Cumin and paprika both have a prominent place on my spice rack; I use them regularly in so many of the recipes I make, whether I’m trying to replicate a recipe from afar, or making the simple fare that I grew up with. Let’s take a look!
Be sure to check out how cumin compares with caraway, too.
But what’s the difference between them? And which is better for your dish?
- Cumin spice (or ground cumin) is made from the dried seed of the cumin plant and has a strong, earthy flavor. It is usually light brown or gray in color.
- Paprika is made from dried peppers and has a milder, sweeter flavor. It is also more colorful, ranging from bright red to orange or yellow.
Cumin is used in many Indian and Middle Eastern dishes, while paprika is used in many Spanish and Hungarian dishes — sometimes they’re even used together in recipes. Each has a different flavor profile and can be used in different ways to add flavor to a dish.
What is Cumin?
Cumin is a popular spice that is used in many cuisines around the world. It has a strong, earthy flavor and is often used to season meat and vegetables. It can be used fresh, but more often it is dried and ground into a powder. Cumin is a member of the parsley family. A native to the Mediterranean region, it was used by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks and has been used for centuries in cooking.
Cumin is widely available in supermarkets. It is a versatile spice that can be used in many different dishes. I use it in my kitchen on a regular basis to add flavor to chili recipes, tacos, and more. Try adding cumin to your next recipe and see how its earthy flavor profile enhances your food!
Cumin is a spice that has a variety of uses, both culinary and medicinal.
Culinary Uses for Cumin
In the kitchen, cumin can be used to add flavor to a variety of dishes, from curries to soups. Choose between using whole cumin seeds or ground cumin spice to season your meals.
- It’s a common addition to curry powder, giving an earthy flavor to this spice blend.
- Combined with garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, and cayenne pepper (aka cayenne powder) it is an important component of taco seasoning.
- Garam masala blends often include cumin.
- Ground or whole coriander (the seed of the cilantro plant) is a good substitute for cumin.
- It can be used in recipes as whole seeds, but I tend to use it in its ground form.
Be sure to check out the recipes using cumin below for a little inspiration!
Medicinal Uses for Cumin
Traditionally, cumin has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including indigestion and diarrhea. It can also be used as a detoxifier, helping to remove toxins from the body. The whole seeds are included in an assortment of teas proclaiming their detox properties.
What is Paprika?
Paprika is a ground spice made from the dried red peppers of the Capsicum annuum plant. It is used as a seasoning or condiment in many cuisines. Paprika spice is commonly used in stews, chilis, and goulashes. And what are deviled eggs without a little sprinkle of paprika to fancy them up??
Paprika is available in many different varieties, ranging from mild to hot. Each adds a little something different to recipes. Paprika is used in many different cuisines, such as Hungarian, Spanish, and Portuguese.
When adding paprika to dishes that are fried, add it at the very end of the cooking time to avoid the bitterness that can come out when it burns.
While the flavor and heat will differ some, chipotle powder, ancho powder, or aleppo pepper are all a good alternative. If you’re using a paprika substitute in your recipe, add it in small amounts so you’re not overwhelmed by the intense spiciness of the peppers.
This is what you’ll find in the grocery store in America. This red powder is made of ground mild peppers and is use more often as a colorant than for flavor.
Paprika is actually Hungary’s national spice, so you can imagine that these people take their paprika seriously!
Much like salt and pepper is used in America as a “table seasoning,” in Hungary you’ll find a dish or shaker of paprika on Hungarian dining tables. Sprinkling a little on cold meals provides depth of flavor to simple dishes.
It’s an important ingredient in their famous goulash and is an every day spice in Hungarian kitchens.
Hungarian paprika comes in a multitude of flavor profiles, but the most common is Hungarian sweet paprika. It’s bright red and has a delicious pepper flavor and sweetness. It’s also the most commonly available Hungarian paprika option in American supermarkets.
This variety of paprika can bring the heat. Spanish paprika is often made with smoked peppers, giving a smoky flavor to dishes in which it’s used. Smoked paprika is a key ingredient in paella. The heat level of Spanish paprika can vary from sweet (not hot at all) to very hot.
The production of paprika in Spain is a centuries-old tradition and to assure quality, there are Denomination of Origin (DO) boards that regulate how it’s produced. They certify that the spice is grown, smoked, and ground according to very specific guidelines. This also prevents cheap and inferior knockoffs being sold as Spanish paprika.
Paprika flavor in another form, this paste can be spread in sandwiches or stirred into soups. You won’t likely find this in regular American supermarkets, but a gourmet store may carry it. Definitely pick some up if you travel to Hungary! (I’m not the only one who brings FOOD back from vacation, am I??)
This chicken shawarma wrap is overflowing with delicious, aromatic flavors of Middle Eastern cuisine.
This delicious butter chicken is styled after your favorite Indian dish. Serve it with cauliflower rice and it's perfect for a low carb or Whole 30 eating plan.
This chicken burrito skillet recipe is a great healthy option for the busy weeknights! Throw it together in one pan in 30 minutes!
This baba ganoush recipe is made with eggplant, a flavorful spread and a delicious appetizer.
This delicious slow cooker pork is tender and juicy, perfect for adding to your taco nights!
This hearty beef stew with onions and bell peppers uses both paprika and caraway seeds to flavor the dish.
Red Potatoes with Paprika
This easy and delicious side dish pairs well with grilled chicken or beef and uses smoked paprika.
This authentic Spanish seafood dish uses sweet smoked Spanish paprika. Paella is usually made in a special pan, making the cooking process seem daunting, but you can make this with equipment you have on hand.
Cooked in a sauce of sour cream and plenty of paprika, this traditional Hungarian dish is a one-pot meal, making it easy to get on the table.
Bacalao a la Llauna
Cod is everywhere in Portugal! This easy dish has just a few ingredients. This recipe calls for smoked paprika to give a delicious flavor to Portugal's national dish.