If you’re a fan of Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine, then you know how important nigella seeds are.
Also known as black cumin or kalonji, these tiny seeds have an unmistakable flavor that can instantly transform any dish.
But what happens if you’re out of nigella seeds?
Don’t worry – there are plenty of substitutes to choose from!
In this article, I will discuss the 9 best substitutes for nigella seeds so that you can still enjoy your favorite dishes without compromising on taste.
What Are Nigella Seeds?
Nigella seeds, also known as black cumin or kalonji, are small, dark-brown to black-colored seeds that have a slightly bitter and peppery flavor.
They come from the Nigella sativa plant which is native to South Asia and the Middle East.
The seeds are used in many cuisines around the world including Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Persian, Turkish, and North African cooking.
Nigella seeds can be used whole or ground into a powder for seasoning dishes such as curries and stews.
They can also be added to breads like naan or flatbreads for extra flavor.
In India, they are often sprinkled on top of fried snacks like samosas or pakoras before serving.
The seeds can also be roasted in oil with other spices to make an aromatic tempering mixture called tadka which is then poured over cooked vegetables or lentils.
The 9 Best Substitutes For Nigella Seeds
Nigella seeds are a staple in Indian cuisine, but they can be hard to find.
If you’re looking for substitutes for nigella seeds, here are 9 alternatives that will give your dishes the same flavor and texture:
1 – Black Sesame Seeds
Black sesame seeds are small, dark-colored seeds that are used in a variety of cuisines around the world.
They have a nutty, slightly sweet flavor and are often used as a topping or garnish for dishes.
They are also used to make sesame oil, which is used in many Asian dishes.
Black sesame seeds can be used as a substitute for nigella seeds in many recipes.
They can be used in place of nigella seeds in curries, stir-fries, and other savory dishes.
They can also be used to top salads, noodles, and other dishes for a nutty flavor and crunchy texture.
They can also be used to make sesame oil, which can be used in place of other oils in many recipes.
2 – White Sesame Seeds
White sesame seeds are the seeds of the sesame plant, which is native to Africa and Asia.
They have a nutty flavor and are often used in Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine.
They are also used as a garnish or topping for various dishes.
White sesame seeds can be used in place of nigella seeds in many recipes.
They can be used to top breads, crackers, and other baked goods.
They can also be used to add flavor and texture to salads, stir-fries, and other savory dishes.
They can be toasted in a dry skillet to bring out their nutty flavor, or they can be ground into a paste and used as a condiment.
White sesame seeds can also be used to make tahini, a popular Middle Eastern condiment.
3 – Cumin Seeds
Cumin seeds are the dried seeds of the Cuminum cyminum plant, which is a member of the parsley family.
They are small, oblong-shaped seeds that are brownish-yellow in color and have a strong, earthy flavor.
Cumin seeds are commonly used in Indian, Middle Eastern, and Mexican cuisines.
Cumin seeds can be used as a replacement for nigella seeds in many recipes.
To use cumin seeds instead of nigella seeds, you can either grind them into a powder or toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat for a few minutes until they become fragrant.
The powder can then be used as a seasoning in place of nigella seeds, while the toasted seeds can be added whole or crushed to dishes for a nutty, earthy flavor.
Cumin seeds can also be used to make a flavorful tea by boiling them in water for a few minutes and then straining the liquid.
4 – Caraway Seeds
Caraway seeds are small, crescent-shaped seeds that have a pungent, anise-like flavor.
They are commonly used in European and Middle Eastern cuisines, and are often used to flavor breads, cheeses, and sauerkraut.
Caraway seeds can be used in place of nigella seeds in many recipes.
For example, they can be used to top flatbreads, sprinkled over salads, or added to soups and stews.
They can also be used to flavor pickles, sauces, and dressings.
When using caraway seeds instead of nigella seeds, it is important to remember that caraway seeds have a stronger flavor, so it is best to use less than the amount of nigella seeds called for in the recipe.
5 – Celery Seeds
Celery seeds are the small, dark brown seeds of the celery plant.
They have a strong, pungent flavor that is similar to celery, but more intense.
Celery seeds are often used as a spice in many dishes, including soups, stews, salads, and pickles.
They can also be used to make a tea.
They have a similar flavor, but are more intense and have a slightly bitter aftertaste.
To use celery seeds instead of nigella seeds, simply substitute the same amount of celery seeds for the nigella seeds called for in the recipe.
For example, if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of nigella seeds, you can use 1 teaspoon of celery seeds instead.
Celery seeds can also be used to add flavor to breads, muffins, and other baked goods.
6 – Fennel Seeds
Fennel seeds are the dried fruit of the fennel plant, a member of the carrot family.
They have a sweet, anise-like flavor and are used in a variety of dishes, from salads to curries.
To use fennel seeds instead of nigella seeds, simply grind the fennel seeds in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle until they are a fine powder.
This powder can then be used as a replacement for nigella seeds in recipes.
Fennel seeds can also be used whole or crushed in dishes such as soups, stews, and curries.
They can also be used to make a flavorful tea.
Fennel seeds are a great way to add a unique flavor to any dish.
7 – Poppy Seeds
Poppy seeds are small, blue-gray seeds that come from the opium poppy plant.
They have a nutty flavor and are often used in baking and cooking.
Poppy seeds are a common ingredient in many types of breads, cakes, and pastries.
They can also be used to top salads, stir-fries, and other dishes.
When using poppy seeds instead of nigella seeds, you can use them in the same way.
They can be sprinkled on top of salads, stir-fries, and other dishes for a nutty flavor and crunchy texture.
They can also be used in baking and cooking, such as in breads, cakes, and pastries.
Poppy seeds can also be used to make a paste, which can be used as a spread or as a topping for desserts.
8 – Fenugreek seeds
Fenugreek seeds are small, yellow-brown, bitter-tasting seeds that come from the fenugreek plant, which is native to the Mediterranean region and parts of Asia.
They are commonly used in Indian, Middle Eastern, and North African cuisines.
Fenugreek seeds have a slightly sweet, nutty flavor and are often used to add flavor to curries, stews, and other dishes.
To use fenugreek seeds instead of nigella seeds, you can grind them into a powder and use it as a seasoning.
You can also toast the seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat for a few minutes until they become fragrant and lightly browned.
This will bring out the flavor of the seeds and make them more aromatic.
You can then use the toasted fenugreek seeds as a topping for salads, soups, and other dishes.
You can also add them to curries and other dishes for a nutty, slightly sweet flavor.
9 – Oregano
Oregano is an herb that is commonly used in Italian and Mediterranean cooking.
It has a strong, pungent flavor that is slightly bitter and slightly sweet.
It is often used to season meats, vegetables, sauces, and soups.
To use oregano instead of nigella seeds, start by substituting one teaspoon of oregano for every teaspoon of nigella seeds called for in the recipe.
Oregano has a stronger flavor than nigella seeds, so you may want to reduce the amount of oregano used if you are substituting it for nigella seeds in a recipe.
Additionally, oregano can be used to replace nigella seeds in dishes such as curries, stews, and salads.
When using oregano as a substitute for nigella seeds, it is best to add it at the end of the cooking process to preserve its flavor.
What is the flavor of nigella seeds?
Nigella seeds have a unique flavor that is a combination of oregano, herbs, and a slight bitterness. They also have a warm, toasted-onion flavor that adds a savory depth to dishes. I like to add them whole to salads, sauces, and soups just before serving for a delicious flavor boost.
They are a great alternative to sesame seeds, but without the sweetness. All in all, nigella seeds have a complex flavor that is both savory and slightly bitter.
Are black sesame seeds and nigella seeds the same thing?
No, black sesame seeds and nigella seeds are not the same thing. Black sesame seeds come from the sesame plant, while nigella seeds come from the Nigella sativa plant.
Though they look similar, they have different flavors and nutritional profiles. Black sesame seeds have a nutty, slightly sweet flavor and are rich in calcium, iron, and magnesium.
Nigella seeds have a more peppery flavor and are a good source of dietary fiber, iron, and calcium. While they are not the same, black sesame seeds can be used as a substitute for nigella seeds in recipes, as they have a similar appearance.
Is nigella seeds same as fennel seeds?
No, nigella seeds and fennel seeds are not the same. Nigella sativa, commonly known as black cumin, is a flowering plant in the Ranunculaceae family, which also includes delphinium and buttercup. Fennel, on the other hand, is a flowering plant in the Apiaceae family, which includes carrots, parsley, and celery.
While the two plants are often confused due to their similar names, they are not related and have different uses. Nigella seeds are used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine, while fennel seeds are used in Italian and Mediterranean dishes.
Are nigella seeds the same as black cumin?
No, nigella seeds are not the same as black cumin. Nigella is a member of the Ranunculaceae family, which includes flowers such as the buttercup and delphinium, and is sometimes referred to by other names such as black cumin, black onion seed, and black sesame seed.
However, these names can be misleading as nigella is not related to any of these. Nigella has a unique flavor and aroma that sets it apart from other spices, making it a popular choice for many dishes.
In conclusion, nigella seeds are a flavorful and aromatic spice that can be used in many different dishes.
However, if you don’t have nigella seeds on hand, there are several other spices that can be used as a good substitute.
The best substitutes for nigella seeds are black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, celery seeds, fennel seeds, poppy seeds, fenugreek seeds, oregano, black onion seed, kalonji seed, and cumin seed.
Each of these spices has a unique flavor and aroma, so you can experiment with different combinations to find the perfect flavor for your dish.
Using a combination of these spices is a great way to add depth and complexity to your dish, and will ensure that you never have to go without nigella seeds again.
The 9 Best Substitutes For Nigella Seeds
- Black Sesame Seeds
- White Sesame Seeds
- Cumin Seeds
- Caraway Seeds
- Celery Seeds
- Fennel Seeds
- Poppy Seeds
- Fenugreek seeds
- Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
- Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.