When ground, cumin seed yields is a golden light-brown color, with a strong pungent aroma. Unlike the whole seed form of cumin— which should be added early in cooking to allow heat to release flavors—ground cumin seed can be added to dishes at anytime in cooking. The spice will impart an earthy warming character to foods, but should be used sparingly since it can overpower dishes. Cumin has both a bit of sweetness and bitterness in its flavor: it has an underlying nuttiness, and a more menthol quality when ground.
Cumin is often used in vegetarian cooking when a recipe is trying to emulate the flavor of roasted meats. it is also used in chutneys, stews, soups, breads, bbq sauces, and chiles.
Ground cumin is an ingredient in a wide variety of spice blends used in cuisines from all over the world: Indian garam masala and curry mixes, Middle Eastern bahaarat, Ethiopian berbere, Central American achiote, Caribbean sofrito, and Southwestern chili powders.
Cumin is often confused for caraway and the nomenclature for the herb in Slavic countries blurs the distinction between the two. Called "Roman caraway" or "spice caraway" cumin is actually spicier than its similar-looking relation. In addition to being hotter in taste, it is lighter in color, and bigger in size.
Cumin has eight ridges running lengthwise along its boat-shaped body with oil canals between them. It is yellow-brown in color and looks similar not just to caraway but also the other schizocarp herbaceous spices: fennel and anise seed.