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Curried mussels

Updated: Tue, 7 May, 2024

Curried mussels are delicious even if, like me, you’re not a fan of curries. Spiced, gutsy cream sauce goes perfectly well with those rather bland in taste molluscs.

curried mussels

Don’t like curries? Keep reading!

Curries are one of very few dishes that I find rather revolting, out there with mushy peas, kale, barley and quinoa. Yuck. Double yuck.

It is not quite the spices that create the curry flavour that rub me the wrong way. It is the combination of too much cumin and coriander and chunks of meat so covered in sauce I can’t see what I’m eating, which always makes me slightly suspicious.

But there is a time and place for everything (except mushy peas) and there are food combinations where I accept, welcome or even applaud a bit of curry powder.

Fish and seafood are the best example: I love a dish of spiced monkfish. That’s where slightly bland, un-fishy fish flavoured with a bit of turmeric and cumin becomes much more interesting.

And mussels are another such food, with their benign flavour. A little chilli powder, my preference being the Korean gochugaru, plus turmeric and coriander, and mussels take on another dimension.

spiced mussels in creamy sauce

How to handle mussels

Unless you buy them frozen or in vacuumed packages, ready-sauced (don’t), mussels have to be cleaned. Which is obviously the main deterrent from buying the fresh, gorgeously cheap, easy to cook and tasty protein morsels.

But scrubbing, or the even scarier prospect of ‘debearding’ them is daunting enough, combined with the worry of one bad mussel in a batch that will be off enough to kill the whole family.

That worry can be easily alleviated: toss the mussels into the sink from the bag quite forcefully. The ones that were half-intending to open will be jolted into closing shut, while the ones that refuse to close are goners, so just pick and discard them.

The second quality assurance is at the cooking stage: the opposite principle works then, with the mussels that have not opened needing to be slung.

how to prepare mussels

Beards and barnacles

Before cooking though, there’s the tedious necessity of debearding which means removing the rope-like tufts sticking out of the shells. This is how the mussels attach themselves to the rocks or seabed to avoid being carried away by the waves. You can either trim the beards by cutting with scissors or pulling them off with the help of a small knife.

The same knife can be used to scrape off barnacles which, though harmless, might be unsightly on a plate.

mussels steamed in spiced curry sauce

Spiced sauce for mussels

My method of cooking curried mussels is excellent (if I say so myself) because apart from spice, it also produces an instant sauce for the dish.

Simply mix your spices, ground ginger with curry powder or a mix of chilli, coriander and turmeric, into a few spoonfuls of crème fraiche. You can add some saffron strands to boost the colour.

First cook the finely chopped aromatics: garlic, chilli and spring onions, in oil until softened, then add the spiced crème fraiche and bring to a bubbling simmer.

The mussels now go in, the lid comes on the pot and it will only take a couple of minutes over high heat, with one stir of the pot halfway through, until they start to open. Which means ready to serve, with plenty of good bread or French fries.

how to cook curried mussels

More shellfish recipes

Garlic clams steamed in white wine. This recipe for garlic clams can be the base for pasta with clams, the wine can be replaced by beer or by broth.

Mussels in white wine and cream sauce, or moules marinieres, the simplest and best recipe for mussels. Clean the mussels and debeard them, and then they only need a brief steam in the white wine sauce.

Scallops with chorizo and courgette. Scallops need to be just seared or flash fried and they go well with gutsy sausage, bacon or black pudding.

More spicy seafood recipes

Spicy shell-on prawns cooked with garlic, lemon and sriracha. Serve with some crusty fresh bread, a green salad and your lunch or supper is sorted.

Spiced monkfish tail chunks in lightly curried sauce are a dish ready in 5 minutes. Don't forget to sprinkle monkfish chunks with salt for at least half an hour, to draw moisture out.

Hot butterflied tiger prawns in a spicy marinade by Ottolenghi. Grill them, fry them or barbecue them as long as you’re quick – they only need a minute in the pan.

lightly curried creamy mussels

Curried mussels

Servings: 2Time: 45 minutes


  • 1kg (2 pounds) mussels
  • 3 tbsp crème fraiche
  • a pinch of saffron strands
  • 1 tsp gochugaru or mild chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground coriander (or 3 tsp. curry powder instead of the three above spices)
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • a bunch of spring onions
  • 1 medium hot red chilli
  • 2 large cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbsp oil


1. Sling the mussels brutally into the sink. The ones that have started opening but are still alive will close promptly. Discard ones that won't close when rapped sharply against the sink and any smashed ones.

2. Scrub and debeard the mussels. If not cooking straight away, place them in a bowl covered with a damp kitchen towel and store in the fridge.They’ll keep for a day or two.

3. Spoon the crème fraiche to a small bowl and stir in the saffron, chilli powder, turmeric, coriander (or curry powder instead of the three) and ginger.

4. Chop the white parts of the spring onions roughly and the green parts finely. Finely chop the chilli, seeds and all, peel and finely chop the garlic.

5. Prepare a large pot to easily hold all the mussels. Heat the oil in the pot over medium heat, add the white parts of the onions and cook for a minute until they start to soften. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for another minute. Add the spiced crème fraiche and cook for a minute again.

6. Turn the heat up to high so the sauce bubbles fiercely and immediately add the mussels. Cover the pan with a lid and cook for a few minutes stirring once or twice.

7. Turn the heat off when they start to open up and stir well to coat the mussels in the sauce. Sprinkle with the chopped green parts of onions and serve with crusty bread or fries.

Originally published: Wed, 25 October, 2017

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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