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How to use Black seeds or Nigella seeds for cooking and its health benefits

Packed with antioxidants, Nigella seeds some also refer them as black seeds are one of the oldest spices known to mankind. It is so easy to add them into your food. Read on to find how to use black seeds and gain from the many benefits.

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One spice with many names, I have to admit, writing this post has not been easy

Not because I did not know what black seeds are but because they are so many confusing and contradictory articles on the use of black seeds aka Nigella seeds in cooking!!

Reading the different views on how to take Nigella seeds. I thought of writing this post based on my personal experiences of cooking with black cumin aka black seeds and watching my mother and grandma use Nigella seeds in their kitchen.

What Are Nigella Seeds

Nigella or black seeds originates from a flowering plant that have tiny seeds that grow in a fruit. The scientific name of the flowering plant is Nigella sativa. 

They are hugely popular to many cuisines especially the Mediterranean , Egypt, South East Asia, Middle East, North Africa and Southern Europe.

The world wide popularity and use is due to the abundance of health benefits of Nigella seeds.

They are said to be found in King Tutankhamen’s tomb as it was used as a preservative along with other  spices.

Apart from the health benefits, nigella seeds adds oodles of flavour to many savoury dishes such as breads, cheese, pulses, vegetables , curries to name just a few.

Different Types Of Black Seeds 

I mentioned at the beginning that it was a bit challenging to write this article because of the confusion between similar types of black seed looking spices. 

What complicates the matter for us cooks is the different names that Nigella seeds is referred to as.

To simplify, below are some of the common names for Nigella seeds. This is the reason so will see me referencing black seeds in different ways. The different names of black seeds are:

  • Black seeds
  • Black Cumin ( again confused with Caraway Seeds as they are also referred as black cumin by some)
  • Black caraway  ( this does not help either)
  • Fennel flower
  • Roman coriander
  • ‘Charnushka’ in the US
  • ‘Kalonji’ in Hindi
  • ‘Schwarzkümmel’ in German
  • ‘Les graines de nigelle or cumin noir’ in French
  • ‘Abésoda or ajenuz’ in Spanish

My suggestion, stick with black seeds that has ‘Nigella’ written on it. You will be safe !!

Difference Between Nigella Seeds and Onions Seeds 

Few wrongly refer nigella as onion seeds or black sesame.

Looking at them from a distance without touching or smelling them they all look the same.

Onion seeds, black sesame and nigella seeds are different types of seeds.

Onion seeds are flatter, lighter and smaller by a millimetre of even less and has a taste that is more like …… you guessed it right , onions !!

Sesame seeds are the black version of white sesame, small, round  and has the same nutty flavour just like white sesame seeds.

Nigella seeds on the other hand are more stony, hard, bright black and tear dropped shaped.

nigella seeds Vs Sesame Seeds Vs Onion Seeds
Difference between Nigella Seeds, Black Sesame seeds and Onion seeds

What Do Nigella Seeds Taste Like

The flavour of nigella seeds is mildly strong. You can feel the bitter pungent slightly smoky  taste once you bite into the seeds.

When you first smell nigella seeds it reminds you of a herby like quality.  The aroma and taste of kalonji is a unique blend of peppery, oregano and onion undertones.

How To Cook With Black Seeds

Being a popular spice frequently used in different cuisines there are many uses of nigella seeds in cooking.

The majority of use of nigelle seeds is to make savoury dishes. 

The best way to take black seed is in the whole seeds warm. You can consume black seeds easily even though it may feel hard. Making a black seed powder tends to have a bitter taste. 

The uses of Kalonji is not just limited to Indian food. Below are few examples on how to use kalonji or black seeds for cooking:

  • Add whole kalonji to make curries, legumes and lentils based dishes especially for making yellow lentils.
  • Simply choose your vegetables, roast a teaspoon of black seeds in oil or butter and throw in your vegetables.
  • Add black seeds to salads for adding aroma, taste and texture.
  • Due to the healing properties it is a very popular pickling spice to use along with mustard seeds and fennel seeds.
  • Add it as toppings to breads such as sour dough, normal breads, Indian flat bread like parathas and naans.
  • Nigella seeds can be used to make soups and sauces.
  • In Middle East they are are used to flavour pilaf.
  • Kalonji is one of the spices used to make other spice blends such as ‘Panch Phoran‘ from India.

Best Food Pairing & Substitute

Although nigella seeds are quite easy to find, you may need to look for alternatives to black seeds.

Thankfully there are many available substitute for nigella seeds. You can read about all the options in the sign posted link.

Being relatively neutral in taste the posts also suggests the best food pairings with Nigella seeds. 

Nigella seeds benefits

Benefits Of Eating Black Seeds

The medicinal benefits of Nigella seeds are highly known and extensively used in Ayurveda.

It is loaded with vitamins, minerals, crude fibre, iron, calcium, fatty acids and proteins.

Apart from these spices that naturally boost immunity system, research on nigella seeds have shown that they may have antioxidant and immunity-boosting benefits.

The underlying benefits is a reason enough as to why should you be  using nigella seeds for cooking.

Black seeds for acne

Nigella seeds have anti bacterial properties that help remove impurities and improve skin texture.

Grind nigella seeds into powder and use it as a scrub to unclog pores and even out complexion.

Adding black seed oil with sweet lime juice is a natural skin remedy to fight against acne.

Regulate blood sugar levels

One of the best known benefits of black seed oil is as a remedy to prevent diabetes.

Mixing and drinking 1/2 tsp of black seed oil to a cup of black tea in the morning in an empty stomach will show you positive results in a month.

Nigella seeds for asthma, cold and cough

For people suffering from nasal congestion, asthma, cough and cold symptoms nigella seeds proves to be an effective natural remedy.

Boiling a tsp of nigella seeds in a bowl of water and inhaling the vapours will clear out phlegm and ease breathing.

You can grind a tsp of nigella seeds or add a few drops of black seed oil and drink it with a cup of warm water everyday to help with asthmatic conditions.

Helps control blood pressure

Drinking warm water, or any warm drink such as tea or milk with black seed oil or ground nigella seeds also helps with those suffering from hypertension.

Aids in weight loss

The active enzymes in nigella seeds contains high amount of dietary fibers, that help to keep the digestive system healthy and make metabolism better which eventually facilitate weight loss.

Mix 1/2 teaspoon of the oil or powdered nigella seeds with 2 teaspoons of honey in 1 cup of lukewarm water and consume about 2 to 3 times a day. It helps to boost the fat burning procedure by speeding up metabolism.

Some of the other known benefits are that it helps to boost energy levels, maintain healthy functioning of the kidney, works as a natural pain killer for aches and pains.

Side Effects Of Nigella Seeds

Like most natural or medicinal remedies, it is best to observe limitations.

Nigella seeds used in cooking has not shown any negative side effects.

However it is advisable to check with your doctor before using them as a  natural treatment for health ailments.

It is suggested to limit the consumption of nigella seeds or black seed oil for such purposes no more than 3 months.

Those suffering from kidney problems should surely take prior advise.

Where To Buy Nigella Seeds

You can buy nigella seeds or black seeds from any ethnic Indian store or health food store.

If its convenience that you are looking for buy nigella seeds directly online.

Few tips to remember when buying nigella seeds is to buy them in small quantity as a little goes a long way.

Also make sure to check the pack. The seeds should all be black and round without any grey bits.

Below is a recommended brand that you can buy online.

How To Store Nigella Seeds

If the product does not already come in an air tight container, then store black seeds in an opaque or glass airtight container away from direct light or heat.

Make sure the area is cool and dry.

Being a strong aromatic spice, ensure that the lid is tightly closed to retain the freshness of the spice.

If stored well, nigella seeds will keep the flavour well for a year or even more.

What is black seeds infographic

To conclude 

Nigella seeds, black seeds, kalonji whatever you refer them as is a power house of nutrients.

The woody smoky taste adds a unique aroma to the dish.

Given the many health benefits, the aromatic property and ease of use in cooking, I highly recommend you to add this spice to your culinary repertoire.

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1 year ago

Thank you, for sharing such informative blog. It seems very interesting and very informative. This blog is very useful for me. It helped a lot, keep sharing…!!

Mary L
1 year ago

Can I use the seeds from my flower garden nigella plants? I had never grown these before, and didn’t realize they’re not just pretty flowers!

Marie Bryan
1 year ago

Is it important to grind the seeds to access full benefits? If so is there a recommended grinder?

1 year ago

Thank you for putting in the research and work into giving us so much information. Well done!

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