Spice Shelf: Cumin

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By The Paula Deen Test Kitchen

Cumin is most well known for its presence in Indian, Mexican, Asian, North African, Middle Eastern, and Latin American dishes. It is one of the most popular spices, second only to black pepper. If you’ve only even used cumin in a curry, don’t worry; we’re here to demystify this nutty, peppery spice.

Selection & Storage

Cumin generally comes in three colors: Amber/brown (most common), black, and white. White seeds are generally interchangeable with amber, but black is more peppery and complex.

You can buy cumin in either seed or ground form. If you have the tools to grind your own spices (a mortar and pestle, or a coffee grinder specifically reserved for grinding spices), it’s better to buy cumin whole. Cumin seeds will stay fresh for about a year, while ground cumin has a shelf life of about 6 months. Cumin keeps best in a tightly lidded glass jar, stored in a cool, dark, dry place. To test for freshness, just use your sniffer! If it still smells fragrant, you’re good to go!


Historically, a lot of cumin’s popularity was due to the fact that, because it tastes peppery, it could be used as a (much cheaper) substitute for black pepper, which used to be quite expensive. And even though it packs a punch of flavor, cumin was (and is!) known for its medicinal benefits, too. It is an excellent source of iron, aides in good digestion, boosts the immune system, and has anti-carcinogenic properties.


Toasting your spices, especially in seed form, before adding them to your recipe provides a more blended flavor. Especially when spices are being added to a curry, soup, or stew, they can have an unpleasant “raw” flavor unless toasted first.

If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, seeded spices like cumin, coriander, and peppercorns can be cracked using a garlic press.

If you’re thinking to yourself, “which of my dishes could use a dash of cumin?” a good rule of thumb is to follow black pepper; if it goes well with black pepper, chances are it’ll pair perfectly with cumin. Some safe choices, if you want to test the cumin-spiced waters, are beans, chicken, fish, pork, potatoes, rice, and eggs.

Robust Recommendations

Turkey and Black Bean Ziti
Warm Mexican Crab Dip
Bobby’s Lighter Spicy Cheese Straws
Sweet and Spicy Coleslaw
Peppery Coleslaw with Orange Chili Vinaigrette
Creamy Chicken Rollups
Mini Cranberry Meatballs
Creamy Scallion Dip
Banana Coconut Soup



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Dear Paula, I love your recipes, shows, magazines and cookbooks. I have been following you for years. I am deeply saddened and hurt that you have to defend yourself. I agree that anyone who is without sin, let them cast the first stone. We all have obstacles to present themselves to us each and every day, 24/7. I to, being a black woman, have called my own that "n" word. I believe that GOD gives us test and that you will overcome this test and that you will come out a better and a more successful person. All my friends love you, and we are watching for your show to appear as if nothing happened. God bless you and your family. I love all the Deen shows, but especially yours ! Be Strong and look to God ! Margaret Brooks Edgewood, MD

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love the table paula would look good on my new patio. so glad you are back. I hope to get there to see you in person one day.i will start tomorrow to find the patern form the tablecloth.
Gladys Rainesl in Savannah Style: A Spring Table for Two on April 13, 2014 at 7:45 pm

I just want to say this I don't even know if is the right page all I ever wanted to say to Paula Deen welcome back I have missed you. You are my favorite home down girls keep your head up and hang on and feel the love. P.S. from a woman of color.
in Chicken Salad: A Southern Staple on April 13, 2014 at 2:55 pm

I just love love love the table and flowers and am so glad that I can still access all of Paula's recipes, her family life, Bobby's lighter versions and Brandon's beautiful work. Truly thankful to see such beautiful tablescapes. You guys are my heros.
Patricia in Savannah Style: A Spring Table for Two on April 13, 2014 at 9:14 am