Steamed Mussels

Incredibly simple. Absolutely delicious. Highly customizable. A lover’s food. A romantic eating experience.

I love these as a meal! Especially with those I care about. They take just 20 minutes to prepare, 10-15 of that is just prepping the broth ingredients and cooking it down to solidify flavor and aromatics. The remaining time is watching the mussels open after placing them in the broth!

Now, with any good broth or soup, it is delicious to soak up the extra liquid with bread. So while this dish is primarily seafood, serving it with bread can add additional calories and carbs.

Mussels At My Table

The general process for mussels is:

1 Purchase them within 1-2 days of intended use, keeping them refrigerated often on ice or under a damp cloth until serving. Usually 1 pound of mussels serves 1-2 people.

2 Just before cooking, rinse the mussels and check for any beards that need to be removed
Note: When removing a mussel’s beard (the stringy-like thing that hangs out from the shell, be sure to move the beard to the base of the shell hinge before tearing or cutting it off with a knife)

3 Check for broken shells and try and get mussels to close by tapping them on something hard

4 Prepare your broth! This is where the fun comes in and can completely change the flavor of the meal.

Your broth should start with an oil or butter base used to cook and add flavor to the vegetables and herbs you add to the mixture. Typically onions or shallots are used for the base sauté. Then aromatics like garlic, fennel, saffron, thyme, parsley are added slowly until their fragrance is unlocked (you don’t have to use them all).

Next, add your choice of white wine or desired liquor, or use chicken broth if you have nothing on hand. Only a small amount, about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of liquid is required per pound of mussels. After the vegetables are near done, add the liquid and wait a few short minutes until boiling begins.  The liquid in the pot should only be used for steam. You actually don’t want to boil the mussels, so keeping the liquid volume to just a 1/2 inch on the bottom of the pot is preferred.

For a light and easy meal, this is all you need for the broth!

However, here are some additional ideas:

  • I have appreciated a spicy and creamy tomato broth with my mussels that makes for delectable dipping for your bread. Once the liquor and vegetables (onion/shallot, etc.) are sautéed, add crushed tomatoes and a small soothing amount of heavy whipping cream (or half and half). Spice with red pepper flakes or your heat of choice. Let this simmer for about 10 minutes to reduce down and concentrate flavors.
  • Prepare the broth with onion and garlic, season with cumin, red pepper flakes, add wine, reduce, then add coconut milk to desired sweetness. Serve with parsely and grape or cherry tomatoes (heirloom if you are fortunate!)

5 Once your broth is flavorful and steaming, add your mussels to the pot, careful not to break them as they go in. The mussels will open in about 1-3 minutes, each at different times. Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon once they are opened to avoid overcooking them if there are other mussels that have yet to finish. For 1-2 pounds of mussels, most cook similarly, but for larger batches where the space is cramped and overlapping, cooking evenly may be trickier.

Once your mussels are done, you can add additional aromatics to the broth for one last boost. Then simply serve in a wide bowl with your toasted bread.

How to eat:

My favorite way to eat mussels is to pick one up, tear off the top of the shell, and then use the bottom of the shell with the mussel as a spoon to gather the broth. Simply slurp your meal until finished! When each part of the shell is removed or empty, place remains aside in a dish. Use your bread to soak up the remaining broth or as a texture change as you work your way through your numerous mussels.

Start simple:

For beginners, start with the following:

1 shallot or 1/2 onion.
1 lb of mussels
1/4 of wine or vodka

Dice or mince the shallot/onion. Sauté in butter or oil until clear over medium high heat.
Pour in 1/4 liquor and bring to a boil and let reduce for a minutes or two.
Add mussels, cover pot, and cook for 1-2 minutes, peeking after to see if all mussels have opened. Turn off heat, then sprinkle any pepper/parsley/thyme for additional flavor. Before removing the mussels, stir to coat the mussels in the broth.
Serve! Done! Delicious.

For next time, try different wines, add new things to the broth, etc.


My friend Dustin posted on Facebook one day that he made mussels. I was intrigued. So I made some. I also tasted mussel dishes at French Meadow Bakery and Cafe in Uptown of Minneapolis, Napa Valley Grill at the Mall of America, and Granite City at the Rosedale Mall. I enjoyed each dish, though I was partial to a spicy tomato broth over the standard white wine and aromatics. That being said, I don’t think you can really go wrong!

Sources / Recipe Ideas:

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