Mussels marinières is a delicious classic mussels recipe. Steaming the mussels with onions, garlic and celery gives this dish its subtle yet delicate taste, which is rather sweet and soft with a hint of ocean flavour.
Moules marinières or steamed mussels is considered by many people to be a classic French dish. But did you know that eating mussels is even more popular in Belgium? Mussels with ‘Belgian’ fries or ‘moule frites’ is often regarded as the Belgium national dish. Especially during the start of the mussels season in Belgium, which runs from August to March, many people will go to a restaurant or eatery to enjoy a pot of mussels prepared in various ways.
Unlike in many other countries, in Belgium, we eat mussels as a main dish. Indeed, just a large pot of mussels, prepared in multiple different ways, with some chips to the side or crispy bread to mop up the delicious broth and maybe a side salad. We even have special mussel pots to fit the right amount of mussels, which is usually 1 kg (or 2 lbs.) of mussels per person. That is the weight with the shell included.
Which ingredients to use to make mussels mariniere
Note: All the exact quantities of the ingredients can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Mussels can be cooked with various ingredients. This recipe is how I always make the mussels at home and keep it as natural as possible. The mussels are steamed in their own juices with just a little addition of flavour to make a delicious mussel broth.
This is how traditional ‘moules marinieres’ are made.
- Mussels: I always use fresh mussels to make this dish. I have never used frozen mussels to make ‘moule marinière’, so I have no idea how this recipe will turn out with frozen mussels. As a main dish, count on 2 lb or 1 kg of fresh mussels per person. This is with the weight of the shell included.
- Onion: Add an onion for extra flavour to the mussels and broth.
- Celery: Same as for onions, celery is traditionally added for extra flavour. I use both the celery stalk and the leaves.
- Garlic: Not everyone is a fan of garlic with mussels. Leave the garlic out if you are not a fan of the taste, or just add as much as you like.
- Pepper: Season before cooking with lots of freshly ground black pepper, it adds so much flavour to this mussel recipe.
- Cayenne pepper: Optionally add a pinch of cayenne pepper for some spiciness.
- White wine (optional): To add some extra flavour to the broth you can add a bit of white wine. I never use wine to prepare this mussels mariniere recipe since I like the salty and natural flavour coming from the liquid of the mussels as well as the onion, garlic and celery.
Don’t add extra salt to this steamed mussels recipe. Mussels already have a natural salty taste, so adding more is unnecessary.
How to clean mussels
Make sure to properly clean the mussels before cooking. Farmed mussels bought in supermarkets are generally already pretty clean, but may need some extra rinsing. This is my process to clean mussels:
- Place the mussels in a large bowl filled with cold water. Give the mussels a good stir with your hands. Most of the sand will be removed from the shells this way.
- Use a pairing knife or scrubbing brush to remove any dirt or barnacles stuck on the shells.
- Remove any visible beards, which are the fibrous threads you sometimes see on the side of the shells by simply pulling them out.
- Remove any mussels with a broken shell. If a shell is open, give it a few soft taps, and if the shell still stays open, remove it as well.
- Give the cleaned mussels a last good wash under cold running tap water to remove the last bits of sand and dirt.
How to cook mussels
Moules marinières is a classic way of preparing mussels. It’s such a quick and easy recipe to make with just a handful of ingredients.
First of all, it’s important to make sure the mussels are cleaned well. Part of what makes this mussels dish is the broth coming from the liquid of the mussels. You really don’t want to eat the broth with sand, barnacles or parts of the mussel beard in it. So do take your time to make sure the mussels are nice and clean.
Peel the onions and cut in rings or half moons. Finely chop the celery and mince the garlic.
In Belgium we count 2 lb or 1 kg of mussels (with shell) per person for a main dish. Each person will have their own pot of mussels, the same pot in which the mussels were steamed. Make sure to use a pot large enough where 2 lb or 1 kg of mussels will fit, leaving around 5 cm or 2 inch of space till the rim. Also make sure that each pot has a tight fitting lid.
Heat oil or butter (to your preference) in the pot and fry the onion, garlic and celery for a few minutes. Turn up the heat and add the mussels as well as the black and cayenne pepper. Close the lid and leave to steam on high heat for 5 minutes. Halfway through cooking, toss the pot well so the veggies mix with the mussels. Do this with a forward/upward/round movement. Check after 5 minutes if the mussels are open. Leave the mussels in the pot, put it on a wooden board and serve immediately.
How to serve moules marinières
Traditionally in France and Belgium, a pot of mussels is served with either French fries or better yet, Belgian fries, with mayonnaise, of course. It is also served with crusty bread or french baguette, which is lovely to dip in the delicious mussel broth. Serve a green salad to the side.
How to cook mussels
- 2 lb (or 1 kg) mussels scrubbed and debearded
- 1 onion finely cut in half rings
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 celery stick finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Wash the mussels well in cold water. Discard any with broken shells or those that don't close after washing and lightly tapping the shell with your finger. Scrub any debris or barnacles off the shells. Remove the beard, which is the fibrous thread sticking out of the side of the mussel. Rinse at least twice with cold running water.
- Cut the onion finely in half rings, chop the celery, including the celery leaves finely and mince the garlic.
- Heat oil in a large cooking pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and celery and fry for 2 minutes, while stirring occasionally.
- Turn up the heat, then add the cleaned mussels, freshly ground black and cayenne pepper and cover with a lid. Leave to cook covered for around 8 minutes or until all mussels have opened. Toss the pot 2-3 times carefully to mix all the veggies with the mussels.
- Remove the lid and serve immediately in the same pot.
- As a main dish, Belgians count on 1 kg or 2 lb per person. If this still sounds like a lot or you also plan to serve some side dishes, count on half the amount as a main dish.
- For a stand alone starter, count on half the amount.
- This recipe is for 1 person as a main dish. Each person is served their own mussel pot. If you make this recipe for more people, just multiply the above ingredients per mussel pot per person.
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