Coriander Vs. Cumin: How Do They Compare?

Few spices pair as well as coriander and cumin. With flavors that complement each other so beautifully, it’s no wonder that these two spices are often used together. Not only does this dynamic duo play a starring role in various dishes, but it’s not unusual for one of these spices to be mistaken for the other. In this spice versus spice comparison, you can examine these spices from a few key angles and determine how coriander and cumin really measure up!

Table of Contents

Do coriander and cumin have the same flavor?

The fact that coriander and cumin are so often used together can be deceiving. The pairing of these spices has nothing to do with a similarity in flavor profile, but with the flawless way they blend together in a dish.

Both of these spices do have an earthiness to their flavor as well as a bit of warmth. However, when it comes down to it, these spices come from different plants and have different flavor profiles. Coriander has a sweetness to it, while cumin is slightly bitter, with earthy and nutty undertones. Depending on what type of dish you’re cooking, this flavor difference alone can make or break your recipe.

Do cumin and coriander look alike?

Not really. Typically, beginning cooks are much more likely to make the error of mistaking one of these spices for the other based on appearance, as they actually look quite different from one another.

In seed form, the difference is unmistakable. Coriander seeds are round and have a brighter—almost yellow—coloring. Cumin seeds are narrower, a bit elongated and have a slightly curved shape (think sickle or parenthesis). In color, they are darker than coriander, and are a medium shade of brown with noticeable striping.

When working with ground spices, you can distinguish coriander by its brighter yellowish coloring.

Is one of these spices more readily available than the other?

Coriander and cumin are both extremely easy to find, particularly if you’re looking for ground as opposed to whole seeds. In fact, you can typically expect to find both of these spices easily in any local grocery store.

Even whole seeds should be easy to find at your usual supermarket, and this is true for both coriander and cumin. Often, these two are found together on the shelves as well as in a dish.

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  2. Organic Coriander Seeds (1 Lbs) by Naturevibe Botanicals
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Can coriander be used as a substitute for cumin? Can cumin substitute for coriander?

Cumin makes a great substitute for dried coriander. The warmth and faintly spicy flavor works well in place of coriander, giving your dish a flavor that is similar enough to work very well in most types of cuisine.

Coriander, on the other hand, may not make a great cumin substitute. It really depends on the type of dish you’re cooking, and whether or not the sweetness or bitterness of each spice will affect the overall taste of your finished product.

Is coriander as healthy as cumin?

While both of these spices are packed with beneficial vitamins, minerals and nutrients, cumin comes out ahead, with more health benefits to offer than almost any other spice. Cumin has a broader range of benefits to overall health.

Are cumin and coriander used in the same types of cuisine?

These two spices are often found together in a variety of dishes, but they do have some very distinct and different uses as well.

In Indian cuisine, coriander and cumin are used together in traditional spice mixes as well as in dishes. However, it is typical for cumin to be used in tempering a dish while coriander is used to make the masala. Together, these spices are certainly evocative of Indian food, and they are certainly key ingredients in many, many traditional dishes.

In Western cuisine, these spices have more distinct roles to play. Coriander is most often used in desserts such as sweet pastries, while cumin is typically used with meats and a wide variety of other savory dishes.

Cumin also has its own notoriety in Latin American cuisine that coriander does not share.

Both of these spices are unique and complex, wonderful together and yet each has individual uses and dishes in which they truly shine. By experimenting, you can gain a better understanding of –and appreciation for –just how different these two spices really are.