What Do Mussels Taste Like? A Complete Guide

Mussels are a name for several different saltwater and freshwater bivalve mollusks. The more commonly used mussels for culinary purposes are the marine type.

Most mussels are inexpensive and easy to cook. They are often added to delicious paella but can also be enjoyed boiled or steamed with white wine and some shallots, cloves, butter, and parsley.

If you are new to this particular type of seafood and are curious regarding what mussels taste like, then read on.

We have also added some tips for pairing the mussels with other foods and side dishes, as well as an excellent recipe for steamed mussels.

What Do Mussels Taste Like?

Since they are natural filters in the sea, with gallons of seawater passing through them, mussels have an ocean-like salty flavor but very little fishiness. At the same time, they have a delicately sweet taste with a hint of mushrooms.

A correctly cooked mussel has a very tender and somewhat chewy texture, which is softer than that of cooked clams but firmer than the texture of scallops.

The ingredients which pair well with mussels

Because their taste is rather subtle, mussels will quickly absorb the flavors of other ingredients and are great for various food combinations.

Here are some herbs, spices, and sauces which work well with mussels:

  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Garlic
  • Dill
  • Chili
  • Saffron
  • Cilantro
  • Horseradish cream
  • White wine-based sauce

Which side dishes work well with mussels?

Here are some of the best ideas for side dishes for mussels:

  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Roast potatoes
  • Coleslaw
  • Garden salad
  • Fresh bread

The different tastes of the many mussel varieties

As mentioned previously, mussels are the name used for a wide variety of different mollusks. They can inhabit either freshwater or saltwater.

The most commonly used mussels for cooking are blue mussels. They have an intense flavor.

The black mussels are popular in the USA and Europe and are larger in size, with a more delicate taste.

The famous Green lip mussels are only found in New Zealand. They are quite a bit larger than the others and have a milder but meatier flavor.

Related: Black Mussels vs Green Mussels What’s the Difference

Mussels vs. Clams

While they are both shellfish, mussels and clams are different in appearance, taste, and texture.

Mussels have dark oval, often asymmetric shells, while clams are with rounder and lighter colored shells.

The flavor of the mussels is milder, less salty, and less chewy than that of clams.

The good news is that the two types of mollusks can be used interchangeably for most dishes and recipes, including paella, seafood chowder, or linguine.

Steamed mussels recipe

Steaming the mussels is one of the best ways to prepare them.
Here is an easy recipe for steamed mussels with white wine.

Ingredients:

  1. Mussels – 4 lbs.
  2. Onion, diced – 1
  3. Garlic cloves, crushed – 4
  4. White wine – ¾ cup
  5. Vegetable broth or stock – 1 cup
  6. Olive oil – 2 tablespoons
  7. Lemon wedges – for the garnish
  8. Parsley, freshly chopped

Method

Inspect the mussels as you wash them and remove their beards. If there is one with a broken or open shell and will not close if tapped, then it is safer to discard it.

Add the olive oil to a sauté pan and sauté the chopped onion and crushed garlic at a medium-high temperature. Sauté them until translucent.

Add the thoroughly washed mussels into the pan and add the vegetable stock and the white wine.

Put the lid on and let the mussels steam for about 5 minutes or until their shells open.

Pour the mussels into bowls, and sprinkle them with freshly chopped parsley. Add a lemon wedge and serve with bread.

Useful mussel cooking tips

  1. Replace the water with a flavorsome liquid when steaming the mussels. This will give them an additional flavor. You can use white wine, stock, an IPA or other crisp beer, coconut milk, tomato sauce, or others.
  2. Check the mussels carefully before cooking them. Remove any beards with a knife. Throw away any mussels that have broken shells or will not close even when you tap them lightly.
  3. Start with some flavor before steaming them. Sauté some onions, garlic, chili, shallots, or others in the pot before adding the mussels. This will help you build up their flavor.
  4. Keep the lid on the pot during the steaming. Avoid the temptation of opening the lid every minute while the mussels are steaming. This will ensure that the steam and the flavors in it remain inside the pot.
  5. Mussels cook pretty quickly. They are ready when all of their shells have opened.
  6. Throw away any mussels which remain closed after the cooking. They could have died long ago and could be dangerous or unpleasant to eat.
  7. Finish up the cooking by adding some fresh herbs when serving the mussels. Once you pour the mussels into the serving bowls, you can sprinkle them with parsley, dill, or other suitable fresh herbs.

Mussel eating etiquette

You can eat the mussels with your hands or with a seafood fork. When eating them without utensils, simply pull the shells apart and suck out the meat. You can use a seafood fork to take the meat out too.

In most restaurants, you will be provided with a bowl of water and towels to keep your fingers and hands clean during the meal.

FAQs

Are mussels similar in taste to oysters?

Oysters have a brinier taste than milder flavored mussels.
The texture of the oyster is somewhat different as well and is slimy and yet firm.

Are mussels similar in taste to scallops?

While they are pretty similar, scallops are softer textured and have a sweeter and lighter flavor than mussels.

Do you eat the black thing on the mussel meat?

Yes, it is simply the plankton that the mussel has ingested.

Are the mussel beards edible?

While they will not harm you, the beards of the muscles are unpleasant to eat, so you should remove them before cooking them.

Final Words

Mussels are pleasant to eat and have a mild ocean flavor with an undertone of mushrooms and sweetness.

Their taste and texture can vary depending on the type of mussels you are eating.

Since they have a mild taste, they will absorb a lot of the flavors of the other ingredients, so the final taste depends on the recipe.

Although they are easy to cook, you should watch the mussels because even slightly overcooking them will make them chewy and tough.

As a whole, mussels are a delightful type of shellfish, but if you are new to these foods, we recommend starting with scallops that are milder and sweeter in taste.

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