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How Do You Eat Mussels? (The Right Way)

If you’ve never eaten mussels before, then it can seem like a daunting challenge. Mussels are often served in a shell, and it is not immediately obvious how one should eat them. 

Moreover, given there are a couple of different methods, it may leave you uncertain as to why certain methods are classier. No one wants to sit around a table and feel uncomfortable, so learning about mussels, and how to eat them with confidence, is crucial. 

How Do You Eat Mussels

What Are Mussels? 

First, let’s discuss what mussels actually are. 

Mussels are a type of shellfish, and they are part of the family named bivalve mollusk. This means that they have a hinged, two-part shell, that shields the inner soft-bodied invertebrate. It is this, soft inner meat, that is consumed.

The shell itself is oval-shaped and is usually a dark color, but color can change depending on the species of mussel. 

What Do Mussels Taste Like? 

Mussels have a fairly unique taste and texture. They have what can be considered an ‘oceanic’ taste, which means they have undertones of the seawater. They are also slightly sweet, and have other undertones similar to a mushroom.

If your mussels taste fishy, or overly salty, it is a sign that they are no longer fresh and are unsafe to eat. 

When it comes to the texture of mussels, you can expect them to be slightly chewy. They should be firm, but still delicate. If they are overcooked, they will taste rubbery, and overly chewy. 

So, now that we have a basic understanding of mussels, let’s dive into how to eat mussels. 

How To Eat Mussels Like The French 

Mussels are a huge part of French cuisine, and as a result, many people prefer to eat mussels the French way. In some cases, it can be considered classier, but it depends on the location and the setting. 

There are two different types of methods commonly used in France, but follow these methods at your own discretion. You should be aware of how your company chooses to eat mussels, as it may not be suitable for all occasions. 

Method #1 

This first methods require you to eat mussels with your hands, and use the shell of a mussel to scoop out, and consume, the other mussels. 

  1. Ensure that you have a spare bowl, or plate to discard any shell remains. 
  2. Find a good-sized mussel to eat. With your fingers, pull out the meat. You can use a fork for this step, if you prefer. 
  3. You should now have an empty shell, which you can use as a clamp, but it is also referred to as pincers. 
  4. With one hand, select a mussel to eat, and with your other hand, use the clamp to pull out the mussel meat. You will use this clamp in replace of a fork, or a spoon, to eat the mussel. 
  5. You can use the clamp to consume any broth, if broth is a part of the meal. Likewise, if you would prefer to use a spoon to eat the mussel and broth together, that is acceptable. 
  6. If you are dealing with a pasta dish, follow the same method, but use a fork to eat the mussel and pasta together. 
  7. Continue with this method until all the mussels are eaten. 
  8. Wash your hands after you have finished eating. 

Method #2

Not all French people like to use the pincer method. There is another method that is commonly used, which involves using your teeth, instead of a shell. 

  1. Select a mussel to eat. 
  2. Open the mussel with your fingers. Then, bring the mussel to your mouth. 
  3. To pull the mussel meat out, use your teeth. 
  4. Continue the same pattern, and wash your hands when you are finished eating. 

So, they are two very different methods of eating mussels, but they are not the only methods. Some do not like eating mussels with their hands, as they find it too messy. In that case, try the below methods. 

How To Eat Mussels With A Fork 

If eating a mussel with shells does not sound appealing to you, you can also eat mussels with a fork. 

Method #3

  1. Select a muscle to eat, and open up the shell. Hold the mussel in your dominant hand for security. 
  2. Next, you will need to grab your fork, with your free hand. Pry the meat from the shell. In some cases, the meat might feel stuck to the shell. Just scrape the bottom of the shell to loosen the meat. 
  3. Slowly remove the meat from the shell, being careful not to drop it. Bring the mussel to your mouth, and eat. 
  4. Be sure to discard any of the shells. Ideally, you should have a separate plate, or bowl. If you do not, use one corner of your plate. 
  5. You should wash your hands after eating, and will usually be brought a rinse bowl. 

What About Mussels in Pasta and Broths? 

You might be wondering how to eat the mussel if you have a pasta, or broth dish. 

We already mentioned that if you choose the French method, it is perfectly fine to eat the mussel with a fork, along with the strands of pasta. Likewise, you can either use the shell of a mussel, or a spoon, to drink the broth. 

When it comes to eating pasta dishes with a fork, you will follow the same actions required as stated in method #3. All you need to do is remove the mussel from the shell, discard the shell, consume the mussel with the pasta, or eat the mussel by itself. 

Likewise, when it comes to broths, it is perfectly acceptable to use a fork to remove the mussel, and then a spoon to drink the broth. If you prefer to use a spoon to remove the mussel, it is acceptable to do so, but is not the strongest etiquette.

It also may be more difficult to remove the mussel with a spoon, depending on the variety of mussel, and how the mussel has been cooked. 


What Different Varieties of Mussels Are There?

You may be wondering if there are different varieties of mussels, and if so, what the differences between them are. 

There are different varieties of mussels, and we will discuss three varieties of mussels, as these are the most commonly found and sourced mussels. 

Mediterranean Mussels

Mediterranean mussels are very common. They are usually harvested during the summer months and the fall months. They tend to have wide shells, wider than most varieties, and are typically meatier. This is one reason why they are so popular, as they tend to be larger. 

Green Lip Mussels

Green lip mussels are quite elusive. They are not sold everywhere, because they are not as commonly found. Green lip mussels are grown in New Zealand, which means they must be imported. This makes them more expensive, and adds to their elusive nature. 

As you can imagine, these mussels are green – opposed to the common blue-black shade of mussels. They are also quite large, and have a rather oceanic flavor.  

Blue Mussels 

Blue mussels are one of the most commonly found and consumed mussels. 

You may be interested to know that while these mussels are much smaller than the Mediterranean mussel, and the green lip mussel, they are far more expensive. This is because they have a huge flavor profile, which means that they simply taste better than other varieties.


So, if you did not know how to eat mussels before you read this article, it’s safe to say that you can now call yourself a connoisseur of mussels. Mussels are fantastic creatures, which are both admired for their uniqueness, and enjoyed in many cultures for their taste. 


Jess Smith