6 Best Substitutes for Caraway Seeds

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Knowing good substitutes for caraway seeds, the fruit of the caraway plant and a member of the carrot and parsley family is important for chefs around the world. Once the fruit is dried, it resembles small, woody seeds, and has a pungent sharp anise flavor, with peppery notes, and many of the best substitutes for this herb have similar qualities.

Substitutes for Caraway Seeds

Best substitutes for caraway seeds include anise seeds, fennel seeds, nigella seeds, dill star anise, and cumin.

Anise seeds

They are extremely similar in flavor to caraway, with intense licorice flavors. Furthermore, anise will survive the baking or cooking process better than some other spices. However, it is much more powerful than caraway, so experiment to find the right ratio based on your personal preference.

Fennel seeds

These seeds are often mistaken for caraway seeds, as they look extremely similar. Fennel is also licorice-flavored, but the seeds are a bit milder than caraway, with less of a peppery bite. That being said, this is the most popular substitute, because you can use a simple 1-to-1 ratio.

A white cup and jar of fennel tea with a bowl and container of fennel seeds on a wooden table

Nigella Seeds

These seeds are a good option if you are making a spice blend that calls for caraway seeds, or using the seeds as a bread seasoning. Toast or fry your nigella seeds before using them to get the most flavor into your dish.

Dill

It has slight anise flavor and just like anise and fennel, is also a member of the carrot family. This herb is very mild and is suitable for recipes where you want a little licorice flavor along with the look and crunch of caraway, like creamy soups or sauerkraut.

Star Anise

It is very powerfully licorice-flavored spice best used as a whole spice or in pickles or jams. It is very easy to use too much of this spice, so be careful.

Cumin

It is hotter than caraway, with a much stronger warmth. If you’re making spicy curries or stews, use cumin powder in place of ground caraway seeds. You can simply roast some fresh cumin and grind it to make powder. This is not, however, a good substitute for baking recipes.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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