The History and Cultural Significance of Cumin Around the World

Cumin is one of the most popular and versatile spices in the world. It has been used for centuries to add flavour, aroma, and depth to dishes from all over the globe. In this blog post, we will explore the history of cumin and its cultural significance around the world. We’ll also discuss why it’s an essential part of cooking in so many different countries.

Origins of Cumin

Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) is an ancient spice, renowned for its culinary and medicinal qualities. It is native to the Irano-Turanian Region, which encompasses parts of Iran, Turkey, and beyond. Historical records suggest that it was treasured by the Ancient Greeks and Romans, who valued it for its aromatic and nutritional properties. Through the Roman Empire, it spread throughout Europe and was used by the Ancient Egyptians not only for cooking but also for its alleged medicinal qualities. In the Middle East, it was widely used in Persian cuisine and its popularity spread to India, where it is still widely used today. Cumin has become a key part of many cultures around the world, with its uses varying from cuisine to superstition.

Cumin in East African Cuisine

East African cuisine has a long and varied history of using cumin, dating back to ancient times. In Ethiopia, cumin is used in the traditional spiced coffee known as ‘bun’. It is also used to season stews, meat dishes, and curries. In Somalia, cumin is used to flavour meat, chicken and ‘bariis’, a fragrant rice dish loved all over the world. It is also used in ‘Xawaash’ the famous spice mix used to season many of the national dishes. In Kenya, cumin is used in traditional dishes such as ‘chapati’, a flatbread, as well as stews and curries. Cumin even finds its way into East African desserts, such as the spicy Kenyan ‘mishkaki’, which is fried beef skewers served with a cumin-infused onion sauce. As such, cumin has come to be an integral part of East African cuisine, adding flavour, aroma, and nutritional benefits to the region’s traditional dishes.

Cumin in Middle Eastern Cuisine

Middle Eastern cuisine has long used cumin as a spice to add flavour and depth to dishes. Cumin has been used in Middle Eastern cuisine for centuries, with its usage dating back to the ancient Egyptians and Romans. In this region, cumin is used in a variety of dishes, from salads to stews and curries. It adds a warm, earthy flavour to dishes and is often combined with other spices, such as coriander and cardamom. Cumin is also used to make za’atar, a traditional Middle Eastern spice blend. It is a key ingredient in hummus, a popular Middle Eastern dip and it’s often used in sauces, rice, chicken and lamb dishes.  

Cumin in Indian Cuisine

In India, cumin is an integral part of the cuisine. In fact, it is said to be the most commonly used spice in Indian cooking. Cumin has been an important spice in Indian cuisine since the Vedic period and is used to add flavour and aroma to dishes. It is most commonly used in the form of powder or roasted whole cumin. Cumin is used in a variety of dishes, from curries and daals to pulaos and biryani. It is also used to prepare chutneys, and pickles, as well as being a key ingredient in many types of masalas.

Cumin is also used in ayurvedic medicine, which is an ancient Indian system of holistic healing. It is thought to have a cooling effect on the body and is used to treat a variety of ailments and is an important part of Indian culture, with its presence in many cultural events and religious ceremonies. 

Nutritional Benefits of Cumin

Cumin is known to help improve digestion, reduce bloating and gas, and boost immunity. Studies have shown that it can help reduce fatigue, stress and anxiety, and may even help with weight loss.

Cumin is a good source of Iron, Calcium, and Magnesium. These minerals are essential for healthy bones and teeth, muscle contractions, and hormone production. Additionally, it is an excellent source of dietary fibre and antioxidants, which can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Lastly, cumin also contains Vitamins A and C, which are important for maintaining healthy skin, hair, and eyes.


Cumin is a spice that has been used for thousands of years in various cuisines around the world. It is a common ingredient in many dishes, from East African to Middle Eastern to Indian cuisine. Cumin has a strong flavour profile, making it a popular choice for enhancing dishes. In addition to its flavour benefits, cumin has many nutritional benefits as well, including being high in antioxidants and containing trace amounts of essential minerals.

Its rich flavour and many nutritional benefits make it a valuable addition to many recipes. While its origins may remain a mystery, its impact on cuisines around the world is undeniable

At Hooyos House, we are dedicated to keeping traditional recipes and flavours alive. We only use the finest natural ingredients, like cinnamon, to craft our delicious and high-quality spice blends. Our goal is to bring you an authentic taste straight from our kitchen to yours – without taking any shortcuts! If you want to taste the beauty of cinnamon in Somali cuisine, check out:

  1. Hooyos Perfect Rice
  2. Hooyos Perfect Meat
  3. Hooyos All-Purpose Seasoning
  4. Hooyos Perfect Chicken
  5. Hooyos Spicy Chicken