nigella seed substitutes

9 Best Nigella Seed Substitutes

Nigella seeds are tiny, black seeds with slight bitterness and subtle aromatic flavors. They are the well-kept secret spice used in Indian, Middle Eastern, and North African cuisines.

With their characteristic notes of onion, oregano, and black pepper, they will deliciously pair with your savory dishes, curries, stews, and pickles. Besides their culinary uses, nigella seeds can be traditionally utilized for their medicinal properties.

Usually, we skip over this ingredient when encountered in a recipe, as it is not to be conventionally found in our kitchen cupboards. Now, you must be wondering if you have a better option, right? Well, here you go.

We have curated a list of 9 such alternatives that function as efficiently as nigella seeds. 


9 Best Nigella Seed Substitutes

1. Cumin Seeds

cumin seeds are nigella seed substitutes

Cumin seeds are the first ingredient that comes to mind when looking for a Nigella seed substitute.  Cumin seeds are an essential spice, especially for Indian curries.

With their earthy and nutty flavor, they have come closest in taste to Nigella seeds, adding a peppery edge and herbal characteristics to your recipe.

The easiest way to replace nigella with cumin seeds is to dry-toast them in a pan before adding them to your dish. You can even crush them after roasting to bring out their exquisite flavors.

How To Substitute:- Nigella seeds can be substituted with the same amount of cumin seeds.

2. Black Sesame Seeds

sesame seed

Primarily produced in Asia, black sesame seeds are one of the best Nigella seed substitutes. Commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisines, they are rich in nutritional value and have a savory flavor.

They are similar in appearance and taste, except that the sesame seeds are flatter and lack the peculiar bitterness of Nigella seeds.

By replacing nigella seeds with black sesame seeds, your dish will not only look the same but will provide the exact nutty flavor. It works nicely in prepared recipes as well as on top of naan bread, where it is the ideal replacement.

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How To Substitute:- Nigella seeds can be substituted with the same amount of black sesame seeds.

3. Celery Seeds

celery seeds

Derived from the wild celery plant, celery seeds have almost the exact taste as nigella, and function as an agreeable replacement for the nigella seeds.

The only considerable difference between the two seeds is that celery seeds are more bitter than Nigella. Typically, celery seeds are added to stews or baked dishes to lessen their bitterness.

However, mixing them with lemon juice and onion powder will easily help you to adapt to their bitterness. In the form of pre-ground celery seeds, it is additionally utilized in salad dressings.

How To Substitute:- Nigella seeds can be substituted with half the quantity of Celery seeds. 

4. Caraway Seeds

caraway seeds

Due to their warm and mildly spicy flavor, caraway seeds replace nigella seeds in a great way. Their tangerine peel taste and strong pepper smell make them the best substitute for nigella seeds in curries and pickles. 

You may also add caraway seeds to baked apples, tomato-based sauces, and roasted potatoes to provide them with a more appetizing flavor.

Besides their delicious flavors, these tiny seeds are loaded with antioxidants, which reduce free radicals and do wonders for your overall well-being.

How To Substitute:- The same amount of caraway seeds can be used in place of nigella seeds.

5. Fenugreek Seeds

fenugreek seeds

Fenugreek is a herb, used as alternative medicine, with characteristics that can replace nigella seeds while preparing stir-fries and curries.

Although their aromatic and bitter taste adds a great flavor to your dish, they must be used cautiously. Their crispy taste, like burnt sugar, can make it difficult to eat if added in excess.

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The appropriate storage of fenugreek seeds is the next crucial factor. If left out for too long, this seed will rapidly deteriorate and lose nutrition. Therefore, you should put it in the refrigerator after using it.

How To Substitute:- Nigella seeds can be substituted with half the quantity of Fenugreek seeds. 

6. Mustard Seeds

black mustard seeds

Black mustard seeds, with their slightly pungent and bitter flavor, serve as another important nigella seed substitute. However, if these seeds are not available, brown or yellow mustard seeds can be used to achieve a similar purpose.

The amount of seeds that you add to your dish will depend on the type of mustard seeds that you are using.

Yellow mustard seeds are mild in flavor and hence you need to add twice the quantity of nigella seeds. While black mustard seeds are quite strong, so half of their quantity will give you the same taste.

How To Substitute:- Nigella seeds can be substituted with half the quantity of black mustard seeds or double the quantity of yellow mustard seeds. 

7. Fennel seeds

fennel seeds are nigella seed substitutes

Another nigella seed substitute with a licorice flavor and green color is fennel seeds. Similar to cumin seeds in appearance, they are dried seeds of fennel herbs.

A small quantity of fennel seeds is enough to nuance the flavor of your curries, roasted veggies, and handmade rye bread. Roasting them before use will further improve the flavor of your dish.

Comprising nearly all of the nutrients, protein, vitamins C, Vitamin E, and fiber, fennel seeds have a reputation for promoting longevity and weight management. 

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How To Substitute:- Nigella seeds can be substituted with half the quantity of Fennel seeds. 

8. Oregano

oregano is a nigella seed substitute

If you are completely foreign to Middle Eastern cuisines and are unable to find any of the above-listed ingredients, oregano is the way out for you.

A pinch of oregano with the herbal undertones of nigella seeds can transform your dish. Dried oregano has a grassy, slightly bitter scent and can be sprinkled on various breads to give them flavor and crispness. 

Fresh oregano, on the other hand, typically has a minty scent and a trace of sweetness that makes it an appropriate match for salads, hamburgers, and chicken stews in place of nigella.

How To Substitute:- A pinch of dried oregano or a tablespoon of freshly chopped oregano, will nicely compensate for the nigella seeds mentioned in your recipe. 

9. Onion Flakes

onion flakes

If oregano is also something that you are unable to get at the moment, then you cannot make any excuses with onions.

Yes, Onion flakes have a spicy taste similar to nigella seeds and can be easily used as their substitute. Onion flakes are a crushed form of onion that has been cut, dried, and ground. It is simple to prepare at home and can be stored for later use.

Although it lacks the bitterness of herbs, onions’ distinctive aroma complements a wide variety of foods, notably those from Asia or the Middle East.

How To Substitute:- Depending on a person’s personal taste, an appropriate amount of onion flakes should be added.

Now, with a list of the top 9 nigella seed substitutes, hopefully, you won’t get stuck the next time you need nigella seeds. So, go ahead and savor your middle eastern cuisine without missing out on the aromatic flavors of nigella seeds. 

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