Mussels in Escabeche

Our entire family loves Mexican food. I’m not sure if the cause is our proximity to the Mission District in San Francisco, but the effect is that we include tacos in our meal plan nearly every week; we frequently cook up a batch of frijoles borrachos (“drunken beans”) to make bean and cheese burritos for our sons’ school lunches; and we own two outstanding Mexican cookbooks. Our newest cookbook, Tu Casa Mi Casa: Mexican Recipes for the Home Cook by Enrique Olvera, was my Mother’s Day gift. My boys know me so well!

This recipe marks our first time preparing mussels at home, and it was a delicious venture. The mussels are cooked simply, and their briny, creamy consistency enables the spicy pickled veggies to really pop. This recipe is meant to be a starter or side dish; we used it as our main with a variety of roasted veggies on the side.

Mussels in Escabeche

Briny and sweet mussels bathe luxuriously in this spicy escabeche (a style of quick pickling) with smoked paprika and multiple chiles.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican, Seafood
Keyword: dairy-free, sugar-free, wheat-free, Whole Life Challenge
Servings: 4
Calories: 324kcal


  • 2 lb fresh mussels
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp avocado oil
  • 2-3 green onions chopped thin
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger minced
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 serrano chile sliced
  • 1 very small habanero chile minced (optional)
  • 4 tbsp distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt


  • Prepare the mussels: rinse them with cold water to remove sand, debris, and beards*. 
  • In a steamer, steam the mussels until their shells open, about 5 minutes. Let them cool and detach the mussels from their shells. Throw out any mussels that didn’t open. Refrigerate the steamed mussels until you’re ready to use them.
  • Make the escabeche: heat both oils over medium-high heat in a medium pot until they’re shimmering (e.g. very hot). Add the green onion, minced ginger, paprika, serrano, and habanero, and cook until fragrant. Stir constantly, 1-2 minutes, and then add the vinegars and Kosher salt. Bring everything to a simmer; remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature.
  • Pour the cooled escabeche over the mussels and let the entire mixture come to room temperature. Serve immediately. If you have  leftovers (we didn’t), you can refrigerate for up to 1 week in an airtight container.


Mussels have filaments called “beards” which they use to secure themselves to hard surfaces. They are usually brownish and may look like seaweed. Most commercially available mussels have been farm-raised and the beards are removed during processing. If your mussels have beards, pull each firmly towards the shell hinge until it comes out. If they’re too slippery, try using a dry paper towel to increase your grip. Our mussels didn’t have beards, but Olvera specifically recommends removing them in the original recipe.
We made a few changes to the original recipe to keep the recipe low-FODMAP friendly. We replaced 1 garlic clove with fresh minced ginger and 1 small white onion, thinly sliced with green onions. We also used avocado oil instead of grapeseed oil.
Don’t leave out the smoked paprika – it’s essential to this recipe! Smoked paprika uses chilies that are smoke-dried and then crushed, which leads to a strong outdoorsy (campfire) flavor.

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