Mussels are one of the perfect "treat yourself" meals that requires zero real effort, and these coconut curry mussels are particularly delightful. The combination of sautéed aromatics, a punchy spice paste, and a finishing splash of coconut milk creates an incredibly flavorful and complex broth. And, since mussels cook so quickly, this luxurious treat is absolutely doable on the busiest of weeknights!
A pile of mussels, some crusty bread, lilting music, and a refreshing drink for sipping: YES you can have this on a Wednesday!
Maybe it's because I grew up in a landlocked state, but to kid-me a heaping mound of shellfish was only something you'd see gracing tables on vacation. Wine glasses in every hand, cheerful music, patio lights, and hopefully a beautiful view. Once I learned how to cook them, I realized that mussels are almost painfully pragmatic in both cost and efficiency. But that hasn't diminished their "fancy" and "fun" glow! You might already be on the mid-week mussel bandwagon, and if you're not... Allow me to convince you!
Steamed Mussels are fast, affordable, and endlessly adaptable!
Once you scrub and purge your mussels, you're only about 10 minutes away from dinner. Mussels only need to steam for about 5 minutes and it's easy to tell when they're done--they open! Now add on the fact that they're usually less than $5 per pound. If that isn't the perfect base for a weekday feast, I don't know what is.
My favorite way to prepare mussels is steaming them directly in a flavorful broth. Just some sautéed aromatics (think sofrito, mirepoix, Cajun holy trinity) and your stock of choice, and voilà! A flavorful steam bath for your mountain of shellfish. As the mussels steam, they will release their own liquor directly into the stock. This adds an extra layer of savoriness with no extra effort from you.
In this particular recipe, you'll use a red curry paste and water as the steaming liquid, along with sautéed onion, garlic, and bell pepper. You could use stock instead of water but, to be honest, you don't need it. Because curry pastes have so much flavor built-in, you can keep the other ingredients simple without sacrificing overall complexity.
You can use your favorite curry paste for these coconut curry mussels. I adore Homiah's red curry paste for a slightly milder and incredibly aromatic sauce. When you're in the mood for a bit more heat, try a spicier green curry paste (Mekhala makes my favorite). But don't limit yourself to products specifically labeled as "curry paste." Both of these brands make other fabulous spice pastes, from laksa paste to tom yum! Any one of them would make a delicious base!
*The above are non-affiliate links.
Don't forget: You need something carby to soak up the delicious coconut curry broth!
My go-to is a loaf of crusty bread. It's perfect for mopping and scooping, and all I have to do is slice it! If I have the patience (and time) I'll lightly broil or grill the bread, to give it a tiny bit of crunch and toasty flavor. The cooking process also makes it absorb the broth better. All the better for dunking!
If you're not in the mood to dunk and scoop, or if you are avoiding gluten, try piling the mussels on a bed of rice or pasta. Spooning up mouthfuls of rice soaked with the lightly coconutty broth is so comforting, regardless of whether you choose white or brown rice. Chewy, plump barley or farro would also be fantastic.
If you're leaning towards noodles, you'll have to choose between long and short. Short noodles, from orzo to penne to cavatappi, will all be much easier to navigate when topped with a mountain of coconut curry mussels. However, I have to confess that I am a sucker for a twirly bed of spaghetti or bucatini peeking out from under my shellfish. I also love the springy chew of rice noodles and glass noodles. Basically, you can't go wrong in your noodle choice! I like to drizzle some of the finished coconut curry broth directly on my pasta before topping with the mussels, to help everything infuse together.
If you're looking for more easy steamed mussel recipes, check out my DIY mussels in escabeche! Easy as can be, delicious, and much cheaper than buying fancy canned versions!
Notes for Success:
I've seen a lot of resources claim that if you are using farmed mussels (like PEI mussels, which are very common in grocery stores) you don't need to purge them before cooking. I purge anyway, because there's nothing worse than accidentally biting into a lingering bit of sand! As soon as you bring them home, fill a large bowl with cold, salted water (mussels can’t survive freshwater!). Let them soak in their saltwater for about 20 to 30 minutes, allowing them to take in clean water and flush out any remaining bits of grit and sand.
Give the recipe a try with clams, too. They are just as easy to cook and as easy to gobble up!
Recipe: Steamed Mussels in a Spicy Coconut Curry Broth
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
- ½ red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
- 3 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 3 to 4 tablespoons curry paste, depending on heat preference, See Notes
- ½ cup dry white vermouth or dry white wine
- 1½ to 2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
- ½ cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
- ¼ cup coconut milk
- Step 1In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onion and pepper have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring, until lightly browned and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the vermouth and ½ cup of water, and bring to a simmer. Cover and reduce to low. Simmer about 5 minutes to let the flavors develop.
- Step 2Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Add the mussels in an even layer, cover, and cook until the mussels just begin to open, about 3 to 5 minutes. Quickly give the mussels one solid stir, then re-cover and remove from the heat. Let the mussels continue to cook in the residual heat until the mussels are fully opened, another 3 to 5 minutes. When you remove the lid to stir the mussels, be speedy so you don't lose too much heat.
- Step 3Transfer the mussels to a serving bowl with a slotted spoon. Discard any mussels that did not open. Set the pot over medium-high and bring the liquid to a boil. Cook until reduced by about about half, roughly 5 minutes. Whisk in the coconut milk and about ⅔ of the cilantro. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then pour the warm broth over the mussels in the serving dish. Sprinkle with the remaining cilantro. Serve with bread.