Nigella seeds, also known as black seeds, have been used as a popular type of spice for many decades. Although some think that nigella seeds can’t be replaced with anything else because of their unique taste, there are indeed several nigella seeds substitutes for your recipes. So, whenever you can’t find nigella seeds in stores, you can use these alternatives.
Nigella seeds are mostly used in bakeries and in some popular types of breads such as naan and rye breads. These seeds are well-known in Indian cuisine as well as in Middle Eastern and North African dishes. You can use nigella seeds in pastas and other pastry-based dishes too, but they usually serve as topping or dressing.
Compared to many other seeds, nigella seeds also come with a distinct aroma and interesting taste. They offer a kind of bitter taste mixed with an onion-y flavor, but there are other subtle flavors in it that make it so unique.
By the way, these tiny black drop-shaped seeds are good for your health, and they are often used for medical purposes. Although they may be irreplaceable in medicine, we can still find good substitutes for them in culinary.
Best Nigella Seeds Substitutes
- Nigella Powder
If there is the dried or powdered version of any spice, then chances are high they will take the first place between all the substitutes for the particular product. Overall, it is made of the same product and will provide the same taste as the fresh one.
Of course, it will be milder than the fresh one but if you don’t have nigella seeds then choose nigella powder instead. You can buy it from common stores and always have it in your kitchen.
Nigella powder has a bitter and slightly spicy taste. If nigella seeds are often sprinkled over the dish or bread dough, nigella powder is mainly used for seasoning seafood, cooked dishes, legumes, meat and poultry as well as vegetables. It goes well with dipping sauces too.
- Black Sesame Seeds
Black sesame seeds are easy-to-find alternatives for nigella seeds, and they are widely used in culinary. They come with a slightly nutty and bitter taste and will provide your dish the same look as nigella seeds.
You can substitute black sesame seeds for nigella seeds in naan bread, many other baked goods as well as in cooked meals. You can sprinkle them on all kinds of pastry, desserts, ice-creams, cakes and cookies. You can also use them as garnishes for meats and fish.
Many dipping sauces calling for nigella seeds can work well with black sesame seeds too.
3. White Sesame Seeds
While black sesame seeds come with the same color as nigella seeds, white sesame seeds can only provide a similar taste and flavor. Toasted white sesame seeds, however, offer a golden or a brownish color.
We often see white sesame seeds sprinkled over pastry, especially buns, cookies and biscuits. It is also added to salads as a healthy ingredient. When substituting with nigella seeds you can use equal amounts in recipes. If you don’t care about the color, then this can be another good replacement for nigella.
4. Celery Seeds
Celery seeds have a similar flavor profile as nigella seeds but they come with different colors.
If you decide to substitute celery seeds with nigella seeds then choose them for pastry and pizzas as topping. They are also used in soups, stews, salads and many cooked dishes to add a savory taste to dishes.
A number of sauces call for this ingredient such as tomato sauce, pasta sauce, ketchup, barbeque sauce and the like. So, if one of your dipping sauces requests nigella, you can use celery seeds instead.
5. Cumin Seeds or Cumin Powder
One of the closest alternatives to nigella seeds is considered to be cumin seeds. They best go with bread. Although they come with different shapes and looks, they can replace each other when it comes to the tastes. They will bring a nutty savory flavor to your meals.
There are several types of cumin: white, black and green. If you don’t have cumin seeds then you can use cumin powder. You can use it in dipping sauces and serve with meats and seafood.
Cumin powder can also be used in hot dishes, curries, stews and vegetable soups .
6. Caraway Seeds
Several meals, including curries and pickles that call for whole spices may go well with caraway seeds in case you run out of nigella seeds. They offer similar spiciness as nigella and will make your dish taste a kind of peppery.
This is another good alternative to use for baked goods especially with rye bread. You can also use it with sauces, roasted and grilled vegetables.
When seasoning vegetables and curries, you can always refer to oregano. It can replace it with nigella as it has similar flavor notes of those seeds. It is a highly aromatic spice both in fresh and dry versions.
Use oregano instead of nigella seeds in pizzas and pastas and the result will be more than awesome. If used fresh, the flavor will be even stronger. Dry version of oregano is easy to find in stores.
8. Fennel Seeds
Fennel seeds look like caraway and cumin seeds. They offer a strong flavor and can substitute nigella in half amounts.
Fennel seeds taste better when roasted. It’s a perfect replacement for nigella in salads and in vegetable dishes. This substitute is often used in seafood, particularly in shellfish spice. You can choose it as topping for breads and pastas.
9. Black Mustard Seeds
There are white and black mustard seeds, and between them you can choose black ones to replace nigella seeds. Let’s say they are a convenient substitute for nigella as they look like nigella seeds.
As for the taste, black mustard seeds have a smoky flavor and taste pungent. You can use them in salads, soups and dip sauces.
Compared to some other substitutes, black mustard seeds are more affordable and easy-to-find. In case you can’t find black mustard seeds, there are also yellow and brown versions of it.
10. Fenugreek Seeds
Fenugreek seeds are typical to Indian cuisine and they sometimes replace nigella seeds in curries and stir-fries. They come with a kind of sweet, nutty, and slightly bitter taste.
Fenugreek seeds provide dishes with nutty flavor, but since they are more on the sweet side, you’d better use little amounts of these seeds when substituting with nigella. By the way, fenugreek seeds have a number of health benefits.
FAQs on Nigella Seeds
How do you use Nigella seeds in cooking?
Usually nigella seeds are roasted before being used as a spice. However, there are cases when you can eat them raw in yogurts, sauces and smoothies.
Nigella seeds vs black onion seeds; what’s the difference?
Although they have similar appearance, they are not the same. Nigella doesn’t belong to onion family spices.
What’s the best substitute for nigella seeds?
The best substitutes for nigella seeds are considered to be poppy seeds and black sesame seeds.
Whether you want to use nigella seeds in cooking, desserts, bakery or smoothies, you can easily find a good substitute for nigella seeds for your dish from this list. They all come with a similar taste and flavor. Some of them also match with appearance.