The Condiment You Can't Say No To

An ode to the small-but-mighty mustard seed

The humble, yet extraordinarily tasty mustard! I love it on various items from the grill, french fries, and sandwiches; in salad dressings and marinades; as a sauce for meat, a glaze for vegetables, stirred up with honey for dipping —generally speaking, if a dish uses mustard, sign me up.

It’s easy to forget how versatile mustard is, but, well, it IS. Read on to educate yourself on the various types of mustard, get our recipe for Grainy Mustard (plus 14 ways to flavor it!), and enjoy one of my all-time favorite recipes (which, of course, calls for mustard).

The Mustard Lexicon

Dry mustard: When seeds are ground very finely, the result is a powder or “flour.” The simplest mustard is made from this: Mix about 1/4 cup with a sprinkle of salt and 1-2 teaspoons sugar. Stir in water, wine, or beer a little at a time until you get the desired consistency. It will be very strong, though the sugar rounds it out a bit. Chinese Mustard Dipping Sauce, below, is a little more sophisticated.

Dijon-style mustard: Smooth, pleasantly hot wine-based mustards modeled after those from Dijon, France. Since getting such a smooth grind with everyday kitchen equipment is impossible, you’ve simply got to buy it. American-made Grey Poupon is the most familiar brand; Maille (from France) is another good choice. Use for salad dressings, sauces, and all-purpose smearing.

Coarsely ground, whole grain, or stone-ground mustard: When bits of the seeds remain intact, the mustard has a slight crunch with an almost nutty flavor. This kind is easy to make at home (see below). Perfect for hearty dishes, next to a slab of corned beef, or whenever you want a more assertive flavor combined with texture.

Chinese mustard: A sauce-like mustard, on the thin side and quite sharp. You can find it in Asian markets, well-stocked grocery stores, and of course Chinese restaurants. To make your own, just make a thinner version of the dry mustard recipe above. And to make a delicious dipping sauce, add a little sesame oil and a splash of soy sauce; serve it with dumplings, fried wontons or egg rolls, or deep-fried vegetables.

Prepared yellow mustard: A very mild version that gets its neon-yellow color from turmeric, not the mustard seeds. About the only thing it has going for it is its mildness, which isn’t really a plus. Most contain extra ingredients you don’t want anyway.

Wasabi: Natural fresh wasabi is a rhizome (a stem that grows underground, like ginger). It’s bright green, with a heat that will clear your sinuses. It’s now pretty easy to find ground-dried wasabi. But mustard is the main ingredient of the prepared “wasabi” we use most often. We know and love it on sushi, but it adds a bite to anything that needs it.

“Gourmet” mustards: Any of the above preparations with additions. They can range from outstanding to not-worth-the-price. You’re better off making your own. (See below!)

Grainy Mustard

Makes 1½ cups
Time: 15 minutes, plus a day or two to soak the seeds

Like mayonnaise, homemade mustard is superior to almost anything you can buy and is endlessly customizable — see the list that follows. Only it’s easier. If you need mustard right away, grind the seeds in a spice grinder and slowly add the liquids until you get the consistency that you want. It will be sharper and less subtle, but that’s not always a bad thing.


  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds (about 1½ ounces)

  • 1/4 cup brown or black mustard seeds (about 1½ ounces)

  • 1/2 cup red wine or water

  • 1/2 cup sherry vinegar or malt vinegar, or any vinegar with at least 5 percent acidity

  • Pinch salt


1. Put all the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid or other sealed glass or ceramic container. (Don’t use metal; it will corrode.) Shake or stir, then let soak for a day or 2.

2. Put the mixture in a blender and purée for several minutes to grind, adding a little extra water as needed to keep the machine running. Stop and scrape the sides down once or twice and repeat. You’ll never get the mustard as smooth as Dijon, but you can control the coarseness by how long you blend. Taste and add more salt if you like.

3. Return the mustard to the container and cover tightly. Store in a cool, dark place or refrigerate for up to several months. The mustard will be quite sharp at first, but it will thicken and mellow with time.

14 Ways to Flavor Grainy Mustard

Start with 1/2 cup mustard and stir in the following ingredients. Note that using fresh herbs, fruit, or vegetables will reduce the mustard’s storage time to a week.

1. Mustard relish: Add 1/2 cup chopped sweet pickle and 1/4 cup each chopped red onion and red bell pepper.

2. Tarragon mustard: Add 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon.

3. Rosemary mustard: Add 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary.

4. Tomato mustard: Add 1 tablespoon tomato paste.

5. Honey mustard: Add 2 tablespoons honey.

6. Horseradish mustard: Add 1 teaspoon freshly grated or prepared horseradish, or more to taste.

7. Molasses mustard: Add 1 tablespoon molasses.

8. Balsamic mustard: Add 1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, to taste.

9. Creole mustard: Add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste.

10. Roasted garlic mustard: Add 2 or 3 cloves roasted garlic, mashed with a fork.

11. Peach mustard: Add 1/4 cup fresh peach purée (1 medium peach, peeled, pitted, sliced, and puréed or mashed with a fork).

12. Mango mustard: Add 1/4 cup fresh mango purée (1/2 medium mango, peeled, pitted, cubed, and puréed or mashed with a fork).

13. Brewhouse mustard: Instead of the red wine or water, use 1/2 cup strong-flavored beer, like stout, porter, bock, or dark or amber ale.

14. Mock mostarda: For a shortcut to the fruity Italian sauce (usually served with rich meats), combine 1/2 cup mustard with 1/2 cup orange marmalade or cherry or apricot preserves. Add 2 tablespoons cider vinegar.

Recipe from How to Cook Everything: Completely Revised Twentieth Anniversary Edition


Deviled Chicken Thighs

Makes 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes

In cooking, the term ''deviled'' has several meanings, but it most often implies a preparation with a sharp flavor, most often derived from mustard, vinegar, cayenne or other chiles. In this dish, you don't need vinegar, because there is plenty of acidity in Dijon mustard. Nor, strictly speaking, do you need cayenne (and we omit when cooking for children); the taste is strong without it.

You can make this dish with chicken breasts if you prefer; we recommend bone-in breasts, which follow the same procedure. For boneless, skinless breasts — forget crispness, of course — smear the meat all over with the mustard mixture, then broil it for just about six minutes, turning two or three times to prevent burning.


  • 8 chicken thighs, or a mixture of thighs and drumsticks

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/3 cup Dijon mustard

  • 1/3 cup minced shallots, onion, or scallion

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper or Tabasco sauce, or to taste

  • Minced parsley for garnish, optional


1. Heat the broiler to its maximum, and set the rack about 4 inches from the heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides, and place it in a pan, skin side up. Broil, watching carefully, until the skin is golden brown, about 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, combine the mustard, shallots, and cayenne. (If you have a small food processor, you can chop the shallots by throwing them in with the mustard and pulsing the machine on and off a few times.)

3. When the chicken has browned, remove it from the oven, and turn it. Spread just a teaspoon or so of the mustard mixture on the underside of the chicken, and broil for about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken, and spread the remaining mixture on the upper, or skin side. Broil until mustard begins to brown.

4. At this point, the chicken may be done. (There will be only the barest trace of pink near the bone; an instant-read thermometer inserted into the meat will read 160°.) If it is not done, turn off the broiler and leave the chicken in the oven for 5 more minutes or so. Garnish and serve.

Recipe from The Minimalist Cooks at Home