Your cart:
You have 0 item items in your cart
View cart
Total Price
Have a question? Click here to Ask a Chef


Common Name

Latin Name Family Country/Origin
Brassica alba, B. juncea, B. nigra Cruciferae Mediterranean, India, Central Asia

The use of mustard seeds dates back more than 5,000 years. Mustard seeds are referred to in the Bible and have been used medicinally by the Chinese for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks thought mustard seeds cured scorpion stings.  In India, mustard seeds are known as Rai.

Mustard actually means 'burning must,' from the Latin museum ardens. The ancient Romans can be credited for being the first to use mustard as a condiment. They would pound mustard seeds into must (unfermented grape juice), creating a pungent paste that was then used on meat as a flavor enhancer and preservative. Our modern-day mustard and white wine glaze for holiday ham is remarkably similar.

The ancient Greeks used mustard seeds daily as both a spice and as a medicine. The Chinese considered mustard seed to be an aphrodisiac. Legend has it that a Franciscan Father Serra brought mustard seeds to California, planting them along his way so that he would be able to one day find his way back to Spain.

In German folklore, brides would sew mustard seeds into the hem of their wedding dress in order to secure their position as master of the house. In other countries mustard seeds are sprinkled around the outside of homes to protect inhabitants from evil spirits.

There are three different types of mustard seeds, with three distinctly different intensities. White mustard is the palest of the three and the one most commonly used to make the yellow mustard condiment. It is also the least hot of the three.

Brown mustard is second in pungency only to black mustard seeds. Used to make Dijon mustard, brown mustard seeds can be anywhere from light brown to dark yellow. Black mustard seeds are the strongest of the three, but when lightly fried in oil take on a mild, nutty flavor.

Interestingly, the mustard plant belongs to the same family as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. Of the forty different mustard plant varieties, only three are used to produce mustard seeds. Brassica alba, B. juncea, B. nigra, can grow to be four feet tall and their seeds have no distinct aroma.

Purported Medicinal Qualities*

Like many plants belonging to the Cruciferae family, mustard has many reported health benefits. Rich in iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium, mustard may help prevent certain types of cancer. It can be used topically as a poultice or plaster, or taken internally with caution.

Historically, mustard has been used to:

  • Stimulate appetite
  • Aid digestion
  • As an antiseptic
  • Clear sinuses
  • As a decongestant
  • As a source of omega-3 fatty acids
  • As a source of fiber
  • Reduce inflammation
  • As a source of sulphur
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce frequency of migraines

*Always check with your healthcare provider before consuming, inhaling or otherwise ingesting any non-prescription or prescription natural or homeopathic substance or pharmaceutical. is not recommending, suggesting, inferring or otherwise endorsing the use of any herb or spice as a medication.

Culinary/Suggested Use

The bright yellow condiment is the form of mustard most people associate with mustard seeds. However, mustard seeds as a spice are extremely versatile and deserve more attention than a squirt bottle. To make your own mustard, mix dried mustard seed powder with cool water or wine to form a paste and let sit for at least ten minutes. Whole seeds can be ground into a paste and mixed with wine, vinegar or water and other herbs and spices.  Food for thought:

  • Try lightly toasting mustard seeds before use, but do not over roast or the seeds become bitter. Roasting alters flavour from hot to nutty.
  • Fry mustard seeds in oil until they turn grey; this flavors the oil and gives the seeds a milder flavor
  • Add mustard seeds to any rice dish
  • Add mustard seeds to salad dressing
  • Do not substitute white mustard seeds for black
  • Add mustard seeds toward the end of cooking
  • Sprinkle a few toasted mustard seeds over a green salad
  • Add mustard seed to any vegetable curry
  • Make a red wine paste using dried mustard powder and serve sparingly on chunks of aged white cheddar
  • mustard seeds complement meat, poultry and fatty fish

view other A-Z Spices