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What Do Mussels Taste Like?


Did you know that a single mussel can filter up to eight gallons of water daily? Interestingly, they are also great ingredients for a hearty meal. In that case, you may wonder, what do mussels taste like?

In today’s article, we will answer that question and more. We’ll also talk about how to eat and cook mussels. You’ll discover what you can serve with this tasty shellfish too!

Small pot filled with cooked mussels topped with green herbs and bread next to it.

What Are Mussels?

Mussels are a kind of shellfish. Like oysters and scallops, they are bivalve mollusks. These mollusks have a hinged shell and soft-bodied invertebrates inside. 

They have a foot and a beard. Yes, you read that right; they have a single foot. This is a muscular organ that helps them move in the water. For them to move, mussels stick their foot out as an anchor. They will then pull the rest of their body to wherever their foot is.   

The mussel’s beard is a group of structures that resemble hairs. These thread-like bristly hairs help mussels stay in place in the ocean. While the mussels’ beard is not particularly harmful, they aren’t tasty. For this reason, you should debeard the mussels before cooking.  

The most edible part of mussels is the meat inside their shells. This flesh varies in color depending on gender. The meat of female mussels is typically orange. Meanwhile, the meat from males is usually paler, almost white in hue. 

Mussels are filter feeders. They get food by filtering the water around them and getting what they need. Because of this, mussels have high exposure to water contaminants and pollutants.

That said, you should only eat mussels that are from clean water sources. It’s also best if you cook them first before eating them. Doing so kills any bacteria or toxins they might have acquired through feeding.

You can cook mussels in various ways. Steaming mussels is the best and easiest way to enjoy them. Pan-roasting mussels also works, but you may also boil and bake them.

Types of Mussels

There are many types of mussels. You can usually tell them apart by looking at the color of mussel shells. 

Green Mussel

Native to New Zealand, green mussels are exclusively farmed. This means people cultivate them in a regulated environment. That said, they’re safe and clean because the water they live in is top quality. They grow up to four inches in size. They’re also called green-lip mussels and are firm and slightly chewy. 

Black Mussels

Black mussels are common mussels you can find almost anywhere in the world. They thrive on the coasts of the Atlantic and the Pacific. They’re smaller than green mussels as they only grow to an average of 2.5 inches. Black mussels are soft and tender. If you don’t find the label “black mussels” in stores, try looking for “Mediterranean mussels,” they’re the same.

Blue Mussels

Blue mussels only grow up to two inches and are also called blue-lipped mussels. You can find them on temperate coasts worldwide. People say Prince Edward Island in Canada has the finest blue mussels. They call these great-tasting treats PEI mussels.

What Do Mussels Taste Like?

Mussels have a slightly sweet taste and can be likened to clams or oysters. The flavor of mussels is delicate yet distinctive, with a slight brininess that comes from their exposure to saltwater.

They also tend to take on the flavors of whatever they are cooked in, so spices and herbs can make them even more flavorful.

The taste of mussels depends on their kind. Mussels generally taste mild, so most people say they’re bland. Mussels also have a meaty taste that most people associate with umami.   

serving plate with cooked mussels.

How Do Black, Green, and Blue Mussels Differ in Taste?

Green Mussel’s Taste

Green mussels have a briny seafood flavor and a slightly sweet taste. They taste milder compared to other mussels. 

Green mussels are beginner friendly as they won’t overwhelm you with their flavor. But if they’re too mild for your taste, you can try other varieties.

Black Mussel’s Taste

Black mussels have a strong salty taste and a fishy aroma. The flavor of black mussels is more intense compared to green mussels.

If you find green mussels lacking in flavor intensity, you should give black mussels a try. 

Blue Mussel’s Taste

Blue mussels are sweet, plump, and richer in flavor than other varieties. Some people even describe their taste as a cross between oysters and clams.

The blue ones have a saltier and more pronounced briny flavor than green mussels. 

What Do Mussels Smell Like?

Do mussels smell fishy? Well, even when they live in saltwater and bays, they don’t smell fishy at all.  

Instead, fresh mussels should have a faint ocean-like smell. If they smell fishy, that is usually an indication that they’re not at peak quality anymore. It would be best to refrain from cooking them as they won’t have the best flavor. 

How To Prepare Mussels for Cooking

To get the best experience from eating mussels, you should take time to prepare them. Not to worry; preparing them is easy and definitely worth it. 

Sort

The first thing you need to do is sort your mussels. Discard mussels that have chips or damage on the shells.  

Watch out for mussels with open shells. Tap them with your fingers and see if they close. If they do, they’re good because they’re fresh and alive. If they don’t respond and stay open despite tapping, discard them because they’re dead. 

Lastly, smell each piece and remove those that smell notably fishier than the rest. 

Clean

Next, you should clean the mussels. Scrub the shells with a sponge to remove barnacles and other debris. 

Then, take out the beard. Pull them from the mussels until you detach them completely. The beards are usually easy to remove, so you won’t have a hard time. If they don’t budge, cut them off with scissors. 

What Flavors Work Best With Mussels?

Mussels pair well with almost anything because of their mild flavor. You may eat these yummy shellfish with pasta and rice. They’re perfect when you eat them with crusty bread, too! Mussels pair well with fries and even polenta. 

When it comes to meat, you can never go wrong with cooking mussels with lamb or chicken. Pork and beef also work. And, of course, eating it with fish, shrimp, and scallops is a no-brainer. The flavor of mussels is great when combined with clams and oysters, too.

You may serve steamed mussels alongside mangoes and avocados, as well. Garnish or season them with lemon and lime for the best results. 

Make delicious salads with mussels, tomato, corn, cucumber, jicama, and leek. Mussels taste great with asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms, and squash.

You may also use onion, oregano, parsley, thyme, and basil to complement the mussels’ taste. They taste amazing when you eat them with a garlic sauce dip.

Oh, and you can pair them with wine too! Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Grigio are top choices. Rosé and Bordeaux White make fantastic pairs, as well.

Mussel Recipes You Should Try

Mussel dishes are abundant in the culinary world. After all, they blend well with lots of other ingredients. They are incredibly versatile – you can add them to pastas, soups, salads, and more.

The most popular way to cook mussels is by steaming them in white wine, herbs, and butter.

Try steaming them using this Steamed Mussels with Cider, Spring Onions & Cream recipe.

In the mood for rice? Go for some Chicken and Seafood Paella!

If you’re in a hurry, pick this quick Mussels in Lemon Garlic Butter Sauce recipe. They’re ready to eat in just 30 minutes.

If you’re a pasta lover, this Italian Mussels and Pasta recipe is for you.

For something light, this Mussel Chowder is a winner.

Nutritional Benefits of Mussels

When eaten in moderation, mussels can be healthy additions to your diet.

Mussels are both a healthy and delicious option for your meals. They are packed with vitamins and minerals. They are also low in calories.

Mussels are rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. These mollusks have folate, zinc, and iron, too.

You’ll get iodine and selenium from eating mussels, as well. They also contain vitamins A, B12, and C. Indeed, mussels are delicious and nutritious!

How To Store Fresh Mussels

Fresh mussels are highly perishable. We recommend you buy, cook, and eat mussels within the same day. 

But if you need to store them, you should take extra precautions so the mussels won’t end up in the waste bin. 

Refrigeration Process

Place your mussels in a colander with a dish. This way, you will immediately drain any water released by the mussels. Cover the colander with a damp cloth to help retain moisture. Keep the colander inside the fridge; the mussels will stay good and alive for about four days.

Freezing Method

If you need to keep mussels longer, you may freeze them. But you need to clean them and remove the mussels’ beards before freezing. After cleaning and debearding, place the mussels inside a freezer bag. Label the bag and ensure to consume the mussels within three months. 

Can You Eat Raw Mussels?

Technically, you can eat raw mussels, but you should refrain from doing so. This is because it is difficult to tell which freshwater mussels are safe. They’re filter feeders, so they accumulate toxins and bacteria. That said, it’s always better to cook mussels first before eating. 

Are Mussels And Clams The Same?

No, mussels and clams are not the same. They are both bivalve mollusks, but they differ in many ways. Clams have a stronger flavor compared to mussels. Plus, they have an intense fishy taste and aroma.

Are Mussels And Oysters The Same?

No, mussels and oysters are not the same. They share similarities as they are both seafood and mollusks. Oysters have irregular shapes compared to mussels. And it is normal for people to eat raw oysters like clams. Taste-wise, oysters have a richer, slatier flavor than mussels. 

Summary

What do mussels taste like? They are seafood, so that you will get a briny tang and salty flavor. Plus, they have a sweet taste that most people find pleasant. Lastly, mussels have an umami flavor, like mushrooms. You can expect to get a meaty taste from them.

The flavor of mussels varies per type. Blue mussels are your best bet if you want something sweet and rich. Green mussels are mild, while black mussels can be intense. Either way, all mussels are nutritious and tasty, so you should try them at least once.

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!

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