For a simple weekday dinner, I made some grilled chicken breasts with tomato salsa. Sounds plain, but the chicken breast are coated with a layer of toasted and crushed cumin seeds, which adds a strong, earthy profile to the meat.

This recipe is also a cinch to make, especially if you have a gas grill. It take a bit longer for charcoal because of the set up time, but if you have a chimney starter, you can set the fire and prep the salsa in the mean time. Be sure to prepare the grill for indirect cooking so there is a hot zone and a cooler zone. The recipe is also very easily adaptable for stove top with a skillet or a heavy pan.

To make the salsa, tomatoes, red onion, and jalapeño peppers are finely chopped and tossed together with some fresh lime juice, vegetable oil, and salt. The original recipe called for avocados, but mine went bad, so I just skipped them.


You can use ground cumin, but I love toasting and grinding whole cumin because it’s more flavorful.

Whole seeds are toasted on a small pan over medium high heat until you hear them popping.


Transfer the toasted cumin to a spice blender or a mortar and pestle. I got a wooden one from the Philippines last year, and I love using it. Grind or pound the spice until finely ground.


Mix the ground cumin with a bit of vegetable oil, salt, and pepper until a paste forms. Pat the chicken dry and rub the cumin paste all over.


Grill the chicken over an area of the grill with no coals.


Cover the grill partially and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, turning the chicken occasionally.


I added a few cobs of corn to cook on the grill as well. When the chicken is about done, I grilled the chicken skin side down over the hot coals to get a quick sear on the skin.


The serve the chicken with the salsa on the side. The chicken breast was perfectly cooked through and juicy.


Grilled Cumin Chicken Breasts with Avocado Salsa