How To Make Spicy Coconut Mussels: Best Recipe

Services 2 to 4 Mussels seem to be one of that seafood that people order at restaurants but never cook at home. But mussels are excellent for weeknight cooking: they are affordable and cook up in less than 30 minutes. Plus, they’re low in fat and a great source of protein and iron.
In this recipe, I make a rich sauce with the brine of the mussels and a spicy coconut milk mixture.

I use palm sugar to add a touch of sweetness and because it’s a traditional sweetener in Southeast Asian fare, but granulated sugar can be substituted. Serve these with something that will sop up all those wonderful juices; crusty bread, steamed rice, and rice vermicelli noodles are all great options.

Ingredients For Spicy Coconut Mussels:

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from about 1 lime)

1 teaspoon fish sauce

2 teaspoons palm sugar or granulated sugar

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 cup thinly sliced shallots (2 to 3 large shallots)

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

4 makrut lime leaves (see Note, this page), stemmed and finely shredded

1 fresh Thai chile, seeded and thinly sliced (or leave the seeds if you like the extra heat)

1 teaspoon sambal oelek (see Note, this page)

½ cup dry white wine

1 (13.5-ounce) can full-fat unsweetened coconut milk

3 pounds mussels, debearded and scrubbed

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

How To Make (Directions)

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, fish sauce, and palm sugar until the sugar has fully dissolved.
  2. In a saucepan that’s large enough to hold all the mussels, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the shallots and cook, stirring, until they are translucent and softened about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until it is soft and fragrant, 3 more minutes. Add the lime leaves, chile, and sambal oelek and cook, stirring, for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until the wine has reduced by half, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.
  3. Place a large bowl near the stove to collect the mussels as they cook. Add all the mussels to the pan, stirring to coat them with the sauce. Cover and let cook. After 2 minutes, check to see if any mussels have opened. Remove the mussels as they open and put them in the bowl. If your mussels aren’t in one layer in the pan, give them a stir. Continue covering the pan and checking every 30 seconds. Some mussels are more stubborn than others but discard any mussels that haven’t opened after 8 to 10 minutes. Divide the mussels among individual serving bowls.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and add the cilantro and the lime juice mixture to the cooking liquid. Stir well, then ladle the sauce over the mussels. Serve immediately.


Make sure to buy mussels from a reputable source and keep them on ice until you get home (if you ask, the fishmonger will give you a small bag of ice). They’re usually sold alive, so take good care of them. When you get home, take them out of their plastic bag and place them in a large bowl.

Cover them with wet paper towels or a damp dishcloth and refrigerate them until you’re ready to cook them.

When you are ready to cook them, give the mussels a good rinse and scrub if needed. If you see any beards, use your fingers to remove them. Discard any mussels that are chipped or that won’t close. If you find a couple that is open, tap them together and see if they close. If they don’t, discard them. Discard any mussels that smell fishy.