If you’re a fan of spices, you must know a thing or two about cumin. It’s a popular spice that is commonly used in Middle Eastern, Latin American, Indian and North African cuisines and can be found as whole seeds or in ground form.
This blog will take you through everything you need to know about cumin, what it tastes like, and how to use it for different recipes.
What Is Cumin Spice?
The most commonly used type of cumin is ground cumin which is a brown-yellow color. It is typically used in Mexican and Middle Eastern recipes. It is in most chili powders and in curry powders. There is also black cumin, green and even white cumin.
Cumin is a flowering plant that’s indigenous to the Mediterranean and belongs to the Apiaceae family. It’s known to have a slender stem that grows up to 8 or 12 inches tall and has several tiny branches. The leaves of the plant are long and have thread-like leaflets.
The dried seeds of the plant are oblong-shaped and yellow or brown in color. These are used to enhance the flavor of a dish or complement the natural sweetness of food.
Cumin vs. Cumin Seeds
Cumin is known to bring a musky undertone to curries and add a depth of flavor to chili. You can use whole cumin seeds in some dishes, but they’re more commonly used when they’re ground into a fine powder. If you bite into whole cumin seeds, you’ll get intense bursts of flavor. Ground cumin, on the other hand, works well when paired with other ingredients and seasonings.
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Where Does Cumin Come From?
Cumin has been used as a spice since ancient times in India as well as by the Romans and Greeks. After European colonization, it was brought into South American and Mexican cuisine by the Spanish and Portuguese.
The cumin plant can survive without water for a long time and thrives in tropical or subtropical climates. Cumin is susceptible to pests and diseases, which is why each crop should be monitored carefully and harvested during peak season.
What Does Cumin Taste Like?
Whole cumin seeds have a bright, earthy, slightly spicy flavor that may remind you a little bit of dried lemon peel when they’re added to rich ingredients like yogurt or meat. When cumin seeds are mixed into basmati rice, they develop a more defined floral and nutty flavor.
The warm flavor and aroma of cumin has a hint of both bitterness and sweetness. For the best flavor, you should toast the whole seeds before adding them into your favorite recipes.
How to Use Cumin
You can use cumin in several different ways, depending on what the recipe calls for.
When you’re using whole cumin seeds, it’s better to add them early on in the recipe to allow the spice to fully release the flavor. You can add whole seeds into oil or hot broth to let their earthy flavor and aroma blend beautifully with the other flavors in the dish.
Ground cumin can be used in different blends of spices, like curry powder. It can be added as a seasoning, mixed into a marinade, or used as part of a rub for steaks.
When you’re preparing recipes like curries that are known for their spices, you should use whole seeds after toasting them in a dry pan over low heat to truly bring out their flavors. You can also grind the toasted spices in your spice grinder to enjoy a more enriched flavor.
If you’re using whole cumin seeds or ground cumin as a substitute for the other, you’ll have to use different amounts as ground cumin has a more concentrated flavor. For a recipe that requires about a tablespoon of ground cumin, you should use 1.25 tablespoons of cumin seeds.
Recipe Ideas for Cumin
Here are some tips on how you can enjoy cumin seeds in a variety of recipes:
- Mix toasted cumin into your bread dough for a smoky and savory flavor.
- Toss it into fresh salads with toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
- Sprinkle a tiny bit over-roasted tomato and red pepper soup.
It goes without saying that cumin is one of the most versatile spices that exist today. If you haven’t been using cumin in your recipes, you’re seriously missing out.
You can enjoy this warm and earthy flavor in many different ways; sprinkle it over avocado toast for added flavor or use it as part of a seasoning for a hearty tomato soup or chili, the possibilities are endless.