10 Poppy Seed Substitutes [Best Options]

Poppy seeds have so many great uses in recipes. They provide a nice subtle nutty taste and crisp and a ‘poppy’ texture.

Perhaps that’s where they got their name from? Poppy seeds can be used in an array of dishes – both savory and sweet (my personal favorite being Everything bagels!).

But what to do if you can’t find any? Or maybe you want to try something new to provide a unique taste to a classic recipe.

The best poppy seed substitute is black sesame seeds, which would be great to use in both sweet and savory dishes. For sweet dishes like cakes and sweet bread, the substitutes are chia seeds and flax seeds. Poppy seed alternatives for savory dishes like curries and Indian cooking are toasted sesame seeds, sesame seeds, nigella seeds, hemp seeds, celery seeds, and basil seeds.

Poppy Seed Substitutes

1. Black Sesame Seeds

Black sesame seeds are the best overall poppy seed substitutes. They resemble poppy seeds in shape, size, color, taste, and nutrition content.

Black sesame seeds tend to have a slightly stronger nuttier and bitter taste compared to poppy seeds.

Black sesame seeds are small, flat, oily seeds that grow in the fruit pods of the Sesamum indicum plant, which has been cultivated for thousands of years. They are primarily produced in Asia.

In comparison to white sesame seeds, black sesame seeds appear to contain more lignans (a member of a group of substances found in plants that have shown estrogenic and anticancer effects) and certain beneficial unsaturated fatty acids.

Notably, black sesame seeds are extremely rich in copper. Just 1 tablespoon contains about 42% of your Daily Value!

They are also a good source of manganese – although notably not as good of a source as poppy seeds.

1 tablespoon of black sesame seeds contains about 50 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of carbs, 1.5 grams of protein, and 1 gram of fiber.

This is nearly identical to that of poppy seeds – although slightly higher in fat. 

Poppy Seed Substitutes for Cakes, Sweet Breads, Dressings, and Baked Goods

Black sesame seeds
Black sesame seeds

2. Chia Seeds

When looking for a good poppy seed substitute, chia seeds are your second best bet. Chia seeds have existed for thousands of years (they were actually a staple in Aztec and Mayan cultures!), but have only recently become popular for their array of health benefits and unique texture/consistency.

Chia seeds are very versatile, like the poppy seed. However, they would be best used as a poppy seed substitute when dry, since they puff up and become a gel-like substance when wet.

Chia seeds have a very similar size and ‘crunch’ as poppy seeds. Chia seeds are very nutritious. They boast a high omega-3 fatty acid and fiber content.

Chia seeds are also a great source of other nutrients such as antioxidants, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin B1 (thiamin), and vitamin B3 (niacin).

1 tablespoon of chia seeds contains about 69 calories, 4.4 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbs, 2.4 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fiber.

They differ most from poppy seeds in regards to fiber – chia seeds have a ton of it!

Chia Seeds
Fresh Chia Seeds

3. Flax Seeds

Flax seeds are another seed that has been around for centuries but are only just recently gaining popularity because of their health benefits. In fact, flaxseed is one of the world’s oldest crops.

Flax seeds possess a nutty flavor and crunchy consistency – very similar to that of poppy seeds.

They are an excellent source of protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. Flax seeds are also a source of thiamin, copper, manganese, and magnesium.

A unique property that flax seeds possess is their high lignan content. Lignans, as previously mentioned, are cancer fighting compounds found in plants.

Flax seeds contain far more lignans than any other plant – up to 75-800 times more.    

1 tablespoon of flax seeds contains about 37 calories, 3 grams of fat, 2 grams of carbs, 1.3 grams of protein, and 2 grams of fiber. 

Poppy Seed Substitutes in Curries and Indian Dishes

Flax Seeds
Flax Seeds

4. Toasted Sesame Seeds

Sesame seeds come in four different colors – black, brown, red, and white. This section specifically refers to brown, red, or white sesame seeds.

When toasted, the nuttiness of the sesame seed really comes forward – mimicking the poppy seed in taste. Sesame seeds are small and crunchy, also like the poppy seed.

1 tablespoon of whole dried sesame seeds contains about 52 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of carbs, 1.6 grams of protein, and 1 gram of dietary fiber. 

Toasted Sesame Seeds
Toasted Sesame Seeds

5. Sesame Seeds

Using regular sesame seeds will provide you with a similar texture and taste as poppy seeds – but it will lack a nuttiness in taste compared to toasted sesame seeds.

1 tablespoon of whole dried sesame seeds contains about 52 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of carbs, 1.6 grams of protein, and 1 gram of dietary fiber. 

Sesame Seeds
Sesame Seeds

6. Nigella Seeds

Nigella seeds (sometimes known as black seeds) look extremely similar to black sesame seeds.

They come from the seeds of the flowering plant Nigella sativa, which is found throughout Turkey, Syria, and parts of Iraq.

Nigella seeds are a member of the Ranunculaceae family, which also includes flowers such as the buttercup and delphinium.

The nigella seed differs from the poppy seed slightly in regards to taste. Nigella seeds tend to taste more onion-y or peppery, although some people do not a nuttiness to them.

Because of this, nigella seeds would be best used in savory dishes such as curries, vegetable dishes, and lentil dishes.

Often in India, they mix nigella seeds into their traditional naan bread. You can also add these seeds as a topper to a meal such as salads to provide a flavorful crunch. 

Nigella seeds are packed with antioxidants and are also a good source of fiber, calcium, iron, and magnesium.

100 grams (about 7 tablespoons) of nigella seeds contains about 345 calories, 15 grams of fat, 52 grams of carbs, 16 grams of protein, and 40 grams of fiber.

Nigella Seeds
Fiber good source in Nigella Seeds

7. Hemp Seeds

Hemp seeds are great seeds that can be used to replace poppy seeds in any recipe. Hemp seeds come from the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa.

They are from the same species as cannabis (marijuana), but a different variety. Hemp contains only trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana.

Uniquely, hemp seeds are a complete protein – meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids the body requires from food to synthesize protein and carry out other vital actions in the body.

This special characteristic is usually reserved for animal products. This makes hemp seeds a fan favorite amongst vegans, vegetarians, and plant-based eaters.

Hemp seeds possess a healthy ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They also contain gamma-linolenic acid, which is an important anti-inflammatory fatty acid.

Hemp seeds are rich in the amino acid arginine, which produces nitric oxide in your body.

Nitric oxide is a gas molecule that makes your blood vessels dilate and relax, which can lead to lowered blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart disease.

1 tablespoon of hemp seeds contains about 55 calories, 4.9 grams of fat, 1 gram of carbs, 3.2 grams of protein, and 0.4 grams of fiber.

Hemp seeds contain a higher amount of protein and a lower amount of fiber compared to the poppy seed.

Hemp Seeds
Hemp Seeds

8. Celery Seeds

Celery seeds can also be used as a poppy seed substitute. They provide an earthy bitter scent/taste and, naturally, taste a lot like celery.

Therefore, they would best be used in a savory dish.

Celery seeds resemble poppy seeds in their small size and shape. They are light brown in color.

Celery seeds are rich in calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium. 

1 tablespoon of celery seeds contains about 25 calories, 2 grams of fat, 2 grams of carbs, 1 gram of protein, and 1 gram of fiber. This makes them the lowest-calorie poppy seed substitute.

Celery Seeds
Celery Seeds

9. Basil Seeds

Similar to sesame seeds but black, Basil seeds are considered another substitute for poppy seeds.

These seeds are usually used to season food and have a very crunchy texture with a mild floral taste. Basil seeds are a good source of calcium and iron.

1 tablespoon of basil seeds contains 60 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 7 grams of carbs, 2 grams of protein, and 7 grams of fiber.

Basil Seeds
Basil Seeds

10. Amaranth

Amaranth is a gluten-free ancient grain that has been gaining recent popularity (most likely because ALL ancient grains have).

This nutritious grain is rich in protein, fiber, micronutrients (particularly manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, selenium, and copper), and antioxidants.

¼ cup of dry amaranth contains 170 calories, 32 g carbs, 3 g fiber, and 6 g protein.


Poppy Seeds Uses

Poppy seeds are oilseeds obtained from the opium poppy plant. The poppy plant is native to the Eastern Mediterranean.

Its flowers come in various colors — primarily white and yellow. The seeds the poppy plant produces are small and kidney-shaped.

They taste slightly nutty and some would say slightly sweet. Poppy seeds range in color from blue-ish to black, or light to dark gray – depending on where they’re cultivated.

Poppy seeds have been harvested by various civilizations for thousands of years. They are also known as khus khus.

Nutritional Info

Poppy seeds possess an array of nutrients. When cold-pressed, poppy seeds produce poppyseed oil – which is rich in omega-6 and omega-9 fats. Poppyseed oil also contains trace amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.

These fats are often known as the ‘healthy fats’ and have been associated with overall health and lowered risk for cardiovascular disease.

Poppy seeds are also a great source of fiber and micronutrients such as copper, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, thiamin, and even iron.

Of note, poppy seeds are particularly rich in manganese – just one tablespoon provides you with 26% of your Daily Value (DV).

Manganese helps the body form connective tissue, bones, blood clotting factors, and sex hormones.

It also plays a role in fat and carbohydrate metabolism, calcium absorption, and blood sugar regulation. Manganese is also necessary for normal brain and nerve function.

1 tablespoon of poppy seeds contains about 46 calories, 3.7 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of carbohydrates, 1.6 grams of protein, and 1.7 grams of fiber.

Final Considerations

Whether you’re making Everything bagels, lemon poppyseed cake, or whatever your heart desires that may traditionally call for poppy seeds – rest assured that you have options if you don’t wish to (or can’t) use poppy seeds.

I hope this article has provided you with some insight on what may be the best poppy seed substitute for your recipe. Have fun exploring!

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