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What’s The Difference Between Black Mussels And Green Mussels?

Mussels are a great addition to many different types of dishes. Compared to many other kinds of seafood, they have a sweeter taste and have a mushroom-like texture so they can add a different flair to your cooking. 

Mussels are available in green and black varieties and are easy to buy at any store that stocks a range of seafood. But, what are the differences between them?

In this article, we will look at the differences and the similarities between green mussels and black mussels.

What's The Difference Between Black Mussels And Green Mussels?

What Are The Differences Between Black Mussels And Green Mussels?

Let’s begin by digging into the differences between the two types of mussels.


This is the most obvious difference and the easiest to see. The shells of green mussels are colored grey and green, whereas the shells of black mussels are dark and black. This makes it easy to see the difference between the two. 

However, color isn’t the only way that they differ so let’s look at some of the other differences.


The two types of mussels can also differ greatly in size. In fact, green mussels can grow to be over twice the size of black mussels.

Usually, black mussels don’t grow any larger than around two and a half inches in length, but green mussels can grow up to six inches.

This is another obvious physical difference and is easier to spot if you ever see the two types of mussels side by side.


Although green mussels and black mussels can be purchased in most seafood shops, their availability changes depending on where in the world you are.

In the United States, black mussels are the more common of the two. Black mussels prefer cooler waters so they are most commonly found in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and the East and West coasts of the US. 

Green mussels prefer warmer waters and are more commonly found off the coasts of South America and New Zealand. In these countries, green mussels are more available than black mussels.

This difference in location means that the availability and price of green and black mussels can differ greatly.


The size and different temperatures that the mussels grow in also have an effect on their texture. Green mussels have a chewier texture when eaten whereas black mussels are softer and more tender.


Possibly the most important distinction between the two is how they taste. There isn’t a great difference in their tastes as green mussels do taste basically the same as black mussels.

You might notice, however, that black mussels have a sweeter and more intense flavor than green mussels do. This means that you can easily substitute green mussels for black mussels and vice versa, in recipes without greatly affecting your dish.

Are Black And Green Mussels Healthy?

Like most types of seafood, black mussels and green mussels are healthy to eat. They’re both low in fat but are also high in protein, making them a great addition to your diet.

Protein is important for our bodies as it can help promote healthy muscles, nerves, skin, cartilage, and bones. Many people who regularly exercise or lift weights prioritize protein-rich foods because of the benefits they bring.

Are Black And Green Mussels Safe To Eat?

In general, yes they are. Mussels shouldn’t cause food poisoning or any issues unless they come from an area suffering from red tide.

A red tide phenomenon occurs when seawater becomes discolored due to toxic substances during the periodic algal blooms.

If you’re unsure whether any mussels are safe you should double-check the source of the mussels with the seafood store to see if they come from an area suffering from red tide.

Generally, seafood stores won’t stock mussels from these areas but you can always check yourself to be cautious. The National Ocean Service keeps track of areas of US waters that are affected by red tide.

How To Choose The Best Black And Green Mussels

How To Choose The Best Black And Green Mussels

When you go to a seafood store, you may be presented with a great number of mussels to choose from. You may even have multiple stores in your town or city that sell them.

If you want the best mussels then here are a few tips to help you choose the best ones.

Generally, live mussels are the best option. Fresh mussels taste better than ones that were harvested earlier and will make your seafood dishes taste their best.

Look for mussels that have shiny and moist shells too, as this is a sign that they are fresher and will taste better. The shells should also be closed. If they are open, give them a tap and see if they close up.

If they don’t close and instead stay open, don’t buy them. You should expect your mussels to smell like the ocean but they shouldn’t smell rotten or off.

Wild mussels will have beards, which are also known as byssuses. These beards are how wild mussels use to cling to surfaces and they should be cut off before cooking. Cultured mussels don’t have these beards as they don’t need to cling to anything.

When To Use Black And Green Mussels

Black and green mussels can be eaten anytime and are especially satisfying whenever you are craving seafood. In many cases, they can be used in place of oysters and clams if your recipe calls for these but you don’t have any available. 

Many recipes suggest eating oysters and clams raw, but mussels are generally cooked before they are eaten. Mussels can be eaten raw, but make sure they are placed in an acid marinade first.

How To Prepare And Cook Black Or Green Mussels

As with most types of seafood, make sure you give your black mussels or green mussels a good wash before you cook them. As we stated earlier if you have wild mussels cut or pull off the beard before cooking, too. 

Seafood dishes that use mussels can be served as appetizers, snacks, or as part of the main course. This makes them very versatile and gives you a wide range of options when cooking them.

One of the most common ways to cook black or green mussels is by steaming them. 

How To Steam Mussels

Steaming mussels is easy to do and only takes about 30 minutes. Follow this simple step-by-step guide and you’ll have a delicious meal in no time.

Begin by heating oil over a medium heat in a pot. Chop some garlic, onions, and ginger and add them to the oil to sauté them. Chop some tomatoes and add these to your pot.

Wait until the tomatoes begin to release their juices and then add your mussels. You can use either black or green mussels. 

Steam your ingredients for around five minutes. You can add salt, pepper, and fish sauce for additional seasoning if you wish. 

What To Serve With Black Or Green Mussels

There are many other ingredients that match perfectly with mussels. In our steamed mussels recipe we added tomatoes, garlic, onion, and ginger. You can also cook mussels in butter or add cheese, lemon, or fresh herbs.

If you’re serving mussels at a dinner party or just fancy a glass of wine with your meal, there are some options that pair well with mussels. White wines are usually the best option and you should select a Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, or similar wine.

How To Make Cheesy Baked Mussels

One of our favorite recipes using either black or green mussels is this cheesy dish that can be served as either an appetizer or a snack.

You will need to preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and then remove the top shells from the mussels. You may be able to pry them off but usually, you will need to cut them.

Place the mussels onto a baking sheet. You can line the sheet with either parchment paper or aluminum foil to make cleanup easier and prevent sticking.

Mince some garlic and sauté it in some melted butter. If you like garlic, don’t be afraid to use a generous amount! Once sautéd, spoon a little of this buttered garlic onto each mussel.

Add some grated cheese and then bake your mussels for around 15 minutes.

Can You Store Black Or Green Mussels In The Freezer?

After buying your mussels fresh, it is possible to freeze them. We wouldn’t recommend freezing them for more than two days, however. As mussels are such a versatile type of seafood you should find plenty of ways to use them within two days.

Ideally, mussels should be eaten fresh. Try to cook and consume them as soon as you buy them as this is when they are at their best and most flavorsome.

Final Thoughts

Black mussels and green mussels are very similar and can be used interchangeably in recipes. They differ in color and size, however, and do have slightly different textures and tastes. 

Both varieties are best eaten fresh and it’s best to purchase live mussels if you can.

There are a wide number of different dishes you can make with black or green mussels and they can even be substituted for clams and oysters in some recipes. Mussels shouldn’t be frozen for more than two days and are best consumed fresh.

We hope that this article has answered all of your questions about black mussels and green mussels and that you are able to cook many delicious dishes with them.

Jess Smith