When you need an elegant appetizer, these steamed beer mussels with chorizo and tomatoes are your perfect starter course. You'll just love how the light, delicate mussels get a kick of heat from the spicy chorizo-tomato sauce and are finished with fresh lime juice and cilantro for a burst of bright flavor. Plus, these mussels come together in just 30 minutes of hands-on cooking time in one pot, and they're so much easier to prepare than you might think.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
Impressive yet simple: Your first time cooking mussels may seem intimidating, but I promise they’re actually simple. I suspect that’s because people assume cleaning them is hard work, but these days, a lot of seafood counters handle most of the preparation. You’ll look like a renowned chef when you set these mussels down with that delicious sauce, but no one has to know how easy they were to whip up.
The chorizo’s extra heartiness and flavor: Mussels are wonderful on their own, but the chorizo really puts this dish over the top. And for those nights when everyone is especially hungry, that extra chorizo for snacking sure is appreciated.
Perfect for bread dipping: Oh, boy — that sauce! I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love dunking warm, crusty bread into a steaming bowl of flavorful broth. Your guests will want to sop up every ounce. Are you the best host or hostess or what?
Related: For more elegant appetizer ideas, you'll also love these truffle deviled eggs.
Mussels: We want live, fresh mussels for this recipe, not frozen mussels. Look for closed mussels with damp, shiny shells and no cracks. The mussels should be stored on ice and smell briny, like a nice ocean breeze, and not overly fishy.
Pilsner: This is a pale lager, which features a light, crisp finish with a nice balance of malt and hops. We don’t want a beer that’s overly hoppy, like an IPA. I'd even stay away from a pale ale.
Hops accentuate spice, so if we go too hoppy, the sauce can end up overwhelming the mussels. If you don’t have a pilsner, a blonde ale would work nicely.
Chorizo: We’re looking for fresh chorizo, not the dried Spanish-style chorizo you would see on a charcuterie board. You can find this type of chorizo by the other ground sausages in the grocery store.
Stock: This recipe calls for chicken stock. I’ve tested this recipe with both chicken and seafood stock and was surprised that the chicken stock won — it added a nice richness that I enjoyed with the chorizo. That said, I have a fabulous seafood stock recipe if you prefer to use that.
Spices: We use a combination of cumin, oregano, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper — all spices you likely have on hand.
Clean the Mussels
Step 1: Before we start cooking, we need to clean the mussels. To clean the mussels, we simply rinse them well with cold water (photo 1). If you see any debris on the shells, go ahead and scrub that off.
You may have heard about debearding mussels. Mussels naturally come with a little black beard in between the two shells.
These days, most seafood counters already debeard the mussels, so you shouldn’t have to worry about this step. However, if you notice any beards that may have slipped by, pinch the beard with your fingers and pull it off.
Cook the Chorizo and Tomato Sauce
Step 2: After cleaning the mussels, we cook our chorizo and onion in hot olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. While cooking, we use a sturdy spoon to break up the chorizo into bite-size chunks (photo 2).
Step 3: Now we stir in the tomato paste, cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, cayenne and garlic and cook the mixture for about two minutes (photo 3).
Step 4: From here, we pour in the pilsner, diced tomatoes and chicken stock and stir to combine (photo 4). We use this beer broth to steam the mussels.
Steam the Mussels
Step 5: For our next step, we turn the stove to medium-high heat, add the cleaned mussels and cover the pot for two minutes. At the two-minute mark, we stir the mussels and check to make sure the beer mixture is simmering and not boiling (photo 5).
We cover the pot again and let the mussels finish cooking, about three minutes. When the mussels open, they’re ready.
Step 6: As our finishing touch, we turn off the heat and stir in fresh lime juice, cilantro and butter for a bit of decadence (photo 6).
Now we pour the open mussels, chorizo and tomato sauce into a large serving bowl. All that’s left is to grab some crusty bread, a seat on the patio and enjoy with good company by our side. Sounds like a great time, huh?
Storing, Freezing and Reheating Leftovers
While I believe steamed mussels are best eaten fresh, you can store leftovers. Here’s the rundown.
- Remove the mussels from their shells, allow them to cool and then refrigerate in an airtight container immediately.
- Don’t let the mussels sit out for more than an hour or two before refrigerating.
- The mussels should last three to four days in the refrigerator.
- To freeze, keep the mussels in a freezer-safe container for up to two months and place them in the refrigerator overnight to thaw.
- When you’re ready to reheat your mussels, gently warm them in broth on the stove. Do not microwave them or you’ll have rubbery mussels. You don’t want that.
Store the mussels in a bowl with a damp cloth on top and keep them in the refrigerator. While I prefer to cook the mussels the same day I buy them, they should last for up to two days.
You’ll notice the mussels will come in a mesh bag. Do not move them to an airtight container or keep them in water. They need to breathe.
No, soaking mussels in fresh water can kill them, and we need them alive for safe consumption. The old-school thought was that soaking mussels helped remove their impurities, but these days, most mussels on the market are farm raised and stored in tanks before making it to the store. That means farm-raised mussels are much cleaner than wild mussels, so a good rinse with cool water and maybe some light scrubbing is really all you should need.
Plan to serve ½ pound of mussels per person for an appetizer or 1 pound per person as a main course. This recipe calls for 2 pounds of mussels, which is great for a four-person appetizer or two-person dinner.
Variations and Substitutions
For some more serving ideas and recipe tweaks, here are a few ways you can put your own touch on this dish.
- Substitute chorizo for another ground sausage, such as a spicy Italian sausage.
- Use a dry white wine instead of beer — I recommend a chenin blanc, pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc.
- Add some creaminess to the sauce with heavy cream or even coconut milk after steaming the mussels.
- Swap mussels for clams. Keep in mind, clams generally take longer to steam.
- Serve on a bed of al dente pasta and make it a meal.
- Lemon juice works in place in lime juice.
- If you're not a cilantro fan, substitute fresh parsley.
Toss opened mussels before cooking and closed mussels after cooking: This is a food safety issue. Sometimes mussels will open as you rinse them before cooking. In that case, tap the mussel on the countertop a few times. If it closes, you can cook it, but if it stays open, discard it.
Don’t skip cleaning: This ensures we don’t get any gritty bits in our wonderful sauce.
Don’t overcook the mussels: Keep the liquid to a simmer, not a boil. Overcooking shellfish can make them tough and dry.
Use a wide pan: You want to give the mussels some space and avoid overcrowding the pan. This allows the mussels to cook more evenly. I like to use a large Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid.
Serve with an empty bowl: As everyone chows down, they can discard the empty shells into the bowl.
I always love drinking the same beer I use in the recipe, and I truly can't think of a better match than a pilsner with these beer mussels. With each sip, the pilsner wipes your palate clean, and you’ll be ready for another spicy bite.
Despite cooking with beer, if you still want a glass of wine with these mussels, I recommend a dry chenin blanc. The high acidity matches well with the tomatoes, and it has a similar cleansing power as the pilsner. The minerality also complements the mussels nicely.
When you need an elegant yet simple appetizer, it doesn’t get more perfect than these steamed beer mussels with chorizo and tomatoes. And don’t forget the bread.
Enjoy More Elegant Appetizers
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Steamed Beer Mussels With Chorizo
- Colander or fine-mesh sieve
- Large pot with tight-fitting lid
- 2 pounds fresh, live mussels
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ yellow onion chopped
- 1 pound ground chorizo
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 3 garlic cloves grated or minced
- 12 ounces pilsner
- 1 (14-ounce) can of diced tomatoes
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 lime juiced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Crusty bread for serving
- Rinse mussels with cold water in a colander until the grit washes away. If any mussels are open, tap them on counter. If they don’t close, throw them away. That's a sign that they're no longer alive. Discard any cracked mussels as well.
- Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add chorizo and onions and cook until chorizo is well-browned and onions soften, about eight to 10 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to break up chorizo while it cooks.
- Add tomato paste, cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, cayenne and garlic and stir frequently for two minutes.
- Pour in the pilsner, diced tomatoes and chicken stock and stir to combine.
- Increase heat to medium-high, add mussels and cover for two minutes. Uncover and give the mussels a stir. The mixture should be simmering, not boiling. If it's boiling, turn down the heat. Cover the mussels again and steam for another three minutes. Mussels are done when they open. Discard any mussels that do not open.
- Once mussels are done, turn off heat and stir in lime juice, fresh cilantro and butter. Garnish with additional cilantro if desired and serve immediately with crusty bread for dipping. Place an empty bowl on the table for people to discard shells. Enjoy!
- When shopping for mussels, look for closed mussels with damp, shiny shells and no cracks. The mussels should be stored on ice and smell briny, like a nice ocean breeze, and not overly fishy.
- Store the mussels in a bowl with a damp cloth on top and keep them in the refrigerator. While I prefer to cook the mussels the same day I buy them, they should last for up to two days.
- You’ll notice the mussels will come in a mesh bag. Do not move them to an airtight container or keep them in water. They need to breathe.
- Most mussels are already debearded, but check for any beards that your fish monger may have missed. If you see any little beards on the shell, you can pull it off with your fingers.
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.