10 Best Substitutes For Caraway Seeds

A well-stocked spice collection is absolutely essential to a home cook's success in the kitchen. No matter how incredible your ingredients are, or how great your technique is, if you take seasoning out of the equation, you're left with a bland dish, plain and simple. The ability to toss in a little bit of this spice and a little bit of that seasoning to create exactly the flavor profile you're looking for is crucial. However, there are so many spices on the market that sometimes you may find yourself lacking one in particular that a recipe calls for. In many cases, you can get away with substituting it with another seasoning that offers a similar flavor profile (which is yet another reason having plenty of options in your collection can come in handy).

But one particular spice that maybe isn't as well-known is caraway seed. It's one that many individuals first encounter in rye bread. You can find it either ground or in a whole seed format, and It can be used in both sweet and savory cooking applications. It's an incredibly aromatic spice with flavor notes of licorice and citrus, making it a versatile option to have on hand. But, if you have a recipe that calls for caraway seed and don't have any in your kitchen and you don't feel like rushing to the grocery store, here are a few substitutes that can work.

1. Fennel Seeds

One of the most prominent flavor notes in caraway seeds is that hint of black licorice, which can be tough to replicate as it's a relatively unique flavor that not many spices have. There is one that can get the job done, though — fennel seed. It has those same licorice notes but fennel isn't exactly identical to caraway, as the spice has a bit more sweetness than caraway seeds, which can often veer in the direction of bitterness. 

However, in general, fennel is a solid substitute that can work in a wide variety of dishes, from soups and curries to baked goods. Given their similar levels of flavor intensity and similar flavor profiles, for the best results you can do a direct substitution. So, for a recipe that calls for one tablespoon of caraway seeds, you would swap in one tablespoon of fennel seeds instead to craft your dish (via Raw Spice Bar).

2. Anise Seeds

If you've ever sniffed a jar of anise seeds, you know that this particular spice is fairly potent and packs a serious flavor punch. Anise seeds have a strong licorice flavor too, which makes them a fantastic substitute for caraway seeds when you're trying to impart those unique flavor notes into a dish (via A Couple Cooks). Like caraway, you can typically find anise either in whole seed format or ground into a fine powder, the latter of which can make it easier to incorporate into a wide variety of dishes. 

You'll see anise seeds used in both sweet and savory recipes, another reason they serve as such a strong substitute for caraway seeds, which are likewise incredibly versatile. There's only one thing to consider when swapping in anise and that is the strength and pungency of the spice. They contain a licorice flavor that is a lot stronger than caraway, which means you'll want to be mindful of how much you use to avoid overpowering the dish. A good rule of thumb is to swap in about half the amount called for in the recipe. So, a dish that requires one teaspoon of caraway seeds would receive just a half-teaspoon of anise seeds instead.

3. Nigella Seeds

These tiny black seeds aren't as well known as some other spices, but they're a flavorful addition to many dishes and are also a solid substitute for caraway seeds. Though, as The Daring Kitchen notes, don't be confused by the fact that they can have a few different names which you may spot on labels at the store, including kalonji, charnushka, or black onion seeds. In general, what you're looking for are small seeds that are black in color. They're similar in size and shape to caraway seeds, too, making them easy to substitute in a wide variety of dishes, from soups and stews to homemade bread. 

While they have some different flavor notes, including a bit of an herbaceous kick, they also have a hint of licorice flavor, which is what makes them such a good substitute for that particular hard-to-replace component of caraway's flavor profile. For the best results, you can use a direct swap, measuring out one tablespoon of nigella seeds if your recipe calls for one tablespoon of caraway seeds.

4. Star Anise

Many eyeballs are taken by the unique shape of this particular spice, which comes in little stars with eight cloves — but did you know it also makes a fantastic substitute for caraway seeds? While it's not the most common spice out there, star anise packs in a ton of flavor, with some of those same licorice flavor notes as well as a bit of earthiness and bitterness that makes it an ideal swap.

Star anise can be used in everything from savory dishes like curries to sweet baked treats or homemade bread. The one thing to be mindful of with this substitute is that star anise has a very powerful flavor, and a little goes a long way. Additionally, if all you can find is whole star anise that comes in their signature star-shaped pods, you may need to grind it to ensure you don't crunch down on a whole piece. 

Since it's so easy to overpower a dish, for the best results, you'll want to start with just a quarter of the original amount called for, and then adjust according to taste (via Raw Spice Bar). So, if your recipe requires a teaspoon of caraway seeds, use a quarter-teaspoon of star anise seeds and then taste to see how the overall flavor profile is and adjust if necessary.

5. Dill Seeds

While you may be familiar with the signature bright, fresh flavor that adding dill to a recipe can achieve, if you've never included dill seeds in your culinary repertoire, you're missing out. These small seeds contain a bit of those same licorice flavor notes that you're trying to substitute when replacing caraway seeds. But the one thing to consider is the overall flavor profile of your dish — dill seeds do also have a bit of those bright flavor notes found in fresh dill, so it may add a bit of a citrus aroma or citrus notes to your final dish. 

This substitute is fantastic in a variety of recipes, but the lingering dill flavor makes it particularly well-suited for salads and dressings. You may want to consider this substitute when whipping up Eastern European fare, which often uses dill seeds. When using this substitute, you can do a direct swap, using a teaspoon of dill seeds where you would have had a teaspoon of caraway seeds.

6. Mustard Seeds

Though mustard is an incredibly common condiment found in countless fridges, mustard seeds are a whole different beast that can add some serious flavor to your dish. They can provide a flavor that is similar in many ways to caraway seeds (via Food Champs), with both adding a hint of warmth and earthiness to your dish. The one thing to note is that they look very different — mustard seeds are small, deep yellow spheres, while caraway seeds are brown and oblong, almost like grains of rice. 

This means that mustard seeds may not be the best substitute for uses like coating loaves of bread, which you may see in rye bread for example. However, in a dish like a stew or sauce, they'll be just fine. For the best results, you can do a 1:1 swap, so a teaspoon of mustard seeds can take the place of a teaspoon of caraway seeds in a recipe.

7. Cumin Seeds

While any fans of Mexican cuisine will likely recognize ground cumin, the flavorful spice with the slightly earthy aroma, cumin seeds are a little less common. However, they make a fantastic addition to your spice collection, as well as a solid substitute for caraway seeds. According to Richard's Pantry, this particular spice features a lot of the same flavors that caraway seeds contain and also have a similar appearance, meaning they're an ideal swap for recipes like seed-crusted bread where the appearance makes a difference. 

Cumin seeds are particularly popular in Middle Eastern and Indian dishes, so they make a great substitute if you're whipping up a curry or flavorful stew of some kind. If you want to add a tantalizing depth of flavor to your dish, you might even consider toasting the cumin seeds in order to bring out their full flavor and aroma. For the best results, given their similarities, you can do a direct swap. One teaspoon of cumin seeds can replace one teaspoon of caraway seeds in any given recipe that calls for it.

8. Coriander Seeds

Coriander seeds look quite different from caraway seeds — they're shaped like small spheres that appear much different from the flat, longer shape of caraway seeds. However, in terms of flavor, they actually have a lot of similarities, making coriander seeds a solid substitute, says SPICEography. Coriander seeds have some nutty, earthy flavors, and even a hint of citrus notes that mimic the same overall flavor profile found in caraway seeds. 

The versatile spice can be used in a wide variety of dishes, from hearty soups to sweet treats like cakes and cookies. The one thing to consider here is the shape — while the flat, delicate shape of caraway seeds means they can be included whole in dishes without much issue, coriander seeds are a bit less pleasant to crunch down on, so depending on the type of dish you're making, you may want to consider grinding them to make them more palatable. For best results, you can do a direct 1:1 swap, using a teaspoon of coriander seeds in place of a teaspoon of caraway seeds in whatever recipe you're making.

9. Dried Oregano

If you cook a lot of Italian or Mediterranean dishes, chances are you have a big container of dried oregano in your spice collection. This spice is commonly used in a wide variety of recipes and is easily accessible in most grocery stores — and, as it turns out, it makes a good substitute for caraway seeds. Recipe Marker notes that though dried oregano doesn't contain those same licorice flavor notes found in caraway seeds, it does have a unique flavor profile with some peppery undertones, and it can bring a ton of flavor to your dish. 

One thing to consider is that the appearance is different from caraway seeds, so this substitution is better used when you have to incorporate the spice into the recipe, not in a dish such as homemade breadsticks where the caraway seeds are used for appearances and studded along the exterior of the baked good. Though many are used to being heavy-handed with fresh herbs, dried herbs are a different story and you want to be careful not to overpower a dish by adding too much. For the best results here, use about half the amount of oregano that the recipe calls for, meaning you'd use a half-tablespoon of oregano if your recipe required one tablespoon of caraway seeds.

10. Cloves

Cloves are another one of those spices that work well in both savory and sweet dishes, making them a superstar in your spice collection. While some cooks may only bust out their cloves during holiday baking, the warming spice shines in a variety of dishes year-round, including soups and sauces. They enhance a dish and also make a solid substitute for caraway seeds if you're in a pinch (via Blog Chef). As an added bonus, cloves are fairly easily accessible, and can be found in most places you would buy your spices. 

The one thing to note is that cloves don't have those unique licorice flavor notes found in caraway seeds and some of the other substitutes listed here, so this isn't the best swap if those are the most prominent aspects you're trying to mimic. However, if you're just looking for something to enhance the overall flavors of your dish, cloves might be just the thing. 

For best results, since cloves can be quite powerful in a dish, you'll want to use about a quarter of the amount. So, if a recipe calls for a teaspoon of caraway seeds, you'd swap in a quarter-teaspoon of cloves, and then adjust according to taste. And, depending on what you're making, this is another spice that you might want to consider grinding first to avoid any crunchy clove pods in your silky smooth sauce.