Cumin vs Coriander

By | January 10, 2018

There are just few herbs and spices out there that can pair as well as cumin and coriander. They both generally taste warm, but with very different flavor profiles. Interestingly, their flavors seem to complement each other perfectly. As if they are two puzzle pieces that are made to fit each other. They are both often used together in many dishes and cuisines. However, this also causes people to mistake the two spices. In the following article, you will see the differences and comparisons between cumin vs coriander to sharpen your wit in the kitchen!

What is Cumin?
Cumin is actually the name of a flowering plant from the family Apiaceae. It is a native plant in South Asia and East Mediterranean. Cumin is popularly used as a traditional plant due to the great health benefits. However, for cooking, we only use the seeds. Cumin seeds may be used in either the whole form or the ground form, or even both, depending on the food recipe. (See also : Curcumin vs Cumin)

What is Coriander?
On the other hand, coriander is also called as cilantro or China parsley. It is an annual herb that also belongs to the same family as cumin, Apiaceae. All parts of the plant including the leaves, roots, and seeds are edible. But the most common parts that are used for cooking are the fresh leaves and dried seeds. Note that the flavor of the leaves is different to that of the seeds.

Different Appearance
More often than not, beginner cooks get confused when it comes to distinguishing cumin vs coriander seeds. In a glance, they indeed look quite similar. However, there are a few notable hints that you can use to tell the two apart.

A cumin seed has a narrow, elongated shape. The sides are curved, like a sickle or parenthesis. It usually has a medium shade of brown which is darker than that of coriander, and there is noticeable striping on it. On the other hand, a coriander seed is more rounded. A coriander seed usually has a brighter brown color that is almost yellow, and without any striping.

Meanwhile, you can tell ground cumin and ground coriander apart by the color. Ground cumin always has a darker color. It is usually medium brown, just like its seeds. On the other hand, ground coriander is almost yellow, again just like the actual seeds.

Different Flavor
Although cumin vs coriander may seem similar and are often found together, they actually have very different flavors. The pairing of cumin and coriander has nothing to do with a similarity of flavor profiles; instead, it is more because their flavors blend together flawlessly.

Both cumin and coriander have some earthiness and heat. However, cumin has a slightly bitter taste. This bitter taste may linger around in the mouth for a little while. This bitter taste plays a major role in the exotic flavor profile of cumin. On the other hand, coriander has a distinctive sweetness. You cannot mistake the two once you have tasted them both. By the way, such difference may make or break your proprietary recipe, so make sure that you choose the suitable flavor profile for your special dishes.

Cumin and coriander are often found together in many dishes, but each of them also has distinctive uses. You can find them together in the Indian cuisine, and they are key ingredients in many traditional Indian recipes. However, cumin is usually utilized for the tempering of the dish, whereas coriander is used for the masala.

You can also find them in the Western cuisine, but cumin is more often used with meats and savory dishes whereas coriander is used for sweet pastries and desserts.

However, you can find cumin in the Latin American cuisine, but not coriander. Cumin was introduced to the American continent by Portuguese and Spanish colonists. It is used as an ingredient in chili powders, achiote blends, curry powders, sofrito, and adobos.

Are cumin and coriander interchangeable for each other? Well, not always. Cumin does make a good substitute for dried coriander seeds because it has a similar earthiness and warmth. However, it also has a distinctive flavor, which may either bring an exotic taste into the food or break the recipe. Still, for most dishes, cumin is a good substitute when coriander is not available.

On the other hand, coriander is not a very good substitute for cumin. This mostly depends on the dish that you are cooking. Coriander has some warmth and earthiness, but the taste is “brighter” without an exotic bitterness. Instead, it has a sweetness that may affect the final taste of the food.

Most of the time, you don’t need to worry about substituting cumin or coriander. They are both extremely easy to find. The ground powders, though, are easier to find than the whole seeds. You can find these two spices in any grocery store.

Health Benefits
Finally, cumin vs coriander have different health benefits. They both have many beneficial vitamins and minerals, but cumin has a broader range of health benefits. It can provide antioxidants, promote detoxification, provide calcium and iron, prevent diabetes, boost immune system, aid digestion, and treat insomnia. It also has antiviral and antibacterial properties. Due to these beneficial effects, cumin can be a great part of a healthy dietary habit.

On the other hand, coriander is known to be able to lower blood sugar, reduce blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, aid digestion, treat urinary infections, fight food poisoning, and prevent neurological inflammation and diseases.

- A flowering plant whose seeds are commonly used in cooking and medicine from the family Apiaceae- An annual herb that also belongs to the same family as cumin, Apiaceae
- A cumin seed has a narrow, elongated shape- Has a brighter brown color that is almost yellow, and without any striping.
- Cumin has a slightly bitter taste- Coriander has a distinctive sweetness

Cumin and coriander are often used together, but they are two very different spices. Cumin seeds are elongated and have a medium brown color. Cumin seeds have a distinctive flavor with slight bitterness, and are used in the Latin American cuisine. Cumin seeds have a wider range of health benefits. On the other hand, coriander seeds are rounded with a more yellow color. Coriander seeds have a noticeable sweetness. While cumin usually can substitute coriander, coriander is usually not a very good substitute for cumin.

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