The most important etiquette rules on how to serve and eat mussels. Tips to be the ideal host or the perfect guest at the dining table.


What mussels etiquette is

Mussels etiquette is the set of rules to properly serve and eat mussels. Such rules help avoid behaviors that can disrespect your hosts or guests, or make you look unpolite.

If you are hosting, follow mussels etiquette to serve them to your guests appropriately.

If you are a guest, respect mussels etiquette rules to properly eat and enjoy them.

What you should know about mussels

Mussels are mollusk and shellfish. Their shell is normally of dark color. Their flesh is light orange in color.

How To Serve And Eat Mussels: The Top 6 Etiquette rules

Etiquette rules to serve and eat mussels

1) How to store mussels

It is best to eat mussels right away. 

You can store fresh or cooked mussels in your fridge for up to 2 to 3 days. Place them under a damp cloth, or cover them with paper towels or in a newspaper. Do not place mussels in a plastic bag, in a sealed container, or in water.

Alternatively, you can store fresh or cooked mussels in the freezer. They can last for up to 2-3 months. 

2) How to clean mussels

Do not soak mussels in water, as it will kill them. 

Wash the mussels under cool running water. Scrub mussels with a brush to remove the hairy beard from the shell. 

3) How to cook mussels

Make sure that mussels are fresh. They should be closed. Their smell should be fresh and not fishy. Discard mussels that are partially open or that have a strong smell. 

There are several ways to cook mussels. Steaming is the most popular. Boil, fry, pan-roast, bake, or grill.

Cook mussels thoroughly to avoid food poisoning. Mussels open when they are well-cooked. 

Mussels are among the most common food allergens. They are not kosher, thus they are one of the Jewish dietary restrictions. Before you include mussels in your menu, ask your guests if they have any restrictions.

4) How to serve & present mussels

Serve mussels with the shell slightly open. 

You can serve mussels on a serving dish or in individual dishes. It is best to avoid shallow plates.

Provide your guests with an additional small plate to discard the shells. Present a small bowl of water and lemon to wash the fingers.

5) Foods and beverages to pair mussels with

Mussels pair well with lemon, garlic bread, french fries, pasta, and rice. Avoid pairing them with meat or dairy products.

Pair mussels with beer or white wine. Chardonnay, Chablis, Pinot Grigio, or Sauvignon Blanc. Avoid pairing them with red wine.

6) How to eat mussels

Pick a mussel with your hands. Wide the opening of the shell with your fingers. Extract the mussel using a fork. If mussels are served with a sauce, you can eat them with a spoon too. 

Place the empty shells in a spare plate or bowl, which is usually available. Otherwise, discard them on one side of your plate. Clean your fingers in a finger bowl with water and lemon juice. 

mussels etiquette mistakes

Mussels etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst mussels etiquette mistakes. 

  • 9/10. Serving spoiled mussels.
  • 7/10. Serving mussels without a finger bowl.
  • 7/10. Pairing mussels with meat.
  • 6/10. Pairing mussels with red wine.
  • 4/10. Serving mussels without a plate to discard the shells.

Additional information for properly serving mussels

How many calories per serving?

Counting calories is important to stay healthy and to correctly plan a menu.

Mussels contain 172 calories per 100 grams. An individual serving is usually about 500 grams (1 pound) per person. It contains 860 calories.

How to buy the best mussels

A crucial factor in mussels etiquette is to serve the best product possible to your guests.

Season and availability 

The season for mussels depends on the region. Usually, the peak season for fresh mussels is October to April.

Choose the best

Buy mussels that are tightly closed. Avoid those with a damaged shell.

Alternatives to mussels

Substitute mussels with other clams, such as cockles or abalone.


What are the best months to eat mussels? The best months to eat mussels are between October and April. However, the season depends on the region.

How many mussels do you need per person? The typical individual serving is around 500 grams (1 pound) per person.

What red wine goes with mussels? It is best to avoid red wine with mussels. 

What can I do with leftover steamed mussels? You can store them in your fridge for up to 2-3 days. Use them in pasta, paella, or rice recipes.