How to Use Black Seeds In Cooking
Packed with antioxidants, nigella seeds or black seeds is 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.
Black seeds also known as Nigella seeds is a popular cooking spice maybe confused by many with other similar looking spices such as onion seeds, black sesame seeds etc.
This posts summaries my research and findings which includes drawing from my experience of watching my mum and grandmas cook with nigella seeds.
In this post you will read about what are black seeds, different types of black seeds used in cooking, how to take nigella seeds to gain health benefits and most importantly how to use black seeds in your everyday cooking.
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, while the Indian name of Black seeds is ‘Kalonji’.
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 of eating black seeds, they add oodles of flavour to many savoury dishes such as breads, cheese, pulses, vegetables , curries to name just a few.
Black Seed In Other Languages
Below are the names used to refer nigella seeds in other languages:
- Nigella seeds in Hindi – Kalonji
- Nigella seeds in German – Schwarzkümmel
- Nigella seeds in french – Les graines de nigelle or cumin noir
- Nigella seeds in Spanish – Abésoda or ajenuz
- In US – ‘Carnushka
The other manes that black seeds is known as are:
- Black Cumin ( not to be confused with cumin seeds)
- Black caraway (this does not help either)
- Fennel flower
- Roman coriander
My suggestion, stick with black seeds that has ‘Nigella’ written on it. You will be safe !!
Difference Between Nigella Seeds and Onions Seeds
What makes matters a bit confusing is that there are not just one type of black seed used for cooking. There are similar looking seeds that may confuse cooks on which type of black seed to use.
Two such similar looking small seeds are :
- Onion seeds
- Black sesame seeds
Looking at them from a distance without touching or smelling them they all look the same.
Below are some of the key differences between nigella seeds, onions seeds and black sesame.
APPEARANCE – Onion seeds are flatter, lighter and smaller by a millimeter of even less, while black sesame seeds are the variant of white sesame, small and round.
Nigella seeds on the other hand are more stony, hard, bright black and tear dropped shaped.
TASTE – As the name suggests onions seeds slightly replicates .. yes you guessed right the onion, although not as strong.
Sesame seeds have a nutty flavour just like white sesame seeds.
The taste of Black seeds is pungent with a hint of smokiness and nuttiness.
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 Eat Black Seeds
The best way to take black seed is in the whole seeds form.That is adding the whole black seeds into dishes. You can eat nigella seeds or kalonji easily even though it may feel hard as the tiny size makes it pretty insignificant even if you chew into it. It is similar to eating whole cumin seeds.
Making a black seed powder tends to lend a bitter taste to the dish.
Being a popular spice frequently used in different cuisines there are many uses of nigella seeds in cooking.
The majority of use is to make savoury dishes. The use of kalonji in cooking especially Indian cuisine is very popular. Below are some ideas on how to use kalonji seeds in cooking.
Here are few ideas for you:
- 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 for a nutty aromatic taste.
- 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 sometimes.
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.
Benefits Of Eating Black Seeds
Alternative medicine use black seed oil in many of many cure potion. but is eating black seeds good for you?
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 listed 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 on 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.
Black seeds for weight loss
The active enzymes in nigella seeds contains high amount of dietary fibers, that helps 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 of nigella seeds are that it helps to boost energy levels, maintain healthy functioning of the kidney, works as a natural pain killer for aches and pains.
Is It Good To Take Black Seed Everyday?
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.
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.