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11 Best Substitutes for Caraway Seeds

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Know which ingredients work as an awesome substitute for caraway seeds when you’re in a bind. 

A collage of caraway seed alternatives, with text title "Substitute for Caraway Seeds".

Ever been in the kitchen, all set to whip up something delicious, only to realize you’re fresh out of caraway seeds? No worries – we’ve all been there.

But guess what? Replacing caraway seeds isn’t that hard, and there are several tasty alternatives that can rescue your dish from a culinary disaster.

In this article, we’ll share with you a list of perfect stand-ins for caraway seeds. So, whether you’re out of the real deal or just up for a flavor adventure, these caraway seed substitutes will keep your taste buds happy!

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What are Caraway Seeds?

While commonly referred to as seeds, the spice many people are familiar with is the dried-up version of the aromatic fruit of the caraway plant known as Carum carvi. The dried up fruit has the appearance of a small, brown pod.

Caraway seeds in a wooden spoon on a wooden board.

This plant belongs to the Apiaceae or Umbelliferae family, which includes other plants like carrots, celery, parsnips, fennel, and parsley. Also, its fruit or seeds are not the only edible parts of the plant — its roots and leaves can also be used for cooking.

What are the Most Common Uses for Caraway?

Caraway has a place in both medicinal and culinary practices. 

In herbal medicine, caraway is used to manage illnesses like pneumonia and indigestion. Additionally, caraway essential oils can be used for making soaps, lotions, and perfumes thanks to its spicy, cumin-like aroma and bold, intense notes. 

In cooking, caraway lends unique flavors to several European, Asian, and African dishes. Caraway seeds are used as a main ingredient for making rye bread recipes and give dishes like sauerkraut, pastrami, Polish sausages, and Italian meatballs a flavor boost. 

I love using these seeds when making pressure cooker Irish stew as caraway gives it a distinct flavor. The seeds also appear in Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel seasoning, a key ingredient for making everything bagel chicken

What do Caraway Seeds Taste Like?

Caraway seeds are full of complex flavors that can give depth to many dishes. It combines peppery, nutty, minty and even citrusy fresh flavors. It also has a flavor profile quite similar to licorice and anise.   

Why Find Good Substitutes for Caraway Seeds? 

Thanks to its blend of flavors, it might be hard to find an ingredient that tastes the same as caraway seeds. However, you may find yourself needing an alternative for the following reasons:


Maybe you don’t have it at home, or you can’t find it elsewhere. That’s why knowing an excellent alternative to caraway seeds will come in handy.

Food Sensitivities 

Unfortunately, not everyone can consume foods with caraway seeds without experiencing adverse reactions. This is because caraway contains specific proteins that may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.  

If you or any of your family members are allergic to caraway seeds, looking for a caraway alternative to enhance the flavor of dishes is a must. 


While some may consider caraway seeds affordable, others working on a very tight budget may not. Hence, working with alternatives they already have is a good way to save money and still make delicious dishes.

11 Best Caraway Seed Substitutes

The following can work as last-minute swaps. Find out the best caraway seed alternatives to use for specific dishes below.

Fennel Seeds

Since they are also part of the carrot family, it makes sense to swap fennel for caraway seeds. They carry similar anise, licorice and floral citrusy notes that will give dishes like stews, curries and sauces a flavorful touch. 

Fennel seeds, a substitute for Caraway Seeds, in a wooden spoon.

When using fennel seeds as a recipe substitute, use the same amount as caraway seeds. Note that since fennel offers a milder, sweeter taste, you may adjust the amount or add more if necessary. 

Anise Seeds

Another spice that can work as a caraway substitute is anise seeds.

A bowl of anise seeds, a substitute for Caraway Seeds.

While these have the same licorice flavor as caraway seeds, anise seeds tend to be stronger and don’t carry the aroma that caraway seeds are famous for. This substitute is fantastic for baked goods, especially Irish soda bread.   

Because of its potency, you may want to use a 1:2 ratio. Use one teaspoon of anise seeds if the recipe requires two teaspoons of caraway seeds. Remember, it’s easier to add more if you need to than it is to take anything away.

Dill Seeds

Thanks to its light licorice essence and aroma, you can substitute caraway seeds with dill seeds. The seeds have a mild, citrusy and slightly peppery flavor that won’t overpower your recipe.  

Dill seeds in a wooden spoon with dill leaves on the side.

Dill seeds are also excellent for cooking cream-based soups, salads, sauces and dressings needing caraway seeds. Just use a 1:1 ratio, and you’re good to go. 

Nigella Seeds

Nigella seeds, also known as black cumin or black onion seeds, can be used as a replacement for caraway. This is because, like caraway seeds, nigella seeds carry a similar licorice flavor and a pungent aroma. 

Nigella seeds, a substitute for caraway seeds, in a wooden spoon on a wooden table.

That’s why it’s good to use nigella seeds when making savory baked goods like Indian naan bread or Russian rye bread. However, you can also use it to make curries and other sauce-based recipes.

Use a 1:1 ratio when substituting nigella seeds for caraway seeds. 

Cumin Seeds

Cumin seeds are an excellent caraway seed replacement. They have a peppery aroma and spicy, earthy and bitter tones but without the anise-like taste. 

Cumin seeds in a wooden spoon on a wooden table.

When you’re preparing curries, soups, tacos and stews, you can use cumin seeds as a substitute in a 1:1 ratio.  

Mustard Seeds

Full of warmth and earthy flavors, mustard seeds are a great alternative whenever you’re in a pinch. You can use whatever type you have on hand, be it white, brown, black or powder form, so it wins extra points for convenience.

Mustard seeds in a wooden spoon and bowl on a wooden table.

Mustard seeds are great to use as a substitute when you’re making stir-fries, sausages, marinades and curries. Like most alternatives on this list, utilize the 1:1 ratio wherein you substitute an equal amount of mustard seeds for caraway seeds.  

Coriander Seeds 

Coriander and caraway seeds have a similar flavor, in that they both have earthy, nutty and citrus notes. What coriander lacks is the licorice notes of caraway. 

Coriander seeds in a bowl on a wooden table, used as a substitute for caraway seeds.

Despite this, you can still use coriander seeds as an alternative in a 1:1 ratio when making dishes like stews, curries and soups. You can toast them before using them to help release their wonderful aroma.

Celery Seeds

Celery seeds can also substitute for caraway seeds if you have them in your pantry. 

Celery seeds substitute for caraway seeds on a wooden spoon on a wooden cutting board.

They both have that minty-fresh vibe that works best for vegetable dishes like coleslaws, beet salads and pickles needing caraway seeds. Use a 1:1 ratio or the same amount as caraway seeds for the best results.    

Star Anise

Loaded with bold licorice flavors, this star-shaped spice can work as a substitute. It’s also a bit earthy and bitter with some peppery notes. What it lacks, however, is caraway seeds’ citrus flavors.  

Star anise seeds, a substitute for caraway seeds, in a wooden spoon on a wooden table.

Beware that using too much star anise may overpower the flavor of your dish. To be safe, use whole or ground star anise in a 1:4 ratio, wherein you use ¼ teaspoon of star anise for every teaspoon of caraway seeds needed in curries, stews, jams or pickles. Just add more as necessary.  

Dried Oregano

One of the most commonly available spices out there, you can use dried oregano in place of caraway seeds when you’re in a bind. 

Fresh and dried oregano, substitute for caraway seeds, on a wooden table.

It has hints of mint and a peppery, slightly bitter taste that works best for savory dishes or even in meat marinades and spice rubs, but it does lack caraway seeds’ licorice and citrus notes.

Since it’s much more pungent than caraway seeds, it’s best to use a 1:2 ratio wherein you use ½ teaspoon of dried oregano for every teaspoon of caraway seeds needed in the recipe.   


Lastly, cloves can work as a great substitute for caraway seeds.

Cloves, a substitute for Caraway Seeds, in a bowl on a cloth.

Similar to caraway, cloves offer an earthy, peppery, subtly bitter taste with a nutty aroma but have no licorice flavor. They do have a spicy kick to them, which can work well when used in curries, sauces, and stews that will taste good even with a bit of heat in them.

Since cloves can be quite potent, it’s best to start with small amounts or a 1:4 ratio. Use only ¼ teaspoon cloves for every teaspoon of caraway seeds needed in dishes.  

How do you Choose Which Caraway Seed Alternatives to use?

To help you choose the best caraway seed alternative for your dishes, consider the following tips:

  • When making baked goods like rye bread, use dill, nigella, or anise seeds. 
  • If making sweet and savory dishes like soups and stews, consider using fennel, cumin, mustard, coriander seeds, star anise, dried oregano and cloves. 
  • If you make light dishes like salads, try using dill or celery seeds. 
  • If the recipes call for ground caraway, you may want to consider using ground versions of any of the above alternatives.

Use Only the Best Substitute for Caraway Seeds

Running out of caraway isn’t a problem when you know which alternatives can work for your recipe.

With these substitutes, finding suitable spices to use instead of caraway seeds won’t be too difficult for you. No need to do a grocery run when you’ve got good alternatives in your pantry already.

Wondering what substitutes work well for other ingredients? Check out our other lists of ingredient substitutions.

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