Fennel vs Caraway Seeds: What are their Differences?

Fennel seeds are a popular spice and food item, especially in Mediterranean cuisine. But do you know what they are? Fennel is actually a vegetable that grows wild in the Mediterranean region of Europe. 

The seeds of this plant have been used for thousands of years as part of traditional medicine and for flavoring dishes. Fennel seeds can be found whole or ground as well as in oil, butter, or water extracts (also known as anethole). 

Fennel seed oil has been used for its antiseptic properties to help with skin conditions such as dermatitis and psoriasis. It also helps relieve nasal congestion when taken internally. In addition, fennel seed tea has been used to promote menstruation by causing uterine contractions while easing cramps associated with the menstrual cycle.

But how do fennel seeds compare to caraway seeds? 

Caraway seeds have a distinctive licorice flavor that’s hard to replicate. Fennel seeds come the closest though. While they have their differences, they aren’t drastic when it comes to flavor and texture.

Are Caraway Seeds the Same as Fennel Seeds?

Caraway seeds are not the same as fennel seeds. They have similarities, but when it comes to cooking, the flavor differences are apparent.

Caraway seeds are smaller than fennel seeds and have a more bitter taste than fennel seeds do; they also tend to be more aromatic due to their high volatile oil content (which contributes heavily to their aroma). Fennel seeds on the other hand contain more licorice flavor due to their high coumarin content – which makes them sweeter tasting than caraway!

You’ll find the overall flavor profile of caraway seeds is closer to cumin than fennel, however, the fennel has the anise or licorice notes that most desire in their recipes. Fennel doesn’t have the earthy or nutty notes that caraway does. 

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What is the Difference Between Fennel and Caraway Seeds?

Caraway seeds are a member of the parsley family, while fennel seeds are from the same family as dill, but both belong to the carrot family. Both have a similar taste and can be used interchangeably in many recipes.

In addition to their similar flavor profiles, both have been used for centuries as spices or herbs in cooking.


Origin of Caraway

Caraway seeds are native to Asia and Central Europe but are now grown worldwide. Caraway seeds have been used as food since ancient times, more specifically since the Middle Ages. 

They have become a common and sought after spice in Europe: Germany, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, and Austria.

They have also been known as meridian fennel and Persian cumin and have a flavor similar to that of anise.

Origins of Fennel

Fennel seeds are native to the Mediterranean. They come from the fennel plant of which all the parts are used for culinary and medicinal purposes. They are key to dishes from the cultures of India, Iran, Afghanistan, and more. 

You’ll find that fennel also has a flavor similar to anise.


Caraway seeds are crescent-shaped and dark brown, while fennel seeds are flat and green with a ridged texture. Caraway seeds are smaller than fennel, but both have a similar shape when you look at them side by side. 

Fennel also has a sweeter flavor than caraway, so if you’re shopping for spices to add sweetness to your dishes it may be easier on your palate if you choose this one over its counterpart!


Caraway seeds are used in breads and cakes. The most popular use of caraway seeds in the baking of rye bread. They’re often used in desserts in the Middle East, Hungary, and Serbia.

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Fennel seeds are used in breads and cakes. They add a hint of sweetness. Fennel seeds are the main seasoning in many sausage recipes. Fennel has also been used to enhance the flavor of tea, toothpaste, and mouth freshening rinses. 

Caraway seeds are also used as a spice in soups, sauces and stews. Fennel seeds can be used similarly as a spice for soups, sauces, stews, and other recipes that call for herbs or spices such as curry powder or ground cumin seed.

Can I substitute Caraway Seeds for Fennel Seeds?

Fennel and Caraway are similar enough that they can be used as a substitute for each other in a pinch. 

They’re both of the carrot family and have a similar licorice-like flavor and are close in general essence. 

You can substitute in equal amounts. 


In conclusion, it’s clear that there are many differences between fennel seeds and caraway seeds. 

While they may have similar appearances and uses, there are some key differences that will help you determine which one is right for your recipe or dish. 

If you’re looking for a more savory flavor in your dish then caraway might be the better choice because it has an earthy taste that pairs well with meats such as pork or chicken whereas fennel seeds tend to be used more often in sweet treats like cakes or cookies thanks to their sweet flavor profile.

In a pinch, you can use either as a substitute, but there will be a flavor difference.