The Best Mustard Seed Substitutes To Use

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Mustard is a well-loved condiment that is used to add flavor to many dishes, and the same goes for mustard seeds! Because of their robust and sharp flavor profile, mustard seeds are versatile ingredients.

They can be used in both sweet and savory dishes, and their pungent taste is a nice addition to many recipes. If you’re out of mustard seeds or can’t find them at your local grocery store, don’t worry! Several mustard seed substitutes will work just as well in your dish.

What Are Mustard Seeds & What Do They Taste Like?

Mustard seeds are the small, round seeds of the mustard plant. They can be white (yellow), black, or brown, and they have a slightly round curved shape. Mustard seeds have a pungent taste that is both spicy and bitter. When used fresh, they have a more mellow flavor. When dried, mustard seeds have a more intense flavor.

The heat in mustard seeds comes from a compound called sinigrin. This compound is also responsible for the pungent taste of mustard. Sinigrin breaks down into allyl isothiocyanate when the seed is crushed or chewed.

Allyl isothiocyanate is also the compound that gives horseradish and wasabi their heat. When mustard seeds are heated, the sinigrin breaks down, and the flavor of the mustard becomes milder. This is why prepared mustard doesn’t carry that head over.

Types of Mustard Seeds

1. Yellow Mustard Seeds

Yellow mustard seeds are the most common type of mustard seed. They have a mild flavor and are often used in pickling recipes or as a spice in curries and other dishes. This is usually the seeds that are used to make prepared mustard that we all know and love.

2. Brown Mustard Seeds

Brown mustard seeds have a more pungent and sharp flavor than yellow mustard seeds. They are often used in Indian cooking, as well as in pickling recipes and as a spice in other dishes.

3. Black Mustard Seeds

Black mustard seeds have the strongest flavor of all mustard seeds. They are often used in pickling recipes or as a spice in curries and other dishes.

Mustard Seed Substitutes

Mustard Seed Substitutes

I’m going to be real… the top two BEST substitutes are prepared mustard and mustard powder. So, if you have one of those, please go for that! The other options in this list will give you some of those complex sharp, pungent, spicy flavors, but it won’t be quite the same as the other two. But sometimes you gotta do your best for what you got in your kitchen!

Prepared Mustard (Yellow, Brown, Dijon, etc….)

This is an easy swap because prepared mustard already contains mustard seeds! For one 1 tsp of mustard seeds, add 1 tbsp of prepared mustard. Note that this substitute will make your dish more liquidy, so you may need to reduce the liquid by a tsp or two.

I also want to bring your attention to the fact that there are tons of different kinds of prepared mustard. From your classic yellow mustard to robust spicy brown mustard. Don’t stress about this! No matter which one you use, it will give you that mustard flavor you need!

Powdered Mustard

Powdered mustard is a great dry substitute for mustard seeds since it’s basically just ground-up mustard seeds. Simply use the same amount of powdered mustard as you would mustard seeds.

You can add a hair less if you don’t want it to overpower the dish. This substitution will not add any extra liquid to your dish. So you are good to go!


Turmeric has a similar pungent flavor profile as mustard seeds but lacks that sharp bite and heat. Use 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric for every 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds called for in your recipe.

Keep in mind that turmeric will add a yellowish color to your dish, so it’s best used as a substitute in dishes where that won’t be noticeable or it doesn’t matter.


Horseradish (fresh and dried) also has a similar flavor profile to mustard seeds since they both have Allyl isothiocyanate. If you don’t mind the heat, you can do a 1:1 replacement in most recipes.

If you are sensitive to heat, then 1/2:1 in the recipes. Remember, horseradish is much more pungent than mustard seeds, so start with less and add more to taste. 


Like horseradish, wasabi is much more pungent than mustard seeds. For that reason, it’s best used sparingly. Start with 1/8 teaspoon and increase from there until you reach the desired flavor. Wasabi will also add a green tint to your dish, so if appearance matters to your dish then please keep that in mind.

Caraway Seeds

You might be surprised to see caraway seeds on the list, but they actually have somewhat of a similar flavor profile to mustard seeds. Caraway seeds are pungent and have a sharp flavor like mustard seeds, but caraway’s flavor tends to be reminiscent of fennel and cumin. They are very popular in bread, stews, and even pastries.

Because of that, I have placed it at the end of my sub suggestions. It will work, but it’s not as close as the other suggestions mentioned above.

Mustard Seed Alternatives I Don’t Recommend

It can be easy to grab another seed on your spice rack and replace mustard seeds. But we need to be careful since some of these seeds can completely alter the flavor and potentially ruin your recipe. Also, other weird suggestions the internet makes…um yeah, no, don’t do that!

  • Fennel Seeds: These little elongated seeds have a wonderful anise licorice flavor that is almost sweet like. Not a good swap for mustard seeds.
  • Cumin Seeds: These little seeds are quite pungent and robust. They work wonderfully with savory dishes like beans and meats. But their flavor is extremely unique and wouldn’t fit well with replacing mustard seeds.
  • Coriander Seeds: These little seeds are so bright and have an almost citrus-like quality. They are wonderful when used correctly, but they would not work well for mustard seeds.
  • Mayonnaise: Oddly enough, I have seen mayonnaise as a substitute for mustard seeds. And I can’t see the connection. They don’t have similar flavor profiles or characteristics. So, this one is a BIG NO from me. Steer clear from this hot mess.
Mustard seed replacement infograph

My Final Thoughts About Substitutes for Mustard Seeds

Mustard seeds are versatile ingredient with a robust flavor profile. If you’re out of mustard seeds or can’t find them at your local grocery store, don’t worry! Several substitutes will work just as well in your dish, including prepared mustard, powdered mustard, turmeric, horseradish, and wasabi. Experiment with different substitutes to find the flavor combination that you like best! And remember, Happy Cooking!

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