Best Substitute for Cumin

Cumin is hard to replace, but there are a few options if you don’t have this spice on hand! Here’s the best substitute for cumin in recipes.

Substitute for Cumin

Making a recipe that calls for cumin and don’t have it? As two cookbook authors and recipe experts, we’ve got some answers. Cumin is a spice with an earthy, savory flavor that’s instantly recognizable. You’ll find it in many major world cuisines, including Latin American, Middle Eastern, and Indian.

In our opinion: cumin is so unique that if at all possible, go out and buy it for your recipe! But if you’re in the middle of a recipe with no time to shop, we get it. Here are the best substitutes for cumin.

Best substitutes for cumin

Note that how these options work depend on the type of cuisine and how cumin is used.

1. Chili powder (Latin-style cuisine).

Chili powder contains cumin, so it works as a substitute for cumin in a pinch. Keep in mind, chili powder tastes more bitter than cumin and also adds a spicy flavor. This only works with Mexican or Latin flavors; do not use it in an Indian curry. Use ½ teaspoon chili powder for every 1 teaspoon cumin.

2. Taco seasoning (Latin-style cuisine).

Taco seasoning works as a substitute for cumin because it contains cumin. Taco seasoning usually contains salt, so adjust the salt-levels in your food accordingly. This only works in Mexican or Latin style flavors, like in tacos or enchiladas: do not use in Middle Eastern or Indian cuisine. Use ½ teaspoon taco seasoning for every 1 teaspoon cumin.

3. Ground coriander (Middle Eastern or Indian cuisine).

If you have it, substitute half the amount of cumin with coriander (½ teaspoon coriander replaces 1 teaspoon cumin). Their flavor is similar, but coriander tastes more floral than cumin, which has more savory notes. This substitute works best in Middle Eastern or Indian cuisine.

4. Curry powder (Indian cuisine).

Curry powder works in a pinch as a substitute for cumin in Indian cuisine. Many curry powder blends contain cumin. Keep in mind that the turmeric in curry powder can change the color of foods to become yellow. Start with ½ teaspoon curry powder for every 1 teaspoon cumin.

Here are some of our favorite recipes featuring cumin:

Frequently asked quesitons

Which cumin substitute is best for chili?

For chili, chili powder or taco seasoning are the most convenient substitutes for cumin, as they already contain cumin and other complementary spices.

Which substitute is best for Indian cuisine?

Ground coriander or curry powder is often a good choice for Indian cuisine, as it shares a similar flavor profile with cumin and is commonly used in many Indian dishes.

Can I use a combination of substitutes?

Yes, you can combine different substitutes to create a more complex flavor profile that resembles cumin. For example, you could mix ground coriander with a pinch of chili powder to add warmth and depth.