Substitutes for Caraway Seeds – Long List with Tips

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Many of us have turned to chefs while spending hours inside the house during the lock-down. We now know of and experiment with exotic ingredients. But sometimes, you just can't use them. Let's take caraway seeds as an example. You might feel that the taste of this spice is just not your cup of tea. Or they might be unavailable. Then, what would be substitutes for caraway seeds?

Caraway seeds are popular in many parts of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. The flavor profile of this spice adds a unique taste to foods and liqueurs and makes them delicious.

They also have several health benefits. Altogether, people have used caraway seeds for a long time. But if you don’t want to use them in a recipe, you can use other spices instead.

Let’s find out about the substitutes for caraway seeds...

Substitutes of Caraway Seeds

With a strong and exotic punch of flavors, Caraway seeds are a classic favorite in many parts of the world. However, if you are not habituated to cooking with or tasting food spiced with caraway seeds, chances are, you won't like their taste.

Don't be shocked! A  lot of people hate caraway seeds.

Also, there's always the question of availability. You may be in the mood for something unique or want to try an exciting new dish, but there are no caraway seeds to be found in your pantry - or even in the nearby store! The only way to carry on is by using spices that can be used instead. 

You can replace caraway seeds with a list of the following spices:

  1. Fennel Seeds
  2. Aniseed
  3. Cumin Seeds
  4. Star Anise
  5. Nigella Seeds
  6. Dill Seeds
  7. Coriander Seeds

How Different Spices can Replace Caraway Seeds

We have already listed out the spices’ names that you can use as substitutes for caraway seeds. Let’s look at the details of how these alternatives can work in a dish...  

1) Fennel Seeds

Substitutes for Caraway seeds, , Fennel


One of the most popular alternatives to caraway seeds is fennel seeds. That's because the flavors are similar, though fennel seeds have more robust licorice notes.

Fennel seeds can be used in curries and stews in Middle-Eastern, Italian, and Indian cuisines. To replace caraway seeds with fennel seeds, you can use the same amount as the recipe demands. The final taste of the dish will come out pretty much the same. 

2) Aniseed

Aniseed

The licorice notes in both aniseed and caraway seeds are incredibly close. As a result, the similarity between the two spices is remarkable. Hence, it is easy to replace caraway seeds with aniseed in recipes for bread, cookies, and pickles.

But remember that the overall flavor of aniseed is much stronger than caraway seeds. So, it is best to add small amounts of aniseed at a time to reach the flavor you want.

3) Cumin Seeds

Cumin seed substitute for Caraway seed

Because cumin and caraway seeds belong to the same family, they are similar in many ways. This makes cumin an easy replacement for caraway seeds. Cumin has a stronger and more buttery taste, while caraway seeds are slightly more bitter.

You can replace caraway seeds with cumin seeds, and your dish will still have a gorgeous flavor body. You can even add dry-roasted cumin to release a hotter flavor.

4) Star Anise

star anise substitute for caraway seeds

Star anise is a star-shaped spice with overpowering notes of licorice. The licorice taste brings this spice to this list of caraway substitutes.

But you have to be quite careful about how you use the star anise. This spice’s flavor is so strong that it can easily overcome the flavors of other beautiful aromatics used in jams and pickles. It’s best to introduce it in small doses. Start with a pinch and add more if needed.  

5) Nigella Seeds

Niggela seeds

Nigella seeds, or black onion, are a spice used popularly in Egyptian and Indian dishes. The licorice notes in this spice deliver a flavor quite close to that of caraway seeds in any dish.

To get the best results, you should toast or fry this spice before adding it to a curry, stew, or any dish you want to cook. You can also use a small amount of saw nigella seeds in Russian rye bread or Indian Naan.

6) Dill Seeds

dill  seeds substitutes caraway seeds

If you want a hint of licorice, you can replace caraway seeds with dill seeds. As they belong to the same family, their flavor notes are similar. Dill seeds can be a great addition to soups with a creamy base and cabbage recipes.

You can also put the spice in a recipe for bread, biscuit, or cake. It does not tend to overpower the final dish with pungency. But you can start with a dash to see how you like it.

7) Coriander seeds

coriander seeds

Another popular substitute for caraway seeds is coriander seeds. Coriander seeds, too, have an earthy taste with a hint of licorice that matches the flavor of caraway seeds to a large extent.You can replace caraway seeds with the same amount of coriander seeds in any recipe to experience a beautiful aroma in a dish. You can use this spice in potato salads and rye bread and Indian curries, and other dishes.     

You have to remember that most of these seeds are close alternatives for caraway seeds. That's because they are mostly from the same family of carrots, and they all offer a note of licorice.

However, these are not exact replacements because they each provide a different flavor profile at the end of the day.

So, if you're planning to cook a traditional recipe, especially to please someone who has already tasted the dish, replacing caraway seeds with one of these substitutes may leave you with unimpressive results. For other recipes, bite into a seed or two of the seeds to recognize their flavors and use them wisely.

The flavor of Caraway Seeds

So you know that caraway seeds might be replaced with some other seeds, though the taste may not turn out to be the same. It is now time for you to know and understand the flavor profile of caraway seeds and why and how they are used in various cuisines of the world.

Caraway seeds
Caraway seeds are known for their earthy flavor.

This flavor comes from the presence of essential oils in high concentration. Of these, anethole, limonene, and carvone have the most potent effect on the aroma. The seeds have a sharp, bittersweet flavor that will remind you of several other aromatics. 

The flavor of caraway seeds has a touch of pepper and mint. You can also taste a hint of citrusy nuttiness. It has a gentle touch of anise that’s almost like mild licorice. 

That’s almost like fennel and cumin, though caraway seeds are softer. This is because caraway, fennel, and cumin seeds belong to the same family.

Types of Food and Beverages that Use Caraway Seeds

Let’s face it: caraway seeds are not as popular as other aromatics that we commonly use.

Spices like peppercorns, cinnamon, or red chili flakes rank much higher on the list of commonly used spices. You’d think that this might be because of the complex flavor and slightly bitter taste of this spice.

However, this same taste and smell make it the hero of many foods and beverages worldwide. This is especially true in some countries of Europe, Asia, and North Africa, where caraway seeds are used extensively in delicious ways.

Take a look at how this spice infuses flavors into a range of delectables...   

Desserts and Baked Goods

Caraway seeds are used in biscuits and bread. Americans use them in rye bread. In Norwegian and Swedish cuisines, they make the caraway black bread.  In Serbia and Hungary, spice is used in salty scones, while in Aleppo, it is used in keleacha, a sweet Syrian scone. You'll find it in Irish soda bread. Germans use it in onion tarts while Middle-Easterners use it in a celebratory pudding called Meghli.  

Savory Dishes

Caraway seeds are a popular flavoring agent for beef in Austria and pork in Germany. Germans also use spice in sauerkraut, cabbage dishes, and fried potatoes. In Hungarian cuisine, caraway seeds feature in goulash. This spice is also used to season curries, stews, soups, casseroles, and salads. The seeds add flavor to the chili-pepper spice paste called harissa. Caraway seeds are also used to flavor sausages.

Liqueur

A large number of countries use caraway seeds in their local liqueurs. Scandinavians, for instance, use a distillate derived from caraway seeds to make a liqueur called Akvavit. In Iceland, this spice is used to add flavor to fermented potato or grains to create the famous schnapps called Brennivín. It is also a crucial ingredient in kummel, a sweet liqueur from Holland that's mostly distilled in Russia now.  

Cheese

Caraway seeds are the favorite ingredient of many cheesemakers. The Dutch use it in making Leyden, a semi-soft cheese variety with a mild taste and creamy texture. The seeds infuse flavor to the soft, mature Norwegian cheese called Pultost, the semi-hard Prussian-Swiss cheese called Tilsit, the semi-soft Danish cheese called Havarti the mild-tasting Bondost Sweden that is also made in the US.  

From desserts to liqueur, from spicy delicacies to rich cheese - everything can become a little better with caraway seeds. You just need to know how to use them in the right amount so that you don't end up creating a dish that's overpowered by the bitterness or intense flavors of this unique spice. 

Health Benefits 

In ancient Greece, the oil derived from caraway seeds was used by women on their skin. It is also excellent for your health. That’s because of the volatile essential oils present in the caraway seeds, along with the antioxidants.

People have relied on caraway seeds for centuries in several home remedies.  

Caraway seeds also have lots of minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, and zinc. Of these, iron, manganese, and magnesium are particularly good for the health of women.

Caraway seeds are also loaded with fiber. They are commonly used to help with the symptoms of digestive issues. 

Problems that caraway seeds seem to alleviate include:

  1. Heartburn
  2. Bloating
  3. Gas
  4. Gastrointestinal spasm (mild)
  5. Acidity
  6. Nausea
  7. Vomiting 
  8. Cramps
  9. Appetite problems
  10. Constipation 
  11. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  12. Weight issues
  13. Diarrhea 
  14. Ulcers 
  15. Infections

Researchers have recently started to look into these health benefits. While the studies are still in their early stages, they seem to suggest that caraway seeds might be helpful with inflammation, digestive problems, and weight problems.

1

Reduction of Inflammation

Caraway seeds contain compounds that have strong antioxidants endowed with anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation can take place naturally and become chronic. As a result, you will have to deal with problems like digestive tissue irritation, gas, diarrhea, cramps, bloating, bowel urgency, and more. Studies show how essential oils in caraway seeds act as effectively as drugs on colon tissue inflammation. 

2

Healthy Digestion

Historically, people have been using caraway seeds to help with indigestion, stomach ulcers, gas, cramps, and bloating. According to studies, caraway oil seems to have a relaxing effect on the digestive tract’s muscle tissue. Its antimicrobial properties are considered responsible for this. It can block the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut and leave the good bacteria unharmed to support immunity.

3

Weight Loss

Since caraway seeds likely positively affect your health by removing bad bacteria and promoting good bacteria, they help metabolize fat. This reduces the percentage of body fat. Studies have shown that consuming caraway oil daily can reduce the Body Mass Index. This can lead to improved weight loss. It boosts a healthy appetite, too. This helps decrease the total consumption of calories and carbs.   

How to Use It to Enhance Common Foods 

Apart from these, caraway seeds are also believed to help women in many ways. They are supposed to decrease low blood flow, reduce menstrual cramps, and start menstruation. Nursing women also use them to increase milk flow. But studies that can support these claims are still underway. 

The flavor and aroma of caraway seeds are known to enhance everyday recipes. That's why they have been used for centuries by people in their cuisines.

Unfortunately, a lot of people fail to figure out how to incorporate them in their recipes properly:

  • Flavor - Caraway seeds offer a unique flavor profile that’s mostly mild but needs getting used to. The flavor becomes more intense if you fry or roast the seeds. For a mild flavor, you can add the seeds at a later stage of cooking. Or, you can cook them whole and remove them later.
  • Texture - Biting into caraway seeds may not always be pleasant, mainly if someone is not used to it. Even though you can soften the seeds during cooking, you can choose to use ground caraway. Use a food processor, coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle for the best results at home.
  • Seasoning - By dry-roasting caraway seeds, you can release the essential oils for a strong flavor. You can sprinkle such toasted caraway seeds on top of salads, soups, bread, coleslaws, and more. You will only need to use a small amount to add the seeds’ fragrance to any dish.
  • Aroma Enhancer - If you want a mild aroma of caraway seeds in your dish without having to bother about the texture, you can use a spice bundle. Just put the seeds in a piece of muslin, tie it, and use it to enhance the stock’s fragrance or any liquid you add to your cooking.  

Caraway seeds are excellent for enhancing the flavors of vegetables like cabbage and cauliflower. You can also use them to spice your meat. They even taste great in baked items.

It’s upon you how you would like to use caraway seeds, but it is upon you to adjust the flavor and texture to make this spice’s best.  

Final Lines

Caraway seeds have made their way to world cuisine. For centuries, they have been used as an aromatic agent that enhances the taste and fragrance of savory dishes, desserts, cheese, liqueurs, bread, cookies, and more. Yet, there are plenty of caraway seeds substitutes.

Now that global cuisine has become a thing and chefs constantly experiment with spices, they use caraway seeds in many new recipes to use the earthy smell and bittersweet taste of this spice.

However, many people do not like caraway seeds because of the characteristic taste and smell. Other times, the spice may just not be available in the kitchen or a nearby store. In rare cases, people may be allergic to the spice. 

To continue cooking an exotic dish, replace caraway seeds with certain spices of the same family. The list of caraway seeds substitutes above will help.The end result might not be the same, but you can experiment and see what works best. 

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