Sunflower oil and sunflower seeds
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7 Best Sunflower Seeds Substitutes

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Sunflower seeds make for a great snack whether roasted, salted, or plain, and they can make a really delicious addition to a salad too!

However, if you find yourself without sunflower seeds but you need them for a recipe or just for a snack, you might be looking for some other substitutes.

What are the best sunflower seed substitutes? The best sunflower seed substitutes will depend on what you would be using them for, whether on their own or in a salad. Some of the best substitutes include pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, chopped nuts, poppy seeds, and hemp seeds.

To help you find the best substitute for your needs, read on to find the different options, how you can use them in place of sunflower seeds, and how they compare to the real thing!

What Are Sunflower Seeds?

Yellow sunflowers and sunflower seeds on a white background

In order to find the best substitute for sunflower seeds, it helps to know exactly what sunflower seeds are!

Sunflower seeds are seeds from the sunflower plant, which are harvested from the flower head. One sunflower alone can contain up to 2,000 seeds!

Sunflower seeds are found in black and white striped shells, and each one needs to be removed from the shell before being eaten.

The taste of sunflower seeds is mild and nutty, and they have a tender yet firm texture. They can be eaten raw, roasted, salted, in a salad, or in a trail mix.

Sunflower seeds are rich in healthy fats and nutrients, so not only are they tasty, but they are good for you too!

The Best Substitutes For Sunflower Seeds

There are some great substitutes you can use in place of sunflower seeds, but first, you need to consider what you were using them for in the first place to find the best option.

Take a read through the below best substitutes for sunflowers seeds to pick the one that you think would work best for your needs!

Pine Nuts

Pine nuts.

Pine nuts are a really good substitute for sunflower seeds in a lot of different ways.

They are slightly more expensive than sunflower seeds, but they have a such great flavor that they are worth it!

You can use pine nuts in place of sunflower seeds in salads or even sprinkle them on top of baked foods — they also make a delicious pesto when you don’t have sunflower seeds!

Not only do pine nuts have the same mild nuttiness as sunflower seeds, but they are very similar in shape and size too, and look almost the same.

You might not get the exact match of flavor with pine nuts, but they have such a delicious flavor on their own that you will not really miss sunflower seeds at all!

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin Seeds.

Pumpkin seeds are another good option to use in place of sunflower seeds and can be used in just about the same way too.

While pumpkin seeds are slightly larger than sunflower seeds, they are still small enough to be used to top salads and baked goods, make trail mix, or even as a snack — they are also delicious on their own when salted and roasted!

There is less of a nutty flavor in pumpkin seeds compared to sunflower seeds, but they do have a good flavor and will fill the gap well.

You will even get away with using fewer pumpkin seeds compared to sunflower seeds as they are bigger in size, and this also means that they make a great snack too. They’re easily stored, too, so you don’t have to worry about them going off.

Pumpkin seeds also have a good crunch to them, which is made even better when roasted!

Sesame Seeds

close up of bowls of white and black sesame seeds.

Sesame seeds might be the closest option to sunflower seeds when it comes to taste and flavor, but they do fall a bit short when it comes to size.

Sunflower seeds and sesame seeds both have a nutty, buttery flavor to them.

Although sesame seeds are not as rich as sunflower seeds, they are still tasty enough to use as a substitute.

Sesame seeds are definitely not the best option for snacking, as they are considerably smaller than sunflower seeds, but they are a great option for salads, baking, and even some cooking!

The benefit of using sesame seeds is that they are quite affordable and you get quite a lot in a pack that will last you for quite some time!

Flax Seeds

Brown flax seeds on white wooden table.

Flax seeds might not be the first thing you think of when considering substitutes for sunflower seeds, but they are actually a good option.

They have a good crunch to them and a great flavor too. They will work well in place of sunflower seeds in a range of recipes and uses.

You probably won’t be able to use flax seeds to snack on as they are quite small and just won’t be that satisfying, but they can be used in salads, baked goods, yogurts, and even other breakfast foods.

You can also grind them down to make some “sunflower butter” without sunflower seeds!

Any Chopped Nut

Chopped Nuts.

A simple substitute for sunflower seeds would be chopped nuts, which are super easy to come by and really affordable too.

Chopped nuts have a great crunch to them and a really nutty flavor, and can be prepared in a variety of ways and with a range of different flavors.

Peanuts would be the most common, but you could also use cashews, almonds, and walnuts in place of sunflower seeds. These work best when you need something to snack on, or to make a trail mix or granola bar with.

You can also use a range of chopped nuts to top salads, and roasting them and slightly salting them before helps to give them such a great flavor too.

For added flavor in place of sunflower seeds, you can use mixed nuts too, which will give you a richer flavor and more crunchiness to your snack as well.

If you only have whole nuts, you can simply chop them with a knife or pop them into a food processor and pulse for a few seconds.

Poppy Seeds

Poppy heads and seeds on white background.

Poppy seeds are not the most ideal substitute for sunflower seeds, but there are some cases where they could work well.

You won’t be able to snack on poppy seeds like you would with sunflower seeds, but they can be used in baked goods, to top on a salad, or even use to top oats, yogurt, or smoothies.

Poppy seeds are very small, but they do have a good crunch to them and some nutty flavor, although not as much as sunflower seeds.

On their own, poppy seeds do have a good flavor, and they might not be exactly the same as sunflower seeds, but it won’t be taking anything away from the dish you are making.

Hemp Seeds 

Healthy Organic Hulled Hemp Seeds in a Bowl

Hemp seeds are a little harder to come by, but if you haven’t tried them yet, then they might just be a great option to use in place of sunflower seeds in a variety of recipes.

You can use hemp seeds in smoothies and oats, and as a topping for some desserts as well. They have quite a herby flavor to them, and they don’t have as much nuttiness as sunflower seeds, but they bring a good flavor to anything they are added to.

If you wanted, you could even use a mix of flax seeds and hemp seeds, or even sesame and poppy seeds too. This is a great idea for making granola bars and yogurt toppings, so you get a good crunch and a whole lot of flavor!

Final Thoughts

If you find yourself needing sunflower seeds, but don’t have any on hand, then there are some great substitutes to choose from.

You have the option of delicious pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, chopped nuts, or even poppy seeds — and they’re all good for different uses and different recipes!

For snacking, pumpkin seeds or chopped nuts are the best options, but all the others can be used to make granola bars, to top oatmeal, yogurts, and smoothies, or even used as a sprinkle on the top of salads.

Just like with sunflower seeds, you can play around with spices and seasonings to get the desired taste you want. Roasting and salting some also help to add crunch and flavor too!

Related Questions

Can I use chia seeds in place of sunflower seeds?

You can use chia seeds in place of sunflower seeds, but you are quite limited as to how you can substitute them.

Chia seeds are great for smoothies, oats, and puddings, but they are much smaller than sunflower seeds so you likely won’t get the same effect.

They also do not have the same crunchy texture as sunflower seeds; however, they work well if you are stuck and have no other option.

What do sesame seeds taste like?

Sesame seeds have quite a bit of flavor for being so small. They are sweet, mild, and slightly nutty, which means they can be used for both sweet and savory dishes.

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