What Is the Difference between Dill Weed and Dill Seed?

Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus
Dill seed.
Dill seed.

Dill seed is the fruit of the dill plant, while dill weed refers to the leaf and stem of the same plant. Dill seed is also known as seed dill and dill weed is sometimes referred to as leaf dill. This plant is in the family Apiaceae, which includes anise, caraway, carrot, celery, chervil, coriander, fennel, parsley and parsnip. The Apiaceae family has over 3,000 members, including the poisonous hemlock. Although part of the same plant, dill seed and weed are so different that expert cooks caution never to substitute one for the other.

Dill weed.
Dill weed.

Dill weed is herb-like, while the seed is spice-like; the seeds have a stronger flavor than the weed. A fast easy way to use dill in your menus is to add fresh chopped dill to softened butter and use it as a spread on crusty bread or melt the butter as a dip for grilled seafood. Leftover tuna or egg salad makes a great appetizer or snack when put onto crackers and topped with a sprinkle of dill seeds. Fresh dill weed stores well in plastic bags in the freezer, while dill seed should be kept in a covered container in a cool dry place. Dried dill weed is less flavorful than fresh, but holds up better in dishes needing long cooking times.

Cucumbers can be fermented in a brine solution with dill weed or seed to make sour pickles.
Cucumbers can be fermented in a brine solution with dill weed or seed to make sour pickles.

Although much maligned in French and Italian cooking, which favor fennel, dill weed and seed are widely used in Russian, German, Indian, and Scandinavian cooking. Dill seed and weed are used in distinctly different ways, although both may be used together in foods such as pickles, salad dressings, vinegars, and sauces. The use of this herb in dishes such as potato salad is fairly common in the United States. Dill seeds are used in meat dishes in Indonesia and Malaysia, while dill weed is commonly used in rice dishes there. The seeds are used in condiments in Asia and in breads in Sweden.

Both dill seed and dill weed may be used to make salad dressing.
Both dill seed and dill weed may be used to make salad dressing.

The dill plant is bright yellow-green in color, with airy flowered heads and feathery spindly leaves. The heads, called umbels, look like upside-down umbrellas. It grows up to 3 feet (0.9144 meters) tall and imparts a lemony-pine essence with flavors reminiscent of family members caraway and fennel. Its fruit, referred to as seeds, are brown, flat, and oval-shaped. Dill seed contains more oil than dill weed and the seed oil is greasier and stronger tasting than dill weed oil.

Lesser-Known Answers to "What Is Dill Seed?"

It's no secret that dill seeds often complement bread, soups and vegetable dishes, thanks to their intense flavor. They also may be used as a substitution for caraway seeds, as ingredients in many herbal remedies, and as agents to address personal health and hygiene issues, including bad breath and insomnia.

A Substitution for Caraway Seeds

Many cooks turn to dill seeds if they don't have caraway seeds in their spice racks or drawers. Caraway seeds are known for their nutty sharpness and hints of anise, citrus and pepper. Their distinctive flavor and high concentration of essential oils align them closely with dill seeds' qualities. As with dill seeds, cooks can add them to bread, soups and vegetable dishes.

An Ingredient in Herbal Remedies

Dill is known best as a culinary spice, but people have also used it for herbal remedies throughout history. For example, some practitioners have applied dill seed to the mouth and throat to reduce pain and swelling from inflammation. Others believe dill seeds' chemicals might help relax muscles, fight bacteria and increase urine production.

A Digestive Agent

Dill seeds have powerful digestive properties and contain flavonoids and monoterpenes that act as anti-bacterial agents. Another lesser-known use for dill seed is a hot tea that supports the digestive system. Some health practitioners steep rinsed dill seeds in boiling water before straining the mixture and drinking it once it cools.

An Excellent Source of Calcium

One tablespoon of dill seeds provides 8 percent of the recommended daily value for calcium, making it a natural addition to dishes that can help bone health. People with osteoporosis, for example, may consider adding a dill seed to their diet and dishes.

An Anti-Insomnia Aid

The name dill means to "calm or soothe" and hints at its connection to good sleep. Dill seeds are packed with enzymes and vitamins, allowing dill to act as a sedative and relax the body. A fun fact: The Greeks used dill as a sleep aid, covering their eyes with the plant.

A Bad Breath Combatant

Chew on some dill seeds or sip on their tea for improved breath odor and digestion. Dill seeds' carminative properties that relieve or prevent flatulence help combat bad breath.

Lesser-Known Answers to "What Is Dill Weed?"

Like dill seed, dill weed has a variety of uses outside of the culinary realm. While many people connect dill to dishes and dips, it can also function as an anti-infection aid, an overall health booster and more.

A Subsitute for Tarragon

Just as dill seeds make a worthy substitute for caraway seeds, dill weed makes an excellent swap for tarragon. Dill has a similar anise finish to tarragon, making it an easy substitution in the kitchen. Experts recommend using equal amounts of dried or fresh dill to substitute for dried or fresh tarragon.

An Anti-Infection Aid

Fresh dill weed is an excellent source of antioxidant vitamin C. Approximately 100 grams of the weed provides about 140 percent of the daily value for the vitamin, which helps people resist infection.

A Herb for Healthy Eyes and Skin

Thanks to it containing 257 percent of the daily value for vitamin A, dill weed helps maintain good vision and healthy skin. It's also helpful in protecting against oral cavity and lung cancers.

A Health Booster

In addition to vitamin A for healthy eyes and skin, dill contains many nutrients that boost humans' overall health. Here are a few examples:

  • Calcium
  • Folate
  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • Potassium
  • Riboflavin
  • Vitamin C

Minerals calcium, copper, iron, manganese and potassium play a critical role in supporting and regulating the human body's digestion, growth and development, and heart rate. For example, potassium makes up body fluids that control blood pressure.

A Cholesterol Controller

A green plant free of cholesterol and low in calories, dill weed is an excellent addition to dishes to help control humans' blood cholesterol levels. The following factors contribute to its cholesterol-controlling power:

  • Antioxidants
  • Dietary fibers
  • Vitamins

A Cosmetics Additive

Both dill seeds and weed contain essential volatile oils, including eugenol, which people sometimes use in therapeutic settings due to its antiseptic properties. In addition to eugenol, dill includes the following essential oils:

  • D-carvone
  • DHC
  • Dillapiole
  • Limonene
  • Myristicin
  • Terpinene

Thanks to its essential oils, dill weed provides a valuable additive for many manufacturers to add to their cosmetics and fragrances. Its antifungal and antimicrobial properties help it keep bacteria at bay.

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Discussion Comments

anon993761

Is there a difference in baby dill and dill? Can I use them interchangeably? Also should I peel and seed the cucumbers? Not sure about that!

anon180046

does anyone know if you can replace fresh dill with dill seeds for pickling? and how much?

anon111214

how many teaspoonfuls of dill dried weed do i use per one cup of hot water for tea infusion? i know it's two teaspoonfuls of dill seeds per one cup infusion.

anon62289

Can you eat dill weed raw such as putting it in homemade tarter sauce or do you have to cook it first?

anon47724

if i don't have any dill sprigs what would be the best thing to use instead?

anon46960

I pickled a gallon of okra five months ago. I used dill weed, which I was growing at the time, but without referring to any recipe. The okra tasted good after about six weeks, though it clearly did not have the dill pickle taste I love from the jar. Then it occurred to me to remove the dill weed, still floating on the top of the large jar in which the okra was. I then added about 1/8 cup of the dill seeds (they turn brown, hard and look like miniature caraway seeds) from my plants. Two weeks later, there was a huge, noticeable improvement of the taste, which was now a lot more like the store bought. Use the seeds or the flowering heads before they become seeds, but the latter is the better as far as I am concerned. I bet caraway might be a good, close substitute if you just can't get dill seed. I tasted them and they are so close to caraway.

AuthorSheriC

Thanks everyone for your questions. This isn't an easy thing to track down, but I now think and hope I have the information that all of you are asking for. Here's what I've found in as clear a format as possible:

1. A dill head is the top umbrella-like part at the top of the dill plant. It will eventually flower into yellow blooms and then eventually the dill head will turn into dill seeds.

2. The dill head and flowers and everything on the dill plant can be used when making pickles -- even the feather-like stems. Some people say the flowers help add flavor.

3. Since the dill head turns into seeds, subtituting one for the other is possible. However, the flavor is different -- think of the seed as a spice and the head as an herb. Some people don't recommend substituting dill heads and seeds, while others do recommend it. One thing to remember is not to use old dill seeds as they may lack flavor. The amount to substitute if you want to try it is supposed to be about 3/4 teaspoon dill seeds for 1 medium sized dill head.

4. No one seems to recommend substituting dill seeds for dill weed.

5. Dill weed and fresh dill heads can apparently be substituted for each other. The recommended amount is about 4 tsp. dry dill weed for 3/4 cup of fresh dill.

6. If you're thinking in just fresh dill sprigs try 1/4 tsp of dry dill weed per 3-5 inch fresh dill sprig.

7. All the parts of dill plants may be used in pickle making and are often used in combinations. There is some trial and error involved, but the amounts I've given above were recommended by those calling themselves expert pickle makers.

The big thing to remember is that there's no perfect way of using dill in pickles because different pickle makers and pickle eaters seem to have differing opinions! I would recommend trying small batches and experimenting to find the types of dill you like and write it down in a recipe to keep for your family.

I hope this helps -- Let me know and happy pickling. :)

anon38106

making pickled okra for the first time, I have dill weed, can I use that instead of dill seed?

anon37537

If a recipe calls for dill head, how much of dill weed should I use?

anon35653

So I never saw a direct answer regarding dill head question. What is a dill head? I, too, am pickling/canning pickles and need to know what dill head is since it's an ingredient called for in the brine. Also, I am growing dill for first time. I have plenty of sprigs and am using in many ways but when do I see a dill seed?

anon21723

Being new to making pickles, can you tell me what is a dill head? Is that the same as the flower? I see that dill seed is frequently suggested as a substitute for the heads but can you use dill weed? What are the substitution equivalents between heads, seeds and weed? I don't see any consistency when checking recipes as to the amount of seed substitution per head(s). Perhaps I am being too analytical but I don't want to spend that much time and product to end up with a bad outcome.

AuthorSheriC

Hi Leesa. I checked all of my research sources and can find nothing about pink flowering dillweed. Does the plant give off any fragrance like dill when scraped a bit? This is interesting, but of course don't eat it until you're sure what it is! Is there a botanical society or even a plant nursery in your town you could take a sample of the plant to for identification?

leesa1976

I live in Canberra, Australia. I recently dug up my herb garden so that I could plant my spring herbs and noticed that a plant, looking very similar to the pictures I've seen of dill began growing. At first I thought it was flat Italian parsley as the leaves at the bottom of the plant were flat and serrated. Then as the plant grew taller (currently about a foot in height) the leaves splayed to thin spiky leaves (like dill). The only thing is, all of the dill pictures that I've seen have yellow flowers and the flowers on my plant are a pale pink (yet small and pretty like the yellow dill flowers I've seen). Could this be a variety of dill or is it something else entirely? Your comments would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

AuthorSheriC

From the information I have, you should harvest the dark green leaves from a dill plant that has three or more leaves on it. The smaller leaves are said to have more flavor. I hope this helps!:)

anon16853

Do you pick the dill seed when it is yellow, green or brown-flat-oval fennel? I am using it for making pickles.

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