A modern-day love story, indeed.
Cumin seeds and cumin powder
Credit: Getty Images; Credit: Linda Lewis

When it comes to my spice cabinet, I try not to show favorites. However, when push comes to shove, there’s no denying that there is one spice that occupies a special place in my heart, and that spice is cumin. It’s unmistakable flavor, smoky aroma, and wide variety of applications are just a few of the reasons why I’d choose this spice over the rest in my cluttered cupboard in a heartbeat. On an unrelated note, I also really enjoy saying this word aloud, but that is another story for another day.

If you’re not a dry spice connoisseur (don’t worry, I’m definitely not either), the best way that I can describe the flavor (aside from bombarding you with every cumin-centric recipe I can find), is that it’s what makes fajitas, well, fajitas. That earthy, deeply nutty flavor that a sizzling platter of fajitas has is largely from cumin, and I think we all need to take a moment to thank such an integral component of such a legendary dish. If you know that cumin is behind the mouthwatering fajita flavor (which, congratulations, you now do), a last-minute, throw-together taco night is way more attainable than you thought possible. Add cumin to meat (chicken or steak), peppers, and onions, and go ahead and sprinkle some on a hefty bowl of guacamole on the side. Voila, you’ve just brought Chipotle to your home kitchen simply by the usage of one crucial spice.

If you’ve got a little bit more time and curiosity, look for cumin seeds next time you’re strolling through the spice aisle. Toast them in the oven or pan-fry them in oil for highly aromatic addition to any meat or veggie dish. Or be an overachiever and grind them up for a fresher, toastier flavor. Not only will your dish pack a whole new layer of complex, deep notes, but your kitchen is going to smell ah-mazing. Thank me later.

What (IMO) sets cumin apart from a lot of the jars of spices that you might have squished into your lazy susan is that it elevates just about...anything. Whether it’s chicken, tofu, pork, steak, veggies, or rice, a sprinkle of cumin is not only welcome, but more than likely a great idea. Yes, garlic powder is a nice addition to most things, and a good jar of curry powder can do wonders on a bland meal, but for me, nothing comes close to rivaling the flavor experience of a heartfelt dash of cumin. Forget expensive spice blends or long lists of ingredients that you definitely don’t have—just give that ol’ jar of cumin a good pat on the back like the good buddy that it is, because it’s going to be there for you, time after time.

By Sara Tane and Sara Tane