With hints of licorice, citrus, and pepper, finding suitable substitutes for caraway seeds can be tricky.
But I’ve got a few options to try in a pinch.
Caraway seeds have such a unique flavor that it’s best to go to the store and get some when you need it.
Of course, that’s not always possible.
So when you need substitutes for caraway seeds, try one of the following alternatives.
They’re not going to give you the same level of complexity, but they’ll do until you can get the real thing!
10 Caraway Seeds Substitutes
1. Fennel Seeds
Fennel seeds come from the same plant family as caraway, and they have a similar anise flavor, making them my top choice as a substitute.
Though they’re a little sweeter, fennel offers hints of floral citrus with back notes of bitterness.
Due to the similar flavor profile, you can substitute fennel seeds on a 1:1 ratio for caraway seeds.
Aniseeds are another good option for substituting caraway seeds because they, too, have licorice flavor.
That said, aniseed doesn’t have the same level of aromatic complexity.
It tastes a little like fennel and has a lightly sweet anise taste. But rather than the citrus notes you get from caraway, aniseed veers more herbaceous.
In some cases, you’ll even get hints of basil and tarragon.
Plus, it’s much more potent than caraway. So, substitute aniseeds on a 1:2 ratio with caraway seeds (1 teaspoon of aniseeds to 2 teaspoons of caraway).
3. Coriander Seeds
Coriander seeds are known for their distinct flavor.
But when ground up, they can provide similar soothing notes and subtle heat characteristics of caraway seeds.
Like caraway, coriander seeds are earthy and slightly nutty with hints of citrus. They’re a bit sweet with undertones of curry and a floral aroma.
What they don’t have is that signature licorice flavor you get from caraway.
Still, they’re a really decent alternate – especially if you mix them with a bit of aniseed too!
Substitute coriander seeds on a 1:1 ratio with caraway seeds.
4. Cumin Seeds
I don’t love cumin seeds as an alternative to caraway because I think it’s too earthy and warm.
But it’s what a lot of people will likely have on hand, so I’ll give it an honorary mention.
Cumin seeds are nutty and robust with spicy tones and a slight lemony finish.
It also has notes of pepper, so really, it does have many of the same flavor profiles as caraway.
Of course, it differs greatly in the lack of anise taste. Plus, it’s got a distinct smokiness that’s really pungent.
That makes it less ideal for lighter dishes and desserts. So I suggest you only use it for savory dishes in small amounts.
Substitute cumin seeds on a 1:1 ratio with caraway seeds.
5. Dill Seeds
Dill seeds are a surprisingly versatile ingredient that deserves more of the spotlight!
They are tasty and mild enough to enhance fish and can also be used as a zesty substitute for caraway seeds.
They have many of the same flavors as caraway, including licorice and citrus. And they’re milder overall, so you can use them without overpowering the dish.
That all said, dill seeds have a more grassy finish than earthy. And as you might guess, they have a very dill-like taste, which I know some people don’t enjoy.
Substitute dill seeds on a 1:1 ratio with caraway seeds.
6. Dried Oregano
Dried oregano is a well-crafted stand-in for caraway seeds, though it’s best used sparingly.
Chances are you already have oregano in your pantry, so you won’t have to make an emergency trip to the grocery store.
And with its peppery, herby, slightly bitter taste, it will work in a pinch.
However, it’s much more pungent and has a sharper, herbal finish than caraway. You’ll find no citrus in this one, or licorice, for that matter.
Use dried oregano in savory dishes where you only need a little.
Substitute dried oregano on a 1:2 ratio with caraway seeds (1 teaspoon of aniseeds to 2 teaspoons of caraway).
7. Mustard Seeds
Mustard seeds have a unique, pleasantly spiced flavor and are readily available in most stores.
I bet you have some at home already, so they’re ideal as a caraway alternative for convenience alone.
Like caraway, mustard seeds taste nutty and earthy and depending on the type you get, they can even be slightly sweet.
However, most mustard seeds are pretty strong and spicy, like wasabi. That means you don’t get the light citrus or licorice.
Use them in savory dishes and substitute mustard seeds on a 1:1 ratio with caraway seeds
8. Nigella Seeds
Nigella seeds, also known as black cumin or black onion seed, is a terrific caraway seed substitute for anyone that is feeling a bit cumin-shy.
They’re more like oregano in that you’ll taste a lot of herby flavors with a slight bitterness.
But they’re also aromatic and have a hint of licorice with a touch of black pepper in the back.
Substitute Nigella seeds on a 1:1 ratio with caraway seeds
9. Star Anise
Star anise has long been a great alternative to caraway seeds.
It’s earthy, bitter, and loaded with licorice flavor. It’s also quite sweet with lots of warmth.
I find it to be peppery sometimes, though the balance of sweet and spicy is spot on.
Unfortunately, you don’t really get any citrus from star anise. And it’s much stronger than caraway.
So, substitute star anise on a 1:4 ratio with caraway seeds (use 1/4 teaspoon of star anise for 1 teaspoon of caraway).
Cloves are the natural solution for anyone on the lookout for caraway seed substitutes.
They have a wonderfully nutty, sweet aroma that’s both fragrant and pungent at the same time.
And, unlike their alternatives, cloves taste sweet with just a hint of astringency – a flavor most people prefer over caraway’s distinct bitter kick.
Not to mention, cloves tend to be more cost-efficient than caraway.
Substitute cloves on a 1:4 ratio with caraway seeds (use 1/4 teaspoon of cloves for 1 teaspoon of caraway).
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