Ormond Beach Restaurant Blog

Cumin – The Taste of Mexico


Mexican cuisine is known for it's warm flavors, hint (or not so much a hint) of spice, tomatoes, and strong flavors which combine salty, sweet, spicy, and savory flavors into a blend of aromatic, fresh food that you can't find anywhere else. At the heart of this flavorful cuisine lies a few key spices and flavorings that account for much of the taste and smell that many of us know and love. However, while almost anyone could tell you that chiles, garlic, and onion go into creating this wonderful food, fewer of us could point out cumin, the aromatic little spice at the center of many Mexican favorites.

What is Cumin?

Cumin is a flowering plant native to the warmer climates of Europe, through the Mediterranean and into Southeast Asia, where it has been used for centuries in dishes ranging from curry to seasoned potatoes. It was first introduced to Mexico by the Spanish, who brought Persian (now Iranian) black and green cumin with them along with beef, chicken, and other now Mexican cuisine staples.

The plant itself is discarded, and much like peppercorns, only the seed is used. And the seed itself has a warm, peppery flavor and aroma, with a slightly nutty overtone. Today, it's used in Indian, North African, Iranian, Greek, Mediterranean, Chinese, American, and, of course, Mexican cuisine. Cumin makes up a large percentage of curry powder, is almost always included in chili powder, and is even used in the Mediterranean as a substitute for black pepper.

Fun Fact: Ground cumin was one of the ingredients used during the mummification process in ancient Egypt.


Cumin is a flavorful spice that can be used to add depth and warmth to almost any dish. It goes extremely well with tomatoes, chiles of all kinds, garlic, cinnamon, curry spices like turmeric and saffron, and black pepper. The spice also complements almost everything, and can be utilized in a variety of dishes, ranging from sweet to savory, including chocolate, fruits, rice, beef, chicken, and vegetables. That's one of the reasons it's such a staple at the Mexican table, where chocolate based mole, beef enchiladas, and soups are all likely to appear in rapid succession, and all containing cumin.

Our Favorite Dishes with Cumin

If you want a taste of this warm spice, all you have to do is visit Agave Fresh Mex and Cantina. We offer authentic Mexican food created around the warm and rich flavors of the country's many regions. And, if you're looking for a hint of cumin, you can try any of these dishes, or just ask your server what they recommend for the day.

Burritos – Smothered burritos are a classic favorite of many, but whether you go with carnitas, chile verde, asada, adobada, or chicken, they typically contain cumin. Plus, the chile sauces, red and green, used to smother them also contain cumin, so you get a double dose of this delicious spice.

Tamales – Tamales are a Mexican staple, so it's not a wonder they include cumin, and lots of it. Fillings made of shredded meat are cooked in spices including chillies, garlic, and cumin, and then served hot inside of steamed corn dough, and topped with chile verde or chile rojo, which contain even more cumin.

Enchiladas – Enchiladas, like tamales, feature shredded meats cooked in cumin (and other spices) and a chile rojo or chile verde sauce over the top.

Fajitas – Beef and chicken fajitas cooked with cumin have extra flavor, a little extra kick, and a warmth that's hard to beat. Cumin adds a hint of Mexican flavor without the sharpness of chiles, so you can enjoy them even if you don't like it hot.

Ready to get a taste of Mexico's wonderful flavor palette? Drop by Agave Fresh Mex and Cantina in Ormond Beach and we'll serve you a platter of authentic Mexican cooking.