Pickled Mustard Seeds Recipe

Cooking down whole yellow mustard seeds in seasoned vinegar simultaneously plumps them up and tames their intense burn, for a condiment or garnish that's sweet, briny, and mildly hot.

Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt

Why It Works

  • Blanching the mustard seeds a few times removes any potential bitterness.
  • Mustard seeds plump up when brined, giving them a caviar-like texture that pops in your mouth for little bursts of flavor.

Pickled mustard seeds make a great garnish anywhere mustard would be appropriate—on eggs, dolloped on vegetable soups, in sandwiches, on roasted meats, and in sauces and marinades. We're especially partial to using them on these extra-mustardy deviled eggs.

Recipe Facts

Active: 30 mins
Total: 60 mins
Makes: 2 cups mustard seeds

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  • For the Brine:
  • 175ml (about 3/4 cup) white wine vinegar
  • 125ml (about 1/2 cup) cider vinegar
  • 150ml (about 2/3 cup) water
  • 50ml (about 1/4 cup) rye whiskey (see note)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 150g (about 3/4 cup) brown sugar
  • 10g (about 1 tablespoon) kosher salt
  • For the Seeds:
  • 200g (about 1 cup) yellow mustard seeds


  1. For the Brine: Combine white wine vinegar, cider vinegar, water, whiskey, bay leaves, brown sugar, and salt in a small saucepan. Set aside, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved.

  2. For the Seeds: Meanwhile, place seeds in a clean saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then drain through a fine-mesh strainer and discard the water. Repeat until the discarded water does not taste bitter. This can take between 1 and 8 repetitions.

  3. Transfer blanched and drained mustard seeds to the pot with the brine. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a bare simmer and cook until the seeds have plumped up and the liquid has reduced by about one-third, 15 to 20 minutes. Without draining brine, transfer seeds to a sealable container, let cool at room temperature, then seal and refrigerate until ready to use. The seeds will mature in flavor over the course of a few days.

Special equipment

Fine-mesh strainer


You can omit the whiskey. The seeds can be used immediately, but will improve in flavor over time.

Make-Ahead and Storage

Pickled mustard seeds can be stored for months in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

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