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I want to use a recipe that gives ingredient measurements based on the spice seeds. My local grocery store does not have at least half of the ingredients in seed form. But the store does have them pre-ground. How can I translate this recipe's measurements into something I can actually buy?


  • 1 1/2 dried chipotle chiles, stemmed, seeded, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons pink peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Converting whole spices to ground spices is not as simple as matching up the weights. Ground spices have a distinctly different flavour from the whole. The freshness of the grind will also affect the taste quite considerably as well as how carefully they have been stored. When the spice is freshly ground it will have a very strong intense flavour, so you would reduce the amount you use slightly. However, ground spices rapidly loose parts of their flavour. The taste changes and you may find you will end up using more than the recipe states in order to get a similar taste. However, you'll never get exactly the same taste, grinding changes the spice.

The best solution is to try to get an supply of the whole spice from an online store. You can then use them whole or grind them yourself, fresh, as the need arises.

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Thank you, but ordering from an online store doesn't help me this weekend. However, since you have the most votes, I will accept this answer. – James Sumners Jul 1 '11 at 19:24
Just thought of another point. The recipe you linked too was for a spice rub. The powder and the whole spice will stick to the meat differently. So it might affect how effective the rub is. Power will probably stick better than whole seeds so you may find that using powder spices means you can hold back a little as less of the spice will fall of when cooking and handling. – Rincewind42 Jul 2 '11 at 11:14
This is all true, but as an answer to this question, not so good - the recipe in question involves grinding all the seeds. So it all ends up ground, and the question is just how much ground coriander comes from a couple tablespoons of seeds. – Jefromi Jul 2 '11 at 14:50

The right way to do this, of course, is by weight. So if you are willing to do the research to figure out how much 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds weighs, and you have a precise enough scale, you can just weigh out the same amount of ground spices. Failing that, I'd use about 20% less to account for the fact that ground spices are more densely packed than the seeds. (I just confirmed this for cumin - a teaspoon of whole seeds weighs 1.95 grams and a teaspoon of ground weighs 2.5 grams). On the other hand, if you figure that maybe the ground spices aren't as fresh and pungent, you might want to use the whole amount to somewhat counteract that.

For leafy herbs (which you didn't ask about), the typical suggestion is use half as much.

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Try this link. I also have a lot of dried spices and not much access to the fresh ones.

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That looks useful but maybe you could summarize some of the information here by editing into your answer? Link-only answers are discouraged on Stack Exchange sites because they aren't useful in the future if the link changes or is no longer available. – PeterJ Apr 9 '15 at 13:54

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