Mustard has been a popular condiment and a common ingredient in our food since ancient times. In fact, the Romans named the food thousands of years ago, which they made by mixing ground mustard seeds with grape juice. It’s known for its bite, tang and heat, perfect for adding spicy and interest to everything from salads to meats.

Today, hundreds of types of mustard are available, from the classic yellow mustard eaten on ballpark hot dogs, to fancy Dijon mustard, which has more complexity and bite. But what if you don’t have the type of mustard called for in your recipe, or you’re allergic to it (or don’t like the taste)? If you need whole-grain mustard for a dish you’re cooking but need a good replacement, multiple options can help save the day.

What Is Whole-Grain Mustard?

Basically, mustard is a very simple food comprising two ingredients: mustard seeds and liquid. Different varieties of mustard are made from different types of mustard seeds (white seeds are milder, and brown seeds are hotter) as well as different types of liquids (water makes hotter mustard, while acids, like vinegar, make milder mustards).

Whole-grain mustards, also known as coarse mustard or stone-ground mustard, are mustards in which the mustard seed is coarsely instead of finely ground, resulting in a more textured mustard that’s great for relish plates, salad dressings or marinades. Many whole-grain mustards are also Dijon mustards, which are often made with brown and black mustard seeds and white wine.

Other Types of Mustard

If you don’t have whole-grain mustard in your fridge or pantry, and you’re not allergic to mustard, the best substitute is another type of mustard. The big difference is that other types of mustard are smooth instead of coarse, so you’ll see a definite change in texture, but only a subtle change in flavor.

All these substitutes make good options for whole-grain:

  • Yellow mustard. Chances are you probably have a bottle of plain yellow mustard in the fridge. While it’s not as fancy or elegant as whole-grain mustard, it will do in a pinch. Consider adding a touch of cayenne pepper, wasabi or horseradish to spice it up. 
  • Dijon mustard. In many cases, Dijon is just a smooth version of whole-grain mustard, so sub away! 
  • Honey mustard. Honey mustard is exactly what it sounds like: regular mustard with added honey. You can use this in place of whole-grain mustard, but it’ll be a sweeter.
  • Spicy mustard. Spicier mustards, like brown mustard, or the mustard you get with your Chinese food take-out, make a good regular mustard replacement with an extra kick.

Use a 1-to-1 ratio of mustard-to-mustard for all these replacement options.

Make Your Own Mustard

If you have dried mustard or mustard seeds, whip up some homemade mustard. To ½ cup of dried mustard, add:

  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Optional: a dollop of mayo 

You can even sub the white wine and white wine vinegar with any acid like beer or apple cider vinegar. Replace the sugar with anything sweet, such as honey or maple syrup.

If you’re using mustard seeds, grind them either in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle before adding the other ingredients.

Try Horseradish or Wasabi

If you can’t eat mustard or hate its taste, try substituting horseradish or horseradish sauce. Since horseradish is hotter and spicier than mustard, cut down the amount by half if you’re using a creamy sauce or to 25 percent if you’re using the straight root.

You can also use wasabi – again, about 25 percent of what’s called for. If you’re allergic to mustard, be aware that some wasabi contains mustard seeds.

Options for an Emulsifier

In some cases, usually salad dressing or marinade recipes, coarse mustard is used as an emulsifying agent – a substance that helps blend oil and water. If that’s the case, and you don’t have other types of mustards to sub in, feel free to omit it. Your dressing won’t be quite as silky smooth, but it will still taste great. You can also use, in certain cases, other emulsifiers, such as egg yolk or honey.

About the Author

Sarah Aswell

Sarah Aswell is a freelance writer living in Montana.