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Food

How to Eat and Cook With Nigella Seeds

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Oct 2, 2020 • 3 min read

Nigella seeds are tiny black seeds that are big on flavor and add piquancy to a range of dishes—from Indian curries to Middle Eastern flatbreads. Give them a toast in a dry skillet, and wait for them to pop to release their aromatic properties. Tasty nigella seeds can be sprinkled over vegetables and stir-fries, and give a satisfying crunch to your salads.

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What Are Nigella Seeds?

Nigella seeds, also known as black caraway, black cumin, black onion seeds, and roman coriander, come from the pods of an annual flowering plant (Nigella sativa) native to south and southwest Asia. Although they share a similar appearance to black sesame seeds, they have a very different flavor profile, with nigella seeds being more pungent with a strong aroma.

Nigella seeds are widely used as a spice and condiment in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. They can be dry-roasted and used to give a smokey, nutty flavor to curries, vegetables, and beans.

What Do Nigella Seeds Taste Like?

Nigella seeds have a distinct aroma and smokey taste that has notes of onion, cumin, and oregano. These unique characteristics make the seeds a great pairing in savory dishes.

How to Cook With Nigella Seeds

Nigella seeds are frequently used in Indian, Middle Eastern, and North African cuisine as a spice and condiment. A popular bengali spice blend called “panch phoron” uses nigella seeds along with fenugreek, cumin, fennel, and black mustard seeds. These tasty seeds can be used for flavoring curries and lentil dishes, as well as cooked with root vegetable dishes and stir-fries. Another way to use nigella seeds is sprinkled over naan bread before baking.

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10 Recipes Featuring Nigella Seeds

For a subtle, smokey onion flavor, try swapping out sesame seeds for nigella seeds in your favorite recipes. To release the flavor and aroma of nigella seeds, dry toast the seeds in a pan before using.

  1. Panch Phoron (Bengali 5-spice): A simple combination of five spices, used whole. Mix together equal quantities of fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, black mustard seeds, and nigella seeds. To use panch phoron, fry spices in oil until you hear them pop and the aromas are released. Sprinkle over broccoli, cauliflower, roasted potatoes, and lentils.
  2. Dukkah (Egyptian spice mixture): A blend of toasted hazelnuts, cumin, nigella seeds, coriander, and sesame seeds. It can be ground into a powder or left chunky and crunchy. Try it over hummus, or alongside radishes and cucumbers for dipping.
  3. Mediterranean hummus with nigella seeds: To give your hummus a hint of smoky flavor, finish your dip with a drizzle of high-quality olive oil, toasted nigella seeds, and parsley.
  4. Naan bread: When making homemade naan, brush dough with melted ghee and sprinkle with nigella seeds before baking.
  5. Ye’abesha gomen (Ethiopian Collard Greens): Fragrant collards cooked with an Ethiopian-style spiced butter flavored with nigella seeds, cardamom, and fenugreek. It pairs wonderfully with Ethiopian meat and vegetarian dishes including doro wat and sega wat.
  6. Aloo chechki (Bengali potato stir-fry): A classic Indian dish with potato and onion sauteed with fresh green chilies and nigella seeds. Serve with a side of flatbread. If you love vegetarian Indian dishes, try this recipe for Aloo Gobi and finish it with a sprinkle of nigella seeds.
  7. Roasted butternut squash: Cubed and roasted butternut squash coated in a mixture of nigella seeds, cumin seeds, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, chile, sugar, and salt. Serve warm with fresh cilantro sprigs and a dollop of plain yogurt on the side.
  8. Carrot salad with feta: A simple middle-eastern inspired carrot salad drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil. Topped with crumbled feta, chopped parsley and toasted nigella seeds.
  9. Asian vegetable stir-fry: Stir fry vegetables such as broccoli, red bell peppers, ginger, julienned carrots, shiitake mushrooms, and cabbage in a wok. Finish your dish with a soy sauce and sherry mixture and top with toasted nigella seeds.
  10. Red lentil dhal: A thick South-Asian inspired stew made with lentils, onions, garlic, turmeric, coriander, cumin seed powder, nigella seeds, cardamom, and cinnamon. Additional toasted nigella seeds can be sprinkled on top before serving.

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