31 July 2022

The 10 Best Substitutes For Nigella Seeds For Your Recipes

By Killian

There is often a lot of confusion surrounding nigella seeds. Some call them black cumin, onion seed, fennel flower, or black caraway, while others know them simply as nigella or kalonji.

Regardless of what you decide to call them, black nigella seeds are a delicious and aromatic for your salads, soups and sauces. However, these Mediterranean seeds are not as popular as some of their alternatives, so you may have a hard time finding them.

Whether you have been unsuccessful in buying nigella seeds, or just need a quick substitute, we offer you the best substitutes for blackberries. nigella seeds.

The best substitutes for nigella seeds

Nigella seeds are native to the Mediterranean region, but are now cultivated and found wild throughout the world.

The nigella is an annual plant that has a large seed capsule containing white seeds that turn black on contact with air. When picked in September, the nigella fruits are dried and crushed to reveal the pear-shaped seeds.

Many records indicate that nigella seeds have been around for a long time; in fact, they were even discovered in the tomb of King Tut.

In addition to being used as a spice, they are also a preservative and are believed to have numerous health benefits. In Asia, nigella seeds are often crushed into a powder, but many prefer to use them whole for their crunchy texture.

As for the aroma, nigella seeds resemble oregano. They are herbaceous, slightly bitter, but warm, and many agree that they taste like a toasted onion (hence the name onion seeds).

Both its aroma and flavor are layered and extremely deep, which is why it has multiple applications in the kitchen. In fact, nigella seeds complement a number of dishes, such as vegetable dishes, curries, pilaf, savory pastries and all kinds of pickles.

If you don’t want to add them to your cooking, you can simply sprinkle some over baked goods for more texture and crunch. But is there a suitable substitute for nigella seeds for all these dishes? Let’s find out.

1. Black sesame seeds

Black sesame seeds are not only a great substitute for nigella seeds in terms of flavor and aroma, but they also look very similar.

When lightly roasted, black sesame seeds reveal a nuttier, earthier flavor. They are a great option to encrust meat and fish or sprinkle them on all kinds of cakes, salads and other savory dishes.

Unlike nigella seeds, sesame seeds have a slightly salty taste.

The possibilities of black sesame seeds are endless. You can add them to dipping sauces, tofu dishes or desserts, cookies, ice cream, and cakes. In addition to being used for their flavor, they are also a great option to decorate your plate.

2. White sesame seeds

If you don’t care about color and are just looking for a substitute for nigella seeds to get that crunchy texture, white sesame seeds might do the trick.

White sesame seeds are the shelled seeds of the sesame plant, and are flat, pear-shaped, and whitish in color. When roasted, they take on a golden, slightly brown color, and their flavor and aroma are intensified.

White sesame seeds are one of the most widely used crops in cuisines around the world, such as Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and American.

They’re mostly used in baking, like hamburger buns, but they’re also great in spreads, sauces, dressings, and marinades.

3. Cumin seeds

Cumin seeds come from an annual plant, and are usually boat-shaped, small, and yellow-brown in color. However, cumin seeds are available in many varieties such as white cumin, black cumin, and green cumin.

If you wanted to use nigella seeds in your bread but don’t have them, cumin seeds can come to the rescue, as they are a great option for baked goods.

These seeds are often used in Indian cooking, where they are known as jeera. In other cuisines, such as Middle Eastern and Mexican, ground cumin is often used, especially in spice blends such as garam masala, curry powder, marinades, and berbere.

Like nigella seeds, cumin seeds have a warm, earthy aroma, combining bitterness and sweetness into a complex flavor.

4. Caraway seeds

You’ll love this black nigella seed alternative for its strong aroma, smooth anise flavor, and slightly earthy mix of citrus and peppery notes.

You can use caraway seeds on top of your baked goods for extra texture, but they are also amazing in soups, curries, sausages, and even liqueur.

As they are very aromatic, caraway seeds can also be used as a pickle and on the go, in potato salads, coleslaws, on roast potatoes, beef goulash or mixed into a cheese sauce.

Caraway is also available in powdered spice form, and is a bit more potent than the seeds. If you substitute the caraway seeds for the caraway powder, just ¾ teaspoon of the powder will be enough for a whole tablespoon of caraway.

5. Celery seeds

These dark brown seeds are very small, resembling poppy seeds in size and shape. Actually, they are not celery seeds that we know and use in the kitchen, but wild celery that is related to the “normal” type.

Unsurprisingly, celery seeds resemble celery in flavor, but have an earthier, more savory flavor, and when used in large quantities, they can also be spicy and acrid.

Celery seeds are especially delicious when mixed into tomato dishes, such as salads, pasta sauce, barbecue sauce, homemade ketchup, and even Bloody Marys.

You can also use them for dry rubs, marinades, dressings, and pickling spice mixes. If you can find ground celery seed, keep in mind that the powdered form is stronger and has a more dominant flavor.

6. Oregano

If you’re using nigella seeds strictly as a spice, and your goal isn’t to add more texture or crunch to your dish, oregano is the way to go.

Oregano is a highly aromatic and widely used herb, available in both fresh and dried forms. It is a staple in Mediterranean and Mexican cuisine, often mixed in different spice blends, but is also used on its own.

It has a dominant spicy aroma that will transform any dish you add it to (or on top of), and a strong flavor ideal for all kinds of savory foods, especially pizza and pasta.

If you want to take advantage of its full potential, opt for fresh oregano, since it is much more aromatic. Dried oregano, on the other hand, is a more comfortable option for many people, and is subtle enough not to take over the entire dish, while still elevating it.

7. Fenugreek Seeds

You will hardly find a specialty of Indian cuisine that does not contain even a hint of fenugreek seeds. Unlike the alternatives we’ve mentioned so far, fenugreek seeds are on the sweeter side, but also offer that distinctive nutty aroma.

Many would agree that they taste like burnt sugar and maple syrup, and it is precisely this complexity of flavor that makes this spice so unique.

Although they are slightly bitter, this note does not take over the entire dish, rather the sweetness is quite dominant. However, if cooked for too long, fenugreek seeds can become extremely bitter, so you should avoid using them as an alternative to nigella seeds in slow-cooked meals.

8. Fennel seeds

Fennel seeds are usually pale green, oval, dried seeds of the fennel plant. They’re also a great option if you like a bit of sweetness in your dish, with an earthy, licorice-like flavor.

Fennel seeds are very versatile, but you will find that they go best with pork and seafood.

Although many confuse fennel seeds with anise, since they both belong to the parsley family, they are quite different. Anise is grown solely to collect the seeds, while the bulb of the fennel plant can be used.

Because they have a dominant herbaceous flavor, you can use fennel seeds to add dimension to your soups, salad dressings, and marinades.

9. Onion flakes

Since many people describe the taste of nigella seeds as being very similar to that of a toasted onion, onion flakes can do the trick, especially if you find fresh onion excessive and difficult to work with.

Onion flakes are basically dehydrated chopped onions, which makes them very convenient and easy to add to any dish. They can replace onions in soups, marinades, sauces and stews, and are a more subtle, yet aromatic and flavorful alternative.

10. Cumin powder

Often when using powdered alternatives to their favorite seeds, people worry that these forms will not have the flavor intensity they expect. However, when it comes to cumin powder, if you choose a quality product, you will get even more flavor and aroma.

If you are using cumin as a spice and not as a dry seasoning or any other type of texture, powdered cumin can be an even more convenient substitute for nigella seeds than cumin seeds.

You can easily make cumin powder from scratch if you have some cumin seeds and a processor. All you have to do is lightly toast the seeds, then add them to a processor and grind them into a fine powder.

How to choose a substitute for nigella seeds

With so many delicious and aromatic nigella seed substitutes to choose from, it can be difficult to make the right choice. The best advice we can give you is to decide what kind of result you want to achieve with your spice.

If you’re looking for that crunchy texture, especially in your baked goods, you can’t go wrong with sesame seeds (white or black), cumin, or caraway.

Celery, fenugreek, and fennel seeds can also add texture, but they are mostly added to dips, sauces, soups, curries, and similar dishes.

Oregano, onion flakes and cumin powder, on the other hand, are more “conventional” spices: they are full of flavor, versatile and very easy to use.