Cumin is a popular spice used all over the world to bring more flavor to dishes. Most commonly used in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine, it has a strong and pungent flavor that is easy to recognize.
However, if you’ve never tried cumin before, you might not know what it tastes like. If you don’t, you’ve come to the right place.
In this post, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about cumin including what it is, what it tastes like, and what foods it goes well with. We’ll even show you some of the spices you can use as a substitute for cumin in case you run out.
Cumin is a versatile spice that we can use in a huge range of different dishes so it’s definitely an ingredient you should want to learn more about. Stick around to learn more!
What Is Cumin?
Let’s kick this post off by taking a closer look at what cumin is. Cumin is a popular spice that has been used around the world for thousands of years. Thanks to its versatility, cumin can be used in almost any cuisine to give a dish more flavor.
The spice we use in our food is made from the cumin plant which is native to the Mediterranean and India. The cumin plant has been cultivated in the Mediterranean region and India for thousands of years. The spice is made from the seeds of the cumin plant.
Interestingly, cumin belongs to the parsley family. Cumin is primarily used for its strong and pungent flavor that gives dishes a more savory flavor. We can purchase it in a powdered form or whole seed form.
Which Cuisines Use Cumin?
Generally speaking, cumin is most commonly associated with Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine. Cumin is one of the main ingredients in curry powder and is commonly used to bring more flavor to bean, meat, and rice dishes.
However, cumin isn’t only used in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine. It is also used in other cuisines around the world. For example, in Mexico, cumin is one of the main ingredients used to make chili powder.
Chili powder is then used to give most Mexican dishes flavor. On the other hand, cumin is used in North Africa to add more flavor to tagines.
Cumin is also used in countries like Brazil, where it is added to Brazilian stews. In other words, cumin can be used in virtually any cuisine.
What Does Cumin Taste Like?
So, what does cumin taste like? As we mentioned earlier, cumin has a very distinct flavor that is often described as strong and pungent.
It’s probably fair to say that cumin has an acquired taste that not everyone will like, but its popularity would suggest most people do. Cumin has a strong nutty, earthy, and spicy flavor that makes it a super savory spice.
All three of these flavors hit at once, which is why cumin is one of the best spices we can use to add more flavor to a dish. It’s probably worth mentioning that this strong flavor also makes cumin a spice you should only use in cooking.
It is far too strong to simply sprinkle on your dish. Cumin’s flavor is often compared to caraway and oregano. However, we prefer to say that it’s a cross between these two spices. It has an almost bitter flavor.
Why Should You Add Cumin To Your Food?
The main reason you should add cumin to your food is to add more flavor to your dish. Cumin has a powerful flavor profile that’s capable of adding a greater depth of flavor to a dish.
Its earthy taste can help to round out the other flavors in your dish, while also creating a more complex flavor. While cumin is a great spice to use in your food, you should use it sparingly. Too much cumin and you risk overpowering the other flavors.
Is Cumin Healthy?
You might be pleased to hear that cumin is a healthy spice. In fact, it’s probably one of the healthiest spices we can use. Cumin is jam-packed with healthy nutrients that provide the body with a wide range of health benefits.
For starters, cumin is an excellent source of iron which is essential for the transportation of oxygen around the body. Secondly, cumin contains something called phytochemicals that have valuable anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Finally, cumin is also believed to aid digestion and boost metabolism. In some cultures, cumin has even been used in medicinal remedies.
Foods That Go Well With Cumin
Now you know more about cumin, let’s take a look at some of the foods it goes best with. There are a wide range of different foods that go well with cumin but it works particularly well with sweet and savory dishes.
Its earthy, nutty, and bitter taste brilliantly balances out the overall flavors of these types of food. We’ve listed some of the best foods you can use cumin with below!
- Rice – Cumin is often added to rice dishes across Asia. It gives the rice a powerful boost of flavor.
- Potatoes – It doesn’t matter if you’re making roast, baked, or mashed potatoes, cumin can be added to add an extra depth of flavor.
- Chicken – In all honesty, chicken goes well with most spices, but it does taste pretty epic with cumin too.
- Beans – Cumin pairs beautifully with beans because it brings out the natural flavor of the beans.
- Beef – A juicy beef steak is complete with the addition of cumin. Cumin makes a great addition to a meat rub.
- Lamb – Another meat that cumin goes nicely with is lamb. Once again, cumin adds an extra depth of flavor to the meat.
What Can We Use Instead Of Cumin?
If you have a recipe that calls for cumin but you don’t have any left in your cupboards, don’t panic, there are lots of different spices we can use instead.
In the next part of this post, we’re going to show you the best cumin substitutes you can use if you’ve run out and you need a quick solution.
1. Ground Coriander
Coriander and cumin both have a similar flavor. Both of these spices also grow from a plant that belongs to the parsley family. As a result, we can easily use coriander as a substitute for cumin.
2. Caraway Seeds
Caraway seeds are easily mistaken for cumin seeds because they have a similar appearance and taste. This makes sense botanically because the two spices are cousins.
You can use caraway seeds to replace cumin seeds and ground caraway to replace ground cumin. Once again, use half the amount of caraway and slowly add more to taste.
3. Chili Powder
Chili powder is another good substitute we can use to replace cumin because cumin is actually one of the main ingredients used to make chili powder.
Therefore, we can expect strong earthy flavors, a slight bitterness, and some heat. Chili powder works brilliantly in rice and bean dishes. Chili powder also makes an excellent meat rub.
Like cumin, paprika has a strong pungent flavor that can provide a dish with a deeper flavor. Bright red in color, paprika can also be used to give a dish more color.
Different types of paprika will have a different impact on your dish. For example, a smoky paprika will give your dish a smokey flavor.
That concludes this post looking at what cumin tastes like. Now that you’ve made your way through all the information we’ve provided, you should know that cumin has a strong earthy, bitter, and nutty flavor that works best with sweet and savory dishes.
You should also know which foods cumin goes best with, how healthy it is, and some easy substitutes you can make if you run out. All that’s left to do now is try cumin and see what you think!
Frequently Asked Questions
Ground cumin typically stays fresh for up to 3 months. After that, you should use any cumin you have left or replace it.
Storing cumin is actually very easy. All you have to do to store cumin safely and effectively is keep it in an airtight container.