Nigella seeds are quite the fragrant ingredient. In fact, not many people have heard of nigella seeds. They are heavily used in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines. This is because of their flavourful impact for seasoning food. So, if you are on your way to cooking an amazing Middle Eastern dish, you should check first if you’ve even got them. If not, then make sure you have these 8 nigella seeds substitutes. These nigella seeds substitutes comprise of spices that one would usually find in the kitchen cupboard. So, if you run out of nigella seeds, you won’t need to worry too much. You’ll definitely have one of these nigella seeds substitutes lying around somewhere in the kitchen. So, don’t worry, your recipe is not doomed!
nigella seed substitutes
Honestly speaking, I didn’t know much about nigella seeds until I got really serious about food and recipes. As I began to master Indian cuisine I came across the term nigella seeds or nigella sativa and realised that I didn’t have this unique spice. So, I had to do a little bit of research about what this spice tastes like and how it’s used. Therefore, to save others precious time in the kitchen, it is my pleasure to share with you this very handy list of top nigella seeds substitutes.
These nigella seeds substitutes are interchangeable. However, to understand nigella seed alternatives, you should learn all there is to know about this spice. This way, you can truly come up with a fantastic alternative and never know the difference.
what are nigella seeds?
Nigella seeds are the small black seeds of the nigella sativa plant that’s indigenous to Southern Asia. They have a very strong aroma as well as a sharp flavour. It is a very versatile spice that’s often found in Middle Eastern, Indian and Asian cuisines.
Historically speaking, the cultivation of these seeds goes way back to ancient Egyptian times. It is believed that the seeds were used for culinary as well as medicinal purposes. Would you believe me if I told you that the seeds were also found in Tutankhamun’s tomb?
nigella seeds alternative name
Here are just a few of the alternative names you might know nigella seeds by:
- black caraway
- black cumin
- fennel flower
- black fennel
- nutmeg flower
- roman coriander
- black seeds
- black onion seeds
- onion seeds
- charnushka (in Russian)
- chernishke (in Yiddish)
- schwarzkummel (in German)
- kalonji or calonji (in Hindi and Urdu)
Any of these ring a bell?
Source: University of Warwick
taste profile of nigella seeds
The taste of the seeds is often compared to a combination of onions, oregano and black pepper together. The taste profile consists of peppery notes, very similar to liquorice. However, there is also a slight sweetness, smokiness and nuttiness.
nigella seeds recipes and uses
First and foremost, nigella seeds are used to flavour curries, pulses and roasted vegetables. They are a very good flavour enhancer. For example, you can easily find them or need to use one of the substitutes in this curry. However, it’s also excellent to just sprinkle nigella seeds on top of fresh tomatoes. You can do so for example with this irresistible and summery cherry tomato salad.
Let’s not forget, you can also use nigella seeds in a fabulous chicken rub to create the ultimate chicken curry.
Moreover, nigella seeds (just like cumin – one of the nigella seeds substitutes) are used to flavour bread. You can find them in this peshwari naan and other naans for that matter.
In Palestine, nigella seeds are used to make a delicious qizha paste. In India, they are added with mustard, cumin, fennel and fenugreek to make the famous Panch Phoron spice mix.
So, as you can see, there are plenty of uses for nigella seeds.
nigella seeds health benefits
First, the seeds have tons of anti-oxidants. Apparently they:
- lower cholesterol
- reduce the chance of cancer
- prevent stomach ulcers
- reduce inflammation
- aid in controlling blood sugar and much more.
where can I get nigella seeds?
You can source nigella seeds in an Asian specialty store or in a premium supermarket. However, you can also order them online. For example, check these out:
If you are looking to do a bit of spice shopping or spice sanity check in your kitchen, you should check if you have the following:
- turmeric or these turmeric substitutes
- asafoetida or these asafoetida substitutes
- marjoram or these marjoram substitutes
- allspice or these allspice substitutes
- lemongrass or these lemongrass substitutes
what’s a good nigella seeds substitute?
Here is my list of the top nigella seeds substitutes!
1. black sesame seeds
Replicates that nutty flavour and looks the part.
2. white sesame seeds
Great for nutty flavour but not visually identical.
3. cumin seeds
Replicates both the nutty and peppery, fragrant flavour. It’s actually one of the closest nigella seeds substitutes. Especially, I recommend using this nigella seed alternative when making bread.
4. cumin powder
Use this alternative in spice rubs and flavouring curries.
5. celery seeds
A worthy nigella seed substitute because of the pepper flavour. However, they can be slightly bitter.
6. caraway seeds
It’s in the same family, so these are one of the top nigella seeds substitutes.
7. dried oregano
This carries a very similar aroma. Remember, the taste of nigella seeds is similar to oregano, so it’s a good alternative when seasoning vegetables or curries.
8. fenugreek seeds
Although this alternative might be too powerful, it is a worthy substitute. Use this one only as a last resort!
9. fennel seeds
Similarly to fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds are a tolerable substitute. Fennel seeds carry that liquorice flavour. However, the taste profile can be too powerful to resemble nigella seeds. Use with caution.
So, which one of the nigella seeds substitutes will you go for? Do you have another alternative that I don’t know about? Let me know your thoughts and share in the comments below! I hope you’ll cook more recipes in the future that require nigella seeds.
P.S. Sources I’ve used for some images include: TheSpiceJungle, TheSpiceHouse and TheFrontiercoop.