Steamed Mussels with White Wine, Lemon and Garlic

steamed mussels white wine lemon garlic

These bivalves are so easy to cook and they’re cheap! I mean inexpensive. You can find them at most grocery stores and since they’re harvested year round, they’re always in season. Steamed Mussels with White Wine, Lemon and Garlic sounds impressive but are a cinch to make!

Sometimes we cook up a batch and eat them for dinner. Just mussels and some bread to soak up the juice. But they’re an excellent appetizer too. Mussels are so easy to prepare and can be steamed without any extra liquid or seasoning. But adding some wine, garlic and onion gives them a little something extra. You don’t need any salt because the brine they release when steamed is already salty, just like fresh ocean water. It’s called liquor.

Did you know that 80% of mussels sold in North America are harvested in Prince Edward Island? Here’s a great source of information on how to buy mussels. They’re actually live so you need to take them out of the plastic bag when you get home so they can breathe. Keep them in the refrigerator covered with a damp towel if you aren’t going to cook them right away. Make sure to check the product tag for harvest and best before date. They can be stored for a few days but they’re always best fresh.

This recipe is for 1 kg of mussels which is the size of the mesh bag you buy at the seafood counter. 1 kg is about 2.2 pounds. In our house, that’s enough for 2 people for a main meal or 3 or 4 as an appetizer. Mussels have lots of nutritional value so you don’t have to feel guilty about eating so many.

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How to cook mussels

steamed mussels in white wine with garlic and onionHow to prepare mussels for cooking

When you’re ready to cook, give them a rinse and discard any mussels with cracked shells. If you find an open one, tap it lightly and if it closes, it’s fine.  If not, it’s probably dead so toss it.

steamed mussels white wine lemon garlic

Like this guy. He was definitely a goner.

You can pull off any beards you find, which are the very strong threads that mussels use to attach themselves to stuff in the ocean. They’re usually removed but sometimes you find a few strays.

mussel beards

You have to give them a good pull, sometimes it helps to wiggle them back and forth.

mussel beards

Use a deep pot or wide pan with a lid. Sauté some onion and garlic in butter. Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over top. Add white wine. Nothing too sweet. If you taste this you’ll think it’s too lemon/wine heavy, however once the mussels release their liquid it combines into a nice tasting dipping broth.

Now turn the burner to high, add the mussels and cover with a lid. You want them to steam for about 4-5 minutes. No peeking. If you’re cooking a very large amount of mussels you’ll need a few extra minutes of cooking time. But for this amount, once the steam is escaping from the pan and the mussels are open wide, they’re done. Overcooking shrinks the mussels and makes them chewy.


steamed mussels

Now give them a stir and top with fresh chopped parsley.


mussels in white wine lemon and garlic

Sometimes I take some of the onion and garlic out of the pan before steaming so I can add it on top with the parsley, which helps get some into the opening of the mussels.

You can just sit around the pan and chow down. No need for dishes. And, you can even use a mussel as a grabber. Instead of a fork. It’s kind of tricky if the mussel isn’t open enough but try it for fun.

If you find any that aren’t open, toss them. There’s some debate about whether you should or should not eat mussels that don’t open but just for safety sake, toss them.

Here’s some interesting  mussel farming information if you want to learn more about the PEI mussel industry.

steamed mussels white wine lemon garlic

Did you know males are cream coloured and females are coral? And, mussel meat is smaller in the summer months. See, you learned something!

Here’s the recipe:

Steamed Mussels with White Wine, Lemon and Garlic

Fresh steamed PEI mussels with a simple white wine broth for a meal or an appetizer.
Course Appetizer, Main Course, Seafood
Cuisine Canadian/American
Keyword mussels in white wine, steamed mussels
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 17 minutes


  • 1 kg fresh live mussels a little more than 2 pounds
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1/4 onion, minced
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • fresh chopped parsley


  • Rinse and drain mussels. Check for any cracked shells and discard. Also check to ensure all shells are tightly closed. Gently tap any that re open and discard if they don't close. Remove any beards by pulling strings back and forth until they release.
  • Finely mince garlic and onion. Saute in butter over medium heat until softened. Squeeze juice of half a lemon over top and add white wine.
  • Turn burner to high. Add mussels to pan and cover tightly with a lid. Steam for about 4-5 minutes without removing the lid. Check to see if mussels have opened wide. If not, steam another minute or so. Do not over cook.
  • Remove pan from heat. Stir well to combine juices and get bits of onion and garlic into the opening of the mussels.
  • Discard any mussels that have not opened.
  • Sprinkle fresh chopped parsley over top. Serve with crusty bread for dipping.
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4 thoughts on “Steamed Mussels with White Wine, Lemon and Garlic”

  1. Thank you Marci! We love mussels and will try this recipe soon. It’s similar to one that we use now. Keep up the good work. Sandy.

    1. Yes, it’s pretty much the most common way of cooking them. We once had them in PEI after a golf game, cooked in beer and montreal steak spice. They were awesome. I’ll probably make some that way and also going to try coconut curry.

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