What is the Best Substitute for Dry Mustard in Mac and Cheese?

I am forever grateful for the super artificial (and possibly toxic) boxed mac and cheese that helped get me through college. Luckily for me, I not only graduated from college, but also in my taste for mac and cheese!

While I’m not knocking the boxed stuff per se, homemade mac and cheese is just so much better. I think it’s possibly one of the best foods out there – at the very least it certainly deserves a spot in the top 10.

It’s soul-hugging comfort food that makes your belly happy and your tastebuds hum with pleasure.

This probably isn’t much of a surprise though. When you combine, butter, cheese, and pasta the end product is almost guaranteed to be delicious. I felt extra validated when I learned that one of the founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, served it at a White House dinner in 1802! 

Because of my love for mac and cheese, I’ve made it countless times. It’s one of the few foods that warrants the difficult clean-up of a cheesy pan. Along the way I’ve picked up a few tricks to make it even better. My favorite is adding a bit of dry mustard to give it a bit of kick.

But what if you don’t have any to hand? What’s the best substitute for dry mustard in mac and cheese? Join me as I take a look at the alternatives to help make your next mac & cheese just as delicious whether you have dry mustard or not!

Why Mustard Makes Mac and Cheese Awesome

Before we take a look at the best substitute for dry mustard in mac and cheese, I know that you may be here because you have a recipe that calls for it and you’re not sure about using it. If that’s you, I wanted to take a moment to explain why mustard can take your dish to the next level.

Even if you’re “in-the-know” already, you may not realize why adding mustard to mac and cheese makes it so good. It turns out, it’s the same reason why mustard (and pickles & ketchup) on a hamburger is also so good. Or even why people love to add hot sauce to mac and cheese.

The acidity of the mustard cuts through the fattiness in mac & cheese. This makes it a bit lighter, easier to eat, and makes for a more well-balanced experience. While it doesn’t actually chemically change anything, it tricks your pallet into thinking the food isn’t as heavy and fatty. 

As well as balancing the flavor, it also helps to give the mac and cheese a creamier texture. Mustard is a great emulsifier. This means that it helps liquids mix together, making your mac and cheese even creamier and better.

By adding this one simple ingredient you can improve the taste, texture, and you can eat more! But be careful. While your tastebuds may thank you, your waistline may not!

Can you Substitute Dry Mustard in Mac and Cheese?

The “cream of the crop” addition to mac and cheese may be dry mustard. But it’s certainly not the only thing that you can use.

There are few other things that you can substitute for dry mustard. So don’t fret if it turns out that you don’t have any of it in your seasoning rack.

Perhaps after trying some of the substitutes, you’ll find that you like one or more of them even better than dry mustard! 

Best Substitutes for Dry Mustard in Mac and Cheese

Whether it’s because you don’t happen to have any dry mustard or you’re deciding to try something new, I have a few suggested dry mustard substitutes for you to try. 

Mustard Seeds

Dry mustard and mustard seeds are essentially the same things except dry mustard is in powdered form. However, what is very different is the type of mustard seed used.

They come in yellow, brown, and black varieties and each brings something very different. The darker the seed, the hotter and stronger taste it has. 

Yellow mustard seeds (also known as white mustard seeds) are the most popular in the United States. They also have the mildest flavor. They are used in the classic yellow mustard we are all very familiar with.

The other two types, brown and black have a considerably stronger flavor. The brown variety is used much more commonly than the black variety. Brown mustard is often mixed with yellow mustard seeds in a variety of prepared mustards you’re likely familiar with like dijon or spicy brown. You will find black mustard seeds commonly used in South Asian cuisines like Bengali and Indian food.  

I mention these differences between the types of mustard seeds for a reason. If you decide to substitute dry mustard, it’s important that you use the appropriate seed. If you intend to use yellow mustard seeds and accidentally use black mustard seeds you could be in for quite a rude awakening. 

Since mustard seeds are the original form of dry mustard, they’re very close in taste. However, whole seeds can pack a bit more of a punch.

So, when substituting mustard seeds you can use them whole or you can crush or grind them yourself using a mortar and pestle or even a pepper grinder. Either way, you should use the reduced ratio below. Whether whole or freshly ground/crushed, they have a stronger flavor than prepared dry mustard. 

Substitute Ratio: 1 teaspoon mustard seeds = 1.5 teaspoons dry mustard

Dijon Mustard

Dijon mustard is a simple addition that’s be easy to incorporate into your mac and cheese if you don’t happen to have dry mustard or mustard seeds available.

I like adding a little bit to my mac and cheese because it adds that slightly acidic cut as well as a bit of spiciness to it that I really like, without adding too much additional flavor as a hot sauce does.

The problem with adding “wet” mustard, like dijon, is that it adds additional liquid to the recipe which could change the consistency of the food. So that’s something to keep in mind before adding too much of it to your mac and cheese. 

Substitution Ratio: 1 tablespoon dijon mustard = 1 teaspoon dry mustard

Yellow Mustard

Like Dijon, yellow mustard is very common. You most likely have some in your fridge at this very moment!

This is a good substitute for dry mustard in mac and cheese because it provides some of the benefits of dry mustard, like balancing the fatty flavor as well as making the dish a bit creamier.

However, for me, it doesn’t have the same upside as dijon because it doesn’t have the flavor or spiciness. But this is just a preference. It may change the consistency of the dish, like dijon though, so add accordingly.

Substitution Ratio: 1 tablespoon yellow mustard = 1 teaspoon dry mustard


For some, this may be a surprise addition to this list. But turmeric can be a great substitute for dry mustard in mac and cheese.

Why? It adds that bit of spiciness like dry mustard, as well as some of bitter notes and healthy antioxidants to boot!

Since mac and cheese is already quite yellow, the brightness of turmeric most likely won’t be an issue.

If you have it to hand, this is a great and simple addition that can be used in the same ratio as dry mustard. As a bonus, it won’t add any extra liquid to the dish like the previous two.

 Substition Ratio: 1 teaspoon turmeric = 1 teaspoon dry mustard

No Mustard!

Of course, there’s always the old school, but still cool, method of not using any mustard at all.

This could be the best choice if you don’t have any of the dry ingredients on hand and want to keep the classic consistency of mac and cheese.