I’ve personally tried and tested a range of different mustard seed substitutes to find the best one.
Whatever your reason for avoiding mustard seed is and whatever dish you’re cooking.
Here’s the quick answer.
The best mustard seed substitutes are powdered mustard or prepared mustard. You can also try caraway seeds, horseradish, and turmeric. Pickling spice blend is another option that not only adds heat to your dish but another depth of flavor. If you’re making an Asian dish, try wasabi.
I made a basic vinaigrette to put eight mustard seed substitutes to the test.
Mustard seeds are a versatile ingredient typically used for pickling and seasoning sauces. They have a sharp, pungent flavor, but their intensity will depend on the type.
Yellow mustard seeds will have the mildest flavor and are used for American-style yellow mustard. While the brown and black seeds are more intensely flavored.
Here’s what I tested and the verdicts:
|Powdered mustard||For every tablespoon of mustard seeds, use ½ tablespoon of powdered mustard||10/10|
|Prepared mustard||Replace in a 1:1 ratio with your preferred prepared mustard variety minus 1 tsp||10/10|
|Caraway seeds||Replace in a 1:1 ratio, adjust to taste||9/10|
|Pickling spice||Replace in a 1:1 ratio, adjust to taste||9/10|
|Horseradish||Replace in a 1:1 ratio, adjust to taste||9/10|
|Turmeric||Replace in a 1:1 ratio with adjusting to taste.||8/10|
|Cumin||Replace mustard seeds in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Wasabi||For every teaspoon of mustard seeds, use ⅓ teaspoon of wasabi||7/10|
Common uses for mustard seeds and their substitutes
Here are some common use cases for mustard seeds and the best substitutes for those situations:
- For pickling brines and chutneys – powdered mustard, caraway seeds
- For dry rub blends – powdered mustard, caraway seeds, cumin
- Curries, soups, and stews – powdered mustard, caraway seeds, cumin
- Marinades and dressings – powdered mustard, prepared mustard
Powdered mustard is made by grinding mustard seeds, so it’s a great substitute. You’re essentially using the same ingredient in a different form.
The flavor profile is very similar to mustard seeds, but it can be spicier and more intense. Especially if the seeds are freshly ground.
Although if the mustard powder is old (like more shop bought options), then it won’t be as pungent. I go slowly with this substitute and adjust as you go.
The powder won’t bring texture or crunch to your dish, so it’s better for applications like curries where this doesn’t matter. For mustard sauces, the difference will be more noticeable.
How to substitute: for every teaspoon of mustard seeds, use ½ teaspoon of powdered mustard and then add more as needed.
Prepared mustard is a convenient and delicious substitute for mustard seeds.
To make it, mustard powder is mixed with vinegar, so it has a sharp, tangy taste you don’t get with mustard seeds.
If you’re planning to use it in an application where there’s already added vinegar (like a salad dressing), you may want to use less.
There are several varieties of prepared mustard available, each with its unique characteristics:
- Whole-grain mustard: whole grain mustard has whole mustard seeds in it, so it’s definitely the best option to use as a replacement.
- Yellow mustard: this is the most common type of prepared mustard, so you might already have a bottle sitting in your fridge! It has the mildest flavor and has a creamy, smooth consistency.
- Spicy brown mustard: this has a bolder, more pungent flavor than the previous two options, so it’s good if you love the heat mustard brings.
How to substitute: replace mustard seeds in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with your preferred prepared mustard variety, minus 1 tsp liquid from the recipe.
One of the main ingredients in pickling spice blends are whole mustard seeds, so it has that earthy, spicy kick that you’re looking for.
Along with a load of other delicious flavors!
Pickling spice also has bay leaves, ginger, peppercorns, cardamon, sweet cinnamon, spicy pepper flakes, and all spice.
If you use this substitute, you’ll need to adjust the other seasonings and sweeteners in your recipe so the dish doesn’t end up over-spiced. Taste and adjust as you go.
Psst.. I wouldn’t use this substitute in a dressing or simple sauce where mustard is the main flavor. It will be too complex and overpowering.
How to substitute: replace mustard seeds in your recipe with pickling spice, starting with a 1:1 ratio, and adjust to taste.
Caraway seeds are a good mustard seed substitute if you’re allergic to the mustard plant family.
They’re not a perfect flavor match, but they have a sharp, nutty flavor reminiscent of mustard seeds along with a hint of liquorice. You may want to add something spicy to make up for the missing heat.
You can treat them in the same way as mustard seeds – toast them to enhance their flavor, add them whole to your dishes, or grind them into a fine powder.
These seeds are commonly used to add flavor in pickle brines, but they’re also a delicious addition to homemade bread. My house smells amazing whenever I use them!
How to substitute: replace mustard seeds in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with caraway seeds.
Horseradish is part of the same plant family as mustard, so it’s no surprise it has a similar pungent, spicy flavor.
Prepared horseradish is an easy way to add the familiar heat to your dishes, but like prepared mustard, it also contains vinegar.
If you want to skip the vinegar, you can also grate horseradish root straight into your dish.
Pro tip: horseradish is an especially delicious pairing for roast beef or seafood. And I love it in mashed potatoes.
How to substitute: replace mustard seeds in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with grated horseradish, adjusting to taste.
If you’re allergic to mustard or simply want to mix things up, turmeric is another decent option to replace mustard seeds with.
Turmeric has the same earthy, slightly bitter notes of mustard seed. But instead of spicy, it’s more peppery and has a bright citrus note that will work really well in curries.
A word of caution: turmeric will stain really easily, so be careful not to get it on your clothes or any countertop that won’t be easy to clean. I learned this the hard way, but on the bright side, my vibrant yellow hands became a great conversation starter!
How to substitute: replace mustard seeds in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with ground turmeric, adjusting to taste.
Cumin is a popular spice known for its earthy flavors with a hint of bitterness.
It’s not as spicy as mustard seeds, but it’s a good substitute when you want to add a pleasant heat to comfort dishes like chili, stews, and curries.
Cumin comes in ground and seed form, although ground cumin is more common – you likely already have a bottle sitting in your cupboard!
If you do happen to have cumin seeds, toast them like you would with mustard seeds before adding them to your dishes. It will add real depth of flavor
How to substitute: replace mustard seeds in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with whole or ground cumin, adjusting to taste.
Wasabi is a great flavor match for mustard seeds, but watch out if you’re allergic to mustard.
Lots of ‘wasabi’ pastes are actually a mix of mustard and horseradish, so always check the ingredients list.
The faux wasabi paste will give your dishes a sharp, pungent twist to replace the missing mustard seeds.
Authentic wasabi root has a more nuanced flavor, with a more prominent earthiness and a hint of sweetness to balance out the heat.
How to substitute: for every teaspoon of mustard seeds, use ⅓ teaspoon of wasabi, adjusting to taste.
Can you use mustard seeds interchangeably?
You can use all the different types of mustard seeds interchangeably, but you’ll have to adjust the ratios because each variety has a different flavor and heat intensity.
Yellow mustard seeds are the mildest, brown mustard seeds have more of an acrid taste, while black mustard seeds are the most pungent.
Best Substitutes for black mustard seeds
The best substitutes for black mustard seeds are other varieties of mustard seeds like brown mustard seeds or yellow mustard seeds. These won’t be as potent or as spicy, but you can use more or add heat in another way. Caraway seeds or nigella seeds are others options.
Nigella seeds look very similar to black mustard seeds, but are more peppery in flavor. While caraway seeds are significantly less spicy but have the same sharpness.
Best Mustard Seed Substitutes [Tried and Tested]
- ½ tbsp powdered mustard
- 1 tbsp prepared mustard, minus 1 tsp
- 1 tbsp pickling spice, adjusting to taste
- 1 tbsp caraway seeds
- 1 tbsp grated horseradish, adjust to taste
- 1 tbsp turmeric, adjust to taste
- 1 tbsp cumin, adjust to taste
- ⅓ tbsp wasabi paste, adjusting to taste
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen mustard seed substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.