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
If you love this recipe as much as we do, let us know with a 5-star rating!
- 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
This recipe is part of our Valentine's Day Dinner Ideas series.
I loved the recipe. I am a decent cook at best. This is so easy to make and delicious. I like my food spicy so I threw in some red pepper flakes during the sauté process. It gave it just the right amount of zing.
I love ordering mussels at a restaurant but always assumed that they would be difficult to make. Not anymore! They were so easy and tasted the best I’ve had yet. Thank you!
The Best mussel ever! Spent most of my working life in Nova Scotia and on a part-time basis I inspected the mussel farms. Trust me your recipe was excellent! We will definitely share you recipy with my friends.
Made the mussels with dry Chardonnay and noodle and ”””crème fraîche was lovely had it with a cucumber lovely recipe thank you you could see I did adopted some ingredients..
Whats the alternative to wines plz
You can use broth instead 🙂
I followed the recipe to-a-t but with just 2 pounds of mussels and the cream. I lost my taste and smell last year to a concussion and look for recipes which could provide arrive satisfaction… This recipe was nice, the broth was enjoyable too. I had a side dish of melted butter and hot sauce to give it that extra kick before it went into my mouth. Yum.
Hi! Will 4 pounds of PEI mussels fit in a 5.25 qt. Le Crueset round Dutch oven? Thanks!
To be honest, I’m not sure! They cook so quickly that you could make them in 2 batches, using the same broth for both. Just remove the cooked ones with tongs when they’re done then add the second batch right away. 🙂
This recipe was spot on! The information about cleaning, preparing and cooking was so helpful!! The broth was perfect using the cashew cream. What an enjoyable meal! Thank you for all the suggestions for added sides! We will definitely make this recipe again!
Followed your recipe Kristen as written. Delish!
Thanks, Betty! So happy they turned out well!
Is there an additional step or advice in the process of preparing for mussels, to reduce salinity? Every time I cook them, (fresh mediterranean, greek mussels) without using a grain of salt, they taste very salty, I really need help!
They are salty! The reason is that all the salty seawater that is inside of them comes out when they are cooked. If you’re finding them too salty, I think the best way to deal with it is to add to the broth. One of my favorites is this recipe: https://www.theendlessmeal.com/thai-coconut-mussels/. The coconut milk will help dilute the saltiness. Unsalted chopped tomatoes with some sausage is also a good way to dilute the saltiness. 🙂
Cook time was good but the flavor wasn’t there… kind of bland probably needed more garlic and onions and some salt.
I would be very cautious about adding salt to mussels as the sea water inside of them is already very salty. Adding extra generally means the sauce will be too salty. These coconut milk mussels are more flavor-forward. 🙂
why do we throw out broken ordamaged mussels
Because the mussel inside is likely dead and not safe to eat.
Wonderful recipe and detailed process steps for a first-tome mussel cooker!
I’m so happy to hear that you found the post useful!
give me the name of the white wine you used
I’ve made this recipe many times with many different wine brands. The best types for these mussels are Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Blanc.
Love the recipe. Fast and delicious. Thank you for sharing!
You’re so welcome!
Cooking the mussels tonight—-will comment
Looking forward to hearing how they turned out!
I never tried to cook mussels. I hope with the help of this guide I can make them at home to. Thank you.
I hope you will give them a try. They are much easier to cook than they seem!
This was my first time making mussels and they turned out very well. I was nervous at first but followed your directions and it all turned out. I’ll make them again soon!
I’m so happy to hear that you’ve made mussels for the first time! Hooray!