This steamed mussels recipe is an easy and flavorful way to enjoy the affordable yet elegant shellfish—the mussel. On the table in just 25 minutes, this mussels recipe is a great dinner-party starter or main dish entrée when paired with crusty bread and a simple salad. Elegance doesn’t have to be hard or complicated—it can be a bowl of steamed mussels with a slurpable white wine butter sauce loaded with aromatics and fresh herbs. 

How to Cook Steamed Mussels

Mussels are one of those rare ingredients that contradicts itself in the best possible way. Mussels are affordable, quick to cook and easy to cook while also being incredibly elegant and fancy. They quickly elevate a dining experience while also being an incredibly affordable protein for a family. 

minced shallots, raw mussels, butter, spices, sliced garlic, and wine measured out and set on a counter

Here’s how simple it is to cook mussels:

  1. Cook the Aromatics
  2. Cook shallots and sliced garlic in butter or olive oil until softened. 

    sliced garlic and shallots cooking in a large pot with butter
  3. Add the Spices
  4. Add spices and cook briefly just to bloom their flavors.

    sliced garlic, shallots and spices cooking in butter in a large pot
  5. Add the Wine
  6. Add wine and Dijon and allow the mixture to cook for a few minutes until slightly reduced. 

    yellow-spiced broth in a large pot
  7. Add the Mussels & Cook
  8. Stir in the fresh mussels, cover and cook until they open, 5 to 8 minutes. 

    uncooked mussels in a large pot
  9. Serve
  10. Dump the mussels and broth into a large serving bowl, finish with fresh herbs and enjoy. 

    cooked mussels in a large pot

Buying Mussels

Look for mussels that are set on ice and covered in ice with shiny, wet shells. Avoid mussels that have dry shells—a sign they are close to expiration or were not handled correctly.

You should also give the mussels a smell, they should smell like the ocean—fresh and salty!

mussels in a large white bowl with chunks of bread sitting in the broth, glasses of white wine set around it

Storing Mussels

Fresh mussels can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before cooking (though the sooner you cook them, the better).

Here’s how to store uncooked mussels in the refrigerator:

  1. Remove the mussels from their plastic bag and store loose or in a mesh bag.
  2. Place the mussels in a bowl or uncovered container.
  3. Place a zipper-locked bag of ice over the mussels followed by a clean damp towel or paper towel. DO NOT store fresh mussels in water. 
  4. Store mussels on the bottom shelf and towards the back of the fridge. Stored this way, fresh mussels can last up to several days.

How to store cooked mussels:

Store any leftover cooked mussels in their broth in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 days. You can also freeze them for up to 3 months. 

mussels in a large white bowl with chunks of bread sitting in the broth, glasses of white wine set around it

Cleaning Mussels 

Before you start cooking, it’s important to clean and debeard the mussels. Here’s how to do both: 

  1. Place mussels in a strainer or large bowl and rinse with cold water—rub off any dirt or seaweed. 
  2. The next step is to debeard the mussels. Mussels attach themselves to stable surfaces like rocks or, if farm raised, ropes, through thin, sticky rope-like strands referred to as “beards.” Most farm-raised mussels will have beards already removed, but you’re likely to find a handful that still have them. To remove the beards, pinch the beard firmly with your fingers and pull the strand down towards the hinge of the shell. Pull until is releases; discard. 
  3. Discard any dead mussels. This is an important step—mussels and clams will lazily open when they are dead. However, just because an uncooked mussel is open doesn’t mean it’s dead yet. Give the mussel a quick tap on the shell or a squeeze—if it closes itself back up then it’s alive and was just relaxing. If it doesn’t slowly close and remains agape, toss it. 
mussels in a large white bowl with chunks of bread sitting in the broth

What to Serve with Mussels

The best thing to serve with mussels are huge chunks of crusty bread—something rustic with a crunchy crust and soft interior. Ciabatta with soft salted butter is a great option. It’s also imperative to finish the mussels with some fresh herbs (a mix of whatever you like/have on hand) and flaky sea salt

To turn this mussels recipe into a meal, round out the menu with a simple vegetable side dish or salad. Serve this mussels recipe with our Fennel Salad, Butter Lettuce Salad or Garden Salad.

Mussel Recipe FAQ

How do I cook mussels in red sauce?

Instead of building a white wine broth like we do in this mussels recipe, make your favorite tomato sauce (this red wine tomato sauce would be perfect). Add the sauce to a large pot and thin it slightly with broth. Bring the sauce to a simmer and add the mussels. Cook as directed in the recipe. Finish with a grating of fresh Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

Are mussels alive when they are cooked?

Yes, mussels are alive when they are cooked. This is actually the safest way to consume mussels. Cooking dead mussels is not recommended.

Can I eat mussels if the shells are open before cooking?

Raw mussels that are open before cooking and do not close back up when tapped or squeezed are dead and should be thrown away. If they are open and slowly close after tapping, they are alive and safe to eat.

Which wine goes best with mussels?

Any dry, mineral-forward white wine like Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadet or Assyrtiko are all great options.

What do mussels taste like?

Mussels have a briny, sea salt aroma and flavor and are buttery and slightly sweet.

What is the recipe for Spaghetti with clams?

This Spaghetti with Clams is what you’re looking for! 

Can you eat mussels straight out of the ocean?

Yes…technically. Yes, you can harvest and eat raw mussels from the ocean but there is a very high risk of foodborne illness if you do. We recommend cooking mussels for food safety reasons. And secondly, if you are harvesting mussels on your own, be sure to check the local Fish and Seafood Advisories for news and information on seafood safety in your area.

Can you eat mussels that haven’t opened during cooking?

Contrary to what many of us have been told, it’s actually completely safe to eat mussels that haven’t opened during cooking

mussels in a large white bowl with chunks of bread sitting in the broth, glasses of white wine set around it

More Shellfish Recipes

If you’re on a mussels kick, be sure to try our luscious Coconut Curry Mussels! Made with a coconut broth infused with curry, garlic, and ginger, one bite and you’ll be in heaven!

Our Seafood Soup is another must-try if you love mussels. It’s loaded up with a variety of fish and seafood, including mussels! 

Another great shellfish appetizer is our easy Peel ‘n Eat Shrimp. Bold and flavorful, this one is a winner!

Enjoy a bowl of Spaghetti with Clams made with bites of sweet red peppers, crisp bacon and toasty breadcrumbs. A delicious seafood entrée for a special occasion!

Our Shrimp Bisque is another must-try that can be served as a starter or a main dish.

Our Crab Salad is fresh, zesty and perfectly creamy. It makes a great dip, quick summer dinner or elegant lunch for a shower or party.

Mussels Recipe

5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Yield 4 servings
Category Appetizer, Entrée
Cuisine American


A simple yet elegant recipe for white wine steamed mussels. Each bite is buttery, herby and ultra-savory. Dig in with a piece of crusty bread!


  • 6 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 large shallots, chopped
  • 4 large cloves garlic, sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 ½ cups dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 ½ – 2 pounds mussels, scrubbed clean and debearded
  • ½ cup chopped mixed fresh herbs such as chives, parsley and cilantro
  • flaky sea salt and olive oil, for serving


  • In a large pot melt 6 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat.
  • Add 2 chopped shallots and 4 sliced cloves garlic; season with salt and cook until shallots start to soften, about 5 minutes.
  • Add 1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds and ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes; cook until shallots and garlic start to take on some color, about 5 minutes.
  • Add 1½ cups wine and 2 teaspoons Dijon; cook until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.
  • Add 1½–2 pounds mussels, stir to coat, then cover with tight-fitting lid. Steam mussels until they open, 5–8 minutes.
  • Dump mussels and sauce into a large bowl. Sprinkle ½ cup mixed chopped herbs over top. Finish with a sprinkling of flaky sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately.


Store any leftover cooked mussels in their broth in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 days. You can also freeze them for up to 3 months. 


Serving: 1/4 of recipeCalories: 390kcalCarbohydrates: 13gProtein: 28gFat: 15gSaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 30mgSodium: 326mg
Like this? Leave a comment below!I love hearing from you and I want to hear how it went with this recipe! Leave a comment and rating below, then share on social media @zestfulkitchen and #zestfulkitchen!
mussels in a large white bowl with chunks of bread sitting in the broth, glasses of white wine set around it

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine,,, and more.

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