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Green Mussels vs. Black Mussels: What’s the Difference?

Green and black mussels are a healthy and environmentally-friendly source of protein, but they’re also very different from each other in taste, nutrition and where they come from.

The main difference between green mussels and black mussels are their flavor profiles. Green mussels have a bolder taste with citrus notes, while black mussels offer a more delicate taste similar to oysters.

The other major difference between them is their nutritional values: green mussels contain 4 times more omega fatty acids than black mussels and contain higher vitamin B12 levels (which can be helpful for regulating your metabolism).

But for now, let’s go over some basic similarities and differences between the two types of mussels:

  • Price – Green mussels are significantly less expensive than black mussels.
  • Habitat – Green mussels inhabit colder waters and are found in both shallow temperate seas and further offshore, while black mussels prefer warmer waters and seem to thrive only in shallow areas.
  • Texture – Green mussels tend to be firmer and chewier than black mussels, which are softer and more delicate. Taste-wise, this means that green mussel is better suited for cooking, while black works better raw or lightly cooked.

What makes mussels green and black?

Both mussels get their unique color from the way they feed.

Green mussels eat phytoplankton, which is a green-colored microalgae that lives at the surface of the ocean.

Black mussels eat zooplankton, which is microscopic animal life that lives in the same part of the ocean as phytoplankton.

Do green and black mussel taste the same?

In short, no! Green and black are both distinct species with different flavor profiles.

Green mussels have an earthy flavor that’s complemented by strong citrus notes, while black has a mellower taste comparable to oysters or clams.

The texture of each one also varies slightly: green meat has a firmer texture than black (though both tend to be on the chewy side).

However, neither type tastes too fishy – making them ideal for beginners who want an easy introduction into shellfish.

What do green and black mussels taste like?

While both are similar in flavor, the green lipped mussels tend to be smaller and have a sweeter, cleaner, more delicate flavor.

People often say that the green lipped mussel has a more tender texture when compared to native black mussels.

  • Green Mussel Flavor: Sweet & Mild
  • Black Mussel Flavor: Briny & Earthy

So what does this all mean?

Put simply; the green lipped mussel is generally considered to be the sweeter version of New Zealand’s native black mussel.

The flavors are not dramatically different, but there is a distinct difference between them.

Where do green mussels and black mussels come from?

It’s important to note that the appearance and size of both green mussels and black mussels are similar.

Many people assume the color of a green mussel refers to the shell, but that’s not always true.

The shell is usually brown or black.

The green in “green mussel” refers to its dark green body meat—the same kind of meat you find in scallops and other bivalves.

On the other hand, as its name implies, a black mussel has a dark-colored shell with a purple hue.

Green mussels are imported from New Zealand, while black mussels come from the East Coast and West Coast of the U.S., including California and Canada.

Health benefits of green and black mussels.

  • These are not your average mollusks. Mussels are an excellent source of Vitamin B12, which is hard to find in non-meat items. One 3.5 oz serving of mussels has 17–18 grams of protein and a day’s worth of selenium, both nutrients that boost your immune system and help you feel fuller longer.
  • They’re also low in calories and fat, making them a great option for anyone trying to lose weight or make healthier choices.

Can You Substitute Green Mussels for Black Mussels in Recipes?

The quick answer is: maybe.

The green mussel, like the black mussel, is a bivalve mollusk.

But if you’re set on making a recipe that calls for black mussels, it’s best to stick with the ingredient requested rather than substitute ingredients—unless you’re just looking to experiment.

If you’re looking to substitute black mussels in a recipe, it can be done but just know that they have their own unique flavor and texture that may not be an ideal fit for certain dishes.

What about other shellfish? Can you substitute green mussels for clams? Green mussels tend to have firmer flesh with a more assertive flavor than clams.

Can you substitute green mussels for oysters? Green mussels are generally served in the shell while oysters are typically shucked before serving.

Can you substitute green mussels for scallops?

Green mussels don’t work as well as scallops when cooking seafood recipes because the scallop has such distinctive qualities of its own.

How Do You Choose Green and Black Mussels?

Green and black mussels are very similar. They both have the same flavor.

Green mussels might be a little firmer and more dense, but you probably won’t be able to tell the difference with your eyes closed.

So how do you choose between them?

If you have a choice between green and black mussels, go for whichever is less expensive (or whichever looks freshest). If one is $1 less per pound or it was just delivered that day, grab those!

To choose your mussels, look for ones with tightly closed shells or shells that close up when they are tapped.

The mussels should also be heavy for their size.

Avoid any that have broken shells or smell bad.

Finally, check the tag to see where they were harvested—you don’t want to eat shellfish from polluted waters!

Are green and black mussels safe to eat?

Yes, both green and black mussels are generally considered safe to eat.

The only time when they are not safe to eat is during red tide phenomenon, which is where there is a red algae bloom in the waters.

When Should You Use Green and Black Mussels?

The flavor of green mussels and black mussels is quite similar, but there are a few differences to account for when deciding which to use for a particular dish.

Generally speaking, green mussels are preferred for sauces and raw dishes because the meat has a consistent size, texture, and flavor throughout each shell.

Black mussels have more variation in their meat from shell to shell, so they’re better when they’re cooked or when they share the spotlight with other flavors in a dish.

Green Mussel Uses

  • Sauces: Green mussels work well in many kinds of sauces due to their consistency in size and flavor. Use them as an ingredient in thick sauces like pasta sauce or cream sauce.
  • Raw Dishes: The uniformity of green mussels makes them ideal for serving raw on the half-shell or cubed into ceviche. They’ll develop the same taste no matter how you slice them up!

Black Mussel Uses

  • Grilling: Black mussels lend themselves well to smoky grilling flavors since their meat can absorb those elements without being overwhelmed by them.
  • Frying: Frying depends on crispy edges that hold up under rich sauce flavors—black mussel pieces can offer just that with their irregular shapes and relatively small size compared to whole green mussels

What Do You Serve with Green and Black Mussels?

You can eat black and green mussels as they are.

But if you want to enjoy a more extravagant meal, you have many options.

You can serve them with:

  • Chips or fries
  • Bread
  • Steamed vegetables
  • Any type of pasta, rice, or potatoes
  • Salad

You can also use dips, garlic butter, sauces like tomato sauce or curry sauce.

Or simply squeeze some lemon juice on top.

How Should You Prepare Green or Black Mussels?

It’s pretty simple to cook mussels.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Shell the green and black mussels, arranging them in batches until you have enough for your meal.
  • Arrange the mussels in a shallow pan of liquid such as wine or vegetable broth.
  • Cover and steam over medium heat until all the mussel shells open (about 3-5 minutes).
  • Discard any unopened shells and serve with melted butter or aioli for dipping.

Can You Store Green and Black Mussels in the Freezer?

If you’re looking to store mussels for a long period of time, freezing is an option.

Green and black mussels can be frozen raw or cooked, but keep in mind the difference in taste from the original that occurs after thawing.

To freeze raw green and black mussels:

  • Rinse off any mud on the shells, then scrub with a stiff brush under running water
  • Remove any barnacles by scraping them off with a knife or hard-bristled brush
  • Toss out any open mussels that don’t close when tapped sharply against a countertop or other hard surface
  • Place in plastic bags (two pounds per bag is ideal) and seal tightly; place multiple bags into larger freezer bags to ensure airtightness
  • Store in freezer for up to three months

To freeze cooked green and black mussels:

  • Boil as usual. Allow to cool before storing in an airtight container (or extra-strong plastic bag) sealed as tightly as possible; if using a bag, consider placing it into another freezer bag as well—you want no air pockets!
  • Store in freezer for up to six weeks

Green Mussel vs. Black Mussel: What’s the bottom line?

You may be wondering which type of mussel is the best choice for you.

Both are impressively nutritious, good for the environment, and delicious.

As a general rule, green mussels are slightly cheaper than black mussels but there is one exception: if you’re making mussel chowder, black mussels are your best bet.

Otherwise, go ahead and make the decision based on price or personal preference!

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