Cumin - How To Use

(Also known as Roman Caraway or Jerra)


Cumin is part of the parsley family. It displays earthly, herby and woody notes. The small brown cumin seeds, similar to caraway, have a warm, assertive flavour and a slightly bitter taste. It's a staple ingredient in many ethnic recipes. Some people adore it, while others loathe it. The Romans fell into the former category and even sprinkled cumin seeds on bread. 

Native to Egypt's Nile Valley, cumin and coriander are most recognisable as the contributor of Indian food's predominant aroma. It is also used extensively in European, North African, and American cuisines in spice blends, vegetables, sausages, fish dishes, chutneys, bread, and stews. It is said to have been used in Egypt and Crete as long as 4,000 years ago and was introduced to Latin America by Spanish explorers. From chile con carne to Dutch cheese, cumin is a versatile and much-loved spice the world over. Cumin holds a silver place in being the second most popular spice in the world after black pepper. 


Just one teaspoon of cumin is packed with iron. It also includes key nutrients of copper, both beneficial towards healthy red blood cells. Cumin was prescribed to relieve flatulence and to aid digestion traditionally.

Interesting Facts

  • During the Renaissance and Age of Discovery (5th to 15th Century), cumin has stopped lovers and chickens from running away. We can kind of understand why a chicken might run away if the cumin wasn't for eating.
  • Evidence of cumin found in the Egyptian Pyramids demonstrates that cumin was around 5000 years ago. The Ancient Grecians and Romans used cumin like we use black pepper alongside salt on the dinner table. Regarded as the king of seasonings in the Roman empire. To this day, salt combined with cumin is a tabletop seasoning in parts of Africa and Georgia.
  • In the 1600s, Arab traders brought cumin to many parts of the world, including North Africa, Persia, India, Indonesia and China. It became a key ingredient in many spice blends as it still does today. 
  • Spanish conquistadors introduced cumin to the Americans in the 16th Century, particularly in Mexico, which is still part of many Mexican dishes today. Cumin was known to pay taxes like many other spices in the past. Folklore tales state that happiness would be in close pursuit if you carried cumin on your wedding day. 

Chief flavour profile

Cuminaldehyde: (bitter, herbal and earthy) this musky spice has a flavour compound found in beef and cinnamon. It pairs well with sweet spices like cinnamon but also, cardamom and nutmeg because of its warming qualities.

Blends to try with Cumin

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