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What are the best nigella seed substitutes (AKA kalonji seeds or black onion seeds)? Learn my favorite nigella seeds alternative, other names for nigella seeds, get nutrition info, and more! The nigella seeds replacement you need depends on the recipe and the flavor profile you want. Black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds, caraway seeds, cumin, and poppy seeds are a few nigella seeds substitutes you can use.

nigella seeds substitutes

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🤔 Nigella Seeds Other Names

Nigella spice is also called:

  • Nigella sativa black seed
  • Black onion seed
  • Kalonji seed
  • Calonji
  • Black caraway seed
  • Black cumin seed
  • Roman coriander
  • Fennel flower
  • Black fennel seed
  • Charnushka (Russian)

These names can be a source of confusion because nigella seed is not related to onion, caraway, cumin, fennel, or coriander. These are all different plants with different flavor profiles. Nigella sativa is part of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae).

Nigella seeds are small black seeds with a pointed end. They are a bit more triangular than black sesame seeds, but otherwise have a similar appearance.

kalonji nigella seeds

Black Onion Seeds vs Nigella

Black onion seeds (sometimes shortened to “onion seeds”) are simply another name for nigella seeds. You cannot grow red, white, or yellow onions from black onion seeds. Perhaps surprisingly, IMHO black onion seeds don’t even taste like onion.

🏆 Nigella Seeds Substitutes

The best nigella seed substitute for appearance and texture is black sesame seeds. The best nigella seed alternative for flavor and aroma is fresh oregano or dried oregano.

best substitute for nigella seeds

Here is a list of nigella seeds substitutes to try:

Nigella Seeds Substitute Naan

IMHO, the best nigella seeds substitute for naan bread is oregano. Oregano best captures the mild herb flavor of black onion seeds. If your recipe only calls for a light sprinkle for garnish, replace nigella seeds with sesame seeds or poppy seeds instead.

Toasted nigella seeds develop a slight nutty flavor. Use toasted sesame seeds to capture a similar taste if your recipe calls for toasting nigella seeds.

alternatives to nigella seeds

Aside from Indian naan, nigella seeds are often used to top Middle Eastern flatbread. My first introduction to nigella seeds was atop the Georgian national dish, khachapuri. It’s a delicious cheese bread that’s topped with an egg.

You can also use nigella seeds to top other savory dishes from Indian cuisine, such as curry. Nigella seeds can also lend a crunchy texture to salads, soups, and stews.

Nigella Seeds Flavour

What do nigella seeds taste like? Nigella seeds have a mildly herbaceous flavor profile and aroma that is like oregano. They are not spicy, and unlike what some sources report, IMO they don’t taste like onions.

Nigella Seeds vs Black Sesame

Are nigella seeds the same as black sesame seeds? No, though they look the same, they are the seeds of two different plants. Black sesame seeds are a good substitute for nigella seeds in appearance.

Are nigella seeds the same as chia seeds?

Can nigella seeds substitute chia seeds? Nigella seeds and chia seeds are both small black seeds, but that is where the similarities end.

Chia seeds, with 3.4 grams fiber per ½ teaspoon, are much higher in fiber than nigella seeds. Chia is also a little higher in protein (1.7 grams protein per ½ teaspoon).

The biggest difference between chia and nigella seeds is how they behave in recipes. Chia seeds form a thick gel when they’re added to liquid. For this reason, chia seeds are best used as a substitute for nigella seeds when kept dry (in toppings, etc.).

💰 Where to buy nigella seeds?

Nigella seeds are not typically found in regular grocery stores in the US. If you can’t find them at specialty food stores near you, you can buy them on Amazon here.

Can I substitute cumin for nigella seeds?

Cumin seeds have a rich, earthy flavor that is different than the flavor of nigella seeds. However, cumin seeds or cumin powder may be substituted for nigella seeds if you think you’d enjoy the flavor difference.

Cumin seeds are lower in calories, net carbs, and protein when compared to nigella seeds by volume. Part of the difference is due to cumin seeds being larger in size than nigella seeds.

Fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds, caraway seeds, and fennel seeds are some other substitutes for nigella seeds that will alter the flavor profile of your dish.

nigella seeds alternatives

Can I use mustard seeds instead of nigella seeds?

Mustard seeds are very spicy, and not a good substitute for nigella seeds unless you’d like to change up the flavor profile of your recipe. If you love some serious spicy heat, mustard seed may be a good nigella seed swap for you. Try black mustard seeds if you’d like them to look similar to nigella seeds.

Black pepper is another less fiery way to add some heat to dishes.

Can I substitute poppy seeds for nigella seeds?

Both poppy seeds and nigella seeds are small black seeds. However, poppy seeds don’t offer the grassy, herbaceous flavor that nigella seeds do. Poppy seeds are more nutty, and some describe their flavor as a little fruity.

Nutritionally, poppy seeds are a little richer in certain nutrients than nigella seeds (calcium and zinc), while nigella seeds contain more of others (iron). Including a variety of nuts and seeds in your diet, along with other healthy foods, can help ensure you get the essential vitamins and minerals you need.

📋 Nigella Seeds Nutrition

Here is the nutrition information for nigella seeds (per Cronometer):

NutrientNigella Seeds per 1/2 tsp
Calories 12
Total Fat 1g
Saturated Fat 0g
Sodium 0mg
Total Carbohydrates 1.5g
Fiber 0g
Total Sugar 0g
Net Carbs 1.5g
Protein 0.5g
Calcium 0% DV
Iron 2% DV

Nigella seeds are a naturally low carb, keto, gluten free, dairy free, and vegan food.

Nigella Seeds Health Benefits

What are the health benefits of nigella seeds? Honestly, nigella seeds are usually enjoyed in such small amounts that they won’t have a big impact on the diet. That said, they are a source of the types of healthy fat that helps keep your heart healthy.

The unsaturated fat in nigella seeds have less of an impact on “bad” blood cholesterol levels than saturated fats. If you’re looking to lower cholesterol, choosing the healthy fats in nuts and seeds is a good start.

Additionally, if you are using a low carb or keto diet to help control your blood sugar in diabetes, nigella seeds are a good choice. With 1.5 grams net carbs per ½ teaspoon serving, nigella seeds are a low carb food.

There is nutrition misinformation online about nigella seeds preventing cancer and stomach ulcers. The best way to help reduce your risk of nutrition-related disease is to maintain a healthy lifestyle (including a healthy diet) and a healthy weight. Unfortunately, there is no magical food or supplement that can completely eliminate the risk of cancer.


What is the difference between black sesame seeds and black cumin seeds?

Black sesame seeds and black cumin seeds look nearly identical, but they come from different plants and have a different taste. Black sesame seeds taste similar to white sesame seeds, but with a milder nutty flavor. Black cumin seeds (AKA nigella seeds) are more herby in flavor, similar to oregano.

Black seed vs black seed oil- what’s the difference?

Black seed oil is an oil extracted from the nigella sativa plant. It is used as a supplement. “Black seed” is a colloquial name for the whole seeds of nigella sativa.

Can you eat nigella seeds raw?

Nigella seeds are sold in dried form, and may be enjoyed raw or toasted.

👩🏻‍🍳 Other Recipe Substitutions

Here are substitutions for recipes that will help you have success in the kitchen:

Watch How to Make It!

substitutes for nigella seeds

15 Best Nigella Seed Substitutes (Nigella Seeds Alternative)

Summer Yule
What are the best nigella seed substitutes (AKA kalonji seeds or black onion seeds)? Learn my favorite nigella seeds alternative here!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Course Food Education
Cuisine Indian, Middle Eastern
Servings 1
Calories 12 kcal


Don’t be a stranger! 😊If you love this recipe, please come back and leave a rating. This helps readers and I’d love to hear from you. Thank you ❤️


  • Pick substitute with flavor profile and texture you want. The best nigella seed substitute for appearance and texture is black sesame seeds. The best nigella seed alternative for flavor and aroma is oregano.
  • Substitute nigella seeds in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with the nigella seed alternative of your choosing. 


Nutrition information is for ½ teaspoon of nigella seeds. The nutrition information for your nigella seed sub depends on which alternative you use.


nutrition info disclaimer


All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.


The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be inaccurate, so please don’t sweat the numbers too much.


“To taste” means to your preferences, which may have to be visual to follow food safety rules. Please don’t eat undercooked food x


Calories: 12kcalCarbohydrates: 1.5gProtein: 0.5gFat: 1gIron: 2% DV
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substitute for nigella seeds

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5 from 1 vote (1 rating without comment)

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