Mustard is one of the oldest spices available. It existed first in the kitchen of the Romans when they made a paste called mustum ardens which translates literally to “burning must”. This paste is made from ground mustard seeds and grape juice. And so mustard seeds developed and turned into a dozen of products available around the world. I honestly cannot count how many variations of mustard condiments and spices are available in the market nowadays. But it all comes down to one thing, the mustard seeds. This odorless seeds when not cooked turns into a punch of flavor when fried in oil or grounded. The flavors are complex, deep and spicy, and trust me, finding a good substitute for mustard seed is not easy.
In my years in the kitchen, I haven’t seen any spice that can really substitute mustard seeds (in terms of flavor) especially in some dishes that needs mustard fried like in making curry. The flavor and aroma from this fried seeds are just incomparable to other spices. In this post, we will try our best to give you a good idea about mustard and mustard seeds and how does it behave when cooked. We will also discuss how we can possibly substitute it with other ingredients. This post will be spicy! Let’s get to it, shall we?
What Are Mustard Seeds
Mustard seeds are the seeds from fruit pods of the mustard plant. This winter plant is a native of Asia that spread throughout other countries in the course of time. The mustard has three common seeds varieties both with distinct flavor and intensity in terms or the spiciness when used in a dish. The yellow mustard is the mildest among the three with light pungent flavor and light spiciness. The brown mustard seeds which are native from the sub-Himalayan plains of India have a more pungent flavor and a lot spicier than yellow mustard. The black mustard a native of South Asia is the most pungent and the spiciest among the three.
Mustard seeds are commonly known in Asia as an herbal plant that is used to cure some diseases. It is rich in phytonutrients, minerals, vitamins and also rich in antioxidant. It is used to cure muscle pain, rheumatism, and arthritis pains. It is also believed to stimulate hair growth so some people massage the mustard seed oil in their scalps.
Mustard In The Kitchen
Mustard is a very popular condiment around the world. Though it started in Rome, the use of this seeds really started in China and India but the consumption of mustard is really massive in the eastern part of the world when it developed into spreads and dips and other products. The US, UK, and other countries are the biggest ones in terms of using mustard. The mustard dips that were popular and sold in supermarkets are made with ground mustard seeds, some vinegar, and other spices. There are several varieties available and some are named into the places and the way they are prepared. One very well-known variety is the Dijon mustard.
I love mustard in any form, whether the seed for Indian dishes or as dips or sauce. The taste is very unique. In my palate, it appears fresh and earthy and pungent at the same time. It also gives a good kick of spiciness that is very different from chilli or peppers. I get very curious every time I eat it because the taste is somewhat intriguing. And also, when I eat some, I tend to look for and have more of it. As what I’ve learned, mustard is a flavor enhancer. It means that when you eat it, your taste buds pop and becomes more sensitive which in turn makes you taste the flavors of the food better. That’s why I’m sure that eating a hotdog with mustard vs. eating it without mustard will be a totally different experience.
The seeds are quite a mystery to me at first, when whole, it does not have that strong aroma, so you will think that it is something very mild. But once it is ground or fried, it releases this beautiful fresh flavor. Frying it makes the flavors milder, while ground mustard seed intensifies the flavor. However, mustards aroma and flavor easily goes low, and dissipates over time that’s why it is often added in the last part of the cooking and ground ones are not kept long in storage not because it spoils easily but the flavors become weak over a course of time. So it is best to buy it in small batches to ensure freshness and intense flavors.
Choose a Substitute For Mustard Seed That Can Really Help You Out
Substituting mustard seeds really depends on the recipe. There will be instances that it is better just to leave the mustard out than to substitute it with something else. This applies to curry and other dishes where you are expected to fry the seeds in oil.
Substituting with other mustard variety
Let us first look at substituting mustard seeds with other mustard seed varieties. It will sometimes happen that you have this certain variety and the recipe calls for another variety which you do not have. If a recipe calls for yellow mustard seeds but you got either brown or black one, you can substitute it. But just remember that these darker varieties are more flavorful than the yellow mustard so be sure to reduce the amount to half. But I would suggest opting for the brown mustard as it is the closest and it is milder than the black mustard seeds.
If the recipe calls for black mustard, you can substitute it with a higher amount of brown mustard seeds. Though it can give you a great flavor, black mustard is really strong and has a unique taste on its own that not anything can mimic.
Substituting powdered mustard for a recipe that calls for mustard seeds that need to be fried should be left out. Frying the powder will eventually burn and will give you a bitter taste and will dissipate the aroma of the mustard. Also, putting prepared mustard might ruin the overall flavor because of the added vinegar and other spices in it, so it is best just to leave it out.
If you cannot find mustard seeds but you still want to add a spicy kick to your dish, you can add horseradish. This radish is spicy and can definitely help you give your dish a good spicy kick Horseradish is also a flavor enhancer that can tickle your taste buds so I find this one very useful. Though it is not a complete substitute but just a way to compensate for the spicy flavor, it can greatly lift your dish and enhance it.
Since mustard seeds really imparts a spiciness to the dish, another spice that you can add is wasabi. Wasabi is a root that has been grounded to make a paste and is commonly added to Asian dishes like sushi and maki. You can add wasabi to dishes where the mustard seeds are needed to add heat.
Finding substitutes for mustard is quite challenging. There are just some ingredients that happen to be really unique that you cannot find anything that is on par with the flavor, texture, and taste. One thing that I can suggest is for you to get mustard seeds especially if you like cooking Indian dishes. It really makes a big difference and having some for yourself will allow you to explore more flavors.
Also, there are a lot of uses for mustard seeds and there is no reason why you should not have some at home. You can grind it yourself and make a homemade mustard sauce. There are also plenty of recipes which you can use it too. It pairs greatly with fish, beef, chicken and even vegetables. You can also use it to flavor some cakes and desserts. You can also make some sprouts by soaking it in water and letting it grow. These sprouts can be a good addition to your salads and other fresh dishes. You can also put it on rice as it steams for added texture and flavor. If you wanna invest in a spice, this one must be on your list.
Mustard seeds are a rare spice that is a definite must-have in the kitchen. Though it is very hard to really find a substitute for mustard seed, I hope that our suggestions gave you a little idea. Also, I hope that the information above let you know a little more about this spice and how it behaves when cooked. What about you? What do you substitute mustard seeds in your dishes? If you got some great ideas, don’t hesitate to share it with us by commenting below. We will love to hear from you. Also, if you got questions, be sure to send it to us and we will try to answer them for you. Help us spread the word by sharing this post. As always, enjoy cooking and until next time!