Whole grain mustard and Dijon mustard are two condiment varieties that you may see both at your local deli and on some supermarket shelves. They are both prepared versions of the mustard seed but have very different characteristics. What makes each special? We will take a look at them in the SPICEography Showdown below.
How does whole grain mustard differ from Dijon mustard?
Whole grain mustard and Dijon mustard have different histories. Whole grain mustard appears to be an American invention and a relatively recent one. Early mentions date back to the 1980s. Dijon mustard has a much older history. The mustard itself comes from Dijon in France and was first made in the 18th century by Auguste Poupon and Maurice Grey. French mustard’s history goes all the way back to Ancient Rome and centers in Dijon.
Whole grain mustard and Dijon mustard have different textures. Whole grain mustard is made with whole and lightly ground mustard seeds while the mustard seeds used to make Dijon mustard have usually been thoroughly ground. As a result, whole grain mustard has a chunky consistency while traditional Dijon mustard is usually perfectly smooth.
Whole grain mustard and Dijon mustard differ in how they look. Whole grain mustard is made with yellow and brown mustard seeds that are left whole giving the condiment a speckled brown and yellow appearance. Dijon mustard is made with ground brown mustard seeds that give the condiment a uniform dull yellow appearance.
Whole grain mustard is relatively mild compared to ground mustards. The mildness comes from the fact that the mustard seeds are unground. When mustard seeds are ground, a compound called sinigrin is degraded by an enzyme called myrosinase into another compound called allyl isothiocyanate. The heat and pungency of mustard come from the allyl isothiocyanate. Because whole grain mustard seeds are not ground, there is not as much allyl isothiocyanate. Because Dijon mustard seeds are well ground, it is noticeably more pungent.
If your recipe calls for one, can you use the other?
Whole grain mustard works as a substitute for Dijon mustard if you want a milder condiment or one with a more distinctive mouthfeel. If you want something that gives you the smooth consistency of Dijon mustard, whole grain mustard is not a good option unless you throw it into a blender and grind until smooth.
You can use Dijon mustard in place of whole grain mustard if you want more flavor and a smoother consistency. If you don’t want those things, it might not work in a recipe that calls for the coarser and milder mustard. It might dominate milder flavors and its texture won’t be as striking as that of whole grain mustard.
When should you use whole grain mustard and when should you use Dijon mustard?
You can use whole grain mustard just like you would use any other mustard as long as you like the mild flavor and chunky mouthfeel. Its appearance makes it a visually dramatic addition to cheese boards and charcuterie platters. It can also be enjoyed in a vinaigrette.
You can use Dijon mustard in all the ways that you would use whole grain mustard. Because it is more flavorful, you will also see it listed in recipes alongside more strongly flavored ingredients and it is sometimes used in marinades.