9 Best Caraway Seed Substitutes

Need a last-minute caraway seed substitute? From fennel seed to oregano, these nine best alternatives will give you the spice ingredient you need.

Caraway Seed Substitutes

Caraway seeds are dried fruit from the caraway plant. They have a unique flavor of licorice which lends itself to many baked desserts. You will find caraway seeds in rye bread.

If you do not have caraway seeds, you might miss that unique licorice flavor in your recipe. You might also find the texture lacking if you count on the caraway seeds for the crunch.

You can find several ingredients that you can substitute for caraway seeds. There may be a slight difference in taste and texture, but they will work in a pinch.

The best substitute for caraway seeds is fennel seeds because they are the closest in taste and texture to caraway seeds. You can use several other ingredients as substitutes for caraway seeds.

Fennel Seeds

Closeup of fennel seeds in a glass bowl

Fennels are an excellent substitute for caraway seeds because they taste very similar. The seeds are from the carrot family, harvested from the plant’s flowers and then dried. The pale green or tan seeds are oval.

Fennel seeds have a sweet licorice flavor which substitutes well in rye or soda bread. You can use the same amount of fennel seeds as caraway seeds.

People use these seeds to make sausage because they create a meaty taste, so they work well in dishes that use seafood or pork. Fennel seeds can be used in vegan or vegetarian dishes to mimic the taste of meat.

Dill Seeds

close up of dill seeds in wood spoon

Dill seeds are another delicious substitute for caraway seeds. The seeds are very similar in taste to caraway seeds and have a light licorice flavor that is milder than fennel seeds.

You will often find dill seeds in Eastern European recipes. The seeds are wide, flat, tear-shaped pods with light brown borders and have dark oak-like centers. In most recipes, you can use equal amounts of fennel seeds to caraway seeds.

Fennel seeds can be roasted, fried, or cooked in broth and work well in soups, braised dishes, and vegetables. You can add fennel seeds at the beginning of your recipe for a mellow flavor or shortly before serving for a much more potent flavor.

Nigella Seeds

Nigella Seeds on a wooden spoon

You can also use nigella seeds as a substitute for caraway seeds. They belong to Nigella sativa, a plant that grows wild in Syria, Iraq, and Turkey.

These black, drop-shaped seeds have a unique aroma and crunch that are popular in bread and pastries. They have a unique flavor with hints of onion, oregano, and black pepper, and some people might even detect a nutty flavor.

You will often find nigella seeds used as a spice in Indian, Middle Eastern, and North African recipes. Nigella seeds work well with curries and lentil dishes, and they also work well with root vegetable dishes and squashes.

South Asian meals often use nigella seeds as a garnish or ingredient for their stir-fries. The seeds lend their unique flavor to pilafs, curries, vegetable dishes, and pickles. Nigella seeds have a strong flavor, so you would use half the amount that you would use for caraway seeds.

You will often find nigella seeds in bread or pastries. For your regular menu, you can add nigella seeds to your salad for extra crunch. They are a great addition to pancakes and scones, and you can also add them to eggs, salad dressings, and yogurt.

Celery Seeds

Celery Seed in a wooden ladle

Celery seeds spread from the wild celery plant, which has a much stronger flavor than the common celery. They are very small dark brown seeds.

You can use whole or ground celery seeds, and ground celery can be more bitter than whole celery seeds. Please remember that celery seeds are a different spice than celery salt.

You can use celery seeds as a spice for salads, sauces, brines, and dry rubs. Celery seeds taste a lot like celery and have a dry quality, which means that large amounts will create a hot or spicy flavor to your recipe. You can use the same amount of celery seeds as caraway seeds.

Ground celery seeds are best for sauces or smoothies. If you are using the ground ones, it is best to remember that grinding will cause the oils in the seeds to evaporate, weakening the flavor.

You are better off purchasing the whole celery seeds and grinding them at home before you plan to use them. 

Whole celery seeds pair exceptionally well with tomatoes. You will often find celery seeds in dishes that call for tomatoes, such as Bloody Marys, barbecue sauce, and homemade ketchup.

Other typical recipes that call for celery seeds are brine, pickling spice, dry rubs, and dressings.

Star Anise

best star anise substitutes

Another great substitute for caraway seeds is star anise. The seeds are removed from the seed pod from the Illicium verum plant. The plant is an evergreen shrub from Southwest China.

The pod of the star anise has the shape of a star. It has eight points, and there is a small seed at each point. You can use the pod and the seeds for cooking. Star anise comes in whole or ground form.

If you grow it, you should pick star anise before it ripens and then dry the pods. The color changes to tan or rust and it has a sweet and spicy licorice taste.

You will enjoy star anise’s distinct flavor in Chinese recipes for teas, seasoning for roast duck, or other meats. Star anise is part of pho, the well-liked Vietnamese soup. Western culture uses star anise to flavor baked goods, drinks, and sweets.

When cooking with star anise, you can simmer the whole pod in sauces, marinades, and soups. It is best to remove the pod before serving.

The pod’s flavor is robust and can overwhelm the recipe if you add it too early, so it is best to use star anise sparingly. It is much easier to cook with ground star anise. However, when replacing caraway seeds, use them sparingly.

Whole star anise works well with fattier meat braised dishes and Indian cuisine. You can also add it to pumpkin pie and gingerbread for another layer of flavor.


Coriander seeds fresh green cilantro leaves on wooden background

Coriander is a spice produced from the coriander plant, part of the parsley family. The spice has a lemony taste, which works well with cumin, and many recipes call for equal amounts of the two spices.

Whole coriander seeds are most often used for pickling and brining, and they are usually toasted and ground before using because they can have a tough texture. You can use ground coriander in dishes like curry and baked goods.

You can often find coriander in Middle Eastern, Asian and African spices. Coriander works well for both vegetarian and meat dishes. You can substitute coriander seeds for caraway seeds in equal amounts.

Mustard Seeds

Mustard Seeds in a wooden scoop

Yet another substitute for caraway seeds is mustard seeds. The most popular mustard seeds are black, brown, and white mustard seeds, and you can substitute them in equal amounts.

Black mustard seeds originate from the Brassica nigra, which grows in North Africa and parts of Europe and Asia. Black mustard is very popular in the Middle East and Asia Minor. The tiny mustard seeds are removed from their seed coats and used whole or ground into a spice.

Brown mustard seeds spread from Brassica juncea and are often called Chinese or Indian mustard. You will find different varieties of brown mustard seeds, from dark brown to dark yellow.

White mustard seeds spread from the white mustard plant called the Sinapis alba. These light tan seeds are a little larger than brown mustard seeds.
Black mustard seeds are the strongest, and you often find them in Indian cuisine. Brown mustard seeds are the best choice for medium spiciness, and you can use them to make homemade mustards and condiments. To use instead of caraway, only add small amounts.

Dried Oregano

Dried Oregano in a white bowl

You can replace caraway seeds with oregano. Oregano is an herb made from the fresh or dried leaves of the oregano plant. This herb has a strong odor and flavor and is most famous as a spice for pizza.

You will find fresh oregano much more flavorful than dried oregano. When cooking with oregano, it is best to add it early so it can simmer. You will want to use less oregano than caraway seeds, so it is best to start with a small pinch and then add more, depending on your taste.

Oregano works very well in pizza and pasta sauce recipes. You can also add it to chicken and seafood recipes; the herb will also add a unique flavor to pesto.


ground cloves white ceramic bowl

You can also use cloves instead of caraway seeds. Cloves come from the clove tree’s flower buds, and you can choose them ground or whole. The spice has a particularly strong flavor, so it is wise to use much less than the caraway seeds you would use.

You will often find cloves in sweet dishes or drinks, but you can also use them in sauces, soups, and rice dishes. You can use cloves in combination with cinnamon and nutmeg. When cooking with whole cloves, it is best to remove them before serving.