What’s A Good Chinese Mustard Substitute?

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Chinese mustard is one of the world’s spiciest mustards. It is made using ground brown mustard seeds that are combined with cold water to maximize the spice’s heat when served.

The typical way to eat Chinese mustard is as a dipping sauce that accompanies wings, egg rolls, and other fried foods. While the traditional version is made fresh, most Americans are familiar with the little packets that often show up in Chinese takeout bags. These contain vinegar to help preserve the heat.

If you don’t have any of this condiment in your kitchen and need some in a hurry, try one of the Chinese mustard substitutes below.

Your best bet: Wagarashi

Mustard is not one of the condiments most associated with Japanese food, but the Japanese do have their own variants of the spice. Wagarashi is the Japanese version of Chinese mustard. It is the closest to Chinese mustard in flavor and appearance. Like Chinese mustard, brown mustard seeds are used to make wagarashi. The flavor is spicy and sharp, just like Chinese mustard. Like chinese mustard, wagarashi is mixed only with water to ensure maximum heat and the simplicity that is an essential characteristic of Japanese food.

You can use wagarashi in much the same way that you would use Chinese mustard. It works well as a dipping sauce for wontons and similar foods, and you can use it to enhance noodle dishes.

A decent second choice: Spicy brown mustard

The American version of Chinese mustard, spicy brown mustard is also made from brown mustard seeds. The seeds give it more of a spicy kick than the white mustard seeds typically used to make American yellow mustard. Spicy brown mustard has a coarser consistency than yellow mustard and is sometimes blended with other spices to make its flavor more complex.

Spicy brown mustard does include vinegar, which means that its flavor will be on the tart side. While it is spicier than yellow mustard, spicy brown mustard is not as spicy as Chinese mustard.

In a pinch: English mustard

Chinese mustard is made from ground brown mustard seeds. The seeds are usually combined with water right before use to activate the compound responsible for their heat. English mustard is a good substitute simply because it is made from ground brown and white mustard seeds. The combination can be almost as hot as brown mustard seeds.

English mustard includes flour among its ingredients, which can dilute the flavor and lessen the heat. Some brands of Chinese mustard also include starch so this doesn’t necessarily affect English mustard’s effectiveness as a substitute.

When using English mustard to make a Chinese mustard substitute, mix it with water. Some recipes for Chinese mustard will also include oil or vinegar. Note that oil can tone down the heat while vinegar keeps it hot for longer, but adds a tart taste.

Other alternatives

Dijon mustard is the famous French mustard made with brown and black mustard seeds. It is not as hot as Chinese mustard but can still provide some of the flavor profile.

Horseradish is made from the root of a plant in the same family as the mustard plant, but it is not a mustard variety. It does have a similar flavor profile with a significant amount of heat. The heat comes from the same enzymes that produce the heat in Chinese mustard.


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