How to Toast Cumin Seeds

Cumin seeds

ZenShui/Laurence Mouton/Getty Images

Toasting whole cumin seeds is easy, and it's a great way to add a kick of flavor (and a bit of crunch) to dishes. The earthy, rich, slightly smoky flavor of toasted cumin seeds is great sprinkled on almost any dish that contains ground cumin, and a tasty way to add a teeny bit of crunch to salads or soups.

Whole cumin seeds are widely available in the spice aisle of well-stocked grocery stores, and toasting them at home, as you'll see below, is incredibly straight-forward and easy.

  • 01 of 06

    Start With Whole Cumin Seeds

    Cumin seeds
    A bowl of cumin seeds.

    Molly Watson

    Whole cumin seeds, as opposed to ground cumin, are increasingly available at grocery stores of all sorts. If they're not in your spice aisle, look in Mexican or Latin food sections, health food stores, and bulk spice sections.

  • 02 of 06

    Put the Cumin Seeds in a Hot Frying Pan

    Cumin seeds
    Toasting cumin seeds.

    Molly Watson

    Heat a small skillet or frying pan over high heat. Once the pan is hot add the cumin seeds—no oil—all at once.

  • 03 of 06

    Shake Those Cumin Seeds!

    Cumin seeds
    Cooking and shaking cumin seeds.

    Molly Watson

    Shake the pan to keep the cumin seeds moving and cook—shaking the pan pretty much constantly—until the seeds darken slightly and the lovely earthy aroma of toasted cumin wafts through your kitchen, about 1 minute.

  • 04 of 06

    Remove the Cumin Seeds From the Pan

    Toasted cumin seeds
    Toasted cumin seeds in a mortar.

    Molly Watson

    As soon as the seeds are toasted, transfer them to a bowl or mortar and pestle, so they cool quickly and stop cooking.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Crush the Cumin Seeds

    Cumin seeds
    Crushing cumin seeds with a pestle.

    Molly Watson

    You can use the toasted cumin seeds whole, or you can bring out even more flavor by crushing them slightly in a mortar and pestle. If you don't have a mortar and pestle, put the cooled cumin seeds in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin or the bottom of a heavy pan.

    You can also make your toasted ground cumin by whirling the toasted cumin seeds in a clean scrupulously clean coffee grinder (wipe out any coffee grounds, grind 1/4 cup of rice, discard, and wipe clean before grinding spices) or spice grinder.

  • 06 of 06

    Voila! Crushed & Toasted Cumin Seeds

    Cumin seeds
    A mortar of crushed cumin seeds.

    Molly Watson

    Lightly crushed, toasted cumin seeds can be used to garnish soups and salads, or sprinkled on pretty much any dish that contains ground cumin.

    We particularly like toasted cumin seeds on this fattoush salad, sprinkled into beet & cabbage borscht, or garnished atop guacamole. They're also lovely added to quesadillas, tacos, salads of all sorts, and earthy soups.

    Pair cumin with mushrooms, beets, greens, and potatoes in particular. A sprinkle of toasted cumin seeds is lovely on a potato gratin, for example.