Skip to Content

7 Best Nigella Seed Substitutes

This article may contain affiliate links and if you make a purchase after clicking on a link, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

There is a lot of confusion regarding the name of this seed. Some people call them black cumin, onion seeds, fennel flower, black caraway, or simply nigella or kalonji.

What you decide to call them does not matter, but the fact remains that the nigella seeds are delicious seeds that you can add to your soups, salads, and even sauces. These Mediterranean seeds are not so popular, and hence, the need for substitutes in a lot of places is high.

Lucky, nigella seed substitutes are highly available in many locations, and they work almost like the nigella seeds with just a few modifications to the recipe.

Oregano, black sesame seeds, onion flakes, white sesame seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, caraway seeds, and celery seeds are some of the most suitable substitutes for nigella seeds that will give you similar result.

Best Nigella Seeds Substitutes

1. Black Sesame Seeds

You can use these sesame seeds as a substitute if your aim is the appearance, but in terms of flavor and aroma, you should opt for a better substitute like the oregano.

The black sesame seeds look just like the nigella seeds, but when toasted, these seeds have a more flavorful and nutty taste so take note of that. 

Unlike the nigella seeds, the black sesame seeds do not have a savory taste, but the possibilities with these seeds are endless. You can add these fresh or toasted seeds to your dipping sauces, tofu, biscuits, creams, cakes, and even your all-time favorite; ice cream.

2. White Sesame Seeds

These seeds are suitable if you are not concerned about the appearance but the crunchiness; if you want to achieve that texture, you should go with the white sesame seeds as they would do the trick.

Like the black sesame seeds, the white sesame seeds are small, pear-shaped, and flat.

The only thing that would tell them away from the black sesame seeds is their color; white sesame seeds have an off-white color, but when toasted, these seeds attain golden brown color, and their taste and aroma also intensify alongside.

These seeds can be used on your hamburger buns and a few other pastries; your dips, spreads, marinades, and dressings are not left out. This seed is abundant in the middle eastern Mediterranean and America.

3. Cumin Seeds

Cumin seeds are boat-shaped seeds that are usually brownish-yellow in color. These seeds are annuals, and although they are available in many varieties like black cumin, white cumin, and green cumin, you can use any of these as a substitute for your nigella seeds.

These cumin seeds are abundant in India as they are an essential ingredient in the Indian dish, jeera.

If you need a substitute for the nigella seeds for your baked food like the baked bread, then cumin seeds are the perfect substitute as they work perfectly on baked foods.

It would be best to use your cumin in the ground form to get the most out of its flavor, as it tastes better when ground. The cumin seeds fit into your recipes with their earthy, sweet, and bittersweet taste, just like the nigella seeds.

4. Caraway Seeds

The caraway seeds have a strong aroma and slightly earthy flavor with a mix of citrusy and peppery notes. You can use caraway seeds to substitute your baked foods, but they also work perfectly for your curries, soups, sausages, and liquor.

Due to its highly aromatic nature, the caraway seeds can be used for pickling, your potato salads, coleslaws, and your beef goulash mixed in cheese dip. Caraway is available in powdered form and seeds, but the powdered form is preferred because it brings out the flavor of your dish.

If you’re going to be using the caraway powder instead of the seed, then just ¾ spoon of it would be sufficient compared to a spoon of caraway seeds.

5. Oregano

The oregano seeds are suitable if you’re strictly using them as a substitute for their spiciness and not their texture.

Oregano is a fantastic spice that is highly aromatic and can be used in fresh and dried forms. These seeds are a staple in Mediterranean and Mexican dishes that provide you with a unique spice blend.

Oregano has an intense aroma that would transform your dish into something extraordinary due to its strong flavor. It is ideal for savory foods like your pizza and pasta as it matches its taste profile.

If you want to unleash its full potential, you should use fresh oregano as it provides a very pleasing aroma. Still, if you aim to spice up your dish, you can always use the dried oregano as it would spice up your dish without taking over the entire dish.

6. Fenugreek Seeds

Fenugreek seeds are a staple to Indian cuisines as you would hardly go by five Indian dishes without at least one of them having a trace of fenugreek seeds.

Contrary to the substitutes mentioned above, fenugreek seeds provide your dish with a sweet taste and maintain its earthy and nutty aroma.

If you have had the fenugreek seeds before now, you would agree with me that these seeds have a combined taste of burnt sugar and maple syrup, and this complexity is what makes it unique.

Although you might find a hint of bitterness with this substitute, you shouldn’t be worried as the sweet part has already taken over.

You shouldn’t be bothered about the bitterness as it only comes out more when the dish is cooked for a long time, so you should opt for fenugreek seeds in dishes that need to be slow-cooked.

7. Onion Flakes

Many people compare the taste of nigella seeds to that of onion flakes, so why not just use onions to do the trick? Onion flakes are just dehydrated and chopped onions, and, in this form, it makes it easier to be added to any dish.

You can add this substitute to your soups, marinades, dips, stews, and even sauces. So, if you find fresh onions too overbearing to work with, why not make them easier to fit into your recipes.

How Do I Choose the Perfect Substitute For Nigella for My Dish?

With many excellent substitutes, sometimes it might be a struggle to choose a substitute in each case, but you should keep how you want your final result to look in mind before choosing a substitute.

You want your dish to attain a crunchy texture, especially if it is baked food. You can never go wrong with the caraway seeds, white cumin seeds, or even the cumin seeds, and if you are concerned more about the texture like in soups, dips, and sauces, you should opt for the celery seeds, fennel seeds, and fenugreek seeds.

For your conventional spice, your oregano, onion flakes, and cumin powder will do the trick. Knowing what substitute to use is very easy as long as you understand your dish and the final result you want to attain.

Frequently Asked Question

Are our Fennel and Nigella Seeds the Same?

No, they are not. Although both seeds can be used interchangeably as substitutes, they are not the same. The nigella is an annual seed that can also be known as the black cumin seed or fennel flower, but they do not mean the same.

What Is the Difference Between the Nigella Seeds and Black Cumin Seeds?

Although these two seeds have a similar outlook, the black sesame seeds have a darker outer hull and a regular taste, while the nigella seeds are slightly lighter and have a minty and aromatic taste. You can substitute one for the other in recipes that focus on appearance.

Can I Substitute Black Sesame Seeds for White?

The black sesame seeds can be used in place of the white ones even if they would not look as lovely as the white ones would on bun toppings. The black sesame seeds would provide your black ice cream with a friendly outlook, but if you are not much concerned about the outlook, you can opt for the black sesame seeds in place of white.

What Are Nigella Seeds Also Known As?

Here are a lot of names that refer to the nigella seeds. They are also known as black cumin, kalonji, onion seeds, fennel flowers, and black caraway. Whatever they are called does not matter as long as the seeds are as sweet and earthy as the nigella seeds.

Is Nigella Seeds the Same as Poppy Seeds?

No, they are not, but its tiny black seeds are similar to the poppy heads. Many people also mistake the poppy seeds for the nigella seeds, but they are not the same. Although these seeds are similar, they are not the same.