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The 7 Best Substitutes For Mustard Seed

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Where would we be without mustard seeds?! Even if they are not something you keep in your cupboard, we bet you’ve got a bottle of mustard somewhere!

People who cook with mustard seeds swear by their delicious pungent flavor and wouldn’t be caught without them.

What is the best substitute for mustard seed? The best substitute for mustard seed is either turmeric or wholegrain mustard. You can also use horseradish, caraway seeds, mustard powder wasabi, and pickling spice as substitutes for mustard seeds.

Got a recipe that asks for mustard seeds, but your cupboard is bare? Don’t panic, these substitutes will make sure your dish still tastes delicious!

Let’s take a look at the 7 best substitutes for mustard seeds and how to use them!

What Are Mustard Seeds?

Mustard seeds are tiny little dried seeds, gathered from specific varieties of mustard plants. There are over forty different varieties of mustard plants around the world, but just three of these are used for mustard seed production.

When we say these seeds are tiny, we mean tiny – spill these little round balls on your work surface and you’ll be finding them everywhere for months!

Chefs and cooks love using mustard seeds for their unique and distinctive taste. They add an incredibly pungent flavor and aroma to many different dishes.

Mustard seeds are a popular ingredient in many different cuisines around the world.

Mustard seeds are by no means a new invention—mustard plants have been cultivated for food since ancient Roman times!

In fact, mustard seeds even got a mention in the New Testament, where a grain of mustard seed was compared to heaven. Now, you don’t get a much better recommendation than that!

What Do Mustard Seeds Taste Like?

Mustard seeds are packed full of flavor! They are quite spicy, with a hot peppery taste.

If you are familiar with the flavor of mustard then they taste just like that, except a bit fresher and sharper. The three different types of mustard seed all differ slightly in flavor.

These tiny little seeds have a crunchy outer shell which ‘pops’ when you bite it! The interior is creamy and full of flavor. Mustard seeds soak up liquids and juices well, becoming soft and jelly-like.

Mustard seeds can be eaten raw, and are often used in salad dressings and sauces. When cooking with mustard seeds they are normally toasted in a dry pan, which brings out the intensity of the flavor.

They can also be fried in oil, but keep the lid on the pan as they will quickly start to pop up into the air! 

What Are The Different Types Of Mustard Seed?

Interestingly, the plants used to grow mustard seeds are part of the Brassica family – along with cabbages, cauliflower, turnip, and canola!

This family of plants is responsible for meeting many of our culinary needs, and we’d all agree that a bottle of mustard is pretty much an essential store cupboard item!

Mustard plants are very versatile and adaptable, with over forty different varieties around the world. However, just three of these types of mustard seed plants are used to produce the mustard seeds we use for cooking and eating:

Yellow Mustard Seeds

The white mustard plant, Sinapis alba, is used to produce yellow mustard seeds. This species of mustard plant can be found around the world, although it originated in the Mediterranean. 

The light tan-colored yellow mustard seeds are slightly larger than the black or brown varieties and have a different flavor and intensity.

They are slightly milder and less peppery than their black and brown counterparts and have an almost sour undertone.

Yellow mustard seeds are most commonly used for making yellow mustard!

Black Mustard Seeds

Black mustard seeds are produced by the Brassica nigra plant, native to North Africa and parts of Europe and Asia. The flavor of black mustard seeds is a lot stronger than yellow mustard seeds, with a potent peppery flavor.

This variety of mustard seeds is not actually black – the tiny seeds are a dark reddish-brown color.

Black mustard seeds can be used whole, and are normally toasted or fried in hot oil to intensify the flavor. They can also be dried and ground into a spice powder.

Brown Mustard Seeds 

Also known as Chinese mustard or Indian mustard, brown mustard seeds come from the Brassica juncea plant. Brown mustard seeds are not always brown! They range in color from a dark yellow appearance to dark brown.

Brown mustard seeds are hotter than yellow mustard seeds, but not quite as pungent as black mustard seeds.

They’re a good midway option, versatile enough to be used in a range of different dishes as well as for pickling and salad dressings.

The 7 Best Substitutes For Mustard Seed 

So now we’ve got you all excited about mustard seeds, we need to turn our thoughts to what you can use as a substitute for these incredible little seeds.

There are plenty of options available, so don’t be disheartened if your mustard seed supply has run out!

Here are the 7 best substitutes for mustard seed!

1. Tumeric

Turmeric is the mustard seed replacement of choice if you are looking for a subtle but similar flavor. With a refreshing peppery flavor, turmeric can be used to replace mustard seeds in Indian and Asian cookery.

Remember that turmeric will not have the same hot spicy flavor as mustard seeds, so you may need to add in a little additional spice as well.

Also, turmeric is bright yellow, and this mustard seed substitute will turn your food luminous yellow! This makes it unsuitable for use as a pickling spice, as it will quickly discolor your lovely pickled foods.

Turmeric can be substituted for mustard seeds in the same amount as the recipe states.

2. Wholegrain Mustard

Wholegrain mustard works really well as a mustard seed replacement, as it will taste almost identical to your missing ingredient! 

This mustard seed substitute will work well in most recipes, as well as pickling and salad dressings.

However, remember that wholegrain mustard will have a vinegary tang, so you may need to add a tiny amount of sugar to compensate for this.

If using wholegrain mustard, use about half the amount when compared to mustard seeds.

3. Horseradish

Coming from the same botanical family, horseradish has a lot in common with mustard seeds!

Horseradish might not be the obvious choice if you are looking for a mustard seed substitute, but if you’re looking for a hot, peppery flavor, then this creamy vegetable is the way forward.

To use horseradish as a mustard seed substitute, add half the amount to the dish. Remember that horseradish is hot and spicy, so it is best to err on the side of caution!

You can use either fresh horseradish or prepared horseradish sauce, which is mixed with vinegar.

4. Caraway Seeds

Caraway seeds have a warm and slightly spicy flavor, very similar to mustard seeds. This makes them a great substitute for mustard seeds in recipes that ask for whole spices, such as curries and pickles.

When using caraway seeds as a mustard seed substitute, they can be added on a like-for-like basis in the same quantities.

Caraway seeds are slightly milder than mustard seeds, so you may wish to add some cumin or garam masala to bring out the flavors in your dish.

5. Mustard Powder

Made from ground mustard seeds, mustard powder is also sometimes referred to as mustard flour or ground mustard. It is this powder that is used to make smooth mustards, such as yellow mustard.

Mustard powder is normally made from yellow or brown mustard seeds, so has a milder taste than black mustard seeds.

To use mustard powder as a substitute for mustard seeds, add one and a half times the amount to your recipe.

6. Wasabi

Wasabi is packed full of natural spiciness and heat, making it a great substitute for mustard seeds! This is best used in dishes such as curries, which will be greatly enhanced by this flavorful spice.

As wasabi packs quite a punch in terms of heat, it is best to start by using less than half of the amount compared to mustard seeds.

7. Pickling Spice

Pickling spices are loved by preserve-makers around the world, as they combine the perfect flavors into one simple mix, ready to make your pickles taste amazing!

This mix of whole spices normally contains bay leaves, coriander seeds, and mustard seeds, as well as chilies, peppercorns, and ginger. These are normally left whole or gently ground, to preserve the flavor.

However, pickling spices are not just for pickles! Pickling spice can be added to rich dishes such as casseroles, stews, and braised meats to give an intense spicy flavor.

This makes pickling spice a great substitute for mustard seeds for these types of dishes.

We’d suggest adding just half the amount of pickling spice to start with, as some flavors such as coriander may overpower the other tastes in your recipe.

Related Questions

Now that we’ve gone over the absolute best substitutes for mustard seeds, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!

What are mustard seeds used for?

Mustard seeds are very versatile and are a popular ingredient in many different types of cooking.

Here are some of the most popular used for mustard seeds:


Obviously, this had to be top of the list! Who doesn’t love a squirt of mustard on their hot dog or burger in a bun?!

Mustard seeds are used to make every type of mustard known to man! Different types of mustard include yellow, Dijon, French, Creole, English, Grey-Poupon, spicy brown, wholegrain, honey, and even beer mustard!

Mustard oil

Brown mustard seeds are used in Asian countries to produce a potent mustard oil. However, this oil can potentially include toxic erucic acid, so it is not available in the United States.


If you love making pickles, then you will undoubtedly have a good supply of mustard seeds! Pretty much every pickle recipe includes mustard seeds, and they add essential flavor to foods preserved in vinegar.

The most common type of mustard seed used for pickling is yellow; however, other varieties can be substituted. Dry toasting the mustard seeds before adding to the pickle mix will draw out and intensify the flavor.

Salad dressings

A pinch of mustard seeds can transform a dull and uninspiring salad dressing or vinaigrette into a taste sensation!

The mustard seeds will soften when added to a liquid, making every little seed into an explosion of flavor waiting to happen.


This is where mustard seeds really come into their own! Asian-inspired recipes are normally packed full of flavor, and this is because they use ingredients such as mustard seeds.

These tiny seeds not only add a pungent and intense flavor, but the aroma they produce is also outstanding.

Is it easy to make homemade mustard?

Homemade mustard is simple and quick to make, and you need just a few ingredients from your pantry! Smooth mustard can be whipped up the day you want to eat it.

If you are looking for grainy mustard then you should prepare it a few days in advance to allow the flavors to develop.

Here are some of the simplest homemade mustard recipes:

Smooth yellow mustard

Add mustard powder, ground turmeric, garlic powder, paprika to a pan – you can play about with the spice quantities to get the flavor exactly as you like it.

Whisk in 1 cup of water and simmer until it becomes a thick paste. Add ½ cup of vinegar and simmer for a further 10 minutes. This mustard will store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Wholegrain mustard

Add 1 cup of vinegar to 1 cup of mixed mustard seeds and allow to soak overnight. Add 3 tbsp brown sugar and ½ tsp salt and pulse the mixture gently in a food processer until it resembles wholegrain mustard.

Allow it to sit for a couple of days before tasting to allow the flavors to develop. This wholegrain mustard will store in the refrigerator for up to 12 months.

Fiery hot mustard

Add chili flakes and paprika to the wholegrain mustard recipe to give a rich, spicy kick to your homemade mustard!

Honey mustard

If you prefer a sweeter mustard flavor, try adding a small amount of honey to the smooth yellow mustard recipe.

How do you substitute different types of mustard seed?

Mustard seeds come in three colors – yellow, brown, and black. Most of us wouldn’t keep all three types in our spice cupboards, and it is worth knowing how to swap them about.

If your recipe calls for one type of mustard seed but you’ve only got another type, can you substitute one for another?

Yes, of course you can! However, each type does have a very specific flavor profile and spiciness so you may need to adjust the quantities slightly:

  • If you don’t have yellow mustard seeds, then black or brown can be used instead. These are both slightly spicier, so reduce the amount by half.
  • Brown mustard seeds sit midway between the other two in terms of spiciness. If using yellow mustard seeds instead, you will need to double the amount you use. For black mustard seeds, reduce the amount to about three-quarters.
  • Black mustard seeds are the spiciest of all! You will need to add four times the amount of yellow mustard seeds to get the same kick, and twice the amount of brown mustard seeds.

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