The Ultimate Guide to Nigella Seeds Substitutes: Discover the 9 Best Alternatives

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The 9 Best Nigella Seeds Replacements

Although not commonly found in spice cabinets, Nigella seeds are a well-kept secret in the culinary world. These small, triangular, matte black seeds are known for their unique and distinctive flavor. However, if you find yourself without Nigella seeds, there are several excellent substitutes that can be used to achieve similar flavors in your dishes.

1. Cumin Seeds

Cumin seeds are closest in flavor to Nigella seeds and are a popular spice found in many kitchens. They have an earthy, nutty flavor with a peppery kick, along with herbal undertones similar to Nigella. To use cumin seeds as a substitute, dry-toast them in a pan before adding them to your recipe. Lightly crushing the toasted cumin seeds can further enhance their flavor. Cumin can be added to a variety of dishes that call for Nigella seeds, including roasted vegetables, curries, and naan bread.

2. Mustard Seeds

Another excellent substitute for Nigella seeds is mustard seeds. Black mustard seeds in particular share a slightly pungent and bitter flavor profile with Nigella seeds. However, if black mustard seeds are hard to find, you can use the more common yellow or brown mustard seeds. Note that the amount of seeds may need to be adjusted depending on the type of mustard seed used. Yellow mustard seeds have a milder flavor, so you may need to use double the amount to get a similar flavor. Black mustard seeds, on the other hand, are stronger, so it’s best to use half the amount when substituting for Nigella seeds.

3. Caraway seeds

Caraway seeds offer a warm and slightly spicy flavor that is very similar to Nigella seeds. They work well as a substitute, especially in recipes that call for whole spices, such as curries and pickles. When using caraway seeds as a substitute, you can add them in the same amounts as you would with nigella seeds. It’s important to note, however, that caraway is slightly milder, so if you’re making a curry, you may want to add some cumin to bring out the flavors in your dish.

4. Black Sesame Seeds

Black Sesame Seeds not only have a similar flavor profile to Nigella Seeds, but they also have a similar appearance. Adding black sesame seeds to your dishes adds a peppery and nutty flavor that complements many recipes that call for Nigella seeds. These seeds can be used as a substitute in equal amounts, adding both flavor and visual appeal to your culinary creations.

5. Cumin Powder

If you need the flavor of cumin, but don’t need the appearance of the seeds, cumin powder can be a suitable substitute. Cumin powder has the same distinct flavor as cumin and nigella seeds, but lacks the visual impact. It can be used to infuse dishes with the desired flavor profile of nigella seeds, particularly in bread or yogurt recipes where the appearance of the seeds is not essential. Alternatively, caraway or mustard seeds can be used for recipes that require visible seeds.

6. Celery Seeds

For those looking for a Nigella seed substitute that offers a similar flavor profile, celery seeds may be an interesting option. These tiny seeds share some of the same characteristics, but can have a slightly bitter taste. To ensure a balanced flavor, it is advisable to use half the amount of celery seeds compared to the amount of nigella seeds called for in your recipe. This will allow you to enjoy the unique taste of celery seeds without overpowering the dish.

7. Oregano

If you’re primarily looking to replicate the herbal undertones of Nigella seeds, a pinch of oregano can serve as a suitable substitute. Oregano adds a distinct herbal flavor that complements a variety of cuisines. While it may not replicate the exact taste of Nigella seeds, oregano can provide a similar aromatic profile, enhancing the overall flavor profile of your dishes.


While Nigella seeds offer a unique and distinctive flavor, there are several substitutes that can help you achieve similar flavor profiles in your culinary creations. Cumin seeds, mustard seeds, caraway seeds, black sesame seeds, cumin powder, celery seeds, and oregano are all viable alternatives to nigella seeds. Each substitute brings its own nuances to the table, allowing you to experiment and discover new dimensions of flavor in your dishes. So the next time you find yourself without Nigella seeds, don’t panic – reach for one of these substitutes and continue to explore the diverse world of flavors in your cooking.


Why would I need to substitute Nigella seeds?

Nigella seeds may not be widely available or easily accessible in every kitchen. By substituting them, you can still achieve similar flavors in your dishes using more readily available ingredients.

What does Nigella seed taste like?

Nigella seeds have a complex flavor profile with peppery notes, hints of licorice, herbal undertones of oregano and a hint of onion. When toasted, they become sweet, smoky and nutty.

Can I use cumin powder instead of cumin seeds?

Yes, cumin powder can be used as a substitute for cumin seeds, including in recipes that call for Nigella seeds. However, keep in mind that cumin powder lacks the visual appeal of the seeds and should be used in recipes where appearance is not important.

Are there any substitutes for nigella seeds that look similar?

Yes, black sesame seeds are very similar in appearance to Nigella seeds and have a similar flavor profile. They can be used as a substitute to add both flavor and visual appeal to your dishes.

Can I use celery seeds as a substitute for Nigella seeds?

Yes, celery seeds can be used as a substitute for Nigella seeds. However, it’s important to note that celery seeds have a slightly bitter taste, so it’s recommended to use half the amount compared to the amount of Nigella seeds called for in your recipe.

Can I combine different Nigella seed substitutes in one recipe?

Absolutely! Feel free to experiment and combine different substitutes according to your taste preferences. Mixing and matching substitutes such as cumin, mustard, caraway and others can create unique flavor profiles in your dishes.