Unique Ways to Use Black Seed (Nigella sativa)


Black seeds are widely revered and consumed throughout human history for their nutraceutical properties. Their healing potentials, supported by the Prophet Muhammad, have had great religious significance dating back to ancient Egypt. They were one of the supposed items found in King Tut's tomb.

We have talked a lot about the highly prized black seed oil, a popular modern-day dietary supplement and its broad range of health benefits, but what about the tiny black seeds themselves?

Black seeds, also called nigella seeds, kalonji or black cumin seeds, are from the Nigella sativa species and are often sold in bulk quantities. Although not as popular in the states, they are a common recipe ingredient in other parts of the world, especially India and the Middle East.

They are a bit different than your average nut or seed however with a savory, bitter and slightly peppery taste. Frequently considered a "spice seed" because of its distinct flavor profile, black seed often accompanies other seasoning favorites on the list of herbs and spices.

While it's not as concentrated as black seed oil, the small dark dense seeds do, of course, contain the valued list of compounds known as thymoquinone, thymohydroquinone (also called nigellone) and thymol. These are the bioactive constituents known for their strong antioxidative, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory qualities.

In gourmet cooking, the seeds are often dry-roasted briefly to enhance aroma and flavor. And yes, they can withstand heat via roasting as shown in some research. But its best to keep cooking time to a minimum to preserve these precious nutrients. Luckily, the many ways we will now discuss do just that.


8 Unique and Versatile Ways to Use Black Seed

1) Salad Dressings - Because of their savory thyme-like flavor blend when in salad dressing using either the whole seeds or ground powder. When placed in a vinegar base they will naturally release their medicinal components. Kind of like a tincturing method. This is one of our favorite ways to use black seed. Also great in a fire cider recipe.

2) Spice Mixtures - Black seeds make a great addition to many spice mixture blends. These are combos, like Chinese five spice or Za'atar, that are ready in your spice rack when you need them. Black seed is used specifically in the East Indian whole seed spice blend called Panch Phoron, composed of equal parts of kalonji (black seed), cumin seed, fenugreek seed, fennel seed and celery seed. They are also utilized in the Egyptian spice mixture known as Dukkah, a combination of toasted hazelnuts, sesame seeds, nigella seeds, coriander and cumin.

3) Flavored Ghee, Butter or Coconut Oil - Nigella seeds can be infused into melted ghee, butter or coconut oil. When cooled and solidified it can be used as a type of cooking oil when preparing savory foods, sautéing vegetables or when grilling onions. This is similar to the way nigella seeds are utilized in Ethiopia when serving a collard green dish called Ye’abesha gomen.

4) Herbal Honey Blend - Black seeds can be added to any DIY-medicated honey combination. Infuse them in raw honey with garlic, turmeric and other herbs for use by the teaspoon when you feel the onset of a sore throat. The Palestinian thick paste known as Qizia, is made from ground nigella seeds, honey and date syrup. It’s eaten as a diamond-shaped dessert, used in dessert recipes or traditionally taken by the spoonful to ward off getting sick.

5) Breads - It is very popular to use the almighty nigella seeds when baking bread and especially when making flatbread. In India, they are used in naan or brushed with ghee and pressed on the dough before pan-frying.

6) Topping - Raw black seeds, especially when ground, make a nice topping for meals and salads. Can be served over hummus or any dip or pate.

7) Tea - One unique way to use these seeds is to infuse them in hot water which will release their fragrance as well as beneficial compounds.

8) Stir-Frys - Add black seeds or ground powders to quick vegetable stir-fries. They pair well with ginger or garlic and other aromats like thyme or oregano. Black seeds are used in the classic Bengalese Indian dish called Sada Aloo Chorchori, a type of stir-fry blend of potatoes, onions, nigella seeds, asafoetida and green chilies.


For some individuals, black seed oil may cause skin irritation or allergic rash when used topically or taken by mouth. Consult your health care professional before adding black seeds to the diet if you have a serious health condition or are taking any medications. They should likewise be avoided when pregnant or nursing.

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