Why Does Mustard Burn Your Nose? (Not What You Think)

Mustard is a household staple, a popular condiment, and a great addition to recipes. It offers so much variety, but the one thing all mustard variations have in common is the burn.

Those tingling and burning sensations are all part of the taste experience. But why exactly does mustard burn your nose? Here’s all you need to know!

Why Does Mustard Burn Your Nose?

Allyl isothiocyanate, a compound found in mustard and horseradish, is responsible for the burning sensation we get in the back of our noses. This oily substance triggers irritation in the mucous membranes but doesn’t stay long on the tongue. This is why the burn from mustard is usually concentrated in the nose and not in the mouth.

So how exactly does this seemingly straightforward condiment produce such a strong reaction in the nasal cavity? Let’s find out!

How Does Mustard Cause A Burning Sensation?

The mustard seed, when crushed and used to prepare mustard, releases an oily compound that triggers the burning sensation in the nose and in the mouth.

This isothiocyanate does not stay long on the tongue but instead evaporates and comes in contact with the nerve receptors in the nasal cavity.

The burn is caused by the strong and hot element of the mustard oil that invades the nose. The heat level is determined by the kind of mustard seed, the preparation, and the ingredients added.

Why Does Hot Mustard Burn Your Nose And Not Your Mouth?

The compound allyl Isothiocyanate tends to have a very fast evaporation time. So when we eat mustard, the vapors of this compound almost immediately leave the tongue.

Additionally, these vapors then travel to the nasal cavity where they trigger a nerve response in the nose and the sinuses. This is why the tingling burn then stays in the nose where it is mostly felt.

Why Is Mustard So Overpowering To The Nose?

When mustard seeds are crushed, the enzyme or the mustard oil produces a very strong, sulfurous, and pungent odor compound. This makes the mustard itself a very pungent and hot flavor.

This is further intensified by the concentration of the different mustard seeds and plants that are added to the mix. Mustard seeds vary from white to black, and each has its own signature flavor and heat.

In the same way, when mustard is prepared and added with more spices and flavorings, it gives a lot of different flavors which can affect the intensity of the burn and of the taste.

Do All Kinds of Mustard Burn The Nose?

Why Does Mustard Burn Your Nose?

All types of mustard leave a certain burning sensation since the compound that gives the hot feeling is found in all types of mustard seeds.

The difference is the level or the hotness of the burn that it leaves since this is dependent on the variety of seed, preparation, and the brand.

For example, Chinese hot mustard and English mustard are considered to be very pungent and very hot, leaving the burn in the back of the throat as well as the nose.

However, milder mustards like the classic yellow and the dijon still leave slight burning in the nose.

Is Mustard Supposed To Hurt Your Nose?

Experiencing pain in the nose when eating mustard is highly dependent on the sensitivity of the nasal cavity. Continuous exposure to the stimuli affects the intensity of the pain.

Different people can give different reactions to how the mustard burn affects them but it is not actually supposed to hurt the nose. Rather, a little discomfort and irritation may be present.

With that said, for people who are fond of eating mustard, this burn is not as painful or as intense as those who only use mustard occasionally.

People develop numbness and even a sense of enjoyment to the lingering burn mustard gives which makes it one of the most loved condiments everywhere.

If you want to learn more about mustard, you can see our related posts on whether mustard is spicy, if mustard is a spice, and what is spicy brown mustard.


The compound allyl isothiocyanate is responsible for the burning feeling you get in your nose every time you consume mustard.

Allyl isothiocyanate has a very high evaporation time and directly irritates the nasal cavity through the vapors leaving the taste buds of the mouth.

Leave a Comment