5 best substitutes for ajwain (carom seeds)

carom seed substitute
Ajwain is a bitter, minty, and musty-tasting herb originating in India. It can be purchased in any general grocery store and stored in an airtight container away from exposure to moisture. Thyme, caraway seeds, and fennel seeds are good options to replace ajwain in recipes.

What does ajwain taste like?

Carom seeds
Carom seeds

Ajwain tastes slightly bitter and provides an herbal, minty taste with notes of oregano, celery seed, and anise. Although these tastes are present, ajwain is a unique spice that combines all these flavors to create its flavor profile.

Ajwain is a flavorful seed-like fruit related to cumin. It is a popular Indian spice throughout the Middle East and North Africa. It is also known as ajowan, carom seeds, and bishop’s weed seeds.

Ajwain is often used to flavor bread and baked goods. In Indian cooking, it is present in samosas, parathas, and rotis. It has a strong flavor, so a little goes a long way!

What is ajwain similar to?

Ajwain is similar to parsley and thyme. The ajwain plant resembles parsley, but the seed is more comparable to thyme. Both parsley and ajwain come from the same family as coriander, the Apiaceae family.

Ajwain’s main flavor comes from thymol, the same oil that makes thyme taste the way it does. Both spices give off earthy and minty flavors. However, thyme produces more floral and sweet flavors, while ajwain is sharp, musty, and pungent.

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The 5 Best Substitutes for Ajwain (Carom Seeds)

  1. Thyme
  2. Caraway seeds
  3. Marjoram
  4. Mexican oregano
  5. Fennel seeds
ThymeA very similar flavor profile to ajwain, great for seasonings, stews, and sauces
Caraway seedsHave a similar flavor profile to ajwain, but are slightly less pungent, work best as an ajwain substitute in bread, tea, sauces, and savory dishes
MarjoramThe flavor profile of marjoram is similar to ajwain, thyme, and oregano, used as an ajwain substitute in curries
Mexican oreganoIt provides earthy notes with sharp flavor, making it a good option for replacing ajwain in pasta, pizza, chicken, and fish
Fennel seedsRelease a similar anise flavor that ajwain does, slightly sweeter, work with various dishes, including soups, stews, curries, and vegetable dishes

1. Thyme

Thyme
Thyme

Thyme is a mint family spice with a very similar flavor profile to ajwain. Unlike thyme, ajwain has a musty undertone.

Dried thyme provides a good substitute for ajwain. Both have a minty and woodsy taste. Thyme is commonly used in Indian cuisine, just like ajwain is.

Use the same amount when using dried thyme as a substitute for ajwain. Both spices have strong flavors, so add spice until you reach your flavor preference. Thyme is a versatile herb. Use it to add flavor to seasonings, stews, and sauces.

2. Caraway Seeds

Caraway seeds
Caraway seeds

Caraway seeds make a great replacement for ajwain. Caraway seeds have a similar flavor profile to ajwain, but are slightly less pungent.

When using caraway seeds to replace ajwain, use half the amount compared to ajwain. You can always add more seeds and flavor to taste. Caraway seeds work best as an ajwain substitute in bread, tea, sauces, and savory dishes.

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3. Marjoram

Marjoram
Marjoram

The flavor profile of marjoram is similar to ajwain, thyme, and oregano. It provides a slight mint taste, but its flavor and aroma are mild. This means the flavor and aroma may become lost in long cooking times.

Still, marjoram should not be used as an ajwain substitute in curries because it will overpower the flavor. Using the same amount of marjoram as you would with ajwain is best.

Marjoram can be used in place of ajwain when making baked goods and savory dishes.

4. Mexican Oregano

Mexican oregano
Mexican oregano

Mexican oregano has Mediterranean origins, just like ajwain. It provides earthy notes with sharp flavor, making it a good option for replacing ajwain. The aroma is also nearly identical.

Use less oregano than you would ajwain. Remember that the flavor and pungency may be too strong for some people. You can use this oregano in various dishes, including pasta, pizza, chicken, and fish.

5. Fennel Seeds

Fennel seeds
Fennel seeds

Fennel seeds release a similar anise flavor that ajwain does. However, fennel seeds have less pungency and have a sweet aftertaste.

A general rule for using fennel seeds as a substitute is 1 tablespoon of fennel seeds for 1/2 tablespoon of ajwain.

Fennel can work with various dishes, including soups, stews, curries, and vegetable dishes. It is a popular ingredient in Indian and Chinese dishes.

Where To Buy Ajwain Seed?

You can buy ajwain seed at practically any grocery store. It is a popular spice that is not difficult to come by. Remember, it may be listed as “carom seed.”

How to extend the shelf life of carom seeds?

The best way to store carom seeds and other spices is to keep them in their original or airtight container. Spices should remain tightly sealed immediately after each use. They will last longer if you store them in a dry environment.

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A shelf near the stove is not a good option since moisture from cooking causes the spice to become clumpy.

Whitney Faulconer

Whitney Faulconer lives in Kentucky and loves to write. She also enjoys cooking and trying new flavors and spices. She combines her passion of writing and food to create information to share with others.

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