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.
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.
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.
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
- 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.
- Enhancing curries and stews: Can be added to curries and stews to enhance their flavor and aroma.
- Flavoring bread: In Middle Eastern and North African cuisine, it may be used to flavor bread like naan and pita.
Exploring Medicinal Uses And health benefits
- In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, kala jeera is used to aid digestion, reduce inflammation, and promote overall health.
It is a good source of antioxidants, which can help protect the body against cellular damage caused by free radicals.
The essential oil of kala jeera contains thymoquinone, which has been shown to have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer properties.
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:
|Plant Species||Cuminum cyminum||Bunium persicum|
|Appearance||Small, brownish||Small, black|
|Flavor||Warm, earthy||Slightly bitter, nutty|
|Aroma||Strong, distinctive||Mild, slightly sweet|
|Culinary Uses||Widely used in Mexican, Indian, and Middle Eastern cuisine||Used in Middle Eastern and North African cuisine, as well as some Indian dishes|
|Nutritional Content||Rich in iron, manganese, and antioxidants||Good source of antioxidants and essential oils, including thymoquinone|
|Other Names||Jeera, Zeera||Kala Jeera, Black Cumin, Kashmiri Shahi Jeera|
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.
What Is Kala Jeera? + Kala Jeera Rice Recipe
- Small pot and lid
- ½ cup basmati rice
- 1 tsp ghee
- ½ tbsp kala jeera black cumin
- 2 sticks cinnamon optional
- 2 cloves optional
- 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