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Difference between Cumin and Fennel

There is a wide range of spices to choose from when preparing a culinary dish. Some of the spices are more similar to one another or look similar in appearance, e.g. cumin and fennel are two such spices which are often confused with each other. Let us see how cumin differs from fennel!


Cumin is an aromatic spice with distinctive bitter flavor and strong aroma due to its abundant oil content. Cumin is actually a small dried fruit of an annual plant which belongs to parsley family. The cumin plant reaches a height of 30-50 cm and it is harvested by hand. The cumin flowers appear in bunches and they are small in size and can be white or pink. Each cumin seed has eight ridges with oil canals.

Cumin is lighter in colour, hooter to taste and larger than caraway and is native to the Mediterranean. It is sold whole or ground and the seeds are available in three colours: black, white or amber.

Cumin is not only used to enhance the flavour of food but also offers numerous health benefits. It is rich in vitamins like A, C, E and B6; minerals like iron, manganese, copper, calcium, phosphorus, potassium etc. Some common health benefits of cumin are as follows;

  • Helps improve digestion
  • Helps boost immunity
  • Helps lose weight
  • Helps treat boils, piles, insomnia and respiratory disorders.
  • Help treat skin problems.
  • Fight viral infection and helps prevent diabetes.


It is an aromatic, anise-flavoured spice in the form of dried fennel seeds. In the beginning, it is brown or green in colour when fresh, then slowly becomes dull grey as the seed ages. It is used for both culinary and medicinal purposes which makes it a useful household spice. The fennel plant is native to the Mediterranean region, it produces yellow flowers. Today, it is grown throughout the world. Fennel dried seeds and oil are also used in medicines. Just like cumin, fennel is not only used for adding flavour to dishes and beverages but also offers various health benefits, some of which are as follows:

  • Helps heartburn, bloating, diarrhea
  • Improves digestion, appetite and immunity
  • Helps remove flatulence and treat constipation
  • Helps treat upper respiratory tract problems including coughs, bronchitis

Based on the above information, some of the key differences between cumin and fennel are as follows:

Cumin Fennel
It is an annual flowering plant which grows to 30-50 cm in height. It is an herbaceous short-lived perennial plant which grows to 2.5 m or more in height.
Botanical or scientific name: Cuminum cyminum Botanical or scientific name: Foeniculum vulgare
Its flowers are small and white or pink in colour. Its flowers are small and yellow in colour.
Its seed is the edible part. Its seed and the swollen bulb-like stem are the edible parts.
Seed are oblong in shape, 4-10 cm long, and yellow or brown in colour. Its seeds are oblong in shape, 4-10 mm long and green in colour.
It is originated in the east Mediterranean and India. It is originated on the shores of the Mediterranean countries.
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