If you’re looking to add a little heat to a recipe, one of the first items many people often reach for are some goof old mustard seeds.
And when it comes to mustard seeds, none seem to hit in quite the same way as black mustard seeds.
These little capsules of heat and flavor are an incredibly popular ingredient to add to recipes from across the world, especially in many Indian and similar South Asian cuisines.
However, it is also an ingredient that is quite difficult to get a hold of in some stores across the country.
This means that, if you can’t black mustard seeds in an establishment near you, you’re straight out of luck.
Or are you?
While black mustard seeds do have several unique qualities, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other items that can fill those niches.
What it does mean, is knowing what sort of qualities you are looking for when trying to find a substitute.
This is exactly what we are going to do in this guide!
In this article, we are going to explain what makes black mustard seeds such a great ingredient, as well as show you a few food items that have similar qualities that you might be able to use if black mustard seeds are nowhere to be found in your pantry.
What Are Black Mustard Seeds?
So, we should probably start discussing what exactly makes black mustard seeds such a popular ingredient in the first place.
Black mustard seeds are very similar to many other types of mustard seeds that you’ll find, being small, hard seeds that are usually crushed into fragments or powder to become part of a paste, often as part of a rub or curry mixture.
However, black mustard seeds are visibly different, thanks to their dark coloration.
Taste & Texture
But what makes black mustard seeds such a great ingredient?
Well, like many other mustard seeds (see also ‘The 5 Best Amazing Substitutes For Whole Grain Mustard‘), black mustard seeds are quite aromatic once they have been ground down.
They are also considered a very spicy ingredient to add to many recipes, making them perfect if you are looking to give your spicy curry a little extra punch to it.
However, compared to many other spicy foods, black mustard seeds are slightly milder overall compared to other foods like brown mustard seeds, or horseradish.
While that might seem like a negative for some, this makes it an excellent ingredient to use for people who, while enjoying spice in their meals, do not have particularly high spice tolerance for it.
Black mustard seeds provide a perfect balance of just enough heat to be noticed, while also not having too much to completely overpower other flavors and ingredients.
If you have enough black mustard seeds, this also gives you a great amount of control over the overall spiciness of a dish, as you can add just a little extra heat to bring up for those with higher heat tolerance.
Black mustard seeds can also be used to create mustard oil, by mixing crushed seeds with oil, before pressing the mixture and distilling it.
As a note, if you are looking to add some black mustard seeds to your recipe, you will likely find that mustard seed heat accumulates quite quickly when adding them, turning your mild meal into something far too hot to be comfortably eaten.
Make sure that you add and mix in your mustard seeds slowly, before adding any extra seeds.
Substitutes For Black Pepper
So, with that little explanation out of the way, we can start to go into some of the substitutes that you may find easier to source for yourself than black mustard seeds.
1. Brown Mustard Seeds
When it comes to replacing one mustard seed ingredient, it is quite often best to replace it with another kind of mustard seed!
This is probably why brown mustard seeds are considered one of the best substitutes when a recipe calls for black mustard seeds initially.
Like black mustard, brown mustard seeds are an ingredient that is frequently used in many South Asian recipes, meaning that this ingredient is tried and tested with the same sort of foods that you’re likely to cook with these ingredients.
If you are going to use brown mustard seeds in your recipes, make sure that they are toasted before you start adding them to a curry paste or powder, otherwise, the flavor will not come through as intended, or may not even be discernible at all.
It should also be noted that brown mustard seeds are noticeably spicy than black mustard seeds, so make sure to add them slowly to a dish.
A generally good rule to follow is to use around half the amount of brown mustard seeds as you would if you used black mustard seeds.
When it comes to hot foods, many people often seem to forget about this humble little root herb.
But, if you’re looking for the same type of spicy heat that mustard seeds provide, you’ll find that horseradish is more than effective enough of carrying that spicy punch that you are looking for!
Horseradish is a root herb that comes from the same family of plants as mustard does, so you’ll often find that they can often be used to substitute for each other if the situation calls for it.
While fresh horseradish often has the best taste when it comes to heat or spice, pre-prepared horseradish powder or mix can also serve quite well as a substitute and is often very easy to find in markets and stores, especially when compared to fresh mustard seeds.
A common ingredient or condiment to have handy in many Japanese and other East Asian cuisines, wasabi might not be the first idea that you have when it comes to a replacement for mustard seeds.
However, like horseradish, the plant that wasabi derives from is in the same family as the other two plants, meaning that the type of heat it carries is, likewise, very similar to mustard in many respects.
It should be noted that wasabi tends to be a lot spicier than mustard seeds of the same amount, so make sure that you are using it in smaller quantities when initially adding it.
If you think that your taste buds can handle it, this is an ingredient that is more than enough to satisfy those heat-loving needs.
4. Prepared Mustard Sauce
While wasabi and horseradish have more than enough heat to them to be used as substitutes for black mustard seeds, their taste might not be to everyone’s palate.
So, for this next entry, we’re returning to mustard-based items, with this prepared food.
While not quite as spicy as raw mustard seeds, they have the same flavor that you are looking for and can be easily sourced too.
While also not containing the same amount of heat or flavor as mustard seeds, cumin, either in seed or powder form, is another spicy ingredient that is often used in many similar recipes as black mustard seeds, making it a perfectly reasonable substitute too.
As you can see, while black mustard seeds are a tricky ingredient to properly balance with its substitutes, there are plenty of options for you out there that you can use.