I am fond of using whole spices for tempering therefore used mustard seeds along with cumin seeds, curry leaves, asafoetida & nigella seeds. Thereafter used some cilantro and kasuri methi for finishing. What I noticed was that the lentils had a lil bitter after taste. Although previously I have used this spice blend minus mustard seeds a number of times without fail. What I know for sure is that I can take out mustard and make the tempering good again but somehow I want to use mustard seeds along. What else should I incorporate to bend mustard seeds in the spice mix to make it balanced?

2 Answers 2


There's quite some bitter components in there:

  • Fenugreek
  • Nigella seeds
  • Mustard seeds

In general to balance bitterness, you either add salt, fat, or sugar.

In yours case, maybe the addition of the mustard seeds pushed the bitterness just beyond what you like. So quite possibly you could also choose to reduce the amount of nigella seeds and fenugreek.

  • I have noticed that adding tomatoes will cut down the bitterness and they go well with mustard seeds but the point is that I don't wish to add sourness or sweetness to lentils. I did add salt and fat(cooking oil, to fry the spices before use) to the dish. Here I don't intend to play with the taste but aroma. I wish to add some spice with sweet aroma like cinnamon. Can you suggest something that would go well in this spice mix?
    – user50547
    Sep 14, 2016 at 7:03
  • 1
    "Go well" would be very subjective. Apart from cinnamon, regionally used sweet aromas would be coming from green cardamom, (star)anise, and to a lesser extent coconut(-milk). Sep 14, 2016 at 9:10
  • Yes absolutely, taste and aromas are no one's prerogative. Everyone has their own experience and liking towards them. You have given some perfect examples for sweet spices but I am afraid, I would not recommend adding coconut milk or (star)anise to lentils whereas cardamom pod could certainly be used. Also, what I noticed today while experimenting, coriander seeds also give a certain freshness to the taste & aroma. But I need a taster before I am certain about my findings. Do share your insights about the local spices from your region and how you infuse flavors using them.
    – user50547
    Sep 14, 2016 at 12:09

Tempering with whole spices is often a good idea and brings out a nice flavor to the dish. I am an avid south Indian cuisine lover and cook it on an almost daily basis. Which means i use mustard seeds in my cooking everyday and may be 3 times of the day. Not even once i have come across the bitter taste mentioned. One thing is, if the mustard seeds are sauteed for a long time than requested it WILL turn bitter. So always keep the seeds in oil just till the last seed pops up and not a second after that. By which i mean, immediately add the next ingredient. (Be it onion or tomato or water, lentils) may be. Good luck and Tasty cooking!

  • Thanks, I would definitely keep your point in mind for my future endeavors.
    – user50547
    Sep 25, 2016 at 14:58

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