Best Cumin Substitute, Ingredients + Ayurvedic Uses, Benefits

Best Cumin Substitute, Ingredients + Ayurvedic Uses, Benefits

The Ayurveda Experience May 31, 2019

Cumin is the second most popular spice in the world after black pepper. However, in some cases, you may need a cumin substitute like Panch Phoron, five-spice mix.

It could be because you aren’t necessarily a fan of cumin or you just happen to run out of cumin in your spice cabinet. Both are equally viable reasons to need a cumin substitute.

While you may require a substitute for cumin, it is still a very beneficial spice to have in your spice cabinet as it adds flavor as well as nutrients to your meal.

Read More: Cumin Benefits, Uses, Research + Ayurveda

Cumin contains iron, copper, zinc, potassium, and magnesium. These minerals are vital for maintaining homeostasis. Cumin contains some vitamins and dietary fiber as well.

What is the best substitute for cumin? Well, it depends on what you plan to use the cumin (jeera) substitute for.If you are using it as a flavoring agent, you can use substitutes like garam masala, curry powder, and coriander (dhania) powder.

If you want to use it for tempering when makingdaal (lentil soup), you may use caraway seeds (shah jeera) orpanch phoran (five-spice mix).

Caraway Seeds As A Cumin Replacement

Cumin and caraway both belong to the parsley family. They are similar in appearance and taste, although cumin has a stronger and hotter flavor.

You can use caraway seeds instead of cumin seeds, or ground caraway instead of ground cumin.

Start with half as much as the recipe calls for, and adjust to suit your tastes. This substitute shouldn’t affect the color of your recipe.My personal favorite substitute for Cumin, however, is ‘Panch phoran for tempering purposes.

Panch Phoran As Cumin Substitute

Panch phoran is sometimes written aspaanch phoran orpanch phoron. It literally translates to five spices or five flavors. The wordpanch (orpaanch) means five. The spice mix has various names depending on where in Asia it is being used.

This combination is mostly used in eastern states of India, Assam, Bengal, and Odisha and in countries of Bangladesh and Nepal.

The spices that make up a traditionalpanch phoran blend are nigella seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, celery seeds, and fennel seeds.

Other than the spices used to make it,panch phoran also differs from othermasalas and Indian spice mixes in that its traditional version consists of whole spices rather than ground.

All of the spices are added to the mix in most traditional blends; However, this can be a matter of taste as it is with most spice blends.

While the true history of panch phoranis unknown, some historians believe that it has to do with the importance of the number five in Ayurveda.

The number five in paanchphoronmay be related to the Ayurvedic concept ofpancha mahabhutas or the five basic elements

The number five may be related to the Ayurvedic concept ofpancha mahabhutas or the five basic elements that form the foundation of all creation. The five elements areagni(fire),jala(water),vayu(air),prithvi(earth), andakash (ether).

The fenugreek givespanch phoran its distinctive nutty pungency and bitterness. The nigella seeds provide a light peppery flavor, while cumin brings an earthy quality.

Celery seeds can add a herbaceous note that is intense enough to compete for dominance with the fenugreek. In blends that use black mustard seeds, they bring an aggressive tanginess.

Fennel brings a potent sweetness that helps to soften the bitterness of the fenugreek and the cumin.

Panch phoran is mostly used in cuisines originating from West Bengal in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. In most cases, the tempering method is used to add it to a dish.

cumin substitute panch phoron five spice

Tempering involves frying the spices in ghee or oil. The spices are removed and the ghee or oil is used in the dish.

Panch phoran is also used in pickles and stews. The ground mix of the five spices (Panch phoran) makes a wonderful barbecue rub as well.

You can make a single vegetable taste like flavor bursting in your mouth by simply adding thePanch Phoron.

The array of vegetables that can be used to go withPanch Phoron are eggplants, spinach, yams, bitter gourd, bottle gourd, and beans – just to name a few.

You can add it to mangoes to make a delicious chutney.The best thing aboutPanchPhoron is – it does not need to be ground. It is one of a kind spice mix that is a blend of five whole spices.

Read More: Indian Spices List, Health Benefits, Masala + More

Panch Phoron (Cumin Substitute) Recipe


  • 1 tbsp. of whole cumin seeds –Jeera
  • 1 tbsp. of whole fennel seeds-Saunf
  • ½ tbsp. of fenugreek seeds –Methi
  • 2tsp. Nigella seeds –Kalonji
  • ½ tbsp.Ajwain or celery seeds


Panch phoron is super easy to make because it needs no cooking, grinding, or toasting of the seeds. All you do is mix all the five ingredients in a bowl and store it in a jar, untoasted. Keep it in a cool place away from heat and light.

Ayurvedic Benefits Of Panch Phoran

Cumin:It brings all three doshas into equilibrium. Cumin is a cooling spice and is known as the ‘seed of good digestion’. Cumin enhances absorption, supports digestion and metabolism without overheating the system. It is a good source of iron and manganese.1

Fennel:Fennel seeds also works on the tridoshas like cumin. It is a cooling spice that gently stimulates the digestive fire , without creating body heat. An excellent source of vitamin C, it is also a very good source of dietary fiber, potassium, manganese, folate, and molybdenum.2

five spice panch

Fenugreek: Supports fat metabolism, acts as a galactagogue, and brings the Vata andKapha doshainto equilibrium. 

Nigella Seeds: Balances the hormonal system, adds a unique flavor and balances the sub dosas of the colon and stomach. It is Vata-Kapha balancing.3

Celery seeds:Used inAyurvedic medicine to treat colds, flu, water retention, poor digestion, arthritis pain and aches, abdominal cramps.

Celery seeds are well-known as a culinary spice, both whole and ground, which do more than just add flavor to dishes — they also have amazing effects on health.

They are also Vata and Pitta pacifying.Black mustard seeds are used in place of celery seeds in some combinations.4

Mustard Seeds: It contains selenium and omega-3 fatty acids. It is an excellent source of iron, zinc, magnesium, manganese, calcium, phosphorus, niacin, protein and dietary fiber. It is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Mustard seeds balance Vata-Kapha.

Consult your Ayurvedic practitioner before using paanch phoronDo not use paanch phoran or five spice if you are allergic to any of its ingredients. 


  1. Pharmacogn J. 2017; 9(3):292-301 A Multifaceted Journal in the field of Natural Products and Pharmacognosy
  2. EJPMR, 2017,4(2), 668-675, Fennel-a brief review *Arzoo and Milind Parle Pharmacology Division, Department of Pharm. Sciences, Guru Jambheshwar University of Science and Technology (A‘ Grade NAAC Accredited, State Govt. University) Hisar -125001 (Haryana).



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