Top 10 Spices You Can Substitute For Cumin: All The Things You Can Use Instead

Cumin is a popular spice known for its distinctive earthy and warm flavor that adds depth to a variety of cuisines. However, there may be instances when you run out of cumin or need to find a suitable alternative due to personal preference or dietary restrictions. Fortunately, there are several spices that can serve as excellent substitutes for cumin, offering unique flavors and aromas to enhance your dishes. In this article, we will explore the top 10 spices you can substitute for cumin, allowing you to maintain the desired taste profile in your culinary creations.



Coriander, belonging to the same plant family as cumin, is a versatile spice that serves as an excellent substitute in many dishes. Derived from the dried seeds of the coriander plant, it offers a subtle citrusy flavor with a hint of warmth, making it a popular choice in various cuisines. Ground coriander can be used in equal amounts as a replacement for cumin, allowing you to achieve a similar depth of flavor.

In Mexican cuisine, coriander is a key ingredient in spice blends such as chili powder and taco seasoning. Its citrusy notes complement the flavors of dishes like salsa, enchiladas, and guacamole. In Indian cooking, coriander is a staple spice, used in curries, chutneys, and marinades. Its aromatic profile adds a touch of freshness to the rich and complex flavors of Indian cuisine. Similarly, in Middle Eastern dishes, coriander is often found in spice mixes like za’atar and ras el hanout, enhancing the flavors of kebabs, tagines, and pilaf rice.

Caraway Seeds

Caraway seeds are another suitable substitute for cumin, especially in European and German cuisines. They have a pungent and slightly bitter flavor with hints of anise and citrus. They can be used in a 1:1 ratio as a cumin substitute in bread, sauerkraut, stews, and roasted vegetables. However, their strong flavor may overpower delicate dishes, so it is advisable to use them judiciously.

Garam Masala


Garam masala is a blend of various spices commonly used in Indian cuisine. While it does not have the exact flavor profile as cumin, it can add depth and complexity to your dishes. Garam masala typically contains spices like coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper. It can be used in curries, lentil dishes, and vegetable preparations as a substitute for cumin, providing a rich and aromatic flavor.


Paprika is a spice made from dried and ground red bell peppers. Although it lacks the earthy notes of cumin, it offers a mild and sweet flavor with a subtle smokiness. It can be used as a substitute for cumin in dishes where you desire a vibrant color and a gentle heat. It works well in Mediterranean, Spanish, and Hungarian recipes, including stews, rice dishes, and marinades.

Chili Powder


Chili powder is a spice blend that typically includes dried chili peppers, cumin, garlic powder, and other seasonings. As cumin is one of the main components of chili powder, it can serve as a convenient substitute. However, keep in mind that chili powder is spicier than cumin, so adjust the quantity according to your preferred level of heat. It works particularly well in Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes, such as chili con carne, tacos, and enchiladas.

Curry Powder

Curry powder is a versatile spice blend commonly used in Indian and Southeast Asian cuisines. While it does not provide the exact flavor of cumin, it can impart a complex and aromatic taste to your dishes. Curry powder typically contains coriander, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, and other spices. It can be used as a substitute for cumin in curries, stir-fries, rice dishes, and marinades, adding a distinctively warm and savory note.

Fennel Seeds


Fennel seeds are an excellent substitute for cumin, especially when you desire a slightly sweeter and milder flavor profile. These small, oval-shaped seeds have a licorice-like taste and can add a subtle depth to your dishes. Ground fennel seeds can be used in a 1:1 ratio as a replacement for cumin in recipes like soups, roasted meats, and vegetable dishes. They are commonly used in Mediterranean, Italian, and Middle Eastern cuisines, providing a delicate and aromatic touch to your culinary creations.

Mustard Seeds

Mustard seeds are widely used in various cuisines, especially in Indian and Southeast Asian cooking. They have a distinctively pungent and slightly bitter flavor, making them an interesting substitute for cumin. Mustard seeds can be used whole or ground, adding a unique tanginess to your dishes. They work well in curries, pickles, stir-fries, and salad dressings. However, keep in mind that the flavor of mustard seeds can be stronger than cumin, so adjust the quantity accordingly to achieve the desired taste.

Celery Seeds


Celery seeds can be a surprising yet effective substitute for cumin, particularly in dishes that benefit from a subtle herbal and slightly bitter taste. These tiny seeds possess a flavor reminiscent of celery and can add depth to various recipes. Ground celery seeds can be used as a 1:1 replacement for cumin in dishes like soups, stews, salads, and coleslaw. They are commonly used in American and European cuisines, providing a refreshing and unique twist to your dishes.


Although turmeric differs significantly in flavor from cumin, it can be used as a substitute in certain recipes where the earthy and vibrant yellow color of cumin is desired. Turmeric has a slightly bitter and peppery taste with a warm aroma. It is widely used in Indian, Middle Eastern, and Southeast Asian cuisines, particularly in curries, rice dishes, and marinades. While turmeric may not replicate the exact flavor of cumin, it can still contribute to the overall taste and appearance of the dish.


While cumin is a beloved spice, there are several alternatives that can be used as substitutes to maintain the desired flavor profile in your dishes. Whether you opt for coriander, caraway seeds, or any other spice on this list, experimenting with different substitutes can open up new culinary possibilities and add exciting twists to your recipes.