How to Cook Mussels
Have you ever wondered how to cook mussels? Spoiler alert: it's super easy! I'll show you how to choose, store, clean, and cook mussels. Plus I'll share my favorite mussels in white wine recipe. Are you ready to learn how to prepare mussels? Let's do this!
I know that cooking mussels can feel intimidating. We tend to eat them only at restaurants as a special treat. But mussels are so fast and easy to make that there's no reason they can't be made on busy weekday evenings. Learn how to cook mussels so every day can be a treat!
Why you'll love this mussels in white wine recipe
- The broth is super flavorful and goes well with salty mussels, a plate of French fries, and a glass of white wine. Moules frites!
- It's really easy to make. Saute some shallots and garlic in butter or oil → add bay leaves, black pepper, wine, and mussels → add in a little cream, lemon juice, and parsley → EAT!
- And about that cream. Heavy cream would be the traditional approach, but I often use dairy-free cashew cream. The choice is yours!
- It's a simple and classic mussels recipe that's really easy to master.
How to choose mussels
Mussels are alive when you buy them, so look for them in low tanks in the fish department. Often you can pick out the mussels you want. If they're only sold in bags in your grocery store, you may want to open the bag first to make sure the mussels are alive and in good shape.
Occasionally they will be sold on ice. Make sure that they are not submerged in water as they need to breathe.
A few rules for buying mussels
- Mussels should smell briny, like the sea. If they smell bad, don't buy them.
- The shells should be tightly closed. If a shell is open, give it a firm tap on the counter. If it closes, it means it's still alive and safe to eat. If it doesn't close, don't buy it.
- Don't by mussels if their shells are cracked.
- If you're more than a short walk from your grocery store, ask the fishmonger to give you a bag of ice to help keep the mussels cold on your drive home.
How to store mussels
Storing fresh mussels
Mussels are best eaten the same day as they are bought. But they can be stored for a couple of days in the fridge. If you have to store them for longer than the afternoon, buy a few extra as you'll end up tossing a few that have died.
As soon as you get home, put the mussels in a colander and set the colander over a large bowl. This will prevent the mussels from suffocating in the liquid they release. Cover the bowl with a cloth and put it in your fridge.
Mussels need to breathe so never cover the bowl with plastic. Also, make sure that you don't clean the mussels until right before you cook them.
Storing cooked mussels
If you have leftover mussels, you can store them to eat later. Put them in a covered container and keep them in your fridge for up to 2 days.
But please don't reheat leftover mussels! Trust me, this is not something you want to do.
Instead, top them with a little finely minced onion and tomato and a squeeze of lime juice or a little sherry vinegar and serve them cold on the half shell. They're delicious this way!
How to clean mussels
Right before you cook the mussels, you need to clean them. Don't do this in advance or you'll kill them.
Working with one mussel at a time, rinse the shell under cool running water and scrub it gently to remove and debris. Make sure to keep the bowl of mussels on the counter as you don't want it to fill with water.
If there is something that looks like some hair (see the picture above) in the mussel, this is the beard. It's a bit of the rope that they were grown on and should be removed before cooking.
To remove the beard, or de-beard the mussels, grab the beard and pull it towards the tail (narrow) end of the mussel. Most of the time it will come out with a firm tug. If not, you can cut it with a pair of scissors as close to the shell as possible.
How to cook mussels
Mussels cook very quickly, so this is the easy part.
Start by choosing a large pot with a tight fitting lid. Mussels will take up about 1/3 more space in the pot once they're opened. I have a 3.5 L (3.7 QT) braiser that I LOVE for cooking mussels. It's a pretty pot so I can serve the mussels in it. It's the pot you see in the pictures.
Prepare the broth that you plan on using. You can use this mussels in white wine recipe or my Thai coconut mussels recipe. Or make your own flavorful broth. Just make sure there is no more than about a 1 inch of liquid in the bottom of the pot. You want the mussels to steam, not boil.
Then bring the liquid to a rapid boil, add the mussels all at once, and put the lid on the pot. Now, set a timer for 3 minutes. When the timer goes off, gently stir the mussels and push any that have not opened to the bottom of the pot. Being closer to the heat helps them to open.
Let the mussels cook for 2 minutes more (5 minutes total) then remove the pot from the heat and discard any shells that have not opened.
That's it! You've just learned how to cook mussels!
What to serve with mussels (moules frites!)
The classic pairing with mussels is French fries. Moules frites (mussels and fries in French) go very well together. I like to dip the fries in the mussels' sauce. It's so good!
Here are a few of my favorite fries recipes that go great with mussels:
- Baked Parmesan Rosemary Shoestring Fries
- Garlic Dill French Fries
- Cajun Sweet Potato Fries
- Crispy Eggplant Fries
To make this a super easy dinner recipe, simply serve the mussels with some bread on the side to dip in the sauce. Or get a tiny bit fancy and make garlic bread.
To round out the meal I like to serve mussels with a side green salad. Often it's as simple as some arugula with sliced radishes tossed in some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. When I'm serving mussels to guests, I'll put in a little more work and make one of my favorite salad recipes:
- Bacon Kale Caesar Salad
- Crispy Kale Salad with Roasted Beets
- Roasted Broccoli Salad with Lemons and Almonds
- Asparagus Salad with Reduced Balsamic Vinegar
- Arugula and Wild Rice Salad
How many mussels to serve per person?
As a main course, I recommend serving 1 lb. of mussels per person. If you're making mussels as an appetizer, you'll want to make 1/2 lb. of mussels per person.
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Favorite Seafood Recipes
- Ridiculously Delicious Thai Coconut Mussels
- Salmon Cakes with Avocado Tartar Sauce
- Spicy Cajun Shrimp Skillet
- Pecan Crusted Salmon with Garlic Maple Glaze
- Bacon Scallop Lollipops
- Seared Tuna Bites
How to Cook Mussels
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- 2 tablespoons butter, olive oil, for dairy-free
- 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 4 lb mussels, cleaned
- Optional: ¼ cup cream, we like to use cashew cream but dairy cream works, too. See notes
- Juice from ½ lemon
- 2 tablespoons finely minced parsley
- Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and garlic and let them cook for 3 minutes. Add the bay leaves, pepper, and wine to the pot and bring the wine to a boil.2 tablespoons butter, 1 small shallot, 3 cloves garlic, 2 bay leaves, ½ teaspoon black pepper, 1 cup dry white wine
- Add the mussels and cover the pot. After three minutes, take the lid off and gently stir the mussels. Try to push any shells that are unopened to the bottom of the pot so they are closer to the heat. After 5 minutes remove the mussels from the heat. Discard any mussels that have not opened.4 lb mussels
- Pour the cream (if using) and the lemon juice into the sauce and gently mix. Sprinkle the parsley over the top and serve right away.Optional: ¼ cup cream, Juice from ½ lemon, 2 tablespoons finely minced parsley