What Are Mustard Seeds, Anyway?

March 16, 2016

It's easy to think that seeds are incidental: Sesame, poppy, they're so small—are they even there? But mustard seeds let their presence be known. They're forceful in flavor, and we—and others—can't get enough.

The more common yellow mustard seeds (brown-black ones are in your dijon). Photo by Molly Yeh

What They Are

The seed of the mustard plant eventually grows into dark, hearty greens like collards, kale, and, yes, mustard greens. But in its premature state, it’s peppier, and edible, too. Once heated, mustard seeds are a zing of flavor that wakes up and warms—think a mustard Pop Rock. The more common yellow seeds are slightly mellower; the black-brown ones are zestier (they're what you find in whole seed and Dijon mustards).

How to Eat Them

You can pickle them like onions, sprout them as you would mung beans, add them to pickle brine, or smush them into a compound butter.

Most commonly, they’re simply toasted in a dry pan for 2 to 3 minutes until fragrant. Once toasty, throw them in with curries, stir fries, dressings, or over meat, fish, potatoes, or a hearty salad. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Other Bright Ideas We've Seen

Gjelina in Los Angeles and Navy in New York add flare to dishes you’ve probably had before using pickled mustard seeds: in a potato salad with pesto, and on an avocado toast with fennel and radish, respectively. April Bloomfield also throws them over fingerling potatoes at The Breslin. And Alice Waters sautés collard greens in a sizzling mixture of cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, and onion.

Where to Buy Em

You can find yellow mustard seeds in most grocery stores, but for freshness, we like to buy both the yellow and black-brown seeds in Indian markets. We also, ahem, sell them in our Shop.

How do you like to eat these little dudes? Tell us in the comments!

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Editor/writer/stylist. Author of I Dream of Dinner (so You Don't Have To). Last name rhymes with bagel.

1 Comment

Fernando @. March 16, 2016
Oh that pickled mustard seeds... *drool*