From the Spice Cupboard: Mustard Seeds and Ground Mustard

published Oct 16, 2014
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(Image credit: Christian Jung)

Tiny little mustard seeds are used in cuisines all around the world, flavoring curries, soups and pickles. This easy-to-find spice comes in two forms, whole seeds or ground, and forms the basis for countless varieties of the condiment we know as prepared mustard. Here’s a guide to the various forms and how to use them!

(Image credit: Swapan Photography)

Mustard Seeds

Mustard seeds come from various mustard plants. The plants produce beautiful yellow flowers which then turn to pods that contain the seeds. The are three kinds of dried mustard seeds:

  1. White or Yellow – These mustard seeds are generally larger than brown mustard seeds but not as pungent as black or brown seeds. The one exception is small yellow Chinese or ‘oriental’ mustard seeds, which are extremely spicy. White or yellow mustard seeds are the primary ingredient in American mustards and are also used in pickling spice mixes.
  2. Brown – Sometimes labeled Asian, brown mustard seeds are commonly used for pickling and flavoring meats like corned beef. Many European mustards are made with brown mustard, and it is also used a lot in Indian cooking.
  3. Black – These small seeds cost more to grow and harvest so are not as common. Black mustard seeds are highly pungent.

Mustard seeds can be stored in airtight containers in a dry, dark place for up to a year.

Cooking with Mustard Seeds

Mustard seeds have long been used in Asian and European cuisines. They are used frequently Indian cooking, but are also combined with fruit and sugar to make Italian mostardas. Toasting the bitter seeds in oil first will help to revive the enzymes that contain the pungent flavors and mellow out bitterness.

(Image credit: Diana Taliun)

Ground Mustard

Ground mustard is also called powdered mustard, mustard powder or mustard flour. It is made by grinding mustard seeds and then sifting the seed coat out to leave a fine powder behind. This powder is not as pungent or potent as whole mustard seeds.

Ground mustard can be stored in an airtight container in a dry, dark place for up to 6 months.

Cooking with Ground Mustard

The flavor of ground mustard develops when soaked in liquid to bring out the pungent compounds. It is commonly used in spice rubs, salad dressings, soups, and to add an acidic component to cut through rich sauces like for macaroni and cheese.

Prepared mustards are generally made from ground mustard, seasonings, and water, alcohol, or an acid.

Ground Mustard and Mustard Seed Recipes