Kala Jeera

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Learn about what is kala jeera, also known as black cumin seeds, a spice commonly used in Indian cooking. And learn how to make kala jeera rice made with fluffy basmati rice!

Black cumin seeds in a small clay plate.

Kala jeera, also known as black cumin seeds, is a spice commonly used in Indian cooking as well as Middle East, and North African cuisine. 

In English, kala jeera translates to black cumin. The seeds are crescent-shaped seeds. 

In Hindi kala means black and jeera means cumin.  

Note: While black cumin is sometimes referred to as “black cumin seed,” it should not be confused with nigella seeds (nigella sativa), which are also sometimes called black cumin. See pictures below.

About

Black jeera is the seed of the plant Bunium persicum, which is native to the eastern Mediterranean and western Asia.  It is a member of the parsley family of plants.

The seeds are small, dark, and crescent-shaped, with a distinct aroma and a slightly bitter, nutty flavor.

Culinary Uses

Kala jeera is often used in Indian cuisine to flavor rice dishes and some main dishes. It is also used in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine to flavor breads, meat dishes, and soups.

In India, you may hear it referred to as Kashmiri Shahi Jeera.

In olden days kala jeera was a main ingredient in many Shahi Mughlai dishes. Today, it is still popular in Northern Indian cuisine and is used a key ingredient in Shahi Paneer. 

They are usually used in small amounts.  Often added to a tadka to infuse oil with flavor – similar to the use of mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds in Indian cooking.

Tadka of cumin seeds.

Usage: Kala jeera can be used whole or ground and is often toasted before being used to bring out its flavor.

Storage: Should be stored in an airtight container.  The storage container should be placed in a cool, dry place to preserve its flavor and aroma.  

Examples of Culinary Applications

  1. Flavoring rice dishes: Kala jeera is often used to flavor rice dishes like biryani and pulao, where its nutty, slightly bitter flavor complements the other spices and ingredients.
  2. Enhancing curries and stews: Can be added to curries and stews to enhance their flavor and aroma.
  3. Flavoring bread: In Middle Eastern and North African cuisine, it may be used to flavor bread like naan and pita.

Gujarati thali

Note: While black cumin is sometimes referred to as “black cumin seed,” it should not be confused with nigella seeds (nigella sativa), which are also sometimes called black cumin.

Cumin Vs. Black Cumin

More commonly used cumin seeds (white cumin seeds) or ordinary jeera are different than black cumin and even come from a different plant!

Cumin has a distinct scent – a strong earthy aroma. Whereas black cumin is milder.

See below for a quick comparison:

CharacteristicCuminBlack Cumin
Plant SpeciesCuminum cyminumBunium persicum
AppearanceSmall, brownishSmall, black
FlavorWarm, earthySlightly bitter, nutty
AromaStrong, distinctiveMild, slightly sweet
Culinary UsesWidely used in Mexican, Indian, and Middle Eastern cuisineUsed in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine, as well as some Indian dishes
Nutritional ContentRich in iron, manganese, and antioxidantsGood source of antioxidants and essential oils, including thymoquinone
Other NamesJeera, ZeeraKala Jeera, Black Cumin, Kashmiri Shahi Jeera
jeera rice cumin rice

Kala Jeera Rice Recipe

The recipe below is similar to classic Jeera Rice or Indian Cumin Rice. 

This rice dish can be made easily on a stovetop with a few pantry staples. I love using Indian Basmati Rice, but you can use what use any white rice you have on hand.

jeera rice cumin rice

What Is Kala Jeera? + Kala Jeera Rice Recipe

Shilpa Joshi
Learn about what is kala jeera, also known as black cumin seeds, a spice commonly used in Indian cooking. And learn how to make kala jeera rice made with fluffy basmati rice!
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Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course dinner, lunch
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4 people
Calories 100 kcal

Equipment

  • Small pot and lid

Ingredients
  

  • ½ cup basmati rice
  • 1 tsp ghee
  • ½ tbsp kala jeera black cumin
  • 2 sticks cinnamon optional
  • 2 cloves optional

Instructions
 

  • Wash and drain rice
  • Add 1 tsp ghee in pan low medium heat. Once melted add jeera, cinnamon and cloves. Add rice. Mix to coat.
  • Add rice and mix to coat
  • Add 1 ⅓ cup water and ½ tsp salt.
  • Let cook uncovered for 12 minutes on medium heat
  • Then cover and cook 5 more minutes
  • Rice grains will look separated once done

Notes

Basmati rice is key to getting fluffy, loose long grains.  

Nutrition

Calories: 100kcalCarbohydrates: 20gProtein: 2gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 3mgSodium: 2mgPotassium: 27mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gCalcium: 24mgIron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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