I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of dried pomegranate seed substitutes to find the best ones for every cooking occasion. Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry swap, or want a substitute that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
If you can find a fresh pomegranate, you can dry your own seeds in the oven. If not, you can substitute them with pomegranate molasses or lemon juice. Amchur powder or sumac powder are other popular souring agents you can also use.
I made a super tasty potato curry to test out several different dried pomegranate seed substitutes.
Dried pomegranate seeds (also known as anardana) are popular in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines, and you can get them whole or ground into a powder. Dried pomegranate seeds have a more intense tart flavor than their fresh counterparts, making them a great souring agent in chutneys and curries.
You can also use them in all the same ways as fresh seeds, sprinkling them over salads or yogurt, or even snacking on them.
Finding a perfect substitute for pomegranate seeds proved challenging, but I did find some great alternatives for specific uses. Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Substitute||How To Substitute||Verdict|
|Pomegranate molasses||1 tbsp dried seeds = 1/2 tbsp molasses||9/10|
|Drying your own seeds||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Lemon/lime juice||1 tbsp dried seeds = 1/2 tbsp lemon juice||7/10|
|Vinegar||1 tbsp dried seeds = 1/2 tbsp vinegar||6/10|
|Amchur powder or sumac||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||7/10|
|Tamarind + raisins||1 tbsp dried seeds = 2 tsp tamarind + 1 tsp raisins||8/10|
|Citric acid||1 tbsp dried seeds = 1/2 tsp citric acid||6/10|
Pomegranate molasses isn’t just a great substitute for fresh pomegranate seeds – it works superbly in place of dried pomegranate seeds too!
It has the sweet-tart flavors down to a tee, with an added caramel undertone that comes from the cooking process. And it’s really concentrated! I only added ½ tablespoon to my curry and I could already taste the distinct fruitiness.
Molasses is obviously in liquid form and won’t replicate the texture of whole dried pomegranate seeds. But I think an exact flavor match is a worthy trade-off for losing out on some crunch. And because you only need a small amount, you don’t have to worry about altering the consistency of your dishes.
How to substitute: Replace 1 tbsp dried pomegranate seeds with ½ tbsp pomegranate molasses.
Drying your own seeds
If you can get hold of a fresh pomegranate, then you can dry your own seeds in the oven.
Remove the seeds and then spread them out on a piece of parchment paper on top of a cooling rack. I recommend using a cooling rack instead of a baking tray so hot spots don’t form.
Dry them in the oven at 170F (77C) for 4-6 hours, moving the seeds around every hour to prevent sticking. Once dried, you can keep them whole or grind them into a powder and use them however you want!
How to substitute: Replace in a 1:1 ratio.
Lemon or lime juice is one of the easiest and most convenient substitutes for dried pomegranate seeds when you’re using them as a souring agent. Both citrus juices aren’t perfect because they lack the background sweetness of dried pomegranate seeds.
But they offer a nice tradeoff with a zesty, fresh twist that pairs wonderfully with heavy dishes like stews and curries. And you can always add a pinch of sugar to your dish if you think it needs a sweet boost.
Pro-tip: to get the most out of your citrus fruits, roll them on your countertop before slicing and squeezing. This extra step breaks down the cell walls of your lemons or limes, releasing more of their juices.
How to substitute: Replace 1 tbsp dried pomegranate seeds with 1/2 tbsp of lemon or lime juice.
Vinegar is another accessible alternative for dried pomegranate seeds. You probably already have it on hand, meaning no trip to the grocery store!
Although it doesn’t mimic the sweet-and-sour profile of pomegranate seeds precisely, it imparts a noticeable tanginess. But not all vinegars are the same, and choosing the right type is crucial.
Initially, I made the rookie mistake of opting for white distilled vinegar, but its high acidity quickly dominated the dish, drowning out the other flavors. That’s a mistake you don’t want to make. Your best bet is to use milder varieties like white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
I personally liked apple cider vinegar because it had a hint of fruity sweetness, bringing me a tad closer to the dried pomegranate seeds’ flavor.
How to substitute: For every tbsp of dried pomegranate seeds in your recipe, use 1/2 tbsp of your choice of vinegar.
Amchur powder or sumac
Amchur powder is made from dried mangoes, and sumac is made from sumac berries. Both are popular souring agents that you can use to replace dried pomegranate seeds.
Both have a tangy flavor similar to lemon juice with a slight hint of sweetness, but not as much sweetness as you’d get from dried pomegranate seeds. In terms of how they compare to each other, amchur is mellower and retains some of the fruity mango flavor, while sumac can be a little astringent.
I mixed both with a pinch of sugar for my potato curry and they worked nicely, but overall I thought amchur was a better fit.
How to substitute: Replace 1 tbsp dried pomegranate seeds with 1 tsp amchur powder or sumac powder, add sugar if preferred.
Tamarind + raisins
On its own, tamarind carries a prominent sour flavor with subtle fruity undertones. But pairing it with the gentle sweetness of crushed raisins elevates the flavor, mimicking the sweet and sour taste of dried pomegranate seeds.
This won’t work for all dishes, though. It’s best suited to recipes where this mixture has time to fully meld – think stews, soups, and curries.
You can get tamarind in different forms including a paste, powder, or juice. All of them will provide the flavor, so which one you go for depends on what consistency makes sense for your dish and which one you can find!
How to substitute: For every tbsp of dried pomegranate seeds in your recipe, use two tsp of tamarind juice and one tsp of crushed raisins.
If your dish only needs a bright tart kick, you can get away with using citric acid instead of anardana (another name for dried pomegranate seeds).
I once made the mistake of tasting citric acid straight out of the container and was met with such intense tartness that it made my face scrunch up! It’s typically used as a food preservative, but its bold flavor also means it’s a great souring agent.
Just remember, it’s all about the balance. Use it sparingly to avoid overwhelming the other flavors in your dish.
How to substitute: Start with ½ tsp of citric acid to replace 1 tbsp of dried pomegranate seeds, adjust to taste.
Substitutes to avoid
I also came across suggestions to use date paste and umeboshi paste to replace dried pomegranate seeds, but I don’t recommend either option. Date paste is too sweet, while umeboshi paste comes with a distinct saltiness that you don’t get with pomegranate.
Best Dried Pomegranate Seed Substitutes + 2 To Avoid
- Parchment paper
- 1 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
- Remove seeds from the pomegranate and dry them as much as possible with a paper towel.
- Spread the seeds out on an oven-safe cooling rack lined with parchement paper.
- Dry in the oven at 170°F (76°C) for 4-6 hours, moving the seeds around every hour so there's no sticking.