A Guide To Buying & Using Mustard Seeds

An average Indian dish can’t be made without mustard seed. These tiny seeds are one of the most essential ingredients in the tempering process. Mustard seeds are widely popular worldwide and used to make various condiments and oil. People often purchase bulk mustard seeds to have a regular supply of spice. But if you have never used these seeds before, do not worry. Here is your guide to buying and using mustard seed.

What are mustard seeds?

Mustard seeds are seeds of a mustard plant native to North Africa and parts of Europe and Asia. There are three types of mustard seeds: black, brown, and white, which come from three different plants.

Black mustard seed come from the Brassica Nigra plant. This variety is more prevalent in the Middle East and Asia Minor, where they originated. Black mustard seeds are tiny and compact. The seeds can be ground to make a spice or heated in the oil to bring the flavours out.

Brassica Juncea plant produces brown mustard seed. This variety of mustard seed is also often called Chinese or Indian. Brown mustard seed have different types of mustard seed, ranging from those with dark brown seed coating to dark yellow.

Yellow mustard is a white mustard seed, but it becomes yellow after adding a dye or turmeric. White mustard seed come from the Sinapis alba plant, which is in the Brassicaceae family but not closely related to the other varieties. The White mustard seed have a slightly tan tinge and are larger than their brown or black counterparts.

The origin of mustard seeds

Wild mustard plants grow everywhere in the world. It is unknown when the mustard seeds were domesticated. The seeds have been a documented food as its mention comes in 206 BC records where they were eaten by the Han dynasty of China.

This spice also has been mentioned in the Bible. But its usage dates back to the ancient Roman and Egyptian eras. Romans are believed to bring mustard seed from Egypt. And from there, mustards spread across Europe. The brown mustard variety is native to China and was introduced to India. It grows in the Himalayan regions.

What do mustard seeds taste like?

Black mustard seeds are the most intense among the three varieties and are also the least common. They have a strong, spicy, and bitter taste with nutty notes. The closest resemblance of the taste is like horseradish or wasabi seeds. Whole seeds do not have that strong flavour. It can only be tasted when bitten or ground into powder.

Brown mustard seeds are less intense than their black counterpart and often mixed with them to lower the spice. Similarly, yellow mustard seeds are lower in pungency than black and brown seeds. The yellow variety is often used to create mustard, a popular condiment in Europe and America.

Cooking with mustard seeds

Black and brown mustard seeds are commonly used in Indian cuisine. They are tossed in a frying pan and fried in oil until they crackle. This process is called tadka or tempering, which breaks the seed open and brings out the flavour.

Tempering is usually performed at the beginning or end of the cooking process. White mustard seed can be toasted for pickling or added to dishes. These mustard seed can also be used to make mustard. Besides, mustard seeds are also used to produce mustard oil in South Asian and Southeast Asian countries. 

Where to purchase mustard seeds from

Mustard seed are easily available in supermarkets and spice stores. If you have an Indian speciality cuisine store nearby, you can also purchase them from there. However, the best way to find high-quality mustard seed is by purchasing from stores that frequently restock their shelves.

This is because mustards have a short shelf life like any other spice. And buying stale spice or one which has nearing expiry date would not give you as much flavour as the fresh spice. If you want to purchase bulk mustard seed, you can use any Indian spices exporter. You can also find them online or from local distributors.

How to store mustard seeds

Storing mustard seed requires some care. They have volatile air, which provides flavour to the spice. And if not stored properly, these oils evaporate quickly, resulting in stale spice. Though consuming them does not affect our health, you might have to use them more than you usually do to achieve that characteristic flavour.

Therefore, store mustard seed in an airtight container so air can’t seep in and speed up evaporation. Also, place the seed where heat or light comes in lower amounts. They can also encourage oxidation and evaporate volatile oils.


Mustard seed is an important part of many cuisines around the world. They are warm and spicy and infuse a nutty flavour with our food. But for people who have never used mustard seed, cooking and storing them could be confusing. That is why this blog has discussed how to store and use mustard seed and other spice information.

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