Why Is Mustard Yellow? (Ingredients, History + More)

Most people think that mustard has a natural yellow color, making bright yellow the signature color for mustard,

However, have you ever wondered if mustard has always been yellow? Here’s what I discovered about mustard’s interesting color!

Why Is Mustard Yellow?

Mustard is yellow because of turmeric, a spice that has been used as a natural food dye for centuries. This yellow powder, made from the plant’s rhizome, or rootstock, is mixed in with the mustard mixture thus giving it its bright yellow hue. Therefore, mustard seed, the main ingredient of mustard, is not yellow. 

Are you wondering if there are other colors of mustard, why is mustard usually yellow, and more? Keep on reading below!

Where Does Mustard Get Its Color?

Mustard gets its color from the spice, turmeric. This powerful coloring spice is mixed in with the mustard powder and liquid mixture, giving mustard a distinct yellow color.

Turmeric is a spice common in India and Southeast Asia and turmeric is usually mixed into dishes. Turmeric has a slightly bitter, earthy taste that is great to add to curries.

Aside from being the reason for mustard’s color, turmeric is also added to mustard to enhance mustard’s taste.

Varying shades of yellow make the mustard more appealing and better-looking, as yellow is the gold standard for most mustards.

Does The Mustard Seed Make The Mustard Yellow?

Although the mustard seed that is usually known to make mustard is the yellow variety, the mustard seed does not make the mustard completely yellow.

Yellow mustard seed powder mixed with liquid only makes a very bland, pale yellow paste, which is very far from the mustards we know today.

Mustard was a very unappealing yet tasty condiment before turmeric was mixed into the mustard mixture. It is believed that turmeric was added into mustard later for aesthetic and physical purposes.

Mustard seeds can influence the color of the end product, but not fully and not always. Mustard seeds are more known for flavor rather than a coloring agent.

Is All Mustard Yellow?

Is All Mustard Yellow?

Mustards can have varying shades of yellow. Most mustards are yellow because yellow is the most acceptable and widely known color for mustard.

American mustard is bright yellow, which is what it is known for worldwide, and turmeric is responsible for that famous hue.

However, some mustards can be brown or brownish-yellow. For example, whole grain mustards are darker than your regular mustard because the color of the seeds is very visible especially if the brown variety is used.

Spicy brown mustard is also nearer to brown than yellow simply because of the seed’s color.

Brown seeds overpower the yellow seeds if the mustard is made naturally and free of food colorings.

Barbecue or sriracha mustards, a commercially made mustard, can be a vibrant red or a dark red, considering the mustard is mixed in with darker colored ingredients like red Sriracha.

Color variations of mustard are endless because of the introduction of new ingredients, new mixtures, and food colorings.

Despite the many colors of mustard, no matter how many new varieties are introduced, the bright yellow mustard is still the standard when it comes to mustard’s color.

Is Turmeric Naturally Yellow?

Turmeric as a plant is not yellow, but the spice is made from its rhizome, or root crop, which is dried out and pulverized.

Drying out and pulverizing the root crop brings out the curcumin to the surface, activating the bright yellow color. Turmeric’s root crop looks like a ginger root, but with a more yellowish hue.

Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric which is responsible for its yellow hue. Turmeric is sometimes referred to as Indian saffron because of turmeric’s color.

If you want to learn more about spicy brown mustard, if mustard is spicy, and what is yellow mustard, take a look at our related articles.


Mustard owes some of its popularity to its bright yellow hue, which is from turmeric, making the mustard pop in every container or food it is added to.

While not all mustards contain turmeric, mustard is often some shade of yellow or brownish yellow,

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