If there was a spice that really packed a punch flavor-wise, it would be caraway. Caraway makes its appearance in many Asian, European and African specialties, and its complex flavor adds a lot of depth in savory and sweet dishes. A prime ingredient in different rye bread recipes, it is also a requirement in making polish sausages, Tunisian harissa and sauerkraut (among others) in order to make it authentic.
But when caraway seeds are out of stock at your local grocer or spice shop, there are several good substitutes that are easier to find and are adept at delivering the much-needed flavor that caraway is known to bring. In fact, many of them might already be stocked in your pantry at this very moment!
Best Caraway Seed Substitutes
Here are five good substitutes for caraway seeds:
Aniseeds. Out of all the possible substitutes, aniseed hits the mark because of its similarity to caraway seeds in that both have licorice notes in their flavor profile. They also belong to the carrot family along with cumin. The flavor of licorice is abundant in anise seeds, so it’s a great sub for cookies and bread recipes that require caraway. Just remember to adjust the quantity of anise when using as a substitute for caraway, because between the two the former has a much stronger flavor than the latter. A tip? Add small amounts at a time until you find the measurement that hits the spot just right.
Fennel seeds. Here is yet another spice that belongs to the carrot family and makes for a good replacement for caraway! A popular fixture in many Indian, Italian and Middle Eastern dishes, fennel seeds share strong licorice notes just like anise seeds and caraway. Dishes that use caraway seeds such as curries and stews will taste just the same when you swap in fennel for caraway. Fennel’s strong and noteworthy taste rivals other strong flavors, so it is very noticeable and stands out. When caraway is not available and you have fennel to take its place, go ahead and use exactly the same amount as dictated in the recipe as there is no risk of the flavor coming out too strong, too bitter, or too weak.
Nigella seeds. You might know nigella seeds by its other names, such as charnushka, black onion, or kalonji. It’s an age-old spice that was already present and widely used as far back as the ancient Egyptian times. Just like caraway, anise and fennel, nigella seeds deliver licorice notes –and this is why it makes for a worthy substitute. The best way to use it is by toasting and frying prior to being added to your cooking. Nigella seeds are great add-ons to curries and stews, but go ahead and mix in a dash to flavorful breads like Russian rye and Indian naan! They also work really well all ground up and added to a spice rub, and pairs fabulously with other spices like coriander, thyme, and allspice.
Dill seeds. When you need that distinct licorice taste of caraway and all you have is dill, you’ve still got yourself a good substitute, given that dill seeds are also part of the carrot family. It’s an ideal ingredient for light dishes like soups that are cream-based, or recipes that revolve around cabbage.
Star anise. And finally, you have star anise. This spice is known for its particularly strong flavor, so if you have star anise pods on hand, you might find the licorice notes overpowering the other notes in your dish. Used carefully and in tentative quantities, it makes for a good substitute for caraway in a pinch!