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.
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
Dear, Paula Deen
Well I think you are the most amazing person, you are my role model if they took you off from the set I would of died inside your the best cook and I can't waite to see you again
Alexis Conner in Summer Salad Days on December 04, 2013 at 4:59 pm
Paula, I used to watch your show on Food Network a lot when I still had the TV and cable many year ago. You weren't even that big a star back then. I always love watching you cook on Youtube after I ditched my TV and cable and read your recipes on Food Network Magazines. I hope one day you can return to Food Network and the Food Network Magazine. I stop buying the magazine since you were gone.
Orindary Jane in Love at Last on December 04, 2013 at 2:32 am
Great blog Cindy!!!! I always enjoy reading your post. This Thanksgiving centerpiece is absolutely beautiful and so easy to make.
Ann in A Perfectly Easy Thanksgiving Centerpiece on December 03, 2013 at 8:10 pm
Paula, made your Zucchini Custard Casserole for Thanksgiving and it was Fantastic!!! Thank you so much! Love you & your family. Happy holidays!
Pat Walker in Love at Last on December 02, 2013 at 8:45 pm