Poppy seeds, also known as Khas Khas or maw seeds, are tiny dried seeds of the opium poppy used as food, flavoring, and a source of poppy seed oil. But if you don’t have any on hand, there are several substitutes you can use.
It’s popularly used in many diverse recipes in Indian cuisines and European cooking. Poppy seeds can be used in cakes, pastries, smoothies, filling, porridge, or glaze. Using it in your recipes renders a nutty flavor and visually striking appearance.
These seeds are a good source of fiber, protein, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. Eating poppy seeds may also help with asthma, cough, and diarrhea caused by infection.
Best Poppy Seed Substitute
To make fragrant yeast bread or for a fruit salad dressing, you may love to have poppy seeds. However, finding a replacement for poppy seeds may become necessary when you don’t have them.
Fortunately, there are a couple of other good ingredients that have a similar appearance, crunch, and flavor profile like the seeds of poppy. Try one of these 5 best substitutes for poppy listed below.
1. Black Sesame Seeds
Black sesame seeds, a common ingredient in Indian cooking, have a nutty flavor and appearance almost similar to poppy seeds with a similar flavor and texture.
Roasting makes a big difference to seeds; in the case of black sesame seeds, it upsurges the nutty flavor. Therefore, use the toasted sesame seeds in fewer quantities in place of black or white poppy seeds.
Sesame seeds are slightly larger than poppy but they have a pleasant type of grittiness and a more noticeable crunch.
Instead of poppy seeds, black sesame seeds can be used in baking or cooking, sweet pastries and bread, salads, and hot dishes. In an emergency, it’s a manageable swap for poppy seeds in any recipe. See if any of the sesame seed substitutes will fit into your recipe.
2. Chia seeds
I’m sure that you’ll love to have chia seeds not only for their wonderful taste but also for their several health benefits. Certainly, it’s a good substitute that you confidently use.
All the more, they almost look like black poppy seeds and provide grittiness and crunch similar to the poppy. Add a teaspoon of chia seeds to muffins or as toppings on bread or pastries. Chia seeds work just like poppy seeds.
For some recipes, chia seeds may not work well as they will absorb water and expand due to their fiber content. So you might miss its crunchiness in moist dishes, unlike the poppy seeds. On the safer side, use chia seeds in dry dishes that call for poppy seeds. If these seeds aren’t available, you may even choose a suitable chia seed substitute for your recipe.
3. Nigella seeds
Nigella seed, also known as black cumin, nigella, or by its scientific name Nigella sativa, kalonji, belongs to the buttercup family of flowering plants.
The kalonji seeds are small and blue-black in color, similar to black poppy seeds. It tastes like a mixture of poppy and onion.
Though not so common, yet you can find many Indian dishes that include nigella seeds. Use it in curries, topping on bread and naan, and in spicy dishes.
Nigella seeds can be used in measure for measure to regular poppy. This replacement works best in curries and savory dishes that call for poppy seeds. Also, even some of the alternatives for nigella seeds may work in your recipe.
4. Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds have a nutty flavor similar to the seeds of poppy despite the differences in appearance.
Hemp seeds are small, brown seeds from the Cannabis sativa plant. They have a similar nutty flavor though they don’t look alike.
As a suggestion, if you use roasted and crushed hemp seeds then they produce a texture akin to poppy seeds. Usually, the roasted hemp seeds have a stronger flavor as well.
You can substitute poppy seeds with hemp seeds in savory dishes and most other recipes that use poppy seeds. Also, look at the replacements for hemp seed which can be used in your recipes.
5. Flax seeds
Flax seeds are a good alternative to poppy seeds in most dishes; both seeds are also equally nutritious and tasty.
Flax has a pleasant, nutty taste. They can be used interchangeably in some recipes despite their differences in appearance and texture. Whole flaxseeds are crunchy and crispy as well.
Flax seeds are highly versatile and go well with both savory and sweet dishes. There won’t be a problem in using any recipes to replace poppy seeds. In some recipes, one of the flax seed substitutes might work as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you replace chia seeds with poppy seeds?
Chia, poppy, and flax seeds are said to be the best replacements for hemp seeds. However, you’ll not find they all have significant differences in flavor but basically, all of them have a nutty undertone. They all have similar uses in cooking especially in making savory or sweet baked goods.
Are Chia and poppy seeds the same?
No. Chia and poppy are very different seeds but they are similar in size and similar applications in cooking. Also, they come from the mint family of plants. The color of the chia seeds can vary such as black, brown, or white. Both these seeds are rich in several important nutrients including rare fatty acids like Omega 3.
Are poppy and sesame seeds the same?
They aren’t the same but both these seeds are rich sources of similar nutrients including amino acids. Black sesame seeds look like a poppy but can be stronger, so you have to use fewer black sesame seeds instead of poppy seeds to balance the flavor. Sesame is a bit lower in fiber than poppies, about just over a gram per tablespoon.
Are poppy seeds the same as basil seeds?
Basil seeds aren’t as nutritious as poppy seeds and they also differ in flavor and they come from different species of plants. Basil seeds are traditionally used for their medicinal value for their strong antiviral properties in them. Often, both these seeds are used together in different beverages like flavored soft drinks, smoothies, juices, and more.
Are poppy seeds OK for humans?
When consumed in small amounts (about 15 grams per day), they are safe and beneficial for health. It’s better to consume soaked or baked poppy seeds because the consumption of raw seeds has the risk of addiction and health hazards. Unfortunately, they may produce a positive drug test.
Are poppy seeds allowed in the USA?
The cultivation of opium poppy plants is legally not allowed in the United States. However, the seeds can be imported without any legal restriction. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) does require importers to obtain a permit before bringing them into the country.
The Bottom Line
So what is the best substitute for poppy seeds? Black sesame seed is the numero uno choice to replace poppy seeds. The second best alternative is chia seeds which are quite similar in appearance, crunchy texture, and nutritional profile. Other possible ingredients that can be used as a substitute are flax, nigella, and hemp seeds.