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Substitute for Nigella seeds

Substitute for Nigella seeds

Nigella seeds also known as black seeds is a common spice used to make Indian dishes and other foods. If you find yourself not liking the taste or run out of them then here are some of the best substitute for nigella seeds to try. 

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There are many names for Nigella seeds. Some refer to them as black seeds or black cumin because of the shape and size, few as black onion seeds due to the slight oniony taste although Nigella seeds and onion seeds are different types of black seed spices.

Apart from the popular English names for black seeds, there are many other linguistic names depending on the country and the language spoken.

Although a common spice used in many cultures to make savoury dishes, it someone does not feature very often as an essential spice to have.

It could well be due to the lack of knowledge on how to cook with black seeds or it not being a very commonly used kitchen spice in some cuisines, you may need to find a suitable alternative to nigella seeds if the recipe list the spice.

In this post I list six best nigella seeds substitutes that are easy to find and use.

What Is Nigella Seeds

Kalonji, is the Hindi name of nigella seeds. They are the tiny seeds that grow in a fruit of Nigella sativa plant. And therefore the name Nigella being given to the spice.

Even though not a commonly used spice worldwide, nigella is very popular in many world cuisines namely Mediterranean , Egypt, South East Asia, Middle East, North Africa and Southern Europe.

It is used both for cooking savoury dishes as well as baking.

Some of the most popular uses of nigella seeds is in making curries, stir fries, as a pickling spice, sprinkling on salads and bread toppings.

Being high on vitamins, nutrients and antioxidant properties there are many health benefits of black seeds. Some research suggests that nigella seeds can help in regulating blood sugar levels, controls blood pressure also beneficial to fight cold and flu symptoms.

Nigella Seeds Substitute

If you find yourself run out or not able to buy the seeds then there are some easy nigella seeds alternatives.

Blacks seeds do have a unique flavour and taste that may make you think that it is tricky to find a replacement for nigella seeds. However there are other spices or even combination of spices that makes it easy to find a substitute for black seeds.

So if you read a recipe that calls for black seeds or nigella seeds do not shy away from it. There are many nigella seeds substitutes that you can work with.

One of the best alternative to nigella seeds is using a combination of cumin seeds and caraway seeds.

Both are different spices, again confused by many so clear the doubts and read about the difference between cumin and caraway here. 

Lets break down the different types of nigella seeds substitute starting from the best option for you.

Option 1 – Combination of cumin seeds and caraway seeds

Option 2 – Celery seeds or carom seeds 

Option 3 – Oregano

Option 4 – Cumin seeds

Option 5 – Black sesame seeds

Option 6 – Fennel seeds

If your pantry is well stocked and you happen to have some of the above listed spices then feel free to use a combination of 2 to replace black seeds in a dish.

Substitute for nigella seeds

Best food and spice combination with nigella seeds

Nigella seeds are used in many savoury dishes and go well with most vegetables, especially root veges, pulses and whole grains.

Best food pairing: potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, cauliflower, onions, tomatoes, orange and red vegetables, chicken, fish, red meat,  ginger, lentils, peas, soups, stews, curry, gram flour, plain flour,

Best spice pairing:  cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, cumin powder, fenugreek seeds,  bay leaves, red chilli powder,  cloves, coriander seeds, dry chillies, turmeric


Do not shy away from trying nigella seeds if you find them. They have a unique flavour and come with added health benefits.

The uses of black seeds in cooking is many fold. You can use them in different types of dishes to add flavour.

However, if you struggle finding the real thing or simply looking for a substitute for nigella seeds then use the spices listed above. You wont be disappointed.

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