Cumin is an ancient (and globally used) spice that comes from cuminum cyminum plant. It is commonly sold in two forms for consumption: whole seeds and ground.
The two forms have a few differences. And some similarities. Let's explore!
1. Physical form Cumin seeds are whole, while ground cumin is powdered seeds. Obviously!
2. Flavor intensity Whole seeds offer a strong flavor and aroma. Ground cumin has a relatively milder taste. And that's because its essential oils don't last long in the powder form.
3. Shelf life In the ground form, cumin loses the potency of its amazing taste in a few months. The longer it sits, the milder it gets. So its less shelf stable than the whole seeds.
4. Cooking Cumin seeds are roasted or added to hot oil for flavor release. Ground cumin is used in spice rubs, marinades, or curry powders - where you need the flavor blended evenly.
5. Color impact on dishes Seeds are best for dishes where you don't want the color getting affected. But if you're cooking something that's already dark, ground cumin is a better choice.
6. Texture Ground cumin just disappears and integrates in food. Whole seeds will obviously add a a little texture/crunch, depending on its use.
Ok, now lets talk similarities. Obvious things perhaps, but important to highlight.
1. Taste Both forms have the same, warm, earthy, and slightly bitter flavor. The intensity might be different, but the taste is not.
2. Nutritional value Both are low in calories and a good source of essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Plus, cumin has a long history of medicinal use.
White cumin - this is the most commonly used type in Western world. Also called regular cumin or Jeera. It has small, oblong, brown seeds .
Black cumin - aka Shahi Jeera or Kala Jeera, has darker, thinner, and slightly curved seeds. And, has a slightly sweeter and complex flavor with notes of caraway, anise, and fennel.
See the link below to see the full comparison along with some tips and tricks.