How-To: Cook Mussels with Coconut and Red Curry Broth

Cooking for a Crowd, Recipes, Worknight Dinners
easy homemade mussels
easy homemade mussels

Photo: Leigh Loftus

I’ve always ordered and enjoyed mussels in restaurants but until recently, it had never occurred to me that I could attempt to prepare the elusive little sea-dwellers on my own stove. Mussels are a member of the same family as clams, but they have an elongated oval shell, usually asymmetrical.

easy homemade mussels

Photo: Leigh Loftus

As with any type of seafood, it’s important to prepare mussels properly to preserve their flavor and integrity, but it isn’t as hard as it might seem. The only equipment you need is a skillet or saute pan that has a lid (you can also use a pot or a Dutch oven in a pinch).

Mussels are super cheap ($5.99 a pound at Whole Foods, to put it into perspective) and most markets and grocery stores sell them at the seafood counter, making them easily accessible. If you want to cook them to perfection, it’s easy to do if you follow a few simple guidelines.

Clean mussels thoroughly

Mussels must be thoroughly cleaned and rinsed several times before cooking Most mussels that you can buy are farm-raised and then held in tanks to flush out grit and impurities. If you’re buying wild mussels, you’ll need to rinse them with cold, fresh water.

Farmed mussels will have already been prepared for cooking and will only need a quick rinse under cold water.  If you’re unsure whether your mussels are wild or farmed, ask the fishmonger when you buy your mussels whether they’ve been rinsed cleaned. Scrub wild mussels with a stiff brush to remove any sand, grit or barnacles.

Make sure mussels are debearded

After you’ve cleaned the mussels, check to make sure they’ve been de-bearded. Mussels’ beards look like small strings hanging from the side of the shell. Tug the string, gently but firmly (think: tug of war) and remove as much of the stringy bits as possible. You might not find them on every mussel and if you miss any of them, it won’t hurt you, but they aren’t particularly palatable.

Look for closed shells

As you clean and debeard the mussels, check each one to make sure their shells are tightly closed. Discard the mussels that are either open or cracked shells.

Steam them open

Steaming mussels is one of the easiest ways to prepare them, whether it’s dinner for one or an appetizer for a crowd. Steaming mussels is also a great way to gauge when they’re properly cookedwhen the mussels’ shells pop open, they’re done.

It’s all about the broth

While most mussels have a mild flavor that tastes salty like the sea, they also tend to take the flavor of the broth that they’re cooked in.  One of the easiest ways to prepare mussels is saute herbs and shallots in a big pan and pour in a cup of white wine or broth.  Cover the pot and let the mussels steam for a few minutes until they’ve opened and enjoy with a big hunk of crusty ciabatta bread for dipping.

If you want to serve up mussels with a little bit more flavor, opt for my new favorite recipe, that uses coconut milk for sweetness and some red curry and crushed red pepper for heat.

easy homemade mussels

Photo: Leigh Loftus

Mussels with Coconut and Red Curry Broth
Recipe type: Cooking for a Crowd, Worknight Dinners
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons red curry paste
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 pounds small mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • ¾ cup small basil leaves, divided
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 4 lime wedges
  1. Heat a large Dutch oven or saute pan (with a lid) over medium-high heat. Add oil to the pan and swirl to coat the bottom. Add chopped onion, ginger and garlic and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. Add curry paste and cook for about a minute, stirring consistently. Add coconut milk, wine and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 2 minutes.  Stir in mussels; cover and cook up to 5 minutes or until mussels open.
  3. Discard any unopened shells. Stir in ½ cup basil and lime juice. Divide mussels mixture evenly among 4 bowls, and spoon the coconut mixture evenly over mussels. Sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon remaining basil; serve with lime wedges.
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  • Reply
    Wine on Wednesday: Nine Walks Sauvignon Blanc
    August 12, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    […] If you’re pairing the wine with a meal, look for something a little bit more complex, like Mussels with Coconut and Red Curry Broth or a hearty vegetarian dish like Pesto, Barley and Edamame […]

  • Reply
    megan carroll
    July 20, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    yay, Olga…

  • Reply
    July 20, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    I love mussels but sadly, my husband is not a huge fan of all the work. Great tips!

  • Reply
    Maria @ Scandifoodie
    July 20, 2011 at 2:22 am

    These mussels look gorgeous! I’ll have to get some from the fish market this weekend 🙂

  • Reply
    Kristin @ FoodFash
    July 19, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    Yum! Mussels used to be my go to restaurant app because I thought they were impossible to make at home, but then I made them and blew that theory to pieces. I like that this recipe isn’t dairy (butter) based, I’ll have to give it a try!

  • Reply
    lisa @ smart food and fit
    July 19, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    I’ve never tried mussels and even though this recipe looks amazing I don’t think I’d make it at home. I’ll just order it at a restaurant, unless you are willing to cook it for me! just kidding! Your blog inspires me to try to experiment with new recipes! thanks!

  • Reply
    July 19, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    This is my kind of mussel recipe, coconut and curry – LOVE IT. Very nice!

  • Reply
    The Waspy Redhead
    July 19, 2011 at 11:08 am

    I live for Mussels! They are so easy to make and they seem really elegant when you serve them to guests.

  • Reply
    July 19, 2011 at 10:55 am

    I’ve always been nervous to try steaming shellfish like mussels and clams at home, but you make it sound so easy! Buying them from the store really is SO much cheaper, and you are right…it is all about the broth and some good crusty bread to soak everything up with 🙂

  • Reply
    July 19, 2011 at 8:12 am

    how delicious. I have never cooked my own mussels but always have them when we eat out, so I really feel tempted to have a go after reading your really informative post. They really do take on the most amazing tastes don’t they, a really good backdrop for so many flavours. The coconut milk ones sounds right up our street.

  • Reply
    Sarah (everydaysapicnic)
    July 19, 2011 at 7:49 am

    I love mussels – if they’re on the menu, I’ll be ordering them 🙂
    I have cooked mussels at home and the broth is absolutely gorgeous. I haven’t done it for a while though, so I need to head to the fish market to get some!

  • Reply
    July 19, 2011 at 7:47 am

    I’ve never tried mussels, but I love coconut and curry paste so I bet the flavor is awesome. I always thought it would be really hard to prepare mussels but this doesn’t look too difficult!

  • Reply
    July 19, 2011 at 7:17 am

    i really love this!

  • Reply
    July 19, 2011 at 6:21 am

    had no idea mussels are this cheap!! i shall attempt steaming them at home one of these days…the idea of dipping ciabatta into the sauce sounds good too!

  • Reply
    Blond Duck
    July 19, 2011 at 6:11 am

    If only I could eat shellfish!

    Sending questions this afternoon….

  • Reply
    Sherilyn @ Wholepromise
    July 19, 2011 at 5:42 am

    Wonderful tips for anyone wanting to give mussels a go but a little hesitant. When done well they are an amazing delight.

  • Reply
    T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types
    July 19, 2011 at 5:31 am

    I’ve been wanting to tackle mussels at home, and you’ve inspired me to give it a shot. You’re right – it’s all about the broth – and some of the best mussels I’ve tasted have been simply prepared and swimming in white wine.

  • Reply
    July 19, 2011 at 2:18 am

    A lovely dish! Unfortunately, I am not a big fan of mussels as I am afraid of eating certain shellfishes. But I’m learning to love them…



  • Reply
    July 19, 2011 at 12:04 am

    Congrats to Olga and wait?! What?! Mussels are cheap? I had no idea. I always thought they were pricey, but then I never bothered to check, I just assumed they were. I would LOVE to make this. In Korea, we make mussel broth with seaweed–so good.

  • Reply
    July 18, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    Stunning photo Maris!! Just gorgeous!

  • Reply
    Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    July 18, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    Great tips Maris! It’s so easy once you have the basics down isn’t it! 😀

  • Reply
    July 18, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    Maris, these look amazing! I’m too chicken to try these, too, but maybe I should give them a shot with your fabulous sounding recipe!

  • Reply
    July 18, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    1. I had Mussles in Brussels once and it was divine. I took pictures and thought myself clever. I looove mussles but am too scared to try and make my own yet! haha…
    2. In response to your comment (I really need to upgrade that commenting system so I can reply within the comments of my own blog, heh) the recipe for my favorite, comfort-food sloppy joes: Manwich sauce + ground beef + buttered and toasted hamburger roll = taaa-da! One of my less gourmet comforts for sure 😉

  • Reply
    raquel @ erecipe
    July 18, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    my eldest love mussels that saute with ginger and onion. He really love the broths and mussels is really cheap compared with other and nutritious too.

  • Reply
    Lindsay @ Pinch of Yum
    July 18, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Oh, scary. Mussels scare me. I’m a foodie who’s obviously not really a foodie since I am scared of mussels. 🙂 However…. coconut and red curry broth is sounding quite good, so maybe, just maybe, I can get over my fears!?

  • Reply
    July 18, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    I love mussels, unfortunately my husband does not eat them, so I do not cook them at home. In spite of not preparing at home I am very tempted by your recipe, love the idea of coconut and curry.
    Hope you have a great week ahead Maris 🙂

  • Reply
    July 18, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    I have never been tempted to make mussels . . . until NOW. Your coconut curry broth looks amazing!

  • Reply
    July 18, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Being land locked I’ve always been a little afraid to try them at home. Recently I’ve heard of some great places to pick up some good freshies. This recipe is not to be missed when I decide to go for it.

  • Reply
    Lisa from Lisas Yarns
    July 18, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    Oh be still my heart, this sounds delicious! I love mussels. They are one of my more favorite foods. I haven’t made them on my own, but they were part of the seafood paella I made with my aunt for our first Julia Child night (annual tradition we have…).

  • Reply
    Rachel W.
    July 18, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    Debeard. Ha.

  • Reply
    July 18, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Oh, I absolutely adore mussels. And we always serve them in the white wine sauce. The curry, coconut mix sounds divine, too, though.

  • Reply
    July 18, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Great tips and these look just amazing. Love the recipe.

  • Reply
    Junia @ Mis Pensamientos
    July 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    these are awesome tips! i wish i had read this post when i cooked mussels three years ago! lol. 🙂 i steamed mine in white wine and broth, but i love the idea of using red/coconut curry! 😀

  • Reply
    Olga @ mangotomato
    July 18, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    I can’t believe I won!!! So excited. Need to find room for the new lovely dishes now ;0

  • Reply
    Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets
    July 18, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Great tips! I’ve never tried making mussels at home but this dish sounds sooo good.

  • Reply
    July 18, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Thanks for the tips, I have been concerned about cooking mussels.

  • Reply
    Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga
    July 18, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    I have never cooked mussels…thanks for the info!

  • Reply
    July 18, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Sounds like a delicious seafood dish, especially with the coconut and curry!

  • Reply
    July 18, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    I totally haven’t tried to do clams, muscles or oysters at home! I must give it a go. Such an elegant dish!

  • Reply
    July 18, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    I MUST make some mussels soon. They’re delicous and economical, but because I don’t go to the market that sells them often, I simply don’t think of them. And I should. Thanks for the inspiration Maris!!! Have a great day.

  • Reply
    July 18, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    I didn’t realize mussels were so cheap. What a great dish! This sounds delicious, and I’m not even a fan of mussels. 😉

  • Reply
    The Harried Cook
    July 18, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Yummy! I love mussels… This post reminds me that I haven’t eaten them in ages… Thanks for the reminder & the yummy recipe! 🙂 It sounds like a keeper…

  • Reply
    Beth @ DiningAndDishing
    July 18, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    sounds sooooo delish! i am such a fan of red curry. one of those things i cannot stop eating til the whole plate is gone :).

  • Reply
    July 18, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    wow looks amazing was funny when we visited Scotland even our toddler ate them 🙂

  • Reply
    Lynne @ 365 Days of Baking
    July 18, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    My parents always had mussels when I was little since we lived next to a beach and they harvested their own. I never liked the way my mom prepared them, but this would be interesting to try and I think it would be a hit with my husband! Thanks, Maris!

  • Reply
    A Plum By Any Other Name
    July 18, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    It is totally all about the broth! I love a big bowl of mussels with some vino on a summer evening. I’ve never tried a red curry broth, but this sounds lovely! I normally add a little flour in the water used to soak the mussels because I’ve heard it helps them release any grit they might be carrying in their shells. Happy eating!

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