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For extra texture and a pleasant crunch, reach for one of these mustards instead of your go-to Dijon or yellow mustard.
Looking for more options? Check out our roundup of the five mustards we love.
What You Need To Know
We love whole-grain mustard. It’s a welcome change of pace in sauces, it’s delicious on a sandwich, and it’s traditional in dishes such as German potato salad. Whereas many other styles of mustard are made by finely grinding the seeds to form a smooth condiment, whole-grain mustards contain seeds that are either whole or coarsely ground. The seeds add not only visual appeal but also some pleasant textural contrast. We wanted to learn more about the variety of whole-grain mustards on the market, so we purchased five different kinds and sampled them plain and with pigs in a blanket.
Whole-Grain Mustards Vary in Texture
The seeds in two of the mustards were coarsely ground. In terms of texture, one of these mustards was a little thin; the other was thick and cohesive.
In the other three mustards, most or all of the seeds were whole. All five of the whole-grain mustards had more texture and crunch than most other mustard styles, but those with intact seeds had the most, with seeds popping between our teeth as we ate. Two had especially large seeds, and tasters said that those big, glossy yellow and brown seeds reminded them of caviar. Given the “serious crunch” and striking appearance of those two mustards, our tasters described them as “more of a cheese-board thing than a hot dog mustard” and noted that they would be ideal for garnishing foods such as deviled eggs or roast pork. The seeds in the third mustard were a bit smaller, making it a more versatile option.
Finding the Right Flavor
Whole mustard seeds are bitter and a little nutty. It’s only when they’re crushed and combined with liquid that a reaction converts the bitter compounds to spicy compounds. Since the seeds in the whole-grain mustards were either left intact or just coarsely ground, it’s no surprise they were milder than, say, a typical Dijon mustard, which is made from finely ground seeds and thus spicier.
The whole-grain mustards tasted earthy and pleasantly bitter rather than spicy. Many contained white wine or whisky in addition to the vinegar and water commonly used to make commercial mustards. All the whole-grain mustards were “vibrant” and “tangy” and "great with savory food."
The Best Whole-Grain Mustards: Grey Poupon Harvest Coarse Ground Mustard and Maille Old Style Mustard
We named two winners, one coarsely ground and one whole seed. As its name suggests, Grey Poupon Harvest Coarse Ground Mustard contains coarsely ground seeds. Those seeds still popped pleasantly and offered “a bit of textural contrast.” It has gentle, mustardy heat and bright acidity. We also really liked Maille Old Style Mustard, which contains lots of inta...
Everything We Tested
This “very cohesive” mustard contains lots of coarsely ground seeds that offered gentle crunch. Its smooth texture makes it well suited as a condiment. In addition to being mildly spicy, it was nutty, bright, and slightly bitter.
This mustard, from the historic French mustard maker, contains coarsely ground seeds. Though the seeds add textural contrast, they were softer and less crunchy than those in the other mustards. Sampled plain, this mustard stood out as tasting saltier than the rest. With food, the acidity stood out pleasantly and cut through the richness of the pigs in a blanket.
The many small, intact seeds in this whole-grain mustard offered “nice crunch and pop,” a texture that tasters thought was “the best of the bunch.” It was “vinegary,” with “perfect bright acidity” and a pleasantly “bitter aftertaste.” Not especially spicy, the mustard is a “good mild choice.”
The intact brown and yellow mustard seeds had a “caviar-like texture with a discernible pop! when you [chewed]” them. To get the most from this whole-grain mustard, we recommend using it in a recipe where you need textural contrast (such as in a potato or tuna salad) or using it as a garnish with roast pork or smoked salmon. It wasn’t spicy but rather “very tangy,” with a “bitter finish” that balanced out savory foods.
Another mustard with “huge” yellow and brown mustard seeds, it added “serious crunch.” It contains sparkling wine, and tasters detected a “floral” flavor. We also liked its gentle sweetness and bitter finish. As one taster noted, it would work well as “a crunchy topping” for savory foods or served with cured meats and cheese.
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The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing.
Kate is a deputy editor for ATK Reviews. She's a culinary school graduate and former line cook and cheesemonger.