Skip to Content

5 Tasty Substitutes for Dill Weed and Dill Seed in Recipes

I think we can all agree that dill is the unsung hero of so many kitchen classics. Its unique, fresh taste adds a delightful zing to pickles, potato salads, and creamy dressings.

However, there are those days when you peer into your spice cupboard in search of that elusive jar of dill weed or dill seed, only to find it distressingly bare. I’m here to guide you through the flavorful labyrinth of dill substitutes, ensuring your culinary adventures aren’t derailed by a missing herb.

substitutes for dill

Dried vs Fresh Dill

First, let’s get one thing straight – fresh dill and dried dill are not interchangeable. Dried dill has a more concentrated flavor, while fresh dill is milder and grassier in taste. If your recipe calls for fresh dill but you only have dried on hand, use half the amount of dried as you would fresh to avoid overpowering the dish with dill’s pungent flavor.

But why are they so different? Dill’s flavor is a result of its essential oils, which are more concentrated in the dried version. These oils start to dissipate when dill is harvested and dried, resulting in a less intense taste. That’s why fresh dill is often preferred for dishes that require a subtle hint of flavor or as a garnish.

On the other hand, dried dill is a great choice for dishes that need a bold and pronounced dill flavor, such as pickles or certain types of soups and stews. It can also withstand longer cooking times without losing its taste, making it perfect for slow-cooked dishes.

Substitutes for Dill Weed

Dill weed, also known as dill leaves, is a common herb used in many cuisines. But what if you can’t find it at your local grocery store or it’s not in season? Don’t worry – there are some great substitutes that you can use instead.

1 – Fresh Tarragon

If you’re out of dill weed, fresh tarragon can swoop in to save the day. With its slightly sweet, anise-like flavor, fresh tarragon could easily be mistaken for dill in a culinary lineup. Picture it in all your dill-loving recipes, from grilled fish to roasted potatoes. But how do you make the swap without losing the essence of your dish?

In the absence of dill, consider the recipe at hand. For fish dishes, fresh tarragon is a one-to-one swap. For something as delicate as a cucumber salad, the flavor of fresh tarragon can be more intense, so start with half as much, and adjust to taste.

2 – Fresh Fennel

Fresh fennel’s mild licorice flavor makes it another worthy understudy for dill. Whether you’re infusing it into oils or using it as a garnish, fresh fennel does more than fill in—it brings its own crisp, refreshing taste to the stage.

For pickling, the sweetness of fennel can be more pronounced than dill, so you might want to use about a third more fennel than the recommended dill portion. When it comes to soups and stews, fennel’s hearty texture and taste shine; use it in equal amounts to dill for a hearty dose of flavor.

Substitutes for Dill Seed

When a recipe calls for dill seed, it’s usually in the pickling process. Dill seeds are smaller and darker than their weed namesake and have a more intense flavor. But if you can’t find them or just don’t have any on hand, there are some great substitutes that will give your pickles the same delicious punch.

1 – Caraway Seeds

When it’s dill seed you’re short on, caraway could be your best bet. Caraway seeds are often associated with rye bread, but their zesty anise-like flavor can mimic dill’s in gravlax or roasted vegetables just as easily.

Using caraway seeds as a dill seed substitute follows a similar strategy to tarragon for weed replacement. In most applications, a one-to-one swap works fine. However, remember that caraway’s flavor is slightly more robust, so err on the side of caution and use a little less if you’re not certain.

2 – Anise

Anise offers a perfect ‘almost-dill’ experience with its sweet licorice flavor. Use this dill seed imitator in breads, cakes, and meat dishes for a subtle but distinct taste.

In recipes that ask for a light sprinkling of dill seeds, you can use anise in the same quantity for a delightful twist. But in recipes where dill’s flavor is a primary note, double up on anise seeds to ensure it’s not overwhelmed by the other ingredients.

3 – Fennel Seeds

Just as fennel’s fresh fronds can substitute for dill weed, its seeds can fill in for dill seed. Fennel seeds’ robust flavor can hold its own in sauerkraut and brines, ensuring that the essence of dill still comes through.

In pickling recipes, use about a quarter more fennel seeds than the dill seed quantity to account for the slight increase in potency. Fennel seeds grind nicely and can be sprinkled over fish or potatoes for that signature ‘dill-ish’ flavor.

Grow Your Own Dill

Growing dill is a breeze, so why not give it a go in your garden? It’s an annual plant, but it self-seeds easily. Simply let some flowers go to seed by the season’s end, and you’ll likely see it sprout up on its own next year.

All parts of dill – flowers, stems, leaves, and seeds – are edible, so you can snip off a few leaves for cooking or add the beautiful yellow flowers to your salads. It’s best to harvest dill when it reaches around 18 inches in height, as this is when it has the most flavor.

It’s important to note that dill does not transplant well, so it’s best to sow the seeds directly into your garden. They prefer full sun and well-draining soil and only need occasional watering. With just a little bit of care, you’ll have a steady supply of fresh dill whenever you need it.