How-To & Diy

Pickled Mustard Seeds

September 24, 2013

It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Today: Angela Brown (a.k.a. The Chef's Wife) shares a recipe for a sweet, spicy, unexpected alternative to traditional golden mustard.

Pickled Mustard Seeds on Food52

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For most of my life, mustard was the one condiment I avoided completely. We rarely ate it at home, so when a spicy spoonful snuck its way onto a restaurant burger or a school cafeteria tray, the unfamiliar taste left me unpleasantly surprised. Luckily, my adult years have introduced me to an entirely new variety, one that feels slightly more grown-up in comparison to my once-forbidden lunchtime enemy.

Another important lunchtime ally: Homemade sandwich bread.

While it is easy to equate the smooth, spicy flavors of mustard with the warmer months -- what with all the backyard barbecues and ballpark outings -- those same flavors prove to be a perfect complement to a number of cold weather dishes.

Pickled Mustard Seeds on Food52

The thought of pickling mustard seeds may seem somewhat strange at first, but these tiny seeds contain just the right amount of mustardy flavor, plus the sweetness of honey and a peppery kick. 

After a quick brine, the seeds plump up into bright golden orbs that burst in your mouth. They serve as an unexpected substitution for traditional golden mustard when spread on hearty cold-weather sandwiches, slathered across a thick cut of meat, served with a charcuterie board, dolloped on eggs, or mixed into salad dressings or marinades. I like to think of them as mustard caviar. 

Pickled Mustard Seeds on Food52

Pickled Mustard Seeds with Honey & White Peppercorns 

Makes 1 cup

1/2 cup yellow mustard seed
3/4 cup white wine vinegar, plus 1/4 cup
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon whole white peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes 

Pickled Mustard Seeds on Food52

Thoroughly rinse the mustard seeds in a fine mesh sieve. Add the drained seeds, 3/4 cup of the white wine vinegar, and the salt to a bowl and set aside. Allow the seeds to soak at room temperature for one hour. 

Pickled Mustard Seeds on Food52

Add the honey, turmeric, peppercorns, and red pepper flakes to the seed mixture, gently stir, and pour into a small saucepan. (If you prefer a different mix of spices, feel free to experiment -- this recipe is very adaptable!)

Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, making sure to stir the bottom and sides of the saucepan regularly. Continue to cook for about 20 minutes.

Pickled Mustard Seeds on Food52

Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow to cool (the mixture will continue to thicken). Once the seed mixture has returned to room temperature, stir in the remaining white wine vinegar. When stored in an airtight jar and kept refrigerated, the pickled mustard seeds will keep well for about 3 months. 

Pickled Mustard Seeds on Food52

Note: The seeds will continue to absorb liquid while they are refrigerated. To keep them from getting too thick, you can periodically stir more white wine vinegar into the jar, about 1 tablespoon at a time, whenever necessary.

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Angela Brown.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • LASGarcia
  • Leslie Edwards
    Leslie Edwards
  • Adam Justice
    Adam Justice
  • laurelei235
  • Allison
angela brown

Written by: angela brown


LASGarcia November 19, 2016
I made two batches- one with yellow and one with black seeds. Both never thickened up- they are watery and separated from liquid. What did I do wrong?
Leslie E. May 19, 2015
Does anyone know if you can water bath can them to avoid storing them in the fridge and extend the shelf life?
Adam J. April 15, 2015
I would think that black mustard would be more bitter. To remove bitterness, you should blanch the seeds in boiling water, strain, and repeat with fresh water 2-3 more times. For black mustard, you may need to do this several more times, as you would with garlic.
laurelei235 January 2, 2015
I wonder if the bitterness might be due to the water. In some places it's really heavily treated, is "hard," or has been softened. Soaking the seeds in distilled water could be the way to go.
Allison April 7, 2014
I had to use waay more vinegar than the recipe but turned out soo good!! As I was cooking it I had to add more because it thickened pretty quick. I'm pretty sure I'll be making this alot from now on! No more French's mustard for this girl! I spread it across a nice piece of rare steak, was absolutely fantastic! Thanks for the recipe!
Linda J. November 21, 2013
My first batch turned out great...a little too bitter at first , but it seemed to mellow after a couple of days. I just tried soaking another batch of yellow seeds over night with Pumpkin Ale beer...will let you know how it turns out.
anna K. October 6, 2013
what would be different ways to use this mixture?? it looks good but i can't imagine how i'd finish an entire cups worth. other than meats, burgers, salad dressing, maybe roasted vegetables, i can't think of many other ways to incorporate it. suggestions? thanks!
Angela B. November 12, 2013
Hi Anna,
I also really like it on eggs! Likewise, I like to keep a jar in our fridge for when company pops by - its a fun conversation starter for a charcuterie board and cheese and cracker spread (it's really yummy on sliced cheddar). Hope this helps!
Yehudit F. October 4, 2013
I just made this and, unfortunately, its just very bitter. Any ideas how I could doctor this up to mask the bitterness?
sexyLAMBCHOPx October 4, 2013
good question, Yehudit.
Angela B. November 12, 2013
Hi Yehudit,
One way to resolve some of the bitterness is to soak the seeds a while longer (you can soak them for several hours, and I've even seen some recipes that call for soaking the seeds overnight). I hope this helps!
rainey September 24, 2013
Yum! I just made some. Actually, I halved the recipe and still got an 8oz jar full.

I added minced onion. I also lightly smashed a garlic clove so it was still fully intact and added that to the simmer, removing it when I set the pan aside to cool. I used a butter warming pan over a cast iron diffuser since the bottom of the pan was so narrow.

Next time I'll add some cumin.

Thanks for this recipe. It tastes great and I can't wait to try it on a burger.
Angela B. September 25, 2013
So glad to hear, Rainy! I've never added onion, so I'm glad to know that works well! I just spread some of mine on a cheddar burger this past Sunday!
Amy R. September 24, 2013
This looks delicious. Can't wait to try it out. I'm wondering, how would it taste with black mustard seeds?
Greenstuff September 24, 2013
I'll tell you tomorrow if angela doesn't know--my black mustard seeds are already soaking!
rainey September 24, 2013
Black mustard seeds should make it hotter.
Greenstuff September 25, 2013
It's not as hot as I thought it would be, but unfortunately, it's really bitter. But it was so easy to make, I'm going to make it with the yellow mustard seeds too.
Angela B. September 25, 2013
Hi all! I've never experimented with this recipe using black mustard seeds, so I'd be very curious to hear if any one has success using them! Thanks all for testing out this recipe!