Caraway seeds are a type of seasoning that can be used for a variety of cooking purposes. They are called seeds but are actually dried fruit from the herb caraway (Carum carvi). Many substitutes can be used in place of caraway seeds, including fennel and dill seeds.
Best Substitute for Caraway Seeds: Fennel Seeds
The best substitute for caraway seeds are fennel seeds. Both caraway and fennel seeds come from the carrot family, so fennel seeds offer a taste that is slightly different from caraway but still has some of the same licorice flavorings. Replace caraway seeds with fennel seeds using a 1:1 ratio.
Other Caraway Seed Substitutes, Alternatives, and Replacements
This section offers a list of alternative ingredients that make good substitutes due to their flavors and similarities to caraway seeds.
Dill seeds are an excellent replacement for caraway seeds. Dill seeds are also part of the carrot family and have a very similar flavor to fennel seeds. However, dill seed is more citrus-based and has a subtler taste that won’t overwhelm, making it ideal for substitutions. Dill seed’s earthy flavor is a much more relaxed version of caraway seed that can make meals even more delicious. Replace caraway seeds with dill seeds using a 1:1 ratio.
Anise seeds offer a strong flavor similar to that of caraway seeds and also come from the carrot family. However, anise seeds’ flavor isn’t as subtle, so it’s essential not to overdo it when using this spice. Anise seeds are best added to dishes that include intense flavors, like jams, or when baking. To substitute, use half the amount of anise seed to caraway seed, or a ½ to 1 ratio. Be aware that anise seeds add strong licorice notes, so keep that in mind when using it as a substitute.
Nigella seeds, often called black onion seeds, are rather potent. Nigella seeds have been around for thousands of years. This spice also offers a licorice flavor similar to the caraway seed. These tiny black nigella seeds are more powerful than they look. Because of their intensity, they’re best used in dishes that need a robust flavor, like stew, curry, and some types of bread. Substitute nigella seeds for caraway seeds using a 1:1 ratio.
Star anise is a unique food that is actually a fruit shaped like a star that comes from a particular evergreen tree. This spice, like several others, has a robust licorice taste, so be cautious when using it as a substitute. Star anise is a good alternative for caraway seeds, but in lower quantities, so only use about ¼ part star anise seeds to 1 part caraway seeds, or a 1:4 ratio. Some recipes may call for whole star anise, while others may call for ground star anise. Star anise spice is best used for baking and in jams and breads.
Coriander seeds are similar to caraway seeds in some ways, though not others. Coriander lacks the signature licorice flavor. Instead, this spice features citrus notes, often tasting earthy and even floral. So depending on the type of recipe, coriander can potentially stand in. Use a 1:1 ratio when replacing caraway seeds with coriander seeds. Coriander is suitable for baking and cooking purposes, and many recipes may call for coriander to be ground up. However, other recipes may prefer the whole seed, depending on the dish.
Mustard seeds are tiny, yellow (sometimes other colors), and have a bead-like shape. Their flavor changes depending on whether they are whole or ground up. Their taste is quite strong when ground up, and it is similar to caraway seed in flavor. To use mustard seeds as a substitute for caraway seeds, use a 1:1 ratio. Mustard seeds are best used to make sauces and stews.
Cumin seeds are an excellent substitute for caraway seeds for a few reasons. First, they look similar to caraway seeds, so if appearance matters, cumin is a good option. Cumin seeds also have a distinct earthy taste, with lots of citrus and sweetness. They are a suitable replacement in foods like curry, chili, some breads, and more. Substitute cumin seeds for caraway seeds using a 1:1 ratio in most dishes. Note that cumin seeds usually lack the correct flavoring to be successfully used in sweeter dishes.
Dried oregano is an herb in the mint family. This herb is easy to buy in many locations and is very popular for cooking, particularly in Italian dishes. Oregano’s flavor is sharp and earthy, so the herb is best used in dishes like soups that don’t require any sweetness. Substitute oregano for caraway seeds using a ½:1 ratio. You can always add more oregano to a dish, but you can’t remove it, so keep oregano’s strong flavor in mind when substituting.
Cloves are an extremely versatile substitute for caraway seeds because their flavor enhances both sweet and savory dishes. Cloves are quite strong but still useful. To substitute cloves for caraway seeds, use a ¼:1 ratio, using less cloves than caraway seeds. But remember that ground cloves and whole cloves are different, and the whole variety is less potent, which is important to keep in mind when measuring.
Celery seeds are a bit bitter and taste similar to celery. They can sometimes be used as a substitute for caraway seeds. Replace caraway seeds with celery seeds using a 1:1 ratio. Celery seeds work best in salad-type dishes, and can give a meal an interesting quality and flavor.
There are many caraway seed substitutes to consider when preparing a dish. Use the one that works best depending on the flavor or the type of meal.