Which mustards cut the mustard? To find out, our testers spent a week training their palates to, for starters, distinguish between pungency (think horseradish) and spiciness (cayenne pepper). Then they sampled each of five yellow and six Dijon mustards plain and, for a reality check, on a ham sandwich. Ratings (available to subscribers) are based on how the products tasted plain.
None of the mustards is complex enough to be excellent, but Gulden’s yellow and French’s Classic yellow are very good, as are five of the Dijons. In general, yellow mustards tend to be mild and slightly sour, while Dijons tend to be more intensely flavored. The lower-rated mustards, whether yellow or Dijon, tend to be more simple and sour.
Gulden’s yellow is tastier than your average ballpark mustard, with hints of caraway and dill pickle. Its texture is somewhat coarse, with residual mustard seeds and bits of pepper. French’s Classic yellow has a slight kick.
Trader Joe’s Dijon is pungent and flavorful, with a hint of horseradish and white wine, along with some heat. It’s also thicker than most others. Grey Poupon is creamy, pungent, and more flavorful than most.
Per teaspoon, most of the tested products have zero to five calories (far less than the hot dog or bologna sandwich you’re topping off); Maille Dijon has 10. The Dijons have 105 to 150 milligrams of sodium per teaspoon; the yellow mustards, just 55 to 60 milligrams.
Don’t spend a lot for this staple, and don’t waste time looking for the word “natural,” a French spelling, or a celebrity name. Among yellow mustards, a 12-ounce bottle of top-rated Gulden’s costs just $1.17 compared with $3.61 for a 9-ounce bottle of lowest-rated Annie’s Natural. Among Dijons, a 13-ounce bottle of top-rated Trader Joe’s costs $1.69 compared with $3.64 for 9.7 ounces of Maille Originale and $2.79 for 12 ounces of Emeril’s.