Dijon vs Yellow Mustard: What’s The Difference?

Mustard’s no good without roast beef - Chico Marx 

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Everyone no matter who they are, young or old, likes to add a little something extra to their burgers, fries, sandwiches, hot dogs, and whatever else floats your mealtime boat.  

We’ve all got our own sauces of choice that we use to give our favorite foods an extra kick in the flavor department to bring them into line with the demands of our taste buds, and we all know how much or little we need in order to make whatever it is that we’re eating even more special than it already is. 

But if we were to ask you which sauce had a special place in your heart, and you then raised your hand and replied “Mustard”, we’d have to remove all of your sauce privileges for the rest of time.

Even though our knee-jerk reaction to your reply might seem a little harsh, you need to know that we don’t do anything without a reason, and there’s an incredibly valid and apt one for our response.

And that reason is that contrary to what the overwhelming majority of the public think, mustard isn’t actually a sauce. It’s a condiment. 

Don’t blame us, we don’t make the rules, we’re simply abiding by the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of mustard, and as the big book of words is considered to be the be-all and end-all of definitions, we’re going to accept what it says.

That means that mustard is closer in nature to pickles and chutneys than it is to ketchup and mayonnaise, even though it’s more commonly used in the same way as sauces are.

Why is mustard a condiment? Well, that’s a good question and one that we’ll hopefully, and at least partly be able to answer as we take a closer look at two of the most widely used and cherished types of mustard, Dijon and Yellow, in an attempt to find out, separate and differentiates them.

In order to do so though, we’ll have to take a deep dive into the world of mustard in order to find out as much about it, and its Dijon and Yellow offspring as we possibly can. Are you ready to become a mustard expert? Then let’s begin…

What Is Mustard? 

Mustard is a common, catch-all term used to describe all of the condiments that are made using ground mustard seeds. That goes for the brown mustard seed, yellow mustard seeds, and white mustard seeds.

While there are a seemingly endless number of different mustards whose taste and flavor profiles differ widely according to the regions and countries that they’re from and made in, they all have one thing in common. 

Every single mustard uses mustard seeds as its base ingredient. That’s how they get their name, and that’s what makes each of them a member of the mustard family. Without those seeds, they wouldn’t be mustard. 

So does that mean that both Dijon and Yellow mustard are made using mustard seeds then? It certainly does, and we’re now going to take a much closer look at both and find out what the differences between them are. 

What Is Dijon Mustard? 

Remember what we said about different mustards being created to suit different palates according to where they’re from in the world?  

Well, traditional Dijon mustard, as you’ve probably guessed, is named after the town where it was created, Dijon, which is in the North of France. The official mustard of its country of origin, Dijon mustard was originally created in honor of King Philip VI and was first served in the French Royal Court in 1336. So its a French mustard which is different from an English mustard or German mustard.

 A staple of French cuisine for nearly seven hundred years, the base recipe that’s used to create it has undergone a number of significant changes since it first teased the taste buds of Royalty.

The most notable change in its recipe occurred in eighteen fifty-six, when mustard pioneer and resident of Dijon, Jean Naigeon thought it would be a good idea to use verjuice (the acidic juice that’s squeezed from unripened grapes) instead of vinegar to make this mustard.

What originally led to Jean making that decision is unknown, but he was right, and it’s one the most easily identifiable flavors in the mustard that Monsieur Naigeon unwittingly helped to make famous. 

Verjuice is just one of the ingredients of Dijon mustard, as this notoriously warm-bodied and rich mustard is made using black and brown mustard seeds, both of which are responsible for giving it its famous kick. 

It’s also closer in color and texture to typical European mustards and is usually stored in a jar as it resembles a paste and is used more like a spread. You don’t squeeze Dijon mustard out of a bottle, you spread it with a knife like jelly or butter. 

And the reason for its thicker, and much consistency?  That would be the verjuice that it uses for flavoring, instead of vinegar.

It’s vinegar that makes mustard watery, and if you take the vinegar out of mustard, it becomes thicker, which is why European mustards like Dijon mustard, tend to be much creamier than their American counterparts. 

It also looks more like off-cream and is a pale yellow color, which immediately differentiates it from its American cousins, all of whom tend to be much brighter and use vinegar as their liquid base. 

So What Is Dijon Mustard Used For? 

It is, as most European mustards are, incredibly versatile, and in the hands of a talented chef, the culinary applications for Dijon mustard are almost endless.

A popular ingredient in sauces, salad dressings, and glazes, it isn’t uncommon to find Dijon mustard listed in menus in some of the most well-regarded and critically acclaimed restaurants in Paris and other European capital cities. 

However, being mustard connoisseurs, the way we like to enjoy Dijon best doesn’t involve any of the fancy methods that Michelin starred chefs use it to prepare their incredibly complicated and complex and reassuringly expensive menus.

We love Dijon mustard the way it was meant to be eaten as a way to give sandwiches that extra boost of flavor that lifts them to stratospheric levels of greatness. 

Seriously, if you haven’t tried a roast beef sandwich with a seriously thick helping of Dijon mustard, you haven’t lived. It will transform your life. Go on, go and try it, we can wait. Well, what did you think? We were right, weren’t we? It changed your life, didn’t it?  

Yellow Mustard

While we’ve been referring to it as yellow mustard, there’s a good chance that you’ll probably just call it by its more commonly known, and used name, American mustard or just regular mustard.

An American diner classic, its exact origins are a little murky but it’s commonly thought to have been introduced by George French (that’s right, THE George French who founded French’s mustard) in 1904 and it’s been a staple fixture in all of our homes ever since. Good old George, he made everything better and helped to transform hotdogs into the food of Kings.   

Unlike Dijon mustard, American mustard is made from the white and yellow seeds of the mustard plant, and different brands have come up with an endlessly inventive list of ways to use them to make their mustard taste slightly different from the mustard made by their rivals.  

They’ve cracked the seeds, crushed them, ground them, rolled them, and even bruised them to make their various variations of American mustard. If you can think of a thing to do to mustard seeds in order to use them to make mustard, there’s a good chance that someone, somewhere has done it.

And there’s also a pretty good chance that they’ve got rich by doing it. America loves yellow mustard, and we’re willing to embrace any, and every variety of it.   

The fact is, we love yellow mustard so much, that we’ve even found ways to use it that don’t involve food. That crazy aunt of yours who told you that a mustard poultice would cure whatever ails you?

Maybe she wasn’t crazy after all, as yellow mustard has all sorts of strange medicinal properties and health benefits and can help to cure sore throats and clear a blocked nose.

Some people have also been known to use it as a hair conditioner and as a face mask, and while we can’t confirm whether or not mustard is an effective beauty treatment, we also can’t rule out the fact that it might just work. Sometimes the truth really is stranger than fiction.   

And What Is Yellow Mustard Used For?   

Even though it isn’t quite as versatile as Dijon mustard, the fact that it’s one of America’s most popular tabletop condiments and has been for more than a century isn’t something to be sniffed at.

Thanks to the variety of liquid bases that, over the years, have been used to make this delicious mustard, such as lemon juice, vinegar, and in some cases, even wine, it’s become one of our toppings of choice for all sorts of fast food.   

Could you imagine enjoying a hot dog at a baseball game or the State Fair without copious amounts of onions and yellow mustard? And what would a hamburger be like if it wasn’t drenched in ketchup and mustard? Exactly, it doesn’t even bear thinking about.  

But the best way to enjoy yellow mustard? It’s as a secret ingredient in spaghetti and pizza sauce.  

If you already make your own, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about, but if you don’t, here’s a little tip. When you do start making your own pasta and spaghetti sauce, try adding a tablespoon of yellow mustard to it, and then step back and see what kind of impact it has.

We guarantee that once you’ve tried it, you’ll never forget it and you’ll never make sauce without it again.  

The Difference Between Dijon Mustard And Yellow Mustard 

So now that we’ve submerged ourselves and you in a multitude of facts and we’ve collectively learned everything that there is to learn (well, not really but it feels like we have) about Dijon and Yellow mustard, it’s finally time to get right down to brass tacks and discuss the differences between the two. 

Let’s start with the most obvious one first, and that’s where they’re made. Yellow mustard is made right here in America and Dijon mustard is made in France. However, while American mustard can be made anywhere in the world, the only place where Dijon mustard can be made is in Dijon.

The mustard is protected by political and royal decree in France, and any mustard that wasn’t made in Dijon and claims to be Dijon mustard isn’t the real deal and isn’t Dijon mustard.   

Then there are the other obvious differences. Dijon mustard is far stronger, richer, and creamier than American mustard is and packs a hefty taste punch that Yellow mustard lacks. It’s the reason why it’s so versatile and can be used in so many different ways, but it’s also its main failing.

Because it’s so much stronger than American mustard, Dijon mustard is an acquired taste and you’ll either love it or hate it, whereas as we’re sure you know, everyone adores the tiny amount of heat and an unforgettable taste that are both part and parcel of American mustard.  

Finally, there’s the consistency. American mustard is made to be squeezed out of a bottle and can be used anywhere and everywhere and on just about anything.

But Dijon mustard? You have to really commit to it and get stuck into it because the only way you’re going to enjoy it is by spreading it with a knife on the richer, finer foods that it was made to be enjoyed with.  

One was produced for royalty and the other was made to be enjoyed by everyone. And if we’re honest, being humble blue-collar folks there’s nothing that we enjoy more than being able to squeeze a less than healthy measure of American mustard onto a hot dog.    

It’s one of those all too-rare pleasures that reminds us that there is still a little magic left in the world. And that magic? It calls itself American mustard.   

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use yellow mustard instead of Dijon mustard?

Yes, you can use yellow mustard instead of Dijon mustard but the flavor you will achieve will be quite different. Yellow mustard is a lot sweeter and more tart than Dijon mustard but is still a great Dijon mustard substitute in Dijon-based recipes. Dijon is a bit spicier and more aromatic than mustard, so you can add some extra spices to your yellow mustard if you want to achieve a more similar taste. 

Yellow mustard also does not have the same creamier coloring that Dijon mustard has, so to hide the bright block color of yellow mustard you could add in some mayonnaise to make it look the same. Mayonnaise might also add a hint of tanginess that is missing from yellow mustard as well. 

How is Dijon mustard different from yellow mustard?

One of the most obvious differences between Dijon mustard and yellow mustard is the colors. Dijon mustard has a vivid yellow color whereas Dijon mustard has a paler yellow color or in some circumstances a creamy white color with a hint of yellow, so they are both distinguishable from each other.

Yellow mustard is also known as American mustard in places outside of the US. It is the most popular mustard used in the US and is commonly paired with ketchup. Yellow mustard is a lot milder than Dijon and can be paired more easily with recipes or used as a condiment on the side without being overpowering. Dijon mustard has a more acidic taste and can easily add a little kick to any bland recipe. Wine is also a common ingredient in authentic Dijon mustards which helps give it a strong flavor, whereas you would never find wine as an ingredient in yellow mustard.

Yellow mustard has less salt than Dijon mustard so if you’re someone trying to reduce your sodium intake for health reasons then yellow mustard is a better option for you. 

What can I use if I don't have Dijon mustard?

There are many substitutes you can use if you don’t have Dijon mustard for a recipe including spicy brown mustard, which has a slightly different texture as it has prominent seeds in the consistency but will still add an acidic but spicy kick to your recipes. Spicy brown mustard is best as a Dijon substitute if you’re using it for salad dressings or to marinade meat, but adding it to cooked recipes may give it a strange texture because of the seeds.

Yellow mustard can also be used as a substitute for Dijon mustard but it offers a milder taste. If you’re looking for something that adds a tang and kick to your recipes, then you could try using Worcestershire sauce, however, as it is a liquid you may need to adjust the ratio that you add it to recipes or try and mix it with some mayonnaise to try and replicate the consistency of Dijon.

Another substitute for Dijon mustard is horseradish which may surprise some people, but horseradish is actually in the mustard family. It’s a great substitute as it offers a tangy flavor whilst also having the same creamy texture as Dijon mustard.

How do you make yellow mustard into Dijon mustard?

Dijon mustard is not made from prepared mustard so it would be hard to make yellow mustard directly into Dijon, however, you can try and make Dijon-style mustard at home.

You’ll need to use 1 part yellow mustard seeds, 1 part brown mustard seeds, 2 parts dry white wine, ½ cup of white wine vinegar, and salt and pepper to season. You’ll need to grind the seeds and puree them with the liquid ingredients to make a Dijon-style sauce. 

Cassie Marshall
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