer.
To get the best flavor from cilantro, chop it finely.
If you purchase whole leaves, separate them into individual leaves and remove the stems.
There are plenty of ways to prepare cilantro.
For example, you can add it to salad dressings, stir-fry vegetables, marinate meat, and mix it into guacamole.
Plus, you can add it to Mexican rice, tacos, and quesadillas.
2. Try cardamom
Cardamom is another popular spice often used in Indian dishes.
Its pungent aroma makes it perfect for sautéing onions and garlic.
Cardamom can also be added to curries, chutneys, and pickles.
When purchasing cardamom pods, make sure they aren’t moldy or cracked.
To clean them, rub them between your fingers and then soak them in warm water for a few minutes.
Then, gently open the pod and discard the seeds.
Lastly, dry the pod with paper towels.
3. Add fennel seeds to your meals
Fennel seeds are another popular spice often used in Indian cuisine.
They give off a sweet fragrance when roasted, making them great for flavoring baked goods and savory dishes too.
Fennel seeds are usually sold in their whole form.
When you crack them, the seeds pop out easily.
After cracking them, grind them to a powder in a coffee grinder or spice mill.
Fennel seeds are excellent for flavoring Indian sweets like kheer, halva, and baklava.
4. Use black pepper
Black pepper is another popular spice often used in Indian cuisine.
Like cumin, it gives off its distinctive scent when ground.
You can buy preground black pepper in bags or jars.
However, if you’d rather grind your own, you can use a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder.
A pinch of black pepper goes a long way.
Sprinkle it onto your favorite foods like chili, chicken, and fish.
Black pepper is also good for seasoning breads, cakes, cookies, and other baked goods.
5. Buy turmeric
Turmeric is another popular spice often used in Indian cuisine.
It lends a yellow color to dishes and acts as a natural anti-inflammatory agent.
Turmeric is also known to help lower cholesterol levels and boost immune health.
You can buy powdered turmeric, but grinding it yourself is much easier.
Just grate it fresh with a cheese grater or blender.
Alternatively, you can buy ground turmeric in bags or jars.
6. Use ginger root
Ginger root is another popular spice often used in Indian cuisine.
Although it doesn’t smell exactly like cumin, ginger and cumin go together very well.
Ginger adds a spicy kick to sauces, soups, and curries.
Ginger is available in various forms.
You can buy fresh ginger root, dried ginger, and ground ginger.
Fresh ginger should be peeled and sliced thinly.
Dried ginger can be chopped or crushed in a food processor.
Ground ginger can be sprinkled over your favorite dishes.
7. Use cinnamon sticks
Another popular spice often used in Indian cuisine is cinnamon.
Although it smells slightly different than cumin, cinnamon and cumin go very well together.
Cinnamon can be purchased in bags or jars.
Grinding cinnamon is easy — just place it in a coffee grinder or spice mill and grind it until fine.
8. Buy curry powder
Curries are another popular dish made with cumin.
Curry powder is actually a blend of several spices.
While you could make your own curry powder, buying it preground is probably the easiest option.
You can find curry powder in bags or jars.
But if you’d rather grind it yourself, you can use a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder.
Make sure to choose a store that sells only organic brands.
And remember to thoroughly wash your hands after handling curry powder.
9. Spice up your drinks
Spices can also be added to your drinks.
For instance, you can add spices to hot tea or coffee to create flavorful milkshakes.
Just add a teaspoon of cayenne pepper to your favorite drink and shake vigorously to incorporate the spice.
10. Use other herbs and spices
While cumin is the most commonly used spice in Indian cuisine, there are a number of other herbs and spices that can be substituted for it.
Here are a few options:
Chili peppers – These fiery peppers contain capsaicin, a compound that stimulates the body’s pain receptors. Capsaicin is similar to cayenne pepper, but it’s more potent. It’s therefore recommended that you limit your intake of chili peppers.
Oregano – Oregano contains thymol, a powerful antioxidant. This spice is popular in Mediterranean cuisine because of its ability to protect against cancer. Oregano is especially good for protecting against breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer.
Dill seed – Dill is a popular herb often used in Indian cuisine. It has a strong odor and flavor, giving it a distinct taste. Dill is particularly good for adding flavor to soups.
Thyme – Thyme is another popular herb often used in Indian cuisine. It adds a hint of minty flavor to dishes.
Parsley – Parsley is also popular in Indian cuisine. It’s used as a garnish and as a replacement for cumin.
Rosemary – Rosemary is another popular herb often used in Indian cuisine. It contributes a woodsy flavor to dishes.
Basil – Basil is another popular herb often used in Indian cuisine. It adds a mild flavor to dishes along with its healing properties.
Saffron – Saffron is another popular spice often used in Indian cuisine. It’s derived from the flower of the crocus plant. As a result, it has a bright orange color. Saffron is used as a coloring agent in dishes.
What can I use in lieu of cumin?
If you’re looking for a substitute for cumin, there are plenty of options.
If you don’t have cumin to begin with, you can always use another type of chili pepper instead.
Here are some suggestions:
Chili Peppers – These peppers come in red, green, yellow, orange, and purple varieties. They all have varying amounts of heat, so choose one that suits your taste. If you’d like something a little milder, you can even use bell peppers.
Sriracha Sauce – This sauce contains hot chilies and garlic, which give it its spicy flavor. You can use this as a replacement for cumin in most recipes. Just remember to adjust the amount of sriracha sauce accordingly.
Tandoori Spices – These spices include turmeric, coriander, ginger, dried mint leaves, and dried fenugreek leaves. You can use them as a substitute for cumin in almost all curry recipes.
Garam Masala – Garam masala includes cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, mace, bay leaves, black peppercorn, and salt. You can use garam masala as a replacement for cumin in many Indian dishes. However, you should add a pinch of cumin when making your dish to ensure it tastes authentic.
Paprika – Paprika is a common spice in Mexican and South American dishes. The spice is often used in place of cumin. You can purchase paprika at most grocery stores. Just note that the color of paprika varies depending on the region where it was produced.
Mustard Seeds – Mustard seeds are commonly used in Indian cooking. They contain mustard oil, which gives them their distinctive flavor. You can use mustard seeds as a replacement for cumin in almost any dish.
Cilantro – This herb is often used to season sauces, especially those made from tomatoes. You can use cilantro as a replacement for cumin in your favorite recipes.
How to Find Other Spice Alternatives Online
While these spices will work just fine for most recipes, you might not have access to all of them.
Fortunately, you can buy spices online.
Here are a few websites where you can order spices online:
Amazon.com – Amazon sells spices in bulk for less than $1 per ounce.
You can get your hands on spices such as whole nutmeg, whole cloves, and whole black pepper.
Penzey’s Spices – Penzey’s Spices offers a variety of spices including cumin, chili powder, paprika, and curry powder.
You can buy spices individually or in packs.
Nabisco – Nabisco has a wide selection of spices for sale including ground cumin, chili powder, and curry powder.
Gourmet Warehouse – Gourmet Warehouse sells spices in bulk for about $0.50 each.
You can find everything from whole vanilla beans to whole star anise.