Honey Mustard: An Ancient Dipping Sauce

Honey mustard refers to the combination of mustard and honey. The pairing of these two ingredients has been around since Ancient Egypt. There is no documentation of when the two were first combined. Historians believe that the honey was first used to soften mustard’s intensity. 

Honey and mustard together were popular in Ancient Rome as well. Written in the 4th or 5th century, the Roman cookbook De re Coquinaria included a recipe for a mustard sauce that included both mustard seeds and honey along with other spices and herbs such as black pepper and dill. The sauce was to be used for basting roasted boar. 

The mustard and honey blend also shows up in the 13th century Arabic Al Andalus Cookbook, which consists of Andalusian recipes.  

Honey and mustard were used throughout the mid-20th century for everything from a glaze for ham to a base for vinaigrettes. The pairing has also been used as the core of barbecue sauce recipes that are associated with Wisconsin and South Carolina.  

In the late 1970s, a fine dining restaurant in Los Angeles called Orange Hill garnered a significant amount of press because of its honey mustard salad dressing. The dressing was viewed as a gourmet novelty at the time. 

Honey mustard flavor profile

Typically, honey mustard is made with equal amounts of its two ingredients. The honey helps to reduce the sharpness of the mustard resulting in a more balanced flavor. The sauce still retains the complex notes of the mustard but without its spicy notes. Honey mustard is popular all over the world and can differ from region to region. For example, the British version is still quite sharp while French honey mustard is more subtle and refined. 

Health benefits of honey mustard

Commercial honey mustard is often not a great source of any nutrients, but homemade honey mustard made with quality prepared mustard can be very nutritious. Almost all of the nutritional value comes from the mustard. The benefits come from compounds like:

  • Vitamins: Honey mustard can contain vitamins A, E, and small amounts of various B vitamins including thiamin and pantothenic acid. 
  • Minerals: Honey mustard contains important minerals like calcium, magnesium, and selenium. 
  • Antioxidants: You can get omega 3 fatty acids from honey mustard. 
  • Allyl isothiocyanate: Mustard’s heat comes from the phytochemical called allyl isothiocyanate, which is found in mustard as well as in other members of the Brassica family like horseradish and broccoli.

With a moderate amount of honey mustard in your diet, you may be able to treat or prevent health problems like:

  • Cancer: The allyl isothiocyanate in mustard appears to be effective at inhibiting the growth of certain cancer cells including colorectal cancers and lung cancer. 
  • High blood sugar: Studies show that consuming mustard along with medication for lowering blood sugar may provide a greater benefit than the medicine alone. 

Health concerns

Honey mustard is high in calories when compared to other similar condiments. Use in moderation to keep it from increasing your weight. 

Common uses

Honey mustard is often used as a dipping sauce for vegetables, chicken nuggets, and other finger foods. It is also a popular barbecue sauce and can be used for basting both pork and chicken whether they are to be baked or grilled. You can use it to coat salmon fillets as well. It is an excellent option as the base for a salad dressing and makes an excellent accompaniment for a cheese plate.