Horseradish is an extremely aromatic root vegetable, coming from the same family as mustard, wasabi, radish, broccoli, and cabbage.
What’s particularly interesting about horseradish is that, when intact, it has little to no aroma. Only when graded or cut does it truly reach that recognizable level of pungency that many people find overbearing.
Even the smallest dose of horseradish can add a serious kick of pungency or spiciness to any dish, but what do you do when you’re currently out of horseradish, and you don’t feel like going to the grocery store for a single ingredient? You look for the best horseradish substitute.
The best substitutes for horseradish
Horseradish is a perennial vegetable that can also be found in the form of jarred sauce. While some people do use its leaves as a herb, it is primarily grown for its pungent, peppery, spicy roots. It is also known as a rather aggressive plant, and not just in terms of the flavor since its roots tend to quickly spread and take over the garden.
Horseradish is also known as the red cole or German mustard since it does contain a substance similar to mustard oil which is known to be rather strong and flavorful. Its peak season is early spring and late fall, but it is available all year round.
The horseradish sauce in a jar you can buy in a store delivers similar results as grated or cut fresh horseradish, just beware of any additives or flavor-enhancing ingredients in these products.
When peeling, grating, and cutting horseradish, make sure not to touch your eyes. The sulfur in the oil that horseradish contains when released and mixed with air causes eye-watering, and the effect can be even worse if you touch your eyes.
Horseradish can be eaten raw, on its own, but it is usually an addition to sauces, soups, and dips. Keep in mind that horseradish is strongest when raw, whether grated or cut.
However, if you cut the vegetable and do not consume it right away, it tends to darken and lose that recognizable zing. If you find fresh horseradish to be a bit too strong for your taste, you can always dilute it with water, vinegar, cream, or lemon, making a condiment, sauce, or a spread to your liking.
1. Prepared horseradish
If you don’t feel like using fresh horseradish and diluting it on your own, you can always find a jar of prepared horseradish condiments at your local store. Jarred horseradish is typically a mixture of horseradish, vinegar, and salt, but it can sometimes contain other types of seasoning and ingredients, depending on the manufacturer.
Besides the typical grated horseradish mixture, you can also purchase a horseradish sauce, which is basically horseradish combined with cream, sour cream, or mayonnaise.
Prepared horseradish is a convenient, easy way to get that authentic horseradish aroma straight from a jar. It also isn’t as volatile as fresh horseradish, since other ingredients such as vinegar tone it down.
2. Brown mustard
Mustard belongs to the same family as horseradish, and it has a pungent, spicy flavor quite similar to horseradish, which makes it a great horseradish alternative.
Brown mustard is usually on the spicy, more aromatic side, so it is a suitable replacement for horseradish in recipes.
Also, it works great as a substitute for prepared horseradish, since it can be used as a condiment, dip, or sauce right from the jar.
Just like mustard, wasabi is yet another horseradish relative from the same family of root vegetables.
Wasabi is actually made from the rhizome, which is a plant stem that grows underground. We can usually encounter wasabi in a form of green paste, often served as a condiment with sushi.
Just like horseradish, wasabi has that unique crisp hotness and spiciness to it, and the heat can be pretty strong.
Fresh wasabi, on the other hand, is more bright than hot, but it is certainly pungent enough to elevate your dish. Wasabi pairs perfectly with fish dishes, as it doesn’t overpower the fish flavor, but complements it instead.
4. Fresh ginger
When you think about pungency, peppery hotness, and strong aroma, fresh ginger must come to mind.
Ginger can be added to any kind of sauce, dip, soup, or marinade to brighten the flavor and add the desired hotness. It is also an irreplaceable ingredient in the majority of Asian dishes, including noodle bowls and stir-fries.
Besides savory dishes, ginger also has many more applications in the kitchen, including desserts, beverages, and even cocktails.
If you’re not a fan of fresh ginger root, it is also available in ground form, which is even easier to use as a simple seasoning. And if you’re looking for a horseradish sauce substitute, you can easily mix some ground ginger with cream, mayonnaise, or sour cream and get a similar result.
5. Black radish
Black radish may not be as popular as its relatives, but it is certainly a versatile root vegetable you can get a lot of uses from.
You’ll notice that black radishes grow bigger than other types of radishes, and it has a unique crunchy, yet peppery taste, which makes it a great substitute for fresh horseradish.
It has a recognizable charcoal color on the outside and a bright white interior.
They can be snacked on raw, grated over salads, but they’re also delicious when pickled, baked, or mashed with sour cream or cream cheese as a beautiful substitute for horseradish sauce.
6. Daikon radish
Daikon radish is an absolute staple in Japanese cuisine, and it is a crunchy, white root vegetable with a distinctive pungency and sweetness. Also known as Oriental radish or winter radish, this substitution for horseradish resembles a long white carrot, and its flavor is similar to a mild regular radish.
You’ll notice that the red radish we usually use in salads is much smaller and sharper in flavor, whereas daikon radish is slightly sweeter and less peppery.
Daikon radish can be served both cooked and raw, depending on the flavor you’re trying to achieve. Fresh daikon radish is crisp, bright, mild, and ideal for salads, sandwiches, and slaws.
It also adds a hint of sweetness to cooked dishes such as stir-fries and meat recipes.
7. Mustard oil
Mustard oil is a great way to substitute horseradish in dishes that require just a touch of pungency and hotness. It is great aromatic cooking oil, but it can also be added to salad dressings, dips, sauces, stews, and other cooked dishes. It has a rather high smoke point, which means you can use it for stir-frying and sautéing.
It is one of the most commonly used oils in Indian cuisine, but in Europe, Canada, and the United States, pure mustard oil is banned due to high levels of erucic acid.
When shopping for mustard oil, you want to look for mustard essential oil, which has been cleared for use in cooking. Keep in mind that, if you’re using it in cooking, the initial dominant pungency will tone down and transform into sweetness.
This root vegetable is native to Eurasia, and unfortunately, many consider it a “forgotten vegetable” since it isn’t as popular as its relatives.
It is, however, a rather versatile vegetable that can be consumed both raw and cooked. It resembles a pale, skinny, long white carrot, and some may say that the flavors are quite similar.
However, besides the sweetness, parsnips also offer a dose of bitterness and earthiness. It is safe to say that the flavor of parsnips is quite layered and complex – especially when roasted and glazed.
Sauerkraut is essentially fermented cabbage and a less pungent substitute for horseradish in salads and on the side of meat dishes, including roasts, grilled meat, and sausage. It is rich in vitamins, especially vitamin C, as a result of the fermentation process.
You can eat sauerkraut by itself, or mix it with mayonnaise or sour cream to make a delicious sauce or dip.
Sauerkraut is typically not very aromatic and pungent, but it works well with all types of seasoning that come to mind. For a more complex flavor, throw in some garlic, ginger, or even earthy turmeric.
Rutabaga is yet another root vegetable that is often neglected in many recipes.
This horseradish replacement represents a mix of wild cabbage and turnip, and it seems to combine the best of both worlds. It is sweet, buttery, yet a tad bitter, and dominantly savory.
Even though it mostly resembles a turnip, it is a bit milder in taste.
When it comes to cooking, there’s hardly any method you can’t apply on the rutabaga. They can be cooked, mashed, fried, baked, roasted – and they complement all kinds of meats.
How to choose a horseradish substitute
Some people appreciate the extreme pungency of horseradish, while others would like to avoid the hotness and get only a hint of its complexity. Each of the alternatives we’ve mentioned has something unique to offer, depending on your goals and preferences.
If you want to stick with that peppery hot, pungent flavor, you’ll enjoy prepared horseradish, wasabi, fresh ginger, and mustard oil. All of these options offer more or less depth in flavor, and can also be consumed raw, just like horseradish.
With black radish, daikon radish, and parsnip you’ll get a hint of bitterness and earthiness, but it won’t be as overwhelming, which adds to their versatility.
Sauerkraut and rutabaga, on the other hand, are milder, sweeter alternatives that you can elevate with the addition of your favorite seasoning and dry herbs.