Sleeper Spices: Mustard Seed

Wake up your palate and expand your cooking repertoire with spices you may not have experienced before. In this installment of our series highlighting “sleeper” spices, learn about the unique seasoning capabilities of brown and yellow mustard seed — and get tips for using it to awaken your next cooking endeavor.


By Tom Havran

What it tastes like: You’re likely familiar with mustard from its use as a condiment on sandwiches, but using the seeds in whole or ground form as a spice will open up exciting new flavors for you to experience. In their inert state, mustard seeds have a rich, nutty, oily flavor. But when combined with a liquid, watch out! An enzyme in the seed reacts with other compounds called glucosinolates to create a complex of flavors including hot-pungent, vegetal and garlicky. The more heated and acidic the liquid, the hotter the mustard will be.

What it looks like: Mustard seed comes in three basic varieties: black, brown and yellow. Brown and yellow mustards are the most commonly used, with the brown being a bit more pungent than the yellow. The seeds are tiny, nearly perfect 1-milimeter spheres.

How to use it: Many Indian dishes begin with whole mustard seeds fried in oil along with curry leaf. Besides imparting the oil — and every subsequent ingredient that passes through the oil — with a pungent mustardy flavor, the seeds themselves become a nutty, toothsome delight in the finished dish. The ground seeds form a slightly oily powder that’s the basis for the condiment mustard, but it can also be used in any powdered seasoning blend, marinade or dry seasoning rub.

Here are a few tips about how to use mustard seed:

  • Add whole seeds to pickling brines and meat brines.
  • Fry whole seeds in oil and then add them to rice before topping it with curry.
  • Fry whole seeds in oil along with whole cumin seeds and add them to samosa or curry pot pie fillings.
  • Grind seeds and combine with other seasonings in dry rubs for grilled meats and tofu.
  • Grind seeds and make your own fresh mustard by stirring in plain water, wine, fruit juice or vinegar.


Recipe: Beer Mustard

Have you ever tried mustard seed? Share what you thought of it in the comments below!

Tom-HavranAbout the author: Tom is communicator of natural living for Frontier, Simply Organic and Aura Cacia brands. In other words, he’s a very imaginative copywriter. A local boy, raised on a farm just down the road from the company’s headquarters in Norway, Tom enjoys drawing, plant hoarding, cooking and living the simple life in the beautiful state of Iowa.

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