How to Make Mostarda Without a Recipe

October 14, 2013

Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.

Today: Learn how to master mostarda, a delicious sweet-and-spicy condiment you'll want to put on everything -- no recipe required. (Bonus: You can clear out all those random dried fruits in your pantry while you're at it.)

Mostarda 7 from flickr

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Do a quick search for “mostarda” on the internet, and you’ll find quite a few recipes that involve cooking up, and serving shortly thereafter, a sweet and savory condiment indistinguishable from what most Americans would call a chutney. Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against chutneys. (I put up several dozen jars of them every summer.) A true mostarda, however, requires more time -- at least several days -- to pull the sweet juices from the fruit, and then to reduce them to a thick, flavorful syrup. The active time spent making mostarda, however, shouldn’t require more than an hour, all told.

Use fresh fruit, or a combination of fresh and dried. In the fall, I almost always use at least one apple or pear, and often both, adding a few dried figs or cherries. This combination goes well with the roasts and cheese plates we serve in the fall and winter. (The original mostardas, from northern Italy, have for centuries been served with the combination of boiled meats known as bollito misto.) During the summer, I combine cherries with nectarines or peaches for a mostarda that goes perfectly with grilled chicken, sausages, and pork chops. In the cooler months, you can also use grapes, quince, Asian pears, and citrus, including candied citrus peel. This is a great way to use up odd bits of any dried fruit in your pantry. At a minimum, you’ll need fruit, sugar, dry mustard powder (I like Oaktown Spice Shop’s, but Colman’s is also a great choice, if you can find it) and a splash of wine or vinegar, or both.  

More: Get AntoniaJames' favorite mustard seed combo in Provisions; make the finest mostarda on the block.

How to Make Mostarda Without a Recipe

1. On Day 1, peel and cut the fresh fruit into small chunks (pictured below: apples, pears, and grapes). Put it into a wide non-reactive bowl. For each pound of prepared fruit, sprinkle on 1/3 to 1/2 cup of sugar, depending on the fruit’s sweetness. Tart varieties of apple tend not to release much liquid, so select softer, sweeter varieties for this.

mostarda 0


2. Cut larger dried fruits in half or quarters. Put all the dried fruit in a non-reactive pan, and cover, just barely, with water or a sweet white wine (pictured below: dried cherries). Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes; cool and pour over the fresh fruit and sugar. Gently stir the contents of the bowl to coat. Cover and let sit for a few hours. Gently transfer to a glass or plastic box, scraping any sugar off the bottom of the bowl. Cover tightly, and refrigerate overnight.

How to Make Mostarda without a Recipe


3. On Day 2 -- ideally, 24 hours later -- pour off the syrup into a small non-reactive saucepan. If you want to add spices in addition to the mustard, which you’ll stir in at the very end, put them in a cheesecloth bag or tea ball and drop into the syrup. Add some slivers of fresh ginger or candied citrus peel, if that strikes your fancy.

Mostarda 3 from flickr


4. Over medium-low heat, reduce the syrup to a thick syrup; pour it over the fruit, gently stirring to coat it. Cover and let it stand for a few hours. Then, refrigerate for another 24 hours or more. On Day 3, pour off and reduce the syrup as you did on Day 2. You can now either finish the mostarda, or let it rest another 24 or 48 hours, reducing the syrup each day.

How to Make Mostarda without a Recipe from Food52


5. To finish the mostarda, reduce the syrup until quite thick over medium-low heat. Add the fruit to the pan and simmer it gently. For each 4 cups of cooked fruit, mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground mustard with twice that amount of wine vinegar or cider vinegar, or a combination of vinegar and white wine. Pour that into the pan.

How to Make Mostarda without a Recipe from Food52


6. Simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste, and add more vinegar or wine, if you like, and reduce again. For a bit more bite, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of yellow mustard seeds.

How to Make Mostarda without a Recipe from Food52


7. Let the mostarda cool, covered, on the counter. Put it into a sterilized jar and store tightly covered in the refrigerator. It will hold for at least a month. Enjoy!

How to Make Mostarda without a Recipe from Food52

Looking for more for your holiday hors d'oeuvre spreads? Try these:

Chicken Liver Spread (née Pâté)
Camembert, Made at Home
Melissa Clark's Really Easy Duck Confit

Photos by James Ransom

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Ellen
  • foodlover77
  • BoulderGalinTokyo
  • Paula
  • Nicole

Written by: AntoniaJames

See problem, solve problem. Ask questions; question answers. Disrupt, with kindness, courtesy and respect. ;o)


Ellen July 4, 2023
I'd like to can this and I'm wondering how long it would need in a boiling water bath. Sure, I could guess, but if you already know, that would be great. TIA.
AntoniaJames July 5, 2023
Ellen, I'm not sure there is enough sugar and acid in this to make it safe to can it. Here are two recipes that were created for canning: and . They're altogether different from my recipe, but if I wanted to can a mostarda, I'd use those recipes instead. ;o)
Ellen July 5, 2023
Thank you Antonia, I'm a Food in Jars fan but your non-recipe looked more authentic, which is why I wanted to try it. I'm an experienced canner, so bearing what you said in mind, I'll figure out how to adjust the sugar and acid to make it safe for a water bath. Because I'm making a big batch and definitely want to preserve some! I appreciate your speedy reply.
AntoniaJames July 5, 2023
Excellent. Please let us know how it turns out (and how long you processed it in a hot water bath and, most important, what adjustments you made to get the sugar and acid correct). Thank you. ;o)
Chez L. May 15, 2024
Ellen, Did you come up with adjustments for sugar and acidity in order to can using the water bath method? If you wouldn’t mind sharing, I’d very much appreciate it. Thanks!
Ellen May 15, 2024
I just pulled out the scrap of paper I scribbled my notes on and it says: for each pound of fruit I used 3/5 c. sugar and 1/4 c. vinegar. But honestly, my notes are a mess and I probably won't have time to work on it again until it's mostarda season again, which for me will be end of June/July.
foodlover77 June 5, 2023
For the pictured mostarda - what fruits and spices were used ? I have never made it before and wanting some further guidance.
AntoniaJames July 5, 2023
I didn't make the mostarda that was photographed for the article. Here's a combination I like:
½ cup dried sour cherries
½ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup yellow raisins
½ cup grated apple
1 large bay leaf
2 tablespoons red wine (I use a Cotes du Rhone.)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon ground mustard
Pinch of salt

Full instructions are here:

I hope this helps. ;o)
foodlover77 July 20, 2023
@AntoniaJames thankyou so much. Will try this within next few weeks
AntoniaJames July 20, 2023
You're welcome! I'm going to make this using plums - increasing the amount to 1 1/2 cup or so - within the next few days. I usually make mostarda in the fall, to serve at Thanksgiving, but it also goes so well with grilled chicken and pork, so I'm inspired to make some now. I may try a batch using dried apricots instead of cherries and raisins. Stay tuned . . . ;o)
foodlover77 July 20, 2023
@AntoniaJames Wow! dried apricots. Here in south island NZ I have last seasons dried nudging me to use them. Would love to see what you do with the apricots. I have had a fig mostarda made by an Aussie company and it was just amazing. Since then I have love mostarda. You have iinspired me too. Off to markets today to get the extras I need.
BoulderGalinTokyo February 11, 2021
I made Mostarda with different seasonal fruits this time: apple, quince, & grapes. This time it turned out much better. I also didn't use any sugar because it was too sweet last time. It had much better flavor, and with all that pectin we liked the stiffer texture too. Thanks for sharing a great NON recipe!

Although I did find myself reading it several times.. LOL
AntoniaJames February 11, 2021
You're welcome! We've been making a lot of mostardas, as well as mostarda-inspired dried fruit chutney-like concoctions, to put on cheese boards. ;o)
BoulderGalinTokyo September 1, 2020
Hi Antonia, My first attempt was a Rhubarb Mostarda from Williams-Sonoma. Delicious. Then I saw your "Without a recipe", a very different approach, and was intrigued. I'm making now & heated 1/2 cup of dried cherries in wine to pour over nectarines. It seemed a shame to lose the lovely color of the nectarines. If I didn't use any dried fruits, just heated some wine and it poured over, would this recipe still work? Thanks for sharing a great skill!
AntoniaJames September 1, 2020
Well, it might, but you'd have essentially a beautiful chutney. What makes the mostarda so delectable is the variety of textures and the different punchy flavors that dried flavors give it. Have you thought about using yellow raisins? Currants would give you contrasting bits which likely would not interfere too much with the color of the nectarines. Dried apricots should work, too.
That said, I understand your desire to maintain that beautiful color.
Good luck! ;o) (P.S. I now live just north of Boulder.)
BoulderGalinTokyo September 11, 2020
LOL I see what you mean about the color- cherries really overwhelmed the nectarines.
I used the lower amount of sugar & half wine with vinegar. It was way too sweet probably from the choice of fruits. So I boiled again with extra vinegar & mustard and mustard seeds, then repeated another day. I will stop here because I'm tired of my kitchen being so hot...but the mustard was not strong enough, just bought, but it is not a 'speciality' mustard.
So I will try again in the fall with quince.
BoulderGalinTokyo September 11, 2020
I couldn't find the personal response, so I'll put it here. Speaking of hot kitchens, how did you like the snow in September in Boulder? Not the first time that's happened- we were swimming until 2, snow at 4 PM. We used to live on Olde Stage Rd. Just visited in November before our round-the-world trip, got back to Japan the day they closed Wuhan, China. Hope to meet you in the future!
AntoniaJames September 16, 2020
Old Stage Rd! Great cycling up there, even better with the recent improvements, plus more planned for 2021-2022, to create a climbing lane. We're in Prospect New Town. Most of my cycling these days tends be between 36 and the Diagonal, when not on the Lookout rollers. It seems that there is no more internal communication between Food52 members. I hope to meet you, too! Feel free to reach out to me at antoniajames @ g mail. Safe travels! ;o)
Paula October 8, 2015
beautiful! It is pear and apple season in the Northeast and although you make is year round i am so excited to make this to accompany fall food:) Thank you! great directions
Nicole July 16, 2015
Hi, I'm making this now, on day three and there is hardly any juice. I've used pears, apples, dry dates, and an orange. Is it the choice of fruit?
AntoniaJames July 17, 2015
Nicole, I'm surprised the pear hasn't released a fair bit . . . . I'd add a touch of water at this point, giving it a good stir, to help it along. Also, once you cook it at the very end, more juice should be released.

Having a lot of liquid isn't really a problem, though it will result in something that looks a lot like a chutney, i.e., quite chunky. If you want to use this mostarda on sandwiches (always a great idea - especially grilled cheese and meat/cheese sandwiches grilled on a panini press) and it seems too chunky, just use a sharp knife to cut the bits down to size. I'd probably add a touch of extra vinegar at that point, too, but that's just my preference for a lot of tart notes in fruit condiments.
Hope this helps! ;o)
Jack S. April 29, 2014
Do you add spices, ginger, and candied peel every time you reduce the syrup or just the first time?
AntoniaJames April 29, 2014
Just the first time, Jack. Though of course, if you want a bit more spice after you've done the final cooking, feel free to add it! ;o)
Margaret October 14, 2013
Delightful approach--just a little attention spaced over a few days, plus putting those bits and pieces to tasty use. Thanks for Oaktown Spice resource: we like their za'atar.
AntoniaJames October 14, 2013
Thanks, Margaret! Haven't tried Oaktown's za'atar as I usually make my own, but I buy most of my whole spices, bay leaves, etc. there . . . . I live but a few miles away, so it's become a favorite shopping destination, as you can well imagine. ;o)
pierino October 14, 2013
Excellent job AJ! I've seen some recipes which call for mustard oil but the USDA frowns on its use in food. I'll have to try your version.
AntoniaJames October 14, 2013
Thanks, pierino! I looked into the mustard oil and the only kind here -- not to super intense kind used in Italy, which is banned in the U.S. as a feared constituent of weapons of mass destruction -- is what you get in Indian grocers. It doesn't have nearly the fire power of a good ground English mustard or comparable, e.g., Oaktown Spice Shop. Plus, the oil itself in the quantity you'd need kind of ruins the texture/consistency. I hope you do try this. I can (and do) eat this stuff out of the jar. It gets better over time, too. Let it cure for at least a week or two. ;o)