Cumin is a flowering plant that is native to the region from the East Mediterranean to India. It is said that it is also native to Syria, where the temperature is hot and arid. The seeds are highly popular for their culinary benefits, while the oil is used for flavoring foods and making cosmetics! There are many Asian food recipes that are just incomplete without these seeds.
Cumin seeds are available all year round and they can be a great match when combined beans, chicken, couscous, eggplant, fish, lamb, peas, lentils, pork, rice, potatoes, sausages, soups, stews, curries, and eggs. They must be stored in a dry place and in some airtight container so that the aroma as well as the texture remains intact. I would suggest you to not find any substitute, especially if you want to enjoy the distinct and original flavor of the recipes that are 'nothing' without the original ingredients.
If you are still looking for substitutes, caraway and anise seeds can do the job. Use half as much caraway seeds in any recipes. You can combine caraway and anise seeds too. People also use chili powder as an alternative ingredient.
Amber cumin seeds are often substituted by the white seeds and the black ones are substituted by amber seeds. If you are looking for the best alternative, use cumin seed powder, which is easily available. However, this alternative loses out on the crisp texture that the seeds provide.
Types and Medical Benefits
Cumin seeds have an aromatic flavor which is distinctly bitter. They get its aroma due to its abundant oil content. They are spicy to taste and light in color. They are available in whole and ground forms with three colors, white, amber, and black. Amber colored varieties are the most common and popular as the black colored ones have a much more complex flavor, that many people dislike. I must add that cumin tea is also becoming hugely popular today.
Cumin seeds are primarily used in cooking various Middle Eastern, Indian, Mediterranean, and Mexican dishes. Curry recipes are almost incomplete without its distinct aroma. The seeds are full of several healthy nutritional, antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. They are traditionally also used for their antispasmodic, diuretic, and carminative properties that can be used in treating several medical conditions like jaundice, dyspepsia, flatulence, diarrhea, and indigestion. Cumin seeds are said to have anticancer and hypoglycemic properties too, and there is no data available on their toxicity and dosage limits. Hence, they are generally recognized as a safe herb for culinary purposes.