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Caraway Seed Substitute


Next time your bread calls for caraway seeds, try one of the below caraway seed substitute options. While creating rye bread without delicious caraway seeds may seem challenging, plenty of alternatives can provide an excellent taste in their place.

table top with spilled dried brown seeds and glass jar with label "Caraway Seeds"

What Are Caraway Seeds?

Caraway seeds are not actually seeds. Instead, they are dried fruit from the parsley/carrot family. This “seed” is commonly used in European-inspired meat recipes, bread, sauerkraut, and cheese flavoring agent.

These “seeds” are harvested from the caraway plant. Caraway seeds taste warm and spicy; many liken the flavor to anise seed because of its licorice notes. While these seeds are not as popular as other spices, they work well in plenty of dishes. Caraway seeds also pair well with dill and cumin.

Caraway Seeds Varieties

There are two caraway plants, though they do not have separate names. The difference lies in the way each is grown. Biennial caraway plants take two seeds to create the tasty caraway seeds, while annual caraway plants produce caraway seeds each year. While the taste is similar, more sweetness is found in the annual plants.

However, you’ll find the biennial version in stores. This is the commonly used version in recipes, whereas the annual variety is mainly used in the kitchens of those who grow it.

Best Caraway Seed Substitute

1. Ground Caraway Seeds

The best caraway seed alternative is ground caraway seeds. As they are the same plant, they provide the same flavors as whole caraway seeds. Like most powder versions of spices, ground caraway has a more robust flavor than the seeds. This strong taste can make it easy to overpower dishes while using caraway powder.

Besides potentially overpowering dishes, finding caraway powder in grocery stores is challenging. However, one can easily grind caraway seeds at home for a more concentrated flavor. You can use ground caraway seeds in the same recipes as whole caraway seeds. This ground version will not produce the same aesthetic appeal as whole seeds in recipes like bread.

Pros
Caraway powder provides a similar yet more robust flavor making it an excellent choice for all recipes that call for whole caraway seeds. It’s an excellent alternative for those seeking a more pungent caraway taste in recipes.

Cons
Using ground caraway can take away from the other milder flavors present in recipes. Plus, it is not easy to find in grocery stores, so home cooks will likely need to grind caraway seeds, adding a step to the recipe.

Cooking Tip:
Use ½ the amount required by the recipe and adjust to your taste preference.

2. Fennel Seeds

Fennel seeds are an excellent substitute for caraway seeds. These seeds are in the same carrot family, providing a similar taste in recipes. They are more versatile than caraway, as you can also use fennel seeds in sweet dishes and desserts.

Like caraway, fennel seeds provide a licorice flavor. This swap also provides intense aromatics in recipes and is part of the Chinese five-spice blend. While you can use fennel seeds whole to mimic caraway seeds in recipes, they are also delicious ground into a powder or toasted in the oven before use.

Pros
This substitution is easy to find in grocery stores and tastes like caraway. Plus, it’s more versatile, and you can use them in sweet and savory recipes.

Cons
The fennel flavor is not an exact match for caraway; there will be a taste difference that will be more pronounced in some recipes.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 1:1 ratio to replace caraway with fennel seeds.

3. Ground Fennel Seeds

Like whole fennel seeds, ground fennel seeds are also an excellent sub for caraway seeds. They also provide a similar licorice taste in recipes. Ground fennel seeds are an excellent replacement for ground caraway and are much easier to find in stores.

You can use ground fennel seeds in anything that calls for caraway. Remember that the powder version is more potent, so you need less in recipes. Like caraway powder, using ground fennel alters the appearance of recipes. If you’re creating bread and want the aesthetic that whole seeds offer, opt for whole fennel seeds instead.

Pros
Ground fennel is easy to find in grocery stores and is more affordable than ground caraway. It offers a similar taste as caraway to recipes.

Cons
Fennel is known for its sweetness, which can be overwhelming in recipes if too much ground fennel is used.

Cooking Tip:
Use ½ the amount required by the recipe; add more if needed.

4. Anise Seeds

Anise seeds are the next best option after fennel when searching for the best substitution for a caraway seed. The taste of caraway is often compared to anise because of the licorice taste that both offer.

While caraway has a more complex flavor, anise seeds maintain a licorice flavor and sweetness for a more straightforward tasting seasoning. Like caraway, anise is aromatic, though it emotes the scent of licorice, which can be a turn-off to some.

Anise seeds are an excellent swap if you’re looking to replace only the licorice taste in recipes. Use these seeds in sausages for flavoring and add a pop of flavor to roasted vegetables.

Pros
Anise seeds have a strong aroma and a licorice flavor, and you can use them in sausages and as a seasoning for vegetables.

Cons
Since the taste of anise seeds provides mainly a strong licorice taste, it limits the number of recipes. As mentioned above, this taste is not for everyone, so it’s best to consider who will be consuming the meal before reaching for this swap.

Cooking Tip:
Use ½ the required amount when swapping anise for caraway.

5. Dill Seeds

Dill seeds are in the same family as caraway seeds, making them an excellent option as a caraway replacement. They offer a licorice flavor to recipes and have a similar taste to caraway, including a slight bitterness.

These seeds are best fresh, as they offer a closer taste to caraway. However, you can use them dried instead and still achieve a similar flavor. You’re more likely to find these seeds dried at the store as they have a longer shelf life.

Use dill seeds for any recipe that calls for caraway seeds, though keep in mind the flavor is milder, so you may need to add more. Dill is an excellent swap in bread, sausage, and European-inspired recipes.

Pros
This replacement has a flavor that mimics caraway seeds well. It’s easy to swap as you will use the same quantity of dishes. You can use dill seeds to replace caraway seeds in all recipes.

Cons
Due to a milder taste, you may need to add a higher quantity of dill seeds to recipes. It may take some experimentation to find the exact amount needed, adding time to the recipe.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 1:1 ratio to replace caraway with dill seeds. Add more for a bolder licorice flavor.

6. Cumin Seeds

Cumin seeds are also related to caraway seeds. These seeds provide an earthy, nutty, spicy flavor to dishes. It’s more common to see ground cumin available in stores, though you should also be able to find cumin seeds. This ingredient is more common in Middle Eastern and Asian recipes due to its aromatics and taste. These seeds also offer a similar appearance to caraway seeds, making them an excellent choice in bread for a unique flavor.

You can also use cumin seeds in curry, soups, and flavor vegetables. Keep the seeds as-is, or toast them for a more complex taste before including them in dishes.

Pros
This replacement is another excellent option to replace caraway seeds due to their similar flavor and appearance. It’s easy to find at grocery stores and provides a complex flavor.

Cons
Cumin seeds have a slightly different flavor, limiting the number of recipes.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 1:1 ratio to replace caraway seeds with cumin seeds.

7. Star Anise

Star anise has a licorice taste accompanied by sweetness. Beyond these flavor offerings, it provides a similar earthy, slightly bitter taste. It has a strong scent in cooking, like caraway seeds. Even though this spice is different from anise seeds, you can use it for the same applications.

You’ll need to grind it up to use this ingredient as the star-shaped spice is challenging to chew as-is. If you’re considering using star anise to flavor soups or marinades, you can leave it in whole and remove it before consuming.

Pros
This swap offers a licorice taste to dishes, along with an earthy, bitter flavor. You can use anise for both sweet and savory dishes, allowing it to have more versatility than anise seeds.

Cons
The flavor of star anise is much stronger and sweeter than caraway seeds; this spice can easily overpower other flavors in recipes and may not bode well with certain other seasonings. Test a smaller quantity first, then adjust as needed to avoid an unpleasant taste.

Cooking Tip:
Use ½ the amount required by the recipe when using star anise as a swap.

8. Nigella Seeds

Nigella seeds are a less commonly used seasoning, though they work well as a replacement for caraway seeds. They offer a complex flavor between an onion, oregano, and cumin with a slight licorice taste. This delicious seasoning is best in savory recipes.

This swap is known by multiple names, including black caraway and black onion seeds. When hunting these small seeds down in the grocery store, look for tiny, black seeds similar in appearance and size to black sesame seeds.

As the size of nigella seeds is similar to caraway seeds, you can use them in recipes to create a similar appearance.

Pros
This replacement provides a delicious, complex flavor to recipes and mimics the licorice taste of caraway seeds. Use nigella seeds for stews and bread.

Cons
Finding these seeds at local grocery stores may be challenging, so you may need to order them online in advance. While they share some flavor similarities, nigella seeds offer many flavors notes not present in caraway seeds, creating a different taste in dishes.

Cooking Tip:
Use a 1:1 ratio to replace caraway seeds with nigella seeds.

Frequently Asked Questions

Fennel Vs. Caraway?

Many wonder what the difference is between fennel vs. caraway. While they both belong to the same plant family, they offer different flavor notes. Fennel has a sweeter taste than caraway; it also lacks the earthy, nutty flavor. Caraway is excellent for use in savory dishes, while fennel works well in sweet and savory recipes. Despite their differences, they typically are suitable substitutes for each other.

Can I Omit Caraway Seeds?

Technically, you can omit caraway seeds. However, they offer a strong taste, and skipping them will leave your recipes lacking flavor. Instead, opt for an alternative that creates a similar flavor to fennel seeds.

Can I Substitute Ground Cumin for Caraway Seeds?

Yes, you can use ground cumin as a ground caraway substitute. Both spices are in the same parsley family and even look similar. Cumin has a bolder flavor than caraway, so you need to use ½ the amount in recipes.

What Can I Use Instead of Caraway in Sauerkraut?

Instead of reaching for caraway seeds, try using fennel seeds as an alternative. These seeds are aromatic and produce a warm, licorice-like flavor similar to caraway seeds. They most closely mimic the taste of caraway, making them the top choice for this food.

What Does Caraway Seed Taste Like?

Caraway seeds offer a strong flavor and aroma. They offer a licorice flavor in combination with earthiness and nuttiness. Besides the mentioned flavor notes, they also provide a spicy, peppery taste and a subtle mint flavor.

Summary

Caraway seeds provide a unique, complex flavor that livens up dishes. If you’ve run out while baking bread or making sauerkraut, use any of the above options as a replacement. For the most similar flavor profile, use fennel seeds, anise seeds, or ground caraway seeds if they’re available.

For those looking for a milder flavor, use dill seeds. This swap is the best option for chefs who don’t enjoy caraway’s strong licorice taste. Next time you create a recipe that includes caraway, use the above list for easy alternative options.

Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document easy real food recipes perfect for busy families. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!

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