This article was updated on 20/07/2023 for clarity and to incorporate new insights.
If you’ve ever ended up with leftover mussels, you’ll know they’re not easy to reheat. All too often, they lose their flavor and become chewy and rubbery (or dry). Yuk!
Not wanting to risk disappointing next-day mussels, I decided to experiment with five different reheating techniques.
Want the quick answer?
The best way to reheat mussels is in broth or a sauce. Heat your broth or sauce slowly in a saucepan and once it’s piping hot, remove it from the heat and add the mussels. Let the mussels warm for a 1-2 minutes before eating. You can also steam the mussels or pan fry them if you don’t have any leftover sauce.
A note on my experiment
Last night I made my favorite mussels-in-broth dish for dinner. I had some leftovers, which I decided to store overnight in the fridge.
The following day, I tried out five different techniques for reheating my mussels. I tested:
- In broth: My favorite method.
- By steaming: Also a good method.
- Microwaving: Okay, but can easily go wrong.
- Sautéing: Delicious on toast.
The trick to reheating mussels is not to overcook them and to reintroduce moisture. You don’t want to dry them out and turn them tough.
See Also: How To Reheat Clams
How to reheat mussels in broth
Time: 5 minutes
- Separate the mussels from any sauce and de-shell them.
- Reheat the other components of your dish gently on the stove or in the microwave i.e. your broth, soup, sauce (or even pasta).
- Once your dish is piping hot, remove it from the heat source and gently stir the mussels back in.
- Let your mussels sit in the hot dish for 2-3 minutes, stirring gently every 30 seconds.
- Serve immediately.
The residual heat from the broth will warm your mussels without overcooking them or ruining their delicate texture. I always wait 10 seconds before adding the mussels back into the hot liquid. Just to make sure the mussels don’t start cooking.
I highly recommend de-shelling your mussels before reheating them this way. The mussels’ shells will slow down the heat transfer (unless you have a lot of broth and can completely cover the mussels).
Psst… if you don’t have any leftover broth you can always use stock or water flavored with herbs and spices.
Results: I thought this was the best and most effective way to reheat mussels. My mussels were soft, tender, and packed with with flavor.
How to reheat mussels by steaming
Time: 1-2 minutes
- Set up a steamer and boil some water or stock. You can also use water flavored with lemon juice, herbs, and spices.
- De-shell your mussels (optional).
- Spread your mussels out in the steamer basket and steam for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Serve immediately.
This method doesn’t use direct heat, so it’s a gentle way to warm mussels without recooking them. However, you need to be mindful of not steaming them for too long or they’ll turn rubbery.
I reheated my mussels out of their shells, because this meant I could easily tell how hot they were. You can keep the mussels in their shells though if you prefer.
Pro tip: if you don’t have a steamer on hand, you can improvise with a saucepan and a sieve.
Results: This method is excellent if you don’t plan on using a leftover base like broth or soup. The mussels had a nice texture and were still juicy, but they didn’t have as much flavor as the ones submerged in broth.
How to reheat mussels on the stovetop
Time: 3-4 minutes
- De-shell your mussels.
- Heat some butter or oil in a pan on medium heat. Fry some garlic and finely chopped onions or shallots until glossy.
- Add the mussels along with a pinch of salt and pepper, and a spoonful of lemon juice (or stock).
- Heat the mussels in the pan for 30-60 seconds, stirring frequently. Add fresh parsley if you have any right at the end.
- Serve the mussels on a slice of toast.
If you have the extra ingredients to hand, this reheating method produces absolutely delicious mussels. The butter and the flavor from the garlic soak into the mussels and make them irresistible.
Make sure you keep the heat relatively low so you don’t overcook the mussels, and I always make sure the pan has some moisture in it (either butter or water). If the pan goes dry the mussels can burn quickly.
Pro tip: coat your mussels in cornstarch before frying them to get a crispy outside. And to get them EXTRA crispy, consider using more oil and deep frying the mussels.
Results: The mussels tasted amazing, but you’ll need extra ingredients to really make the most of this reheating method. Without the garlic the mussels would be a little bland.
How to reheat mussels in the microwave
Time: 30 seconds
- Place some broth or stock in a microwave-safe bowl and stir in your mussels. Make sure the mussels are fully submerged.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp paper towel.
- Warm your mussels in ten-second increments, stirring during the breaks. One portion should take around 30 seconds to reheat.
This is a direct heating method that can be quite harsh on your mussels. But if you go slowly and check the mussels often, you can get good results.
You can leave your mussels in their shells for this method, but make sure you have enough liquid to cover all the meat. Any uncovered mussels will get very dry and rubbery! If you don’t have leftover broth, you can use water but make sure to add some flavor. You can go for stock, lemon juice, herbs, or even a splash of soy sauce.
Results: This method was quick and convenient, but it’s very easy to overcook your mussels with this method and they can end up chewy.
How to store cooked mussels
Cool your mussels to room temperature and de-shell them. Place the mussel meat in an airtight container, covered with a layer of broth. Seal the container and place it in the fridge for 2 to 3 days. You can also freeze the mussels following these same steps.
Never let the mussels stand out for more than two hours, because they’re at high risk of developing bacteria.
How to freeze cooked mussels
To freeze cooked mussels, place them in an airtight container covered with their cooking broth. Make sure the container is properly sealed and put them in the freezer for up to three months.
Storing mussels in their broth helps retains moisture and, therefore, some of their signature texture. The broth also keeps them safe from freezer burn. If you don’t have any broth to freeze the mussels in, you can use stock. I don’t recommend freezing them dry because they’ll get mushy when you thaw them.
To thaw frozen mussels, remove them from the freezer and place them in the fridge to defrost. Once thawed, try not to leave them in liquid for too long or they’ll get soggy.
Pro tip: to get the most out of your frozen mussels, consider adding them to a new dish when you reheat them like pasta. This will mask any degradation in the flavor or texture.
How To Reheat Mussels [Tested]
- 1 portion mussels shelled
- 1 portion broth
- The best way to gently reheat mussels is to first warm up the other component of your dish. I used broth, but you can also use rice, soup, or pasta sauce.
- Reheat the other component of your dish, i.e. your broth, soup, pasta sauce, or rice.
- Once boiling (broth/soup), simmering (pasta sauce), or thoroughly warm (rice), remove from heat.
- Stir in your shelled mussels to reheat them evenly.
- Serve immediately for best results.