It never occurred to me that mustard is something I can make on my own. But as I consider all of the ways I can minimize food waste in my home — especially for foods we use a lot, including condiments — I thought it was worth a try.
It turns out that mustard is effortless to make and surprisingly versatile.
After reading several recipes, I learned that the base of mustard requires only two ingredients: a combination of seeds and a liquid (vinegar, water, etc.). From there, the process to make it stays the same, and the rest — the spices and other adjunct flavors — are up to you to decide, depending on how spicy, sweet, or tangy you want it.
Where to find mustard seeds
Most grocery stores carry at least one variety of mustard seeds. Specialty and spice stores will have a large selection of them. There are more than 40 varieties available worldwide, but for this recipe, let's focus on:
- Yellow seeds, which are are mild-flavored and commonly used in yellow American mustard.
- Brown and black seeds, which carry more heat and a developed flavor and are typically used in Dijon and spicy brown mustard.
I love spicy condiments and had a small bag of brown seeds in my spice cabinet, so I used them for my mustard-making adventure.
What type of liquids to use
Liquids play an essential role in a mustard recipe. They stabilize its consistency and control many of its flavor profiles.
Vinegar (including apple cider, white wine, and white vinegar) adds excellent flavor, and its acid preserves the spice level of the mustard seed.
Adding alcohol contributes to a sharper taste. Dijon-style mustards use white wine, or go for beer as the base for more spice and new profiles.
Water can be the bulk of the liquid base in any mustard recipe, but I wouldn't recommend going all the way unless you're looking to make a sinus-clearing condiment. When you mix mustard seeds with water, a chemical reaction occurs that produces that incredibly sharp, incredibly spicy taste you find in most Chinese hot mustards. You can keep the heat level down by adding a bit of vinegar.
Whichever liquid you choose, give your mustard seeds a good soak in it overnight to develop a deeper flavor.
Since I was already using spicy seeds, I opted for a basic white vinegar to keep the heat from rising and allowing me to focus on further developing the flavor with spices.
What else to add
Herbs and spices add color and create heightened flavor profiles.
Sweeteners, like sugar or maple syrup, elevate mustard recipes. Honey-mustard is one part mustard to one part honey.
Pickle juice is a gamechanger. Sweet or dill, the brine in a pickle jar is loaded with flavor, and its acidity is an excellent complement to the spice of mustard seeds.
I chose to add turmeric to give my mustard that signature yellow shade, and a little paprika for a bit of smoky flavor.
Determining the consistency of your mustard
Consistency varies by region and use, but it's also very personal. Some prefer a coarse, whole seed bite — like what you will find in "country-style," course-grind, and spicy brown mustards — while others enjoy the smoother mouthfeel of American mustard.
If you prefer the latter, you can buy ground mustard seed or grind your own to your preferred consistency. Or, you can use mustard powder. This recipe favors whole or coarsely ground seed, so if you do use powder, I recommend you try this yellow mustard recipe from Serious Eats.
How long does homemade mustard last?
If you're a mustard lover like me, you can finish a jar in a week. You can also consider grabbing a larger container and doubling the recipe; it can last for around four to six months when refrigerated. And like a fine wine, the longer it sits, the more flavor your mustard will develop.
Recipe for Spicy Brown Mustard
- 1 cup vinegar (white, apple cider, or white wine vinegar will work)
- 1 cup mustard seeds, yellow or brown
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- Any other adjunct flavors that you’d like to have in your mustard
- Water, as needed (see below)
Mix the mustard seeds and vinegar in a bowl. Cover and let soak at room temperature overnight.
Transfer mixture to a blender and add the Kosher salt, turmeric powder, paprika, and other adjunct flavors. Puree until smooth. If the texture is too thick, add a tablespoon of water at a time and blend, until you reach your desired consistency.
Transfer to an airtight container and let your mustard rest in the refrigerator for 2-3 days before using it.