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? We’ve got all the 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.

Cumin is so unique that if at all possible, go to the store and buy yourself some cumin! 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 cuisine only).

Chili powder contains cumin, so it works as a substitute for cumin in a pinch. Substitute half the amount of cumin with chili powder (½ teaspoon chili powder per 1 teaspoon cumin).

Beware: Chili powder has a more bitter flavor than cumin, and also adds heat! Don’t pursue this if you don’t have spice tolerance. This only works with Mexican or Latin flavors! Do not attempt in an Indian curry (see below).

2. Taco seasoning (Latin cuisine only).

Similar to chili powder, taco seasoning works as a substitute for cumin because it contains cumin. Again, substitute half the amount of cumin with taco seasoning. Take note: 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. It would not work well in Middle Eastern or Indian cuisine.

3. Ground coriander (Middle Eastern cuisine only).

If you have it on hand, substitute half the amount of cumin with coriander. That is, ½ teaspoon coriander replaces 1 teaspoon cumin. Their flavor is similar, but cumin is much more distinct. This one works best in Middle Eastern cuisines.

4. Curry powder (Indian cuisine only).

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

Related recipes

Here are some of our favorite recipes featuring cumin:

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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