Q & A: Why Are Cumin and Turmeric Always Together?

I wasn’t sure this was a thing. I understand the flavors and properties of both spices, but that they were always found together in the same dishes?

To be honest, I still don’t think it is.

Both cumin and turmeric fall deep in the earthy — or umami — section of a flavor profile. Cumin, which I have been critical of in the past, has since become more tolerable, if somewhat understated when I use it. Turmeric has likewise never been a favorite, but I’m less hesitant to use it when a recipe calls for it, and I use it with abandon when cooking Indian food, naturally.

Both have likewise been praised for their medicinal properties, real and imagined.


Cumin is a seed that has its origins in the Mediterranean and North African cuisines. It was known to Biblical and Roman palettes alike. The Spanish brought it to the New World, where it finds itself at home in Mexican and Latin American cuisine. It is well known in Indian cuisine, and they are the largest consumer of this spice worldwide. It is a key ingredient in Chili Powder.


Turmeric is a rhizome that is native to India. It’s well-known as the bright yellow spice that flavors and colors everything from Indian dishes to yellow mustard. It provides an earthy, if somewhat dusty, flavor to foods, which is often relegated to the background by more assertive flavors.

But Together?

While I’ve researched, discussed, and taught about spice blends, aside from a few novel recipes, I haven’t really seen definitive evidence that they are used together in a de rigueur complimentary blend. I would argue that due to their both providing an earthy character of flavor, one would more readily find one or the other in any given recipe, except for the previously mentioned Indian recipes and possibly Chef Prudhomme’s Spice Blends. But I am certainly not an expert.

Which only goes to show you that in the world of cooking, there’s always more to learn.



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