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Dijon mustard (Recipe: beet and onion salad) {vegan, gluten-free}


When I was growing up, mustard came in three varieties: hot dog, corned beef sandwich, and Chinese food.

Hot dog mustard was French's, yellow, All-American ball park, mild.

Corned beef sandwiches got a slather of Gulden's, spicy brown, or similar "deli" mustards from Zabar's or Katz's.

And Chinese food mustard came with take-out, in little no-name plastic packets. It could take the hair off your head and clear out your sinuses. Sometimes, my parents mixed their own, with Colman's, English, incendiary.

We never had Dijon mustard, though the foods of my Eastern European culinary heritage cried out for the sharpness of mustard to balance the blandness of the boiled meats. These days, my own kitchen is never without Dijon, usually Grey Poupon, and often Maille, too.

According to The Oxford Companion to Food, by Alan Davidson, "mustard has always been important in Europe, because it grows locally and is therefore the cheapest of spices."

Davidson also writes that many royal courts in medieval times employed a mustardarius -- someone whose sole responsibility was to oversee the growing and preparation of mustard. (How's that for a job description?) To make prepared mustard, seeds (brown, black, white, yellow) are soaked in water, which activates the enzyme myrosinase. When the desired heat level is achieved, the activation is stopped with an acidic liquid, usually wine (for stronger mustards) or vinegar (milder). The level of enzyme action combined with the acid used gives a mustard its flavor. Obviously, the mustardarius had quite a bit of control over the taste and strength of the final product.

Dijon contains no turmeric, the ingredient that gives yellow mustard its yellow; in the photo, Dijon is on the left, and hot dog mustard is on the right. Dijon mustard also has no carbs, no fat, no trans fat, and only five calories per teaspoon. It can be stored for several months at room temperature, but I always refrigerate after opening.

Though I didn't grow up with Dijon, it's the secret ingredient (oops, now the secret's out) in my spaghetti sauce, and essential to help emulsify a vinaigrette for a Caesar salad. The acidity helps balance the richness of salmon, chicken, roasted veggies and bacon, too.

And, in a major break with family tradition, I use it on hot dogs and corned beef sandwiches all the time.

Beet and onion salad

Simple, and simply delicious. Serves 6.


6 medium-size fresh beets (approx. 2-3/4 lbs)
1-1/2 tsp olive oil
1 cup onion, sliced vertically
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp fresh ground pepper


Leave root and 1 inch of stem on beets; scrub well with a vegetable brush. Place in a heavy pot or Dutch oven, and add water to cover. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer 35 minutes or until just tender. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again. When the beets are cool, trim off stems and roots, and rub off the skins. Slice beets and set aside. 

Add 1 tsp oil to a small frying pan and place over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add onion and sauté until tender. Combine beets and onion in a bowl and set aside. In a small bowl, mix remaining 1/2 tsp oil, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Stir well, pour over vegetables and toss.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

Also in The Perfect Pantry:

Deviled eggs
Chicken fingers
Grilled chicken salad
Root-vegetables-with-beef stew

Need more ideas for how to create salads with pizzazz? Get Dress Up Your Salad, my e-book packed with easy mix-and-match recipes, full-color photos and a few fun videos. Exciting salad recipes from everyday ingredients can be just one click away, on any computer, tablet or smart phone, with the FREE Kindle Reading app. Click here to learn more.

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I grew up with Colman´s Savora, but now this is my favourite. I also keep some sweet Bavarian mustard in the fridge, to mix with Dijon for hot dogs.
lovely stuff.

Corned beef sandwiches have mustard in them? I didn't know that!

I love Maille. We use it all the time!

Dijon . . . ah ... we must have a dozen mustards in the pantry at the moment. Love the Maille! As always Lydia, great info!
The beet salad sounds most excellent.

Great now I'm craving hot dogs. Nathan hot dogs, that have that nice "snap" to them.
I know this comment has very little to do with your post, but that whole mustard story has me craving hot dogs!!

You didn't touch honey mustard, which is a newer product -- I think it's perfect for a lighter meat like sliced turkey from the deli. Or to be retro: what about Durkee's special sauce, which was a creamy forerunner of Dijon, taste-wise?

There's also a mustard museum -- museum!! -- somewhere in Wisconsin I think it is.

Your description of Chinese food mustard packets cracked me up and sounded just like something my husband would say. In fact, I swear I've heard those exact words come out of his mouth!

I've never thought to add mustard to spaghetti sauce, and while I love all kinds of mustard (especially spicy brown and other varieties with horseradish added), my current favorite is a cranberry honey mustard by DiLusso. It's so good on a variety of meats and sandwiches!

I love beets and am always looking for a new way to prepare them - your salad sounds simple and delicious and I'll try it as soon as Chico's beets are a bit bigger. I like to bake the beets in foil til tender and then skin them while hot. They have a rich, deep, smoky flavor that gets a little bit lost when boiled - pure beet. And oh - I want to see your spaghetti sauce recipe!!! Won't you share?

Dijon is a staple in our kitchen too, but every once in a while I crave the hotness of English mustard. Do you ever mix grated horseradish with your mustard, it gives it a little kick?

Lobstersquad, love the idea of mixing sweet and hot mustards. Why haven't I thought of that?!

Tigerfish, they absolutely do have mustard. In fact, where I come from (New York), nothing else will do.

Rachel, same here. It's easier to find in the supermarket these days, too.

MyKitchen, I have lots of mustards in my fridge, but somehow Dijon is in a class of its own. I use it in cooking more than any other mustard.

Dawn, now I'm craving Nathan's hot dogs! We used to stop at Nathan's almost every Sunday after visiting my grandparents in Brooklyn. Nothing like the taste of a great hot dog while you're walking along the boardwalk at the beach.

Mae, honey mustard is in my fridge, along with half a dozen other types. I use them as condiments, but most often I use Dijon in my cooking.

Alanna, correct -- it's the Mt. Horeb Mustard Museum (http://www.mustardweb.com/).

Sandie, Peter: Here's my sauce recipe, which really is not the same without mustard:
(Sandie, that cranberry mustard sounds delicious -- a friend brought me something similar from a trip to Minnesota. Peter, you're so right about the flavor of roasted beets -- nothing compares to it.)

Neil, I've just planted a piece of horseradish root in my herb garden this year, so I'm actually going to this at the end of the summer. Great idea!

Julia Child turned me on to dijon mustard and there was no turning back. My love affair with Frenches Mustard was over! I love beets and the recipe looks like a keeper!

When I was young, I very quickly developed an addiction to Gulden's Spicy Brown Mustard on bologna sandwiches and hot dogs. Later came the Dijon habit. Even at this early hour, my mouth is watering just reading this post!

mustard is one of those things that people take for granted and don't often reflect on its greatness, but, in reality, people can't live without it. it truely is an amazing condiment and ingredient in many meals. i love it and can't live w/o it. thanks for a great post to remind us to appreciate mustard!

A mustardarius can you imagine! Probably an important job and it keeps you off the medieval streets. It is certainly a welcome addition to this beet salad:D

Lydia, I love Dijon mustard. LOVE it! My mouth is watering just thinking of it. :)
When we were in Paris last year, I ate tons of it. And tons of bread, too. No wonder my jeans did not fit me when I got back. :)

Lydia- This salad sounds perfect for summer. I love Dijon, too. I've added this recipe to my gluten-free picks for the week. Have a lovely weekend!

Crazy to look at the mustard aisle these days, back in the day we had so few choices- and they really remain the classic. I too love a bit of mustard with my beets, but spaghetti sauce...intrigued.

Sher, same here -- Julia was my teacher. I watched all of her shows on PBS.

TW, bologna (all beef) sandwiches are still one of my secret but infrequent pleasures. With mustard, of course. Other kids went for PB&J, I went for bologna. Go figure.

WeAreNeverFull, I can tell that you're true mustard lovers!

BelliniValli, I thought that mustardarius sounded like the best job ever. Though I guess those medieval lords could be pretty unpleasant if they didn't like your mustard....

Patricia, it wasn't the mustard... but the bread? Yes, in Paris, it is hard to resist all of those delicious carbs!

Karina, thank you! This is a lovely and light salad. I'm making some tonight, actually.

Callipygia, do check out the sauce recipe (link in the comments above). The mustard adds a bit of tang, but yet really works with the tomatoes.

Great recipe! I am a Maille and Savora child! My mom used to by some for just the kids: indivual glass with comics characters. I still have some of mine!

I'd have to lose the onions but I love beets.

Tartelette, I've heard of Savora but never knew about the cute jars! Mustard is one of those foods that gets imprinted in our taste buds early in life, I think -- like certain types of peanut butter, or the taste of vanilla ice cream.

Peabody, I'm not a fan of raw onions, so when I make this salad just for me, I always saute the onions first. But it's just as good without -- or with some shaved fennel added instead.

The taste reminds me of the western type of "wasabi". Dijon in spaghetti sauce, now I know the secret ;D

i was in france last year for my b-day and we took a trip to central france to Lye or "castle country", as I call it. we endued up in Dijon! it was great! but can you believe I didn't bring any back? those are the things u regret when u get back from a fabulous trip like that.... :)

Noobcook, I'm happy to share the secret; I think Dijon mustard makes my sauce quite wonderful.

Bren, you always need to leave something undone on a trip, so you have a reason to visit again. But what a nice way to spend your birthday -- I'm green with envy!

I can get lots and lots of different mustard here...not the good old yellow!
As to your salad, the only way I can get beets is pre-cooked (no clue why) so I can whip this up super quick...and I think I will!

Katie, how odd, and yet how convenient to get only pre-cooked beets. The quality of what I can buy here is quite good, and they are the ultimate time-saver.

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