The Spices We Use Most– Cumin, Coriander, and Fennel Seeds

Cumin Seed

The most used spice in our cupboard: its use dates back thousands of years in the Middle East and is used extensively in India (90 % of the world’s supply consumed there) and South Asian in Latin American cuisines. It is earthy and pungent flavor is best kept in seed form and ground right before use.  We toast our first, which takes only about 2 minutes.

Coriander Seed


Coriander sees comes from cilantro plants and are routinely used in Middle Eastern and Indian dishes, although freshly ground or toasted they provide a wonderful addition of light spice and citrus to other dishes. We use coriander frequently in combination with cumin seed when toasting, as demonstrated below.

Toasting Cumin and Coriander– the dry toasting method.

Cumin_Coriander_Toast_1Cumin and Coriander toast at approximately the same rate, although the cumin seed will burn slightly before the coriander so watch those seeds for browning.

Before you  begin have a hot pad and scratch piece of paper to use as a funnel at the ready.


Place the desired amount of seeds in the bottom of a cast iron pan. Turn heat to medium high and begin warming then toasting the spices. Keep seeds moving in the pan as they begin to heat. Once they begin smoking a bit their aromatic oils will be released,  and then it is time to IMMEDIATELY REMOVE SEEDS FROM THE PAN TO PREVENT BURNING (USING THE HOT PAD). Quickly pour the seeds out of the pan onto scratch paper.tQAD_groundcumin
Once they  have cooled a moment, place in spice grinder and grind to desired consistency.
Ground Cumin and Coriander

Fennel Seed

Fennel seeds look similar to cumin seeds except that they have more hints of green color and are a bit larger and more plump.  If you are in doubt put your nose to the jar or take a nibble.  Fennel‘s distinctive anise flavor will be readily apparent.
A favorite textural addition in seed form to many vegetable dishes or sauces, they don’t need a separate pre-meal toasting or grind. Fennel seed can be found in Italian sausage, marinaras, curries or Chinese fever spice mixtures.  Be inventive– get out those seeds and start using them (try our Sautéed Celery with Fennel). Or nibble a few seeds plain–they can be found on the table at Indian restaurants as a digestive aid for after a meal.

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