Easily confused with the look alike sesame seeds, or poppy seeds, these little mustard grains are used to flavour many dishes around the globe. But what are mustard seeds and how do you use them for cooking?
Another of the popular spices used all around the globe for its piquant zing, texture and tantalising taste. But what are mustard seeds and why should you include them in your food?
There are over hundreds of mustard plant varieties, but the the 3 most used mustard seed variety are the black, brown and yellow.
These tiny little seeds may not look much but adding them in different ways into your dish will surely give a wakeful pleasant punch to your taste buds.
What Are Mustard Seeds ?
Mustard seeds also refereed to as mustard grains are the seeds if cultivated grows into the beautiful flowering mustard plants.
The seeds come for the flower pods.
Each part for the mustard plant can be used for culinary purposes.
The leaves also known as mustard greens are edible. One of the best known traditional Indian dish made from mustard leaves is the famous Sarson Ka saag from Punjab.
Mustard green and flowers are also used for making salads and other dishes.
Mustard Seeds In Other Languages
Mustard seeds in Hindi – Sarso or Rai (the smaller variety of black mustard seeds)
Mustard Seeds in French – Graines de moutarde
Mustard Seeds in German – Senfkörner or Senfsamen
Mustard Seeds in Spanish – Semillas de mostaza
How Do Mustard Seeds Taste Like
A common question asked about the seeds is ‘can you eat mustard seeds?’
The answer is absolutely. They are safe edible seeds to eat. Being so small you will not find them disturbing when they come into your mouth unlike fenugreek seeds which are larger in size.
Whole mustard seeds have a mild aromatic nutty taste as long as you do not bite into them.
You can only feel the actual taste of the seeds if you bite into it or make it into a powder or paste. This is where the taste becomes pungent and strong. The closest description of the taste is with wasabi and horseradish.
However if you smell them as whole seeds you may not be able to taste much or even dismiss the spice.
The taste of whole mustard seeds lingers on the tongue when consuming mustard sauce or pastes and biting into them can make your nose tickle.
What Are The Different Types of Mustard Seeds
You may or may not have seen the different varieties of Mustard Seeds.
They come from various types of mustard plants where the yellow flowers turn into pods that contain the seeds.
There are 3 types of Mustard Seeds.
Yellow Mustard Seeds
Larger, brighten but the mildest of the lot are the popularly grown and commercially sold yellow mustard seeds.
The most common type that you may have noticed in the supermarket shelfs.
They are the once used to make mustard sauce and pickling spice with.
The one exception to yellow mustard seeds are the smaller variety that is popular in South East Asia. They are strong and pungent compared to the larger yellow mustard seeds.
Some also refer to yellow mustard seeds as white mustard seeds.
Black Mustard Seeds
Black mustard seeds are not entirely black in colour. They tend to be a darker shade of brown which makes them appear black.
They are generally mixed with brown mustard seeds for ease.
Smaller in size when compared to yellow mustard seeds they tend to be stronger and more pungent to taste.
Brown Mustard Seeds
They tend to be the smallest in size when compared to the other two varieties.
Also known as Chinese brown mustard seeds, they tend to have a slight sour taste apart from being pungent.
To complicate and confuse matters further both brown and black mustard seeds falls under a grey area.
That is there is not a clear distinction between the two as they both look and taste alike apart from the very slight change in the size depending of the type of mustard plant they come from.
What Are Mustard Seeds Used For?
The uses of mustard seeds in cooking is popular across the world and in different cuisines.
The beauty of cooking with mustard seeds is the way the flavour changes according to how you use them in a dish.
Mustard seed uses can range from being used whole, powdered form or as a paste.
Whole mustard seeds are pretty mild and used mostly to compliment the flavour or taste of other spices and herbs.
Unlike other aromatic whole spices such as cumin seeds, caraway seeds, coriander seeds they cannot be considered the star of the dish.
They are mainly an auxiliary component to other ingredients such as curry leaves, ginger etc and enhances the overall taste and texture of the dish.
However saying that, one cannot underestimate the powder of these cheeky seeds.
It is considered the star when used as a pickling spice to make pickled vegetables such as carrots, gherkins, turnips, and others.
Here are some ideas on how to use mustard seeds for cooking :
- Add a teaspoon or two of whole mustard seeds to make salad dressings, pickle or sauces.
- I recommend using the tempering cooking method, that is roast mustard seeds in warm oil for few seconds for making curries, soups and casserole to release the natural flavours of mustard seeds. Take care not to burn them as they tend to burn really fast if the oil is hot.
- Add a few teaspoon of whole mustard seeds in the dough for making savoury breads.
- Making a paste of whole mustard seeds add pungency to sandwiches, sauces and dips.
- Crush few mustard seeds and add with other spices to make spice rubs and marinades.You can also add mustard seeds to breadcrumbs for making coating.
- Make homemade mustard powder or paste by grinding whole mustard seeds in a food processor or a grinder.
Is Mustard Seeds Good For You
Loaded with vitamins and minerals, the medicinal use of mustard seeds can be seen since ancient times.
Mustard seeds contain vitamins A, B6 and C (and other vitamins), omega 3, magnesium, potassium and many other compounds for maintaining good health.
Here are some of the benefits of cooking with mustard seeds:
- Help treat psoriasis – A study conducted in 2013, concludes that mustard seeds may prove to be useful to treat inflammation and wounds caused by psoriasis which is an autoimmune disease. The conclusion proved its usefulness for treatment of inflammation and wounds associated with psoriasis.
- May prevent cancer – As per a study published in the Journal Human & Experimental Toxicology, the beneficial compounds present in these tiny seeds may have chemo preventive potential which may prevent the growth of cancer-causing cells in the body.
- Good for digestive system – Adding mustard seeds to food especially those known to cause indigestion can help bowel movement due to the fibre content present.
- Aids weight loss – A study conducted by Oxford polytechnic institute suggests that eating a tablespoon of mustard seeds everyday can boost metabolism and thus help in weight loss.
- Good for skin, bones, nails and teeth – The active minerals help in maintaining strong bones and strengthen nails, hair and teeth. While the vitamins help in keeping the skin hydrated and radiant.
Best Substitute & Food Pairings
If you enjoy cooking with spices, then keeping a small jar of mustard seeds is advisable as there is so much you can do with mustard seeds.
The unique subtle taste of mustard seeds makes it difficult to replicate the flavour. If you do not have them then you can easily omit them for the recipe.
For a hint of pungency that mustard seeds brings to the dish you can substitute 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds with 1/2 teaspoon of dry mustard powder or 1/2 teaspoon of mustard sauce.
For the crunch you get from mustard seeds add sesame seeds or poppy seeds instead.
You can easily substitute any type of mustard seeds ie. yellow, brown or black with whichever variety you have.
Best Food Pairings
Being a mild neutral spice, whole mustard seeds are versatile and goes well with most food items.
Best food pairing: green beans, cabbage, cauliflower, peas, potatoes, ginger,chicken, lamb, meat, eggs, seafood, rice, curries
Best spice pairing: asafoetida, cardamom, nigella seeds,sesame seeds, ground ginger, cloves, cumin seeds, dry chilies, coriander seeds
Where To Buy Mustard Seeds?
Depending on the type of seeds you wish to buy, you may have to choose the appropriate store.
Yellow seeds are available from most supermarkets.
You will have to visit an Indian or ethnic grocery store to get the brown or black variety.
Wherever you choose to buy them make sure it is from a trusted source.
Below is my recommended product to buy mustard seeds online.
How To Store Them
It is best to store them in an airtight container away from direct sunlight and humidity.
Well stored seeds will keep its character and flavour for a least 12 months.
If you happen to be a serious cook or someone starting out on using spices, I would surely recommend adding mustard seeds to the collection.
It does not matter whether you use yellow, brown or black seeds as they have the same use and similar flavour profile.
The versatility, ease of use and neutral flavour of the spice makes it a good spice to keep on hand.
Using mustard seeds in cooking adds flavour while also imparting health benefits.
The use of mustard seeds is multifold. You can use them to make curries, soups, casseroles, salad dressings, bread, dips and even rubs
The neutral taste means that it goes very well with a variety of dishes.
Apart from the added texture and taste you also benefit from many health benefits.