If you plan to make pork sausages or certain cabbage dishes, you will need caraway seeds or fennel seeds. These two spices can easily be mistaken for each other as they share many qualities; however, they are completely different ingredients that will bring different qualities to your dishes. When choosing between them, you will need to consider how they differ as well as the best ways to use each of them. Let’s compare them so you can make the best choice for your cooking.
Table of Contents
- How do the flavors of caraway seeds and fennel seeds differ?
- Can you use one as a substitute for the other?
- When should you use caraway seeds? And when should you use fennel seeds?
- Must-read related posts
How do the flavors of caraway seeds and fennel seeds differ?
Both caraway and fennel seeds belong to the same family, which means that they are very similar appearances while also having flavor notes in common. Those flavor notes are often likened to those of anise or of licorice, which also belong to the same family as caraway and fennel seeds. While their appearances are similar, the plants are quite different and their flavors are not identical.
The caraway seed’s flavor is best described as earthy, nutty, and herbaceous, with slightly minty notes to go with its licorice notes. Its flavor is not quite as sweet as that of fennel seed; instead, it has more in common with another important member of this spice family: cumin. The flavor of fennel seeds is both warmer and a closer match for those of licorice or anise. It does not have earthiness or nuttiness in its flavor profile.
–> Learn More: Caraway Seeds Vs. Cumin – How Do They Compare?
Can you use one as a substitute for the other?
There are quite a few recipes that can be made with either spice. Some bread and sausage recipes require the same general flavor profile you can get from each spice or a combination of the two. That said, they are not perfectly interchangeable. Many recipes will require one or the other.
Fennel seeds may be overly sweet for some breads, though they may be a good substitute for caraway seeds in pork dishes. While they may be an effective substitute, they will not be perfect. Similarly, caraway seeds lack the sweetness and specific anise flavor you may want from fennel seeds.
Caraway seeds may not be the ideal substitute for some fennel seed applications, though they will likely be close enough to replace them in a pinch. Caraway seeds are not suitable for most sweet dishes that require fennel seeds.
When should you use caraway seeds? And when should you use fennel seeds?
Because of their nuttiness and earthiness, caraway seeds are better suited for savory applications like rye bread and pork preparations such as sausages. Note that caraway seeds can be used in some sweet dishes, just not as many as fennel. If you are unfamiliar with the spice, your best bet is to use caraway seeds when making potato salad or coleslaw; in addition, they are a great complement to sauerkraut.
Caraway seeds do not pair well with many other herbs and spices aside from those within their family. They work well with dill, cumin, and fennel seed. You can also add them to dishes that feature tomatoes or even to fish dishes (like poached fish) and pork recipes. They are also an important ingredient in Chinese five-spice powder. Along with being used to flavor fish and pork, you can use fennel seeds in cakes and cookies.