Substitutes for caraway seeds: 9 spices to try

caraway substitute
Caraway is a unique blend of anise, nutty, bitter-sweetness, licorice, earthy, and lemony flavors. Fennel makes the best substitute for caraway because of its close earthy, licorice flavor, and other great substitutes include anise, dill, coriander seeds, star anise, and nigella seeds.

The flavor profile of caraway seeds

Caraway seeds
Caraway seeds

Also called Persian cumin or meridian fennel, caraway seeds are actually split halves of the dried version of the fruits of the Caraway plant.

Caraway seeds have a complex flavor profile comprising several different tastes. They are bittersweet, almost nutty, earthy, and have hints of lemon-citrus and pepper. They have a marked mild anise taste and strong licorice notes.

What is caraway used for?

Caraway is a staple spice in African, Asian, and European cuisines, where it spices up popular savory dishes such as sauerkraut, goulash, Tunisian/North African harissa, and Polish sausages.

The pepperiness in caraway seeds blends with the concentrated heat of the peppers used in making Tunisian harissa. Harissa is a condiment featuring salt, dried chili peppers, garlic, caraway seeds, and ground coriander seeds.

Fennel: the best caraway seed alternative

Fennel
Fennel

The complex flavor profile of caraway is challenging to match with other spices. The best substitutes you can use are other spices from the carrot family.

The family includes spices such as cumin, parsley, anise, and fennel. The latter is popular in Italian, Middle Eastern, and Indian cuisines.

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Fennel is the best caraway seed substitute for caraway seeds because it matches the two main flavors in the spice — licorice and earthiness. The earthy flavor in caraway is often described as an earthy fennel flavor.

Besides the earthiness and licorice taste, fennel works better than the other alternatives because it’s warmer and sweeter, although its flavors are milder.

Fennel is also excellent for dishes that simmer for a long time. It can withstand longer heat durations without disintegrating.

How to substitute fennel for caraway?

You can use fennel seeds to replicate the caraway licorice flavor in sauerkraut, Irish soda bread, stews, goulash, fish, sausage, seafood, and curries. To substitute fennel for caraway and achieve a similar flavor, use a 1:1 ratio.

Other caraway alternatives to use in various recipes

As part of the carrot family, caraway is best replaced by other members in the family, such as cumin, anise, and dill. Other great substitutes include:

  1. Anise seeds
  2. Dill seeds
  3. Nigella seeds
  4. Star anise
  5. Cumin seeds
  6. Celery seeds
  7. Dried oregano
  8. Coriander seeds
Anise seedsPacked with licorice flavor, adds sweetness to the dish
Dill seedsHave a milder, bitter anise taste than caraway seeds, go with baked goods, pickles, cream soups
Nigella seedsCome with notes of nuttiness, cumin, oregano, smokiness, and onion, ideal for Indian naan, sauces, bagels, and curries
Star aniseHas strong licorice flavor, goes with pickles, desserts, curries, braises, jams, sweet drinks
Cumin seedsBlend of smoky, earthy, citrusy, peppery, nutty, and licorice flavors, works with stews, soups, curries, and sauces
Celery seedsDdd a minty, herby taste and aroma, ideal for pickles, beet salads, vegetable dishes
Dried oreganoHas peppery and powerful flavor, goes well with poultry, beef, and lamb
Coriander seedsMilder and lack the characteristic licorice flavor, good for curries, vegetables, lamb, stews, meat dishes

1. Anise seeds

Anise seeds
Anise seeds

Also called anix or aniseed, anise is an excellent caraway substitute because of its licorice flavor. It also adds a natural sweetness to a meal.

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Anise seeds can replicate the caraway licorice taste in baked goods such as bread and cookies. Licorice-laden desserts also do well with anise seeds.

Since they have a stronger licorice flavor, use 1/3 to 1/2 of anise seeds for the amount of caraway seeds specified in the recipe.

2. Dill seeds

Dill seeds
Dill seeds

Dill is a member of the carrot family, meaning it contains anethole, the compound responsible for its licorice taste.

Dill seeds are popular in Eastern European cuisines, where they are a good substitute for caraway because they enhance the sweetness in dishes.

These seeds have a milder, bitter anise taste than caraway seeds. Their licorice flavor is also milder, and they top it off with a slightly grassy and fresh citrusy flavor.

You can achieve the licorice taste by combining dill and fennel seeds. Dill adds the citrusiness that’s low in fennel, while the fennel adds the licorice that’s low in dill seeds.

Use dill seeds on a 1:1 ratio to replace caraway in sauces, fish, baked goods, pickles, cream soups, vinegar-touched salad dressings, and cabbage-centered recipes such as sauerkraut.

3. Nigella seeds

Nigella seeds
Nigella seeds

You’ll find alternative names for nigella seeds, such as black onion seeds, kalonji, and charnushka. Nigella seeds have a licorice flavor with notes of nuttiness, cumin, oregano, smokiness, and onion.

You can add more smokiness to your dish if you toast and fry nigella seeds before incorporating them in stews, Indian naan, sauces, bagels, and curries. Nigella seeds also work wonders in beans, lentils dishes, and baked goods such as cakes and Russian rye bread.

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Ground nigella seeds marry well with coriander, thyme, and allspice in spice rubs.

Replace caraway seeds with nigella seeds in a 1:1 ratio.

4. Star anise

Star anise
Star anise

Confusion often surrounds anise and star anise, but the two spices differ. While anise belongs to the Apiaceae family, star anise belongs to the Schisandraceae family.

Star anise is also called star aniseed, Chinese star anise, badian, or star anise seeds. It has a strong licorice flavor, so you must use it sparingly as a caraway substitute (it also works well as a clove substitute). Use 1/4 to 1/2 of it for the specified amount of caraway.

Star anise seeds work well in pickles, desserts, curries, braises, jams, sweet drinks, and stews.

5. Cumin seeds

Cumin seeds
Cumin seeds

Cumin seeds have a unique flavor profile like caraway. It’s an intrinsic blend of smoky, earthy, citrusy, peppery, nutty, and licorice flavors.

Cumin seeds won’t replicate the complex flavor of caraway, but you will get close. Use cumin to replace caraway in stews, soups, curries, and sauces.

The ideal usage rate is 1/2 of cumin seeds for the specified amount of caraway.

6. Celery seeds

Celery seeds
Celery seeds

The anise flavor in caraway seeds is easy to replicate if you substitute them with celery seeds, even though they have a milder anise taste. Celery seeds also add a minty, herby taste and aroma to a dish.

Use celery seeds to replace caraway in coleslaws, pickles, beet salads, vegetable dishes, potatoes, and salad dressings.

A 1:1 substitution ratio is ideal for the pair.

7. Dried oregano

Dried oregano
Dried oregano

Sauces, soups, and salad dressings go well with dried oregano as a caraway alternative. You can also use this alternative in rubs and marinades for proteins such as poultry, beef, and lamb.

Dried oregano has a peppery flavor and a strong aroma, so you must use a 1/2:1 ratio when subbing caraway.

8. Coriander seeds

Coriander seeds
Coriander seeds

Although they also belong to the Apiaceae family, coriander seeds are milder and lack the characteristic licorice flavor of other carrot family members.

Combining coriander seeds and fennel to replace caraway helps compensate for the lack of licorice in coriander and the faint citrusy flavor in fennel.

The lack of licorice in coriander seeds is replaced with their nutty, citrusy, earthy flavor. They have the same warmth as caraway, but are less fragrant. Choose coriander if the anise flavor of caraway isn’t as important in your dish.

You can use coriander seeds to substitute caraway seeds in a 1:1 ratio in curries, vegetables, lamb, stews, meat dishes, pork dishes, soups, sausages, and lentil dishes.

How to store caraway and its substitutes?

Proper storage is key to enjoying maximum shelf-lives of caraway and other spices you may have in your pantry. Here’s how to store caraway and its substitutes:

CarawayWhole or ground in airtight containers such as glass jars in a dry, cool, dark place for 6-12 months
Fennel seedsIn airtight glass jars at room temperature in a cool, dark place to last 2-4 years
Anise seedsIn airtight glass jars at room temperature without interaction with direct sunlight, humidity, or heat to last 3-4 years
Dill seedsIn a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid in a cool, dry place to last about 6 months
Nigella seedsIn a glass jar in a cool, dry, and dark location with no heat interference.
Star aniseIn airtight glass jars at room temperature in a dark place to last about one year
Cumin seedsIn sealed glass jars in a dry, dark place to use within 6 months but valid for 3-4 years
Celery seedsIn a glass container with a tight lid in a cool and dark location to last up to 5 years
Dried oreganoIn glass or mason jars in a cool, dark place to use within 6 months
Coriander seedsIn lidded dark glass jars in a cool, dry, dark place to last 3-4 years

Alex Maina

Since discovering how well spices transform a dish from bland to enjoyable in seconds, Alex became sold on using spices to better three of his major passions—gardening, cooking, and writing. When he is not tending to his spice crops, you'll find him trying a new recipe, writing for the Spice Gourmand, or serving a second helping of his spicy food!

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