Cumin is a staple in various global cuisines and adds an instant depth to any dish. It complements a range of ingredients like meats, beans, and vegetables, and is often used in recipes like soups, stews, and marinades.
- Cuminum cyminum (scientifc name)
- Jintan putih (Indonesian)
- 孜然 / zīrán (Chinese)
- Jeera (Hindi)
What is Cumin?
Cumin is a spice made from the dried seed of a plant with the botanical name Cuminum cyminum, a member of the Apiaceae family alongside its cousins parsley, caraway, and fennel. It is very tiny, oblong in shape, longitudinally ridged, and yellow-brown in color.
It likely originated from Central Asia, Southwestern Asia, or the Eastern Mediterranean. Today, India is the main producer of cumin worldwide.
What Does Cumin Taste Like?
Cumin has a powerful taste and smell. It has an earthy, woody, slightly nutty, and peppery flavor with a hint of citrus. It is best to be conservative when cooking with cumin as its flavor can easily overtake a dish. Whole seeds need to be toasted in order to release their flavor compounds before grinding down into a powder.
Whole vs Ground Cumin
Using seeds or whole cumin might not disperse flavoring as evenly as the ground spice. When cooking with whole cumin seeds, adding this spice to hot oil before combining other ingredients helps distribute this flavoring. Applying heat to whole seeds helps to release more of their flavoring.
Grinding roasted cumin seeds is how ground cumin gets its earthy flavor notes. Because the seeds have already released their flavoring throughout the roasting and grinding process, you can use the ground cumin at any point while cooking. However, ground cumin will lose flavoring more quickly than whole cumin, so you should not leave it unused for a long time.
Where To Buy
Whole cumin seeds can be found packaged in the spice section of most grocery stores. If you can’t find them, you can easily find bags of whole cumin seeds at Asian and Indian markets. Ground cumin is readily available at most grocery stores in the spice aisle.
Keep cumin seeds in an airtight container away from heat, light, and moisture. They will last up to two years. Like other spices, cumin’s flavor and aroma will fade much more quickly once ground. Ground cumin should be stored in a cool, dark place and will last up to 6 months.