If you are looking to serve up some mussels, chances are you are going to want to serve a sauce alongside them. They’re great on their own, sure, but a sauce can help to take these mollusks to the next level. But what are the best ones, exactly? Well, you’re going to find out very shortly…
So, what are the best sauces for mussels? The best sauces for mussels often include white wine, cream, and garlic, as does a gentle cream sauce flavored by leeks or herbs. You can also try tomato-based sauces for a bit more flavor and acidity. If you fancy something spicy, try a Caribbean coconut sauce.
When it comes to mussels, they are typically paired with wine and garlic.
But there are actually many different sauces you can have, both including and omitting these ingredients altogether.
So below, you’ll find a list of great sauces for mussels (usually, you cook the mussels in the sauce), including how to prepare them.
You’ll also find some thoughts on recipes to stay away from for sauces that just should never be served with them.
The Best Sauces For Mussels
Lemon Garlic-Butter Sauce
Mussels are surprisingly easy to make. Actually, a lot of shellfish is! And making a sauce for your mussels isn’t hard, either. In fact, it’s ridiculously simple many times.
Take this sauce–total cooking time, including cooking the mussels, is about 20 minutes. And that includes the prep!
So, what are the ingredients for mussels in lemon garlic-butter sauce? Mussels, chopped onion, minced garlic, chili flakes, white wine, cream, salt, black pepper, chopped parsley, lemon juice, lemon zest, and butter.
If you aren’t a fan of lemon zest, you can omit it.
To make this recipe, melt the butter in a large skillet with a lid (though the lid is off for this part!).
Sautée the onion and chili flakes for a few minutes, then add the garlic and sautée for another minute (till fragrant).
Add the white wine, and simmer till reduced by two-thirds, then add the cream and simmer for about 2-3 minutes.
After that, you pop the cleaned mussels on top/in the sauce and put the lid on the skillet so that the mussels are steamed.
You will want to cook them for 8-10 minutes–they will open when done. If they don’t open, throw them out as they’ve gone off.
Simply remove a mussel if it doesn’t open (and don’t cook it in the first place if it’s open and doesn’t close under cold water!).
When the mussels are cooked, remove the pan from the heat. Season with salt and black pepper to taste and stir through the lemon juice, finely grated lemon zest, and fresh parsley.
That’s it; the meal is ready to eat!
- 1 onion (finely chopped)
- 2 cloves f garlic (finely minced)
- 2 ounces (50g) of butter
- 1 vegetable stock cube dissolved in 1 cup of boiling water
- ⅓ cup (80ml) single cream
- 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley
- Salt and black pepper to taste
Creamy Garlic Sauce
This is another creamy garlic sauce, though this one doesn’t call for lemon.
So what are the ingredients for this recipe? Mussels, finely chopped onion, minced garlic, butter, one cup of vegetable stock (one vegetable cube dissolved in one cup of boiling water), single cream, chopped parsley, salt, and black pepper.
To make the sauce and mussels, you chop the onion, garlic, and parsley, then you melt the butter and sautée the onions and garlic.
As mentioned in the previous recipe, the traditional way is to add the onions first, then the garlic, but if you’re feeling lazy, pop them all in the saucepan at the same time.
Once the onions and garlic are softened, add the stock and bring it to a boil. Add the mussels and put on a lid–cook for about five minutes, or until the mussels have opened.
Once the mussels are done, remove them with a large slotted spoon.
Turn down the heat to low and stir in the cream. Stir in the chopped parsley, then season to taste with salt and black pepper. Freshly cracked if you have it.
Bring to a boil, add the mussels back in and cook for 1-2 minutes till the mussels have been heated through. Then serve.
- 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
- 1 onion (finely chopped)
- 2 teaspoon of garlic (minced)
- 1/2 teaspoon of chili flakes
- 1 cup of dry white wine.
- 1 cup of fresh, whipping cream
- 1 lemon (juiced)
- 1/2 cup of parsley (chopped)
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
This sauce is slightly different as it doesn’t call for any garlic. Nor does it use onions, but rather leeks.
So what are the ingredients? Mussels, butter, white wine, cream, and fresh parsley. No long ingredient list here!
Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the finely sliced leek (you need to halve the stalk before slicing it) and sautée for about three minutes.
Add the wine and the mussels and place the lid on the pan. Let simmer for about four minutes–the mussels should open.
Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon–place them in serving bowls. Stir the cream and parsley into the sauce and let simmer for about three minutes (lid off).
Season to taste with salt and pepper, then pour the sauce over the mussels in the serving bowls.
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 1 small leek (halved and thinly sliced)
- 1 cup of dry white wine
- 1/2 cup f whipping cream
- 4 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley
Caribbean Coconut Sauce
Now, this recipe is nothing like the recipes on this list up to this point! For starters, it has lots more ingredients. It also has a completely different flavor profile, though it’s still nice and creamy!
So what’s that long list of ingredients?
Mussels, canned coconut milk (though there’s no saying you can’t use fresh coconut milk!), curry powder, diced tomato, beer, chopped or minced garlic, fresh grated/chopped ginger, chopped onion, salt, black pepper, chopped cilantro, chopped, parsley, chopped/diced green onions, scotch bonnet pepper (Caribbean red pepper or a hot chili of your choice), olive oil, and lemon juice.
To make this meal, clean the mussels as per usual (scrub and remove the “beard,” plus discard any mussels that are broken or won’t close). Chop and cut the ingredients as needed.
Beware that you’ll need gloves for the scotch bonnet pepper if you use it.
Discard the seeds. If you want something milder, just go for a jalapeño pepper.
Then heat the oil in a pan over medium heat and add the onion, garlic, and ginger.
Sautée for three to four minutes–the onions should become soft and translucent.
Add the curry powder and turn the heat to low. Cook for an additional three minutes to bring out the flavor.
Add half of the parsley and the green onions. Turn up the heat. Add the mussels and stir. Add the hot peppers, chopped tomato, and seasoning (salt and pepper).
Let simmer for a few minutes, then stir in the coconut milk and let simmer for another two minutes.
Add the beer, bring to a boil and cook for four minutes or so–the mussels should open.
Then stir in the lemon juice and garnish with cilantro and parsley.
- 1 can of coconut milk
- 2 Tbsp of curry powder
- 1 large tomato (diced)
- 12 oz of beer
- 2 onion (chopped)
- 6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
- 1 inch of ginger (finely chopped)
- 1/4 tsp of salt
- 1/4 tsp of ground black pepper
- 3 tbsp of chopped parsley
- 1 tbsp of cilantro
- 1 tbsp of parsely
- ¼ of a scotch bonnet pepper
- 2 tbsp of olive oil
- 1 lemon (juiced)
This is also a sauce with a different flavor profile than the traditional garlic sauce.
What you’ll need for this recipe is mussels, chicken broth, chopped onion, a bay leaf, chopped garlic, tomato paste, honey, cumin, red or white vinegar, white wine, salt, black pepper, butter, parsley, scallion, and olive oil.
Over medium heat, heat the olive oil in a pan and then sautée the onion and bay leaf till the onion becomes translucent; then add the garlic and cook for a minute. The garlic should become fragrant.
Stir in the tomato paste and cook for two to three minutes, then add the honey, fresh red chili peppers, salt, pepper, cumin, and vinegar.
Stir to combine. Add in the wine and cook for three to four minutes.
Add in the mussels and chicken broth and cook for six to seven minutes–all the mussels should open.
Use a slotted spoon to remove the mussels.
Add the butter to the sauce and cook for a few minutes till the sauce thickens.
Add the mussels back in together with the parsley and scallions. Stir and then plate and serve.
- 1/2 cup of chicken broth
- 1 onion (chopped)
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 garlic cloves (minced)
- 2 tbsp of tomato paste
- 1 tbsp of honey
- 1-2 fresh red chili peppers
- 1/2 tsp of cumin
- 1 tbsp of white vinegar
- 1 cup of white wine
- Crushed black pepper to taste
- 4 tbsp of butter
- 2 tbsp of parsley (chopped)
- 4 tbsp of olive oil
- Salt to taste
Spicy Red Sauce
Here is a tomato-based recipe! This time from Italy. It’s also known as Mussels Fra Diavolo.
This recipe is slightly different in that you make the sauce first, then cook the mussels and add in the sauce.
The ingredients for the sauce are: canned plum tomatoes, olive oil, by leaves, garlic, carrots, onions, dried oregano, tomato paste, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
To make the sauce, crush the tomatoes (using your hands–place them in a bowl first). You want fairly small pieces.
Then, in a 5-quart Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat until fragrant. It’ll take about forty seconds.
Add the bay leaves and cook for about ten seconds, then add the garlic and cook for one minute–till fragrant.
Then add the diced onions and carrots, and oregano. Cook for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want to brown the vegetables.
After that, you add the tomatoes and tomato paste, along with salt, pepper, and some water (you can sub with clam juice or white wine if you like).
Lower the heat and let the sauce simmer.
You want the sauce to reduce, so it becomes thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. It’ll take about an hour. You’ll need to stir occasionally, so it doesn’t burn.
Remove the sauce from the heat and let cool, then put it in an airtight container in the fridge if not using right away.
Now, when making the mussels, you’ll need olive oil, minced garlic, crushed red pepper, white wine, the spicy red sauce you made, as well as chopped parsley and, of course, the mussels (I’ve only mentioned how to clean and prep mussels once, but the same applies for all the recipes!).
To cook the mussels, heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute till fragrant–about thirty to sixty seconds.
Add the white wine and tomato sauce, increase the heat to high, put the lid on the pot, and bring to a boil.
Add the mussels and put the lid back on. Cook over high heat for about three minutes.
Then stir, put the lid back on and cook for about another four minutes. As always, the mussels need to open.
Remove the mussels once cooked. Then place the pot back on the heat and increase to high heat.
Boil for about two minutes–the sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Pour the sauce over the mussels and serve right away with some crusty bread to dip in the sauce.
For full recipe: click here.
What Types of Sauces Pair Best With Mussels?
The types of sauces that pair best with mussels are creamy or tomatoey in nature.
As you can tell, there are many options for cooking mussels.
The traditional French/Provencal way of cooking them in white wine, garlic, and cream remains popular (and for a good reason–it’s delicious!).
You can also cook mussels the Portuguese way in chicken stock and tomato paste, flavored with onions, garlic, and spices.
For a hot version, try a Caribbean coconut sauce flavored with curry or an Italian version with enough garlic to make you smell for a week!
If you want something milder, a nice leek, white wine and cream sauce is perfect.
Most people associate mussels with a cream sauce made with white wine and garlic. Most likely flavored by parsley and, sometimes, lemon.
For an even gentler sauce, try a cream sauce made with white wine, leeks, and parsley. You can also likely find recipes flavored by different French/Italian herbs.
If you want to get adventurous, try an Italian mussel sauce made with tomato sauce, herbs, and veg, or a Caribbean one made with coconut milk and curry.
You can also try the somewhat milder Portuguese version that contains tomato paste, chicken stock, herbs, and veg.
What Sauces To Avoid Serving With Mussels
You will want to stick to creamy sauces or tomato-based sauces in most instances. If a recipe calls for red wine, you might wanna think twice before trying it out.
It’s hard to say what sauces don’t go with mussels–it’s not the kind of dish you make by pouring a store-bought sauce on top!
So most recipes you find on the top pages of Google are valid as they’re made from scratch using nice fresh ingredients.
Sauces for other fish and fish dishes:
- Best Sauces For Scallops
- Best Sauces For Halibut
- Best Sauces For Trout
- Best Sauces For Tilapia
- What Sauce Goes With Tuna Steak?
- What Sauce Goes With Seabass?
- What Sauce Goes With Calamari?
- What Sauce To Serve With Salmon Patties?
Hello. I’m Jeremy – an experienced saucier who has worked in some of the top kitchens over the last few decades. With a love for sauces, food, and nutrition, I decided to create WeWantTheSauce. Here I share my knowledge and expertise; from ingredients and recipes to storage all the way through to recommendations for every sauce imaginable.