Coconut Curry Mussels

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Looking for a mussels recipe with Wow factor? This is it. Fresh mussels cooked in and served with a spicy coconut curry broth.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

When Garrett McCord told me he had the best mussels recipe in the world I was skeptical, that is until I tried it. Yikes this is good! ~Elise

When I need a good party food or want to impress some friends I usually turn to mussels cooked in coconut milk and curry. It’s affordable, easy to prepare, and has a definite wow factor.

These mussels take on the flavors of the broth which is spiked with lemongrass, pungent red chilies, and kaffir lime leaves leaving them with a distinct Thai flavor.

Coconut Curry Mussels

The mussels themselves infuse the broth with a light salty brine that cuts through the richness of the coconut milk. This recipe will feed four people happily or make an excellent appetizer for a group.

Serve with beer and crusty bread.

Coconut Curry Mussels Recipe

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  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs of mussels, cleaned and debearded
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 thai chili, finely chopped (can substitute good pinch of chili flakes)
  • 3 teaspoons of ginger, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of curry powder
  • 1/2 cup of chicken broth
  • 1 can of coconut milk (13.5 fl. oz.)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass, chopped into four pieces and smashed
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves* (optional)
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Lime wedges

*Kaffir lime leaf: a key ingredient in Vietnamese, Thai, and Hmong cuisine; can be found in Asian Markets, though many markets now carry them in the produce aisles with other fresh herbs. The taste is very distinct and can't be substituted. However, you can make this dish without the leaves and the mussels will still taste great.

Method

1 Soak raw mussels in cold water, then de-beard: Place mussels in a bowl of cold water so the mussels will spit out any sand or mud. Let them sit for 10 minutes. Drain and repeat. Toss any mussels that are open as these are dead.

Debeard the mussels, pulling out their byssal threads (aka: their "beards") and place them in a bowl of cold water until ready to use.

2 Sauté onions, chiles, ginger, curry powder: Heat the oil in a pot (large enough to hold all of the mussels) on medium high heat and add the onion and stir for a few minutes until they become soft and slightly translucent.

Add the chilies, ginger, and curry powder and stir for a minute until fragrant.

3 Add broth and reduce, then add coconut milk, salt, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves: Add the chicken broth and reduce half. Add the coconut milk, salt, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves if using and bring to a boil.

4 Add mussels: Drain and add the mussels, reduce heat to medium and cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook for 6-7 minutes until the mussels open.

Discard any that are closed as these were dead before cooking. (Some may only be slightly open, if you have to debate on whether it's good to eat or not, toss it.)

Spoon mussels into bowls and pour over with broth. Garnish with chopped cilantro and juice from lime wedges.

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Garrett McCord

Garrett McCord is a professional writer and recipe developer whose work has appeared in many print and online publications such as Gourmet Live, Saveur, Huffington Post, Smithsonian, and NPR. Past clients also include numerous food companies, wineries, and distilleries. Garrett writes about cocktails on his website, Coupe de Grace.

More from Garrett

Showing 4 of 19 Comments

  • steve

    Hi Elise,
    I have made this recipe a couple of times and everyone raves but I don’t understand one section of your directions. After adding the coconut milk and bringing to a boil you say “drain then add mussels” if I drain what am I adding the mussels to. I have always skipped this process but could you explain to me what I am possibly misunderstanding.
    Thx

  • Nyna

    For anyone looking over the comments about curry, wet Thai paste curry versus the standard U.S. powder curry (such as Spice Islands brand): the two types of curry would make completely different taste profiles. I suggest you start with the powdered curry, which will give you a sweeter dish (which I would prefer with mussels) and then give the paste a try. I would suggest a red curry paste for this dish. So with Garrett’s recipe, you actually get two for the price of one! (If you try yellow, green, panang curries, you can multiply it further.) All of them will be wonderful.

  • Maggi

    Unfortunately, Kaffir Lime Leaves are not ubiquitous in our part of the US (why, I have no idea) but I suppose one could substitute about 1/2 tablespoon of green curry paste for the lemongrass, lime leaves, Thai chili, ginger and curry powder, right?

    Indeed, Maggie. That would be a great substitute. Just so you know though, lemongrass is easy to grow at home. I started a bush from a single stalk I got at the market and now I always have a fresh supply. (It’s a wild grass so keep it in a big pot like you would mint.) ~Garrett

  • mantha

    Oh, those flavors! Beautiful idea about growing lemongrass, too. Could you use galangal with, or instead of, the ginger? Little more exotic taste, but very similar — not sure how it would be with shellfish.

    About thai chilis — if they’re like the ones I used to grow, you really do need only one (and maybe using gloves while mincing it isn’t a bad idea). People who like it hotter can add more to their own serving.

    You can use galangal if you so choose. ~Garrett

  • Joanne

    Fantastic recipe! Mussels are definitely one of my top favorite foods – so inexpensive and are so versatile (quick cooking too!). Plus, anything you need to dip bread into is a winner in my book!

    Thanks!!

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