Can You Substitute Ground Cumin For Cumin Seeds?


Substitute Ground Cumin for Cumin Seeds
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Substitute Ground Cumin for Cumin Seeds

Imagine preparing a chili or curry and realizing that you don’t have any cumin seeds; that’s an absolute bummer! So, can you substitute ground cumin for cumin seeds? And, can you substitute cumin seeds for ground cumin if you have the opposite problem?

Although ground cumin is, of course, made from ground up cumin seeds, there are differences in flavor and intensity, and we are sharing everything you must know. So, let’s check out what you have to consider when substituting ground cumin for cumin seeds!

Substitute Ground Cumin For Cumin Seeds

For the most part, both versions of cumin will have a very similar flavor since they are the same spice. The ground cumin is the seed cumin in powdered form.

Generally, ground cumin will have a stronger flavor since the seeds have been crushed and the flavors exposed. Ground cumin has a complex, deep flavor.

In addition, the ground cumin has smaller particles that can easily blend and distribute themselves throughout the dish. You may be surprised to learn that cumin is a member of the parsley family.

Ground cumin and cumin seeds
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This may seem strange since its warm, earthy taste is quite different from parsley’s green, fresh flavor. Cumin is one of the main tastes coming through in taco seasonings and curry powder.

Cumin has been used for centuries

The ancient Egyptians used cumin to spice their food and also valued it as a medicinal spice. In the middle ages, no respectable kitchen in Mexico, Spain, India, North Africa, and the Middle East was without it.

What is cumin’s flavor profile?

Cumin has a rich, earthy, warm flavor with a hint of citrus. It adds depth to many dishes. It pairs particularly well with sweet root vegetables like carrots and beetroot and gives complexity to many vegetarian dishes.

Cumin works with almost any meat, from beef to lamb, seafood to poultry. Cumin is one of the top ten most popular spices in the US. It’s a great ingredient in a rub and pairs well with coriander, ginger, and garlic in curries.

What to do if you need cumin seeds? Can you substitute?

Ground Cumin Spilled from a Teaspoon
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Many recipes call for whole cumin seeds and you may be wondering if it’s okay to substitute cumin powder for these. You can, but go easy and start with less. If the recipe calls for a teaspoonful of cumin seeds, use just half a teaspoon of powder.

Grinding releases the flavor compounds, thereby adding intensity and pungency. Freshly ground spice will always be more intense than pre-ground powdered spice so bear this in mind if using your spice grinder.

Additional things to consider

Now you know that it is acceptable to substitute cumin powder for seeds (and vice versa). When using seeds, instead of adding them directly to a dish, first fry them in a little oil. (this is called tempering).

This brings out the flavor and is the reason most Indian recipes will call for the whole spices to be fried before adding the other ingredients. You can even use this flavored, strained oil to drizzle over soups and sauces. It’s particularly good with butternut or carrot soups.

Other substitutes for cumin

Curry powder threads on a white porcelain spoon
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If you don’t have any cumin at all – either ground or whole – you could try using a similar amount of commercial mild curry powder.

One of the dominant spices in this mix is cumin, but you’ll also get a touch of chili pepper and perhaps coriander in the mix.

The Bottom Line

To summarize, substituting ground cumin for cumin seeds is possible. The only thing you need to consider is the quantity. Start with using half the amount of powdered spice as whole.

We hope this has solved your substitution problem as well as opened your eyes to the many uses of this beautiful ancient spice.

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