There’s little controversy about the goodness of mustard. For many, ketchup is too sweet, commercial, or all-American, while mayonnaise is polarizing: either you love it, or you hate it (and even aioli is really just fancy mayonnaise all dressed down).
But when it comes to mustard, there’s a love for this condiment that is truer and more widespread than any of these other popular items. In some corners of the world, strong fanatics have taken root who have just as much passion and palate for different types of mustards as a sommelier would have for fine wines. So, why is this so for mustard particularly?
Part of this is because mustard is so cosmopolitan. Some form of it is found in dozens of cuisines across many continents around the world, and especially Europe, Asia, and North America. But there’s another appeal to mustard: there are so many different types of mustards that there’s bound to be a kind you like!
Not fond of one type? Too spicy? Too boring? Too vinegary or acidic? There’s another type out there for you, to be sure. If you’re curious about all the different types of mustards, here’s a quick guide to get you on the fast track towards finding that perfect mustard for you….and for every momentary culinary predilection could have!
The identity and profile of any mustard tend to come down to two things: what mustard seed it’s made from and where it’s made (or place of origin). In the case of Dijon mustard, the name says it all: Dijon comes from Dijon, France. It’s made with either brown or black mustard seeds, the spiciest mustard types.
Despite the name, Dijon doesn’t have to be made in Dijon to be Dijon. The condiment is now made outside the city and in many places around the globe, being recognizable just about anywhere. However, the way it’s made has stayed the same over the years: instead of using vinegar as in most mustard recipes, Dijon is made with a white wine to give it a more balanced, robust flavor, as wine cuts the heat better than vinegar. Traditionally, verjus(a juice from unripe grapes) was used in place of white wine in the earliest Dijon recipes, and it is still sometimes used in true old-fashioned Dijon recipes nowadays.
Since Dijon equally strikes all the smooth, pungent, earthy, and spicy notes that are so beloved in mustard, it remains one of the most widely liked and used types of mustard in recipes. It has everything one would want in a strong, characteristic mustard, but without being too spicy or overwhelming!
American yellow mustard
American eaters will be quick to recognize this type of mustard. Right at home on ballpark hotdogs, yellow mustard seems as simple a condiment as ketchup or mayonnaise, and probably because it’s mass-produced and found in just about any grocery store and fridge in America.
Made with the mildest of mustard seeds, American yellow mustard is made with its namesake: yellow mustard seed. It still has some bite, though not as much as brown or black mustard. What really makes American mustard so yellow (and maybe not as American as you’d think) is the addition of turmeric, a classic Asian spice. Though it has a more mellow but still identifiably “mustardy” taste, American mustard’s signature bite is actually owed to the vinegar in its recipe, which gives it its acidic edge.
Spicy brown mustard
Also called deli mustard, this condiment reigns supreme at sandwich shops and authentic hot dog stands in large cities across America. A deeper, bolder, and hotter version of American yellow mustard, spicy brown mustard’s creation was inspired by a need for robust flavor and texture to support the strong, savory flavors of meats on thick deli sandwiches or hot dogs with tons of ingredients.
Think about it: any sandwich with pastrami, prosciutto, or cured salami wouldn’t be the same without spicy brown mustard’s sharp twang. The condiment is aptly made with brown mustard seeds having fuller heat and flavor than yellow mustard seeds. Some makers of the mustard may also add spices like nutmeg, allspice, or ginger to give it a more balanced yet complex flavor composition.
Spicy brown mustard isn’t made with vinegar like yellow mustard, so this allows brown mustard’s full character to shine through. On their own, the brown mustard seeds lend quite a bit of flavor and even visual character to the condiment in the form of small brown dots (the hulls of the brown mustard seeds).
If you’re American, there’s probably one type of sweet mustard that’s strongly coming to mind right now. But there are also others: maple mustard, brown sugar mustard, apple sauce mustard, and more.
And they’re not just American, either. In the southern German state of Bavaria, Switzerland, and Austria, sweet mustards are popular condiments in a big way. They’re either mixed with honey, apple sauce, or some type of sugar and then usually served with local sausage as a specialty food. But of all types of sweet mustards, honey mustard might be the most common and recognizable.
Typically, honey mustard is made with equal parts honey and American yellow mustard, making it a very American condiment. Still, there are other sweet honey types such as honey Dijon, sweet hot mustard, and others.
Coarse mustards are also sometimes called whole grain mustards. That’s because they’re not fully pounded down or “creamed” into a smooth paste like yellow, spicy brown, honey, or Dijon mustards. That said, there are some coarse or whole grain versions of spicy brown, Dijon, or other mustards that are just as popular as their smoother counterparts. They’re also made with the same seeds and ingredients, too.In a coarse mustard, you’ll see all individual seeds crushed and bound together in a thick, chunky paste. Some coarse mustards are still “grainier” or “smoother” than others depending on how they’re made, and there are many different grades and textures. Classic stone ground or old-fashioned mustard sometimes falls under this category of mustard. You’ll most often see black or brown mustard seeds in these creations, though mustards containing some yellow seeds for variety, diversity, or balance isn’t uncommon.
Since these tend to be made with the spicier type of mustard seed (and with wine, not vinegar), you get the full force of mustard character and flavor in these potent concoctions. They’re popular with cheese boards, charcuterie, and on deli sandwiches for an authentic and strong mustardy kick.
Wine, beer, and spirit mustards
If it tastes good with your favorite adult beverage, chances are someone’s made a product with it: like bourbon barbeque sauce, whiskey marinade, or rum-flavored ice cream. As it happens, mustard works wonders with the flavors of many wines, beers, and other spirits, too.
Wine has long been a classic ingredient in some mustard recipes, especially Dijon. This is usually a white wine of some sort, though other types like pinot noir, champagne, burgundy, port, and others may appear in some. Wine typically replaces any vinegar in the recipe with a more astringent and complex background flavor. This allows mustard’s signature heat to come out in full effect. Red wines in mustard can also give them stunning purple or red hues, and pair well with sweet or tart berry additions like cranberry or raspberry.
Beer mustard, like yellow mustard, is a condiment of American origin. Instead of either vinegar or wine, a beer of choice is used in the recipe: typically dark ale, porter, or a stout with strong flavor. Lighter beers like pilsners, lagers, and so forth are also used, but may be too mild to break through mustard’s flavor to be too noticeable…still, beer lovers enjoy them. IPA’s, on the other hand, are quite popular and full of complex, nuanced flavor.
Regardless of the beer chosen, beer mustards tend to be on the hotter side of things. Why? Because there isn’t any tartness or astringency to hold back mustard’s fierce heat! On the other hand, stronger-flavored beers meld, balance, and offset mustard flavor a little better, though this still makes beer mustards stronger on average on the heat scale.Mustards made with liquor and spirits are also popular. But, instead of subbing these in to replace vinegar, spirits are used in addition to or alongside vinegar so they can be more profoundly tasted and experienced. Without a good vinegar, it’s difficult to detect these boozy flavors on their own!
Bourbon mustard and whiskey mustard make for the most common and sought-out spirit mustards, as malt liquor pairs best with mustard’s spiciness. But it’s certainly not limited to these: tequila, vodka, and other spirits combine well with mustard and make for some exceptional gourmet condiments.
Liquor mustards have such nuance that even culinary enthusiasts have a taste for them, even on their own and without other foods. They shine brightest when unburdened by bigger flavors from sandwiches or other ingredients – especially as dips or on charcuterie or cheese boards.
In fact, mustard “sommeliers,” tasters, and fanatics (yes, they do exist!) may find mustards made with liquor the most intricate, exciting, and fascinating to taste and experience!
Turns out there are more mustards with a strong cultural identity besides Dijon! Mustard might be one of the most cosmopolitan condiments in the world, if not the most, as some special example of it is beloved throughout Europe and Asia, not just America. Each of these examples come in slightly different forms, all depending on where you go.
German mustardis one type that is nearly as recognizable as Dijon. A favorite with iconic German foods like pretzels and sausage, it comes in as many shades, colors, and flavors as the spread of mustards you’ll find in America and other parts of Europe. Some are sweet, some spicy, and some are specially seasoned with herbs and spices. Some are smooth, while some are coarse, too. When you encounter German mustard, you’re not just coming up against a single type of mustard…you’re experiencing a whole category!
Chinese hot mustardis a powerful contender when it comes to strong mustard. Created with just brown or black mustard seeds ground into cold water, this spare combination (with no other ingredients) makes for some of the hottest mustards around. You’re bound to find Chinese hot mustard in Chinese takeout bags, or you can buy Chinese hot mustard powder and mix it with water at home (just like English mustard) for a truly piping hot condiment.
English mustard may give the Chinese kind a run for its money when it comes to mustard’s spicy potential! For a seriously hot mustard, the English variety is a top go-to. Made with yellow mustard seeds just like the American type (but with no vinegar), English mustard recipes also include brown mustard seeds which really “up the ante” and unleash a more formidable heat.
English mustard can be bought in bottled form just like American yellow mustard. But its best incarnation by far is as powder mixed with water right before use in sauces, marinades, or to add a punch to sandwiches. Many say that powdered English mustard is far spicier and more flavorful than the bottled kind…and they’d definitely be right!
Creole mustardis a staple revered condiment along the American Gulf Coast, especially near New Orleans and Louisiana. It’s almost always a coarse-grained mustard, full of character, and a beloved part of deep southern dishes. It’s definitely inspired by its ancient stone ground mustard ancestors in France.
Recipes for it tap a much higher ratio of mustard seeds compared to vinegar, giving creole mustard a fearsome yet balanced bite. Sometimes other regional spices are mixed into the concoction, too. You’re certainly not experiencing a local authentic po’ boy, remoulade, or muffuletta without it!
Though spirit mustards, beer mustard, and even honey mustard could all technically be called “flavored” mustards, fanatics have made some even more fascinating explorations and discoveries in the whole wide world of possible mustard combinations. These have given us some very interesting and offbeat flavored mustards… and they are very intriguing and delicious indeed!
Horseradish mustardisn’t a rare find by any means, though it still manages to be a peculiar one. It can be found in most food stores with other common mustard types. It’s obviously crafted with lovers of intense heat in mind! Some products and recipes may recommend or call for additions like red wine, brown sugar, or garlic to give it even more dimension. But even with just horseradish, this is a reckonable mustard with tons of flavor and charisma all its own…and not a mustard to be messed with, as it kicks like a horse.
Sriracha mustardis tamer but still of a spicy ilk, and a nod to the popular Thailand hot sauce that’s so popular now in the western world. This type of mustard has opened some interesting doors when it comes to unique mustard creation. It’s sometimes combined with ingredients like lime and cilantro and builds a flavor profile that really cannot be matched by any other mustard out there.
Habanero mustardis also a formidable mustard tailored to a growing fandom for hot peppers around the globe. Habanero is one of the most popular peppers for its balanced fruitiness and intense heat, which can make for an exceptional and exciting mustard to try! Some makers add a bit of sweetness in the mix to bring out habanero’s fruitier profile, with honey being a popular ingredient for this.
There are still even more types of flavored mustards out there, and almost too many to count: like balsamic mustard (combined with a fine balsamic vinegar), cranberry mustard, and even bacon-flavored mustards.
No matter where you are in the world, and no matter your likes or dislikes, there is bound to be a mustard out there for you. Unlike most other condiments, there are so many recipes, incarnations, and combinations to be found; along with plenty of reasons and occasions to celebrate mustard in its many forms, too.