Brown Mustard Seeds: Mustard With A Little Heat

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Brown mustard seeds are seeds from one of the three main types of mustard plants. The other two types are Brassica nigra (black mustard) and Brassica alba (white or yellow mustard). The brown mustard plant (Brassica juncea) is believed to have originated somewhere in Central Asia. Brown mustard seeds have been cultivated in Asia and Europe for millennia. Some researchers believe that the brown mustard plant passed to Europe via the Middle East.

Brown mustard has been documented in Sanskrit and Sumerian texts going all the way back to 3000 BCE. It would make its way to Europe in the Middle Ages where it was used as a medicine at first. Only later was it cultivated for food.

Both the seeds and leaves of the mustard plant are considered edible. The brown mustard plant is grown mostly for the leaves in China and parts of Africa. Europeans are more focused on the seeds.

Brown Mustard Seeds

Brown mustard seeds are sometimes called black mustard seeds even though brown and black mustard seeds come from different plants within the same family. Some cooks view them as interchangeable. The brown mustard seed is sometimes called Indian mustard and is the main kind of mustard used in Indian cuisine.

Along with its use as a spice, brown mustard seeds continue to be grown all over the world for use as an oilseed and a vegetable. Along with yellow mustard seeds, brown mustard seeds are among the most widely cultivated varieties of mustard. The oil from brown mustard seeds is also used in parts of Asia for cooking.

Brown mustard seeds flavor profile

Brown mustard seeds are widely regarded as the hottest of all the mustard seed varieties. Along with their heat, brown mustard seeds can also provide a nutty flavor when toasted or fried in oil. They can also be slightly bitter.

Health benefits of brown mustard seeds

Like all other mustard seeds, brown mustard seeds are a good source of many important nutrients that can be beneficial for health. Their health-enhancing compounds include:

  • Minerals: Brown mustard seeds contain minerals like calcium, iron and potassium.
  • Vitamins: You can get vitamin A from brown mustard seeds as well as various B vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin and folate.
  • Allyl isothiocyanate: Responsible for the heat of brown mustard seeds, allyl isothiocyanate also protects from cancer.

With brown mustard seeds in your diet, you may be able to treat or prevent health problems like:

  • High cholesterol: The niacin in brown mustard seeds can help to lower levels of cholesterol in the blood.
  • Osteoporosis: The calcium in brown mustard seeds is beneficial for bone health and can help replace some of the bone density lost due to osteoporosis.
  • Constipation: Brown mustard seeds have a laxative effect and can be used to relieve constipation.

Common uses

Brown mustard seed is used in different parts of Europe to make hotter varieties of prepared mustard. They are particularly popular in France where they are used in Dijon mustard.

They are also often blended with yellow mustard seeds to make English-style prepared mustard. Brown mustard seeds are the main ingredient in Germany’s Dusseldorf mustard and American spicy brown mustard.

Brown mustard seeds play an important role in some versions of the Indian panch phoron spice blend. They are also used in curries where they may be partnered with a range of spices like cumin, coriander, and curry leaf.


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