Nigella seeds are also known by so many names. Others refer to them as black cumin while in some areas, they are called black onion seeds, fennel flower, black caraway, or kalonji in hindi. Whatever we call them, nigella seeds have been part of traditional cooking as they are actually one of the oldest spices known to man.
You might imagine that because nigella seeds have such a distinct flavor, you won’t be able to replace them with anything else. But there are actually plenty of alternatives that you can use, so don’t be discouraged if your nigella seed supply has run out.
- Black sesame seeds
- White sesame seeds
- Celery seeds
- Cumin seeds
- Caraway seeds
- Fenugreek seeds
Before we delve into the full list of alternatives, let us understand abit more of this common spice used in India and the Mediterranean region.
12 Best Substitute For Nigella Seeds
Nigella seeds are tiny, black seeds that have a mildly bitter taste with a hint of cumin, oregano, and toasted onion flavors.
They are commonly used to spice up Indian cuisine and foods in other parts of the Mediterranean region such as bread, soups, stews, pastries, and curries.
Because nigella seeds have such a strong aroma and flavor, they can be used in a variety of dishes. You can either include them in your cooking or sprinkle them on top of your food for extra crunch and texture.
Some of the best nigella seed substitutes in terms of flavor and aroma includes cumin seeds and white sesame seeds. Of course, you can still experiment with other alternatives mentioned below.
Black sesame seeds
The flavor of black sesame seeds is earthy and slightly bitter. Unlike nigella seeds, however, they have a distinct moderately savory aroma. They can be used in the same way as nigella seeds, whether ground or whole.
In terms of appearance, black sesame seeds and nigella seeds have a striking physical resemblance, so aesthetics won’t be a problem if you are trying to achieve that.
Black sesame seeds are also commonly used in Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines, just like nigella seeds. When used as a substitute, your dish will not only look the same, but it will also have the same peppery and nutty flavor.
Black sesame seeds are now frequently utilized in a variety of cuisines all over the world, not only because of their attractive appearance but also because of their distinct flavor and health benefits.
Black sesame seeds are unquestionably a wonderful substitute for naan bread on top of a curry, but they’re also tasty in prepared dishes. Simply substitute equal amounts of black sesame seeds for the nigella seeds in your recipe.
White sesame seeds
If you don’t mind using a different color of seeds in your dish, white sesame seeds should suffice. Just like nigella seeds and black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds will still give the same taste, aroma, and crunch to your dish, only that it is white.
White sesame seeds impart a toasty flavor to the recipes in which they are used. Most of the time, they are sprinkled on top of bread and buns, but they can also be used in several other baked items to keep the nuttiness. While in some meals, they are used to create a white-on-dark contrast.
The flavor of the kernels of white sesame seeds is sweeter and nuttier than that of black sesame seeds. But they significantly taste like nigella seeds, which is why you won’t have to worry about drastically changing the taste of a particular dish you are aiming to cook. Thus, these can be used to replace nigella seeds in bread, pastries, lentil meals, and other recipes.
Celery seeds are tiny, brown seeds that are derived from the seeds of wild celery, a type of celery that grows in swampy and muddy areas. You might think that all celeries have the same taste, but these seeds have a stronger flavor than the typical ones you buy in grocery stores.
Celery seeds have a pungent, earthy flavor with a little hint of bitterness, which is specifically enriched when they are ground. Thus, it is perfect to add in marinades, sauces, dry rubs, and savory dishes.
Also, by mixing a little lemon juice with onion powder, you can make celery seeds taste almost identical to nigella seeds. Just keep in mind that powdered celery seeds may have a more concentrated flavor, so if ever you intend to use them for garnishing, use only a small amount to prevent it from overpowering the overall taste of your dish.
Oregano is a fragrant herb with a powerful flavor that is commonly used in several savory cuisines. With its strong pungent aroma, it works great in elevating the flavors of your dish.
Oregano has a similar tang to nigella seeds, making it an ideal substitute that you can use for cooking and baking. Notably, it adds an earthy and peppery flavor to every recipe that uses it, including Middle Eastern cuisine.
There are a variety of ways to enjoy the flavors of oregano. However, if you want to make the most of it, go for fresh oregano because it has a more concentrated flavor and aroma compared to the dried ones. What’s more, fresh oregano has antimicrobial properties and antioxidants that can help heal certain inflammatory conditions.
When it comes to flavor, cumin seeds are the most similar to nigella seeds. And, fortunately, it can usually be found in grocery stores and even in our spice cupboards. Just like Nigella, cumin also has an earthy flavor with a spicy sting and aromatic notes.
Used commonly as a spice in Indian and Mexican cooking, cumin is a versatile ingredient that may be utilized in both savory and sweet meals. Significantly, it will add flavor and depth to your cuisine no matter where and how you use it.
To substitute cumin seeds for nigella, dry roast them in a saucepan before adding them to your recipe. After that, you can crush them gradually to bring out the flavors.
Many foods that call for nigellas, such as curries, bread, vegetables, and meats benefit with the inclusion of cumin seeds. Not only because of the flavor it gives but also because cumin seeds contain several health benefits, including compounds that promote blood sugar control, antioxidant content, and so on.
Caraway seeds are fragrant and have a slight anise flavor that lends a delicate licorice note to many foods. Their flavor is earthy and peppery with a tinge of citrus.
Caraway seeds taste similarly as nigella seeds and other spices, which is why it is a good substitute to use for your bread, salads, pickles, curries, and meat recipes. Although it won’t offer the exact taste as nigella seeds, caraway seeds will give a unique flavor to your dish.
Caraway seeds are particularly a good choice for topping pastry dishes particularly, with rye bread. Caraway seeds are particularly delicious in roasted vegetables, sauces, marinades, and baked goods.
Fenugreek seeds are a common ingredient in the Indian cuisine because of the significant flavor they give to dishes. When eaten raw, the seeds (also known as methi) are extremely bitter, but when blended with other ingredients and spices, they add sweetness and depth of flavor to savory foods.
Their taste might even be close to the taste of caramelized sugar.
Fenugreek seeds also have a licorice-like flavor and is occasionally mistaken as anise. Undeniably, fenugreek is a pungent and flavorful seed, which is why it should be used carefully, especially when using it as an alternative to nigella seeds.
Hence, it is suggested that you use only half the amount to balance the overall flavor of your dish.
The yellow mustard seeds are perhaps the first that spring to mind when thinking of mustard seeds. But are you aware that that there are also black and brown varieties?
Black mustard seeds are the most similar to nigella seeds in terms of the spicy and bitter flavor they both have. Used to bring flavor and aroma to toasted goods and stir-fries, black mustard seeds are more typically found in Asian supermarkets and Indian markets.
However, if you can’t get these seeds, you can use yellow or brown mustard seeds instead.
Depending on the sort of mustard seeds you’re using, you should adjust the amount of seeds to use. Yellow ones have a milder flavor, so you may need to use twice as much to obtain the same flavor as nigella seeds.
This may not be the best substitute to add to your dish. But if you don’t have any good options available and you seriously need to add a hint of nigella seeds to your dish, an onion can be of much help to you.
If you don’t have nigella seeds on hand but still want the flavor, use onion as substitute. Surprisingly, onion has a noteworthy tanginess that when mixed with certain recipes, can resemble the taste of nigella seeds.
To extract the onion’s juice, grate or puree it first, then add it to your favorite warm dishes or salads.
Fennel seeds are green, aromatic seeds that almost look like cumin seeds. They are a decent substitute to nigella but only in a few selected dishes.
Fennel seeds have a licorice-like flavor that can be stronger to that of nigella, which may dominate the other ingredients of your dish. As a consequence, you should use them with limit.
Fennel seeds are perfect to add on salads, homemade pastries, curries, and baked veggies. What’s more, they are incredibly full of nutrients and may provide a wide range of health advantages.
Fennel seeds are high in natural substances, which can help you stay energized while also protecting you from damaging cells. Including them in your diet may help you avoid cardiovascular diseases, inflammation, loss of appetite, and possibly cancer cells.
Dill seeds may be small, but they deliver a powerful hit. They are ideal for bread and meats, thanks to their sharp-tasting flavor and versatility to be used as a substitute for nigella seeds.
Dill seeds, which have a flavor similar to black and white sesame seeds, can be coarsely crushed to substitute for nigella seeds in recipes. They can even be better since they are packed with vitamins, iron, fiber, and calcium.
Coriander seeds are a nutritious and tangy spice to keep in your pantry. They are not only ideal for a variety of dishes but you can also rely on them for health benefits.
Coriander seeds have a warm, pungent, and mildly sweet flavor with a dash of citrus and spice, but not as strong as cilantro.
When coriander seeds are combined with other foods that contain nigella seeds, such as cumin or curry spice, the flavors are amplified, not only boosting their taste but also assisting in recreating the flavors of nigella seeds even when they are not used.