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How to use cumin (and five favorite recipes)


Would you like to travel around the world? I do it all the time -- in my kitchen. While some ingredients are synonymous with a single cuisine (wasabi, chutney, hoisin sauce), cumin takes center stage in foods from many countries: Mexican bean pots, Indian curries, my favorite Malaysian noodles, and good old American barbecue sauce.

Cumin is the seed of an herbaceous annual in the parsley family, native to only one place — the Nile River Valley in Egypt — though it's long been cultivated in India, China, North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean, and the Americas. I keep both whole seed and ground cumin in my pantry. Ground cumin should be stored in an airtight container, or in the freezer, to retain its potency. My original ingredient post about cumin will tell you more.

Fasten your seatbelts for this mini world tour, courtesy of some of my favorite recipes that call for cumin:

Chickpea falafel.

I fell in love with these cumin-scented chickpea falafel when I visited Israel as a young girl, and I had no idea how easy it is to make them at home.

Aloo gobi (Indian spiced cauliflower and potatoes).

Next stop, India, for a bowl of aloo gobi (spiced cauliflower and potatoes) made easy in the slow cooker.

Black beans and rice (made in a skillet).

Quick and easy skillet black beans and rice, from Mexico, wouldn't be the same without cumin.

Roasted eggplant spread with garlic pepper and onions.

Visit the Mediterranean with each bite of this roasted eggplant spread with garlic, pepper and onions.

Slow cooker Cuban-style ropa vieja.

Last stop, Cuba, for this slow cooker Cuban-style ropa vieja, which makes a perfect filling for tortillas.

What's your favorite recipe to make with cumin?

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What a great post, Lydia! I LOVE cumin and I also love that all these recipes are naturally gluten free. :-) I can't wait to share this post on my gfe page later!

Oh, and how did I not know about Rhode Island Recipes? Congrats!


Thanks for these recipes. I love, love, love cumin. One of my favorite ways to use cumin this time of year is in rubs for grilling or in a compound butter to top a grilled steak or piece of fish.

Mmm- what a delicious round-up. I make a cucumber raita with shredded/diced cucumber, yogurt, cumin, salt, crushed roasted peanuts, cilantro. So easy and so good.

If I ever had to narrow down my spices to just a few (perish the thought!) cumin is one thing I could not do without. Great post!

I love, love, love cumin - though I once had a friend who thought it smelled like armpit. ;-) Such a wonderful earthy smell. And what would good chili be without it?

When I was first introduced to cumin, it was as 'smells like sweaty feet.' Now that smell means wonderful food!

Donna, I love cumin in rubs, too. In fact, I've got one coming here on the blog this weekend.

Nupur, that sounds like the best raita ever.

Kalyn, I agree. I would be lost without it.

Jean, Susan: cumin does have an aroma, doesn't it? But once you learn to love the flavor, the aroma doesn't seem so stinky!

Shirley, cumin is one of those spices I buy in large quantities and use in everything. I'm always delighted when you find naturally gluten-free recipes on my blog!

Now that you mention it, cumin really is a versatile spice. I know I've used it in Indian and Mexican dishes but you're sure right, it's a very well travelled little seed.

Great post--thank you!

I love the taste of cumin and use it often in my cooking. I have only used the ground cumin, as I wasn't sure how to use the "seed" version. I seem to use it often in my south west recipes. I am off to look at the ones you listed!

Kirsten, we couldn't make Mexican or Indian food without cumin. And to think, when I was younger, I never cooked with it.

Winnie, many recipes (especially Indian) call for toasting the seed, and then grinding it at the last minute. It's definitely a deep flavor.

Cumin is brilliant my friend and thanks for the gorgeous recipes!


Cumin is one of the spices I use the most out of my spice drawer. I started toasting cumin seeds and grinding them - it adds a lot of flavor. Love it in salsas, soups, chili, Indian food.

CCU, thanks!

Jeanette, I use both seeds and ground cumin. I keep them in the freezer, along with bags of other spices.

Yum - you are on a roll with some of my favorites - first meatballs, then tomato sauce and now my favorite spice: Cumin!
I Love it and use it lots of things - especially salsa and chili. But love just doing a cumin-rubbed pork loin too!

I love slicing a fresh tomatoe. Placing it on buttered toast. Then I sprinkle garlic powder, white pepper and cumin on top. So simple and SO delicious!

Love this! I'm trying to focus on a different spice/herb every month and this month is cumin (which brought me to your site with a simple Google search). Tonight I'm making Cumin-Vanilla rice pudding...dessert! :) I'm also focusing on one new technique per month and this month is stove-top smoking. I mention this because I am going to combine the two by smoking salmon with some cumin seeds mixed with the wood chips. Wish me luck!! I'm a totally amature! :) Thanks for the post!!

Thank you for the good advice for storing cumin in air tight jars or freezer...good tip...I made a wonderful lentil soup using cumin and some cut up tomatoes adding some parsley a bit of pepper and bay leaf which i dispose before serving it. I cut up some celery and carrots and simmered for about 35 minutes. Wow...the cumin smelled so good throughout the house. I am Italian, but you could have sworn someone else from other parts of the world was making something good.. Thank you for all your recipes and tips. A good source of protein. We enjoy lots of Vegan food and this is one good one and you can eat throughout the day if you are a grazer, like me. ps. You can find different lentil recipes when you purchase a bag of lentils. Thank you and bon appetite. Lee Marie from Cambridge, Ma.

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