October 24, 2017

What Is Cumin Seeds And Why Should You Use Them?

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These tiny unassuming looking seeds should be a must have in every kitchen. So what are cumin seeds and how do you use them and taste the miracle change of flavour in food. 

There are not many Indian dishes made without Cumin Seeds. They  are the unsung heroes when it comes to Indian cooking and Indian food.

They also are one of the essential Indian spices to cook Indian food.

These little perky pearls of the culinary world help to instantaneously lift the flavours of any dish including drinks.

What Is Cumin Seeds

They are the dried seeds of the plant, Cuminum cyminum belonging to the parsley family.

Cumin seeds are considered the second most popular spice after black peppercorn and is used extensively in Mediterranean, Latin American, Middle Eastern, North African and Indian cuisine.

These little perky pearls of the culinary world help to instantaneously lift the flavours of any dish including drinks.

Do not confuse yourself between ground cumin and cumin seeds.

They are two different spices and different cooking uses.

Different Names of Cumin Seeds

Due to the popularity of use of these seeds, you already may know them by other names.

Cumin seeds in Hindi is called ‘Sabut Jeera’

In French it is also called cumin although in a the lovely french accent.

In German they are called Kreuzkümmel.

And in Spanish its Comino

What Does Cumin Seeds Taste Like

Cumin seeds is a warming spice with a nutty, pungent flavour.

It has a very earthy aroma and rich in volatile oils that get released when roasted lightly on direct heat or in oil.

They can be used to make many dishes such as stew, soup, Indian curry, stir-fries, rice and almost any dish you can think of.

How to Use Cumin Seeds For Cooking

Cumin seeds are used whole in many Indian and other cuisines as the first step to add flavour to oil.

This cooking method is called tempering in hot oil. Learn how to temper cumin seeds here. 

Cumin seeds is tempered in warm oil at the very beginning of the cooking process. Other whole spices may be added to it or it can be used as a single spice too.

You can also dry roast cumin seeds and use it as a seasoning for drinks, salads, stews, and soups or grind them into powder.

Whole cumin ground into powder is used to make many popular spice blends such as this homemade curry powder and this homemade Mediterranean spice mix.

Difference Between Cumin Seeds VS Ground Cumin VS Caraway Seeds

While cumin seed are whole spice, cumin powder or ground cumin is cumin seeds grounded into a powder form.

Although similar in flavour, ground cumin is sweeter and more intense than its seedy cousin. Therefore one should not assume that both serve the same purpose.

While cumin seeds are used mostly at the beginning or at the very end of the cooking step, cumin powder can be added directly into the dish midway through the cooking process.

Cumin seeds benefits and uses for cooking




Another common confusion and misjudging of spices is using caraway seeds instead of cumin seeds.

This is easily done as both caraway and cumin are almost identical in appearance but are completely different spices with different tastes.

This post explains in detail in difference between the caraway seeds and cumin seeds.  

Benefits of  Cumin Seeds 

Rich in Iron – Cumin seeds are rich in Iron and Manganese which helps to maintain good bone and muscle structure by improving calcium absorption.

Aids digestion – Chewing on cumin seeds or drinking warm water boiled with cumin seeds helps relieve indigestion, flatulence, and nausea.

Where to Buy Cumin Seeds

Being a popular spice you can buy cumin seeds in any supermarket or ethnic store.

They are readily available in most grocery shops.

Buy cumin seeds that are dark brown in colour and in small packs if you do not intend to use them often.

Ensure that the packs or jars are tightly sealed.

Opt for buying whole cumin seeds instead of cumin powder and make your own cumin powder at home.

How to Store Cumin Seeds

Cumin seeds should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a dark, dry place away from direct sunlight.

Well stored cumin seeds will keep its character and flavour for almost a year.

Best Food and Spice Matching

Cumin seeds are a very flexible spice and go well with any food item and mostly all spices.

Best food pairing: beans, cauliflower, chicken, curry, couscous, eggplant, fish, lamb, lentils, meat, peas, potatoes, rice, soups, stews

Best spice pairing: asafoetida,  bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon,  cloves, coriander seeds, dry chilies, Fennel seeds, mustard seeds

What Are the Best Spice Substitute for Cumin Seeds

The flavour of cumin seeds is very distinctive and one that is difficult to replicate. Therefore there isn’t any suitable best substitute for them.

However, if you must then the following spices can be used as an alternative to cumin seeds.

Caraway seeds, fennel seeds, nigella seeds, cumin powder, coriander seeds (lightly crushed)

You may also like to read about the Best Spice Substitutes for Hard to Find Indian Spices 

Easy Recipes with Cumin Seeds to Try

Easy Indian Moong Daal Fry 

Spinach Mushroom Rice 

Assorted recipes using cumin seeds from Huffington post

To conclude 

Unlike the many spices, these tiny seeds are one of the easiest and most popular spice used in many different cuisines.

The ease of use makes them one of the best spices to start cooking with spices especially for those who may be new to cooking.

Apart from the flavour that it adds to a simple boiled potatoes, it also has health benefits.

Earthy and aromatic they are once such spice I highly recommend adding to your spice draw.

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