Greek Fried Mussels
April 10, 2017 | Updated March 05, 2021
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You’ve heard of fried clams of course, as well as fried oysters. But what about fried mussels? Yep, they’re a thing, too.
Mostly you see fried mussels in the cuisines of the Philippines and the Mediterranean, but there is no real reason you couldn’t adapt this recipe, which is Greek, to other cuisines.
I came across this unusual recipe for fried mussels while reading Diane Kochilas’ excellent book The Glorious Foods of Greece: Traditional Recipes from the Islands, Cities, and Villages. Apparently fried mussels is a thing in Macedonia and Thrace.
They are not something I grew up with. Fried clams are my normal jam. But mussel gathering is easy here in Northern California, and hell, I like fried foods, so why not?
I am glad I tried this. Spicy without being picante, mussels dredged in garlicky skordalia sauce will give you an experience not unlike traditional fried clams in tartar sauce. Same mechanics, different flavors.
There are two ways you can go about getting your mussels out of the shells. You can shuck them raw, but I generally don’t like this method because unlike clams or oysters, mussel shells are thin and brittle. I find they break too often.
Better to steam them in a lidded frying pan, removing each mussel the moment it opens. Doing this keeps the mussels tender and is a lot less messy.
A word on the olive oil you fry the mussels in: It should be cheap, refined olive oil, which has a much higher smoke point than extra virgin. Use the extra virgin oil in the skordalia.
As for the spices, it’s your call. None, some or all of what I recommend. My mix comes from spices I see in Greek cooking, but is not anything “authentic” so far as I know. Whatever you choose to use, don’t put paprika in the mix: Frying it will make the paprika turn bitter.
Greek Fried Mussels
- 4 pounds mussels
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon ground fenugreek (optional)
- 1 tablespoon onion powder (optional)
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Cheap olive oil, for frying
- 5 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/2 cup pine nuts or walnuts, chopped
- 4 1-inch thick slices of bread, crusts removed
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Make the skordalia first. Dampen the bread with some water, then squeeze it dry. Tear it into pieces and put into a food processor. Add the garlic, salt and pine nuts and pulse a few times. Add the vinegar. Now, with the motor running, slowly pour in the olive oil until you get a mayonnaise-like paste. Set aside.
- Pour the white wine into a large, wide pan with a lid. Add the bay leaves and bring to a boil. Add the mussels in one layer and steam with the lid on. As each mussel opens, remove it to a plate. Keep doing this until all the mussels are open.
- Remove the mussels from the shells. Remove the wiry beards if they have them; store-bought mussels often don't. Heat enough cheap olive oil in a pot or fryer to be able to deep-fry the mussels. Heat to 350 degrees.
- Mix the flour with all the spices and dredge the mussels in it. Shake off the excess and fry in the hot oil until golden, about 2 or 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Serve alongside the skordalia.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Cheap, crispy & yummy! My whole family loves it . I think this crispy dish would perfect for rainy day .
Our wild mussels are small, it took a long while to gather/steam/shuck/bread and fry them all, but similar to what Hank said, I thought “why not? I like most fried things” and man oh man, you cannot go wrong with fried mussels. Fried clams are a regular favorite in my home, mussels outrank them now. The Skordalia sauce tasted Greek, but I felt like I wanted something with more zing to it. Overall this was a winner of a meal, I may prefer a horseradish cocktail sauce next time to dip them in, but the skordalia was pleasant and different..
Another great recipe and a new (to me) idea. I’m wondering if one could steam and shell the mussels a few hours ahead of time? Maybe steam, shell and refrigerate in the morning, then fry in the evening? Either way I’m going to give this a try. Thanks Hank!
are California coastal mussels safe to eat currently if gathered from the rocks?
i guess what i am trying to ask, is have there been any tests showing radiation or higher levels of heavy metals in them? i know mussels and other filter feeders have shown up very positive in testing for Cesium and Strontium in Japan…i realize there is very little testing here, and kelps have come up negative in these tests, but i’m aware Fukushima continues to leak…
Johanna: I have no idea, and don’t care. But what I do care about is the annual quarantine on mussels here in California that starts on April 22 or thereabouts. If you want to gather in California, you’d need to do it soon. This weekend is a good tide, as it happens. Be sure to call the CA Dept. of Health shellfish hotline before you go.