I've always been interested in trying to make some type of dahl or other Indian cuisine but I'm severely allergic to Cumin. This typically strikes me out for recipes with curry or chili powder. Does anyone have some PRO tips on types of curry (green, yellow, etc) or Indian foods that would allow me to venture off into this culinary space?

P.S. I'm also gluten intolerant and allergic to nuts and shellfish.

  • Caraway, Fennel or Anise seeds? Closely related to cumin, but not the same. Sep 30, 2020 at 21:28

6 Answers 6


You know, I don't think you need to overthink this too much. If you look at a typical Indian curry recipe, it might have 10 spices in it. Just leave out the cumin, and maybe bump up the other spices a little to compensate. It won't be exactly the same, but it will still be delicious. You are correct that you'll have to be careful to avoid pre-packaged spice mixtures unless the ingredients are spelled out. Here is my Chana Mushroom Masala, from which you can safely omit the cumin: http://www.herbivoracious.com/2009/09/quick-chana-mushroom-masala-chickpea-curry-recipe.html


Try Caraway as a substitute for Cumin. It has a similar flavour profile, just a little more intense. Some people prefer the flavour of Caraway and use it in all their recipes instead of Cumin.

I cannot tell you if you will be allergic to this herb, just like I don't know if you'll be allergic to any other herb because you'r allergic to cumin. Caraway comes from an entirely different plant. It belongs to the same family as anise, fennel, dill, cumin, licorice, and coriander. So if you're allergic to all of those (i.e. the entire family), you're probably allergic to Caraway too. But if your allergy is restricted to cumin, you could give caraway a try.


-Unlucky! Cumin is one of the most awesome spices! It is almost impossible to make north indian cuisine without it. The flavour of cumin is not at all like caraway, yoiu cannot substitute the two. Caraway is more similar to fennel in taste, completely different to cumin!

You might try more south indian type cuisine using mustard seeds and curry leaves instead, or mustard seeds and fenugreek leaves.

These combos can still give you some delicious S indian style fare.

Good luck


Smoked Paprika, Coriander, and Turmeric (really just Paprika)

The flavour of cumin is warm, smoky, floral and woody. You can try hitting those notes with a mix of other spices. Paprika for warm and smoky; ground coriander for floral; turmeric for woody and floral.

Many Indian recipes contain cumin, coriander, and turmeric already. So the advice is really just to replace the cumin with smoked paprika.


I don't think there is any really good substitute for cumin, but in addition to caraway (shahi jeera, which means royal cumin), mentioned by Swati, you might try ajwain/carom, although it is from the same family as cumin, caraway etc and so you might react to it.

They are only slightly similar, and ajwain is way more intense than cumin, especially when fresh, and it burns more easily. Either one or the other is often used in making bread, savoury fried snacks, biscuits or bean curries (like asafoetida (also related to cumin), ajwain is believed to improve digestion; I don't know about that, but its flavour goes really well in such dishes). Anyway I feel I have seen a fair number of recipes calling for "cumin or ajwain/carom".

If caraway and ajwain are allergenic for you, you might try using a little dried thyme or oregano. Sounds unlikely, but they're the only things I can find in my kitchen that are (as far as I know - both are from the mint family) unrelated to cumin that have a vaguely similar aroma. In fact, thyme and ajwain have an extremely similar flavour (though... it's not all that much like cumin). Cumin seeds are usually added to the oil at the start of cooking a dish or in an oil tempering. Thyme and oregano can be added at the end of cooking; they do not need to be fried. I sometimes sneakily add thyme to Indian food (i.e. everyday food) and it goes surprisingly well.


In the past I used Chipotle as a cumin substitute and honestly its flavor is not too bad for me. But after a few test I catch that caraway will give the best experiment when use instead of cumin because it has almost similar appearance and flavor compare with cumin.

  • 1
    Indeed - caraway is sometimes called "shahi jeera" (royal cumin). It definitely looks quite like cumin, but I am not convinced that its flavour is similar. But Swati's answer already covers that. Chipotle is similar to smoked paprika as mentioned in Daron's answer, but I'm sceptical to say the least about using either as a replacement for cumin
    – Zanna
    Sep 30, 2020 at 14:10

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