What is Charnushka


What is Charnushka?


Stacy Flinton

Charnushka, which means “black seed” in Russian, is known by many names, including: Nigella seed, black seed, black onion seed, onion stem and black caraway seeds.

The nigella seed comes from the flowering plant Nigella sativa, which is found in Turkey, Syria, and parts of Iraq. 

It may be called black cumin sometimes; however, it’s not related to any of these seeds at all – that is why there may be some confusion among people who learn about this name for the first time! 

Although charnushka has various names in different parts of the world and tastes different from cumin seeds and coriander seeds, it still bears a strong resemblance to these spices because of its dark colouration. 

What Does Charnushka Taste Like?

Charnushka is a peppery black seed but crossed with some liquorice notes with a relatively strong aroma. It has various flavours, which include being sweet and sharp at times and smokey at others.

Charnushka is interpreted by different taste palettes in different ways, so the different levels of flavours will stand out depending on your own personal taste buds and the dish you are preparing. 

A spice like this would be great to have in your kitchen because it brings subtle but unique flavours when used correctly. This spice also may provide health benefits!

How to Use Charnushka

Charnushka is commonly used in Turkish and Syrian dishes, but it can be used more generically than that in your cooking; here are some ways charnuska can be used:

Bread and Bakes

Charnuska can be used to top savoury bread loaves and bakes to create an interesting flavoured bread topping.

This works particularly well with Indian bread, naan bread, and tear-and-share bread.


When mixed with sea salt, charnushka can offer a very different flavour profile from a seasoning combination.

Charnushka works really well with roasted root vegetables as a more pungent seasoning alternative to pepper.

Meat Rub

Charnuska can be combined with other ingredients such as garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, and rosemary to bring a delicious rub to roasted meats, predominantly white meats such as chicken and pork.

Spice Blends

Charnushka is one of the spices featured in Panch Phoron, a popular blend used in Indian cuisine that includes other aromatic spices such as mustard, fennel, cumin, and fenugreek.

How to Store Charnushka

Charnushka can be found in three main forms: Fresh, dried and ground. Each will need to be stored in slightly different ways. Here’s how:

Fresh Charnushka

Charnushka can be stored at room temperature when fresh and will taste delicious within 7 days of the seeds being harvested.

If the seeds are placed in a dry store this way, they can last up to one week.

Dried Charnushka

The best place to store dried charnushka seeds is in an airtight container with a tight-fitting lid. 

If kept under these conditions and away from harsh light and moisture.

Dried charnushka seeds will last anything up to 24 months if stored away from extremes of temperatures and in a dark and cool place, away from other intense aromas.

Ground Charnushka

This is where the dried charnushka seeds have been ground into a powder for use as a spice. If kept away, sources of moisture and other intense flavours can last for many years in a tightly-lidded container.

Does Ground Charnushka Expire?

Not really. But ground charnushka will lose its potency and flavour over time if stored for an extended period of time. You should try to use it all up within a year.

Substitutes for Charnushka

Suppose you’re unable to get charnushka in any of its disguises. In that case, you can try using a substitute ingredient that will provide a similar flavour, feel, and texture, such as:

  • Sesame Seeds – Sesame seeds will offer a similar nuttiness to the dish as a substitute ingredient to charnushka
  • Cumin Seeds – Cumin seeds are a great option to substitute for charnushka. They have the nuttiness with the pepperiness that charnuska offers.
  • Celery Seeds – If you cannot find charnushka seeds, then substituting them with celery seeds might be a good change. They offer peppery notes that can work in place of charnushka, as well as a bitter bite that may work in place of the seeds you are missing.

Where to Buy Charnushka

Unfortunately, if were to pop into your local supermarket and ask where they stock their charnushka then you’ll be met with blank faces baffled by your query. Instead, you’ll need to look a little further afield:

  • Spice Shops – Charnushka may be available at specialty spice shops, specifically Indian or middle eastern. Here, you would find many Indian-inspired spices to buy at a specialist level. 
  • Indian Stores – Head into your local Indian community and approach their local shops. You may find charnushka a little easier to come by than scouring the mainstream supermarkets for something that may not even be stocked there!
  • Online Retailers – Buying charnushka online is often the best idea since finding them in Western stores can be a never-ending quest. You’ll have better options available online and a variety of merchants selling charnushka.
  • Health Food Stores – You may find charnushka in a health food shop or in the specialty aisle of the supermarket. Still, it is more likely to be found at a health food store, given that it’s a spice of a specialist nature.

Charnushka FAQs

If you’ve got other specific questions about charnushka and how to use it, then these might help:

Is Charnushka the Same as Black Cumin?

Although they are often used interchangeably and the people will often use both names, they are not actually the same.

Where Does Charnushka Come From?

Charnushka may be popular in Indian cuisine but it is actually grown across the globe including in Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, Turkey and Iran.

Got more questions about charnushka? Then ask away in the comments section at the bottom of this page and we’ll help out as much as possible!

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