Cumin And Chocolate Is The Unexpected Flavor Combo You Need To Try

Maybe you've spotted a chili-infused chocolate bar in the impulse-buy section of your local grocery store. Capsaicin-spiked chocolate is nothing new (but still delicious). Now, step aside, chili powder. There's a new spicy sheriff in town, and its name is cumin. This oft-overlooked bad boy is likely already chilling in your spice cabinet, and it's ready to take your confectionery game to the next level.

The spice cumin totes a warming, rich, strong, earthy flavor with sweet bitterness on the back end. Not unlike celery seed or mustard seed, cumin comes from the dried seeds of the Cuminum cyminum plant (aka schizocarps, each containing 2.5% to 4.5% essential oil for bold flavor). This potency makes the spice a popular choice for vegetarian foodies to add bold, savory flavor to tofu, legumes, and falafel. It's a popular ingredient in the culinary styles of Mexico, Spain, India, North Africa, Brazil, and the Middle East. So, why does it work with chocolate?

When musky, aromatic cumin meets bittersweet chocolate, the combination instantly lends depth to desserts that might be lacking in complexity. The presence of cumin also helps accentuate the sweetness of other foods with its enriching earthiness. Cumin and chocolate make for a mature, sophisticated sweet-spiced profile that's unexpected and immediately elevated. About ¼ teaspoon ground cumin per 8 ounces chocolate is a solid jumping-off point, but feel free to add more or less, adjusting your proportions to taste.

Cumin and chocolate is the earthy, bittersweet combo your desserts crave

To thoroughly distribute that dimensional cumin flavor throughout your chocolate, opt for ground cumin rather than cumin seeds. Both versions are widely available in grocery stores, but you can also grind the seeds in a coffee mill. You could stir ground cumin into a batch of melted chopped chocolate, then harden it and use it as a bold, unified baking ingredient. India-based gourmet chocolatier Daynmerry makes a 65% dark chocolate infused with cumin and vanilla. Or, simply mix ground cumin into your chocolate-forward desserts for a warming, spiced kick. To make sure your chocolate is bold enough to stand up to the cumin without getting overshadowed, opt for 55% to 70% cacao dark chocolate.

You could stir a little cumin into your next chocolate cake batter for a spiced sweet, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or mango sorbet to counterbalance the cumin. Pro tip for bakers: Cumin tends to lose its potency if subjected to a prolonged cooking time, so for bolder cumin taste, add your cumin to baked chocolate dishes toward the end of their tenure in the oven.

You could also bake cumin and chocolate into a knockout batch of fudge. Rich, umami Southern chocolate chili and Midwest cult classic Cincinnati Chili already combine cumin and unsweetened cocoa powder. Or, stir a dash of ground cumin into your next chocolate mousse (an inherently fancy dessert actually created by a 19th-century French painter, not a trained chef).