Black Mussels vs Green Mussels

If you love seafood, there is a high chance you know about mussels. They are popular dishes, owing to their amazing taste, availability, and nutritional value.

Mussels live in both freshwater and saltwater, making them widely available. It is, therefore, a common ingredient in several fine dining cuisines. A possible reason is their compatibility with several dishes.

If you are a fan of these mollusks, you know that there are several types. In this article, we will touch on black and green mussels to understand their differences.

Black Mussels Explained

The most prevalent variety of mussels that we examine first are black mussels. Due to their resemblance to blue mussels, they are frequently confused with them. Both have little lips that are extended. They also have a robust ocean flavor, however others say the black mussel has a softer flavor.

The two are mostly dissimilar in their hues. The black mussel is completely black with a faint sheen, whereas the blue mussel has a fading bluish tint.

The Arctic, North Atlantic, and North Pacific shores are home to black mussels. They are accessible in portions of Asia, Europe, and North America. Their range in the United States stretches from California to Alaska along the Pacific Ocean side. They are common in regions of Asia north of Japan’s Hokkaido. On the North Atlantic side, they are prevalent from Maine to Canada. Northwest Greenland serves as part of their habitat.

These areas’ cold waters are ideal for the development of this seafood.


The rearing of black mussels is almost entirely natural. It involves the use of ropes, with juvenile mussels seeded into them. The vertically set ropes act as the substrate. The mollusks will grow on them, using their byssus threads for anchorage.

The rope length varies depending on food availability and water depth. As the black mussels grow naturally, farming them is pretty effortless. Typically, mussels take less than 2-years to develop fully. You harvest them at this point. For a sustained supply, you seed the ropes every month.

Black mussel farmers have to be vigilant against predators, especially in small-scale settings. Predators include sea birds, snails, and starfish. Otters, raccoons, and geese prey on freshwater mussels.


Black mussels are bivalve mollusks featuring two shells hinged together. A distinguishing feature of mussels is their asymmetrical and elongated shells. Their average length is 6-centimeters; however, some may reach up to 15 centimeters.

The fleshy interior has a creamy hue, with touches of silver on the outer edges. When cooked, the flesh takes on an orange-yellow appearance. The black mussel’s meat is tender, intense, and rich.

Availability and Cost

Farming black mussels is a simple task. Coupled with their wide distribution, they are available all year round. Easy access to this mussel type translates to affordability.

You get them in a preferred form, mostly fresh or frozen. Moreover, there are fully and half-shelled varieties. The former is common in restaurants and eateries, where you eat the flesh straight from the shell.

The shell-less type has no shell, only the flesh, which may be in a can or plastic wrapping. Often, such mussels have preservatives or marinade to improve their life.

Green Mussels

On the other side of our discussion, we have the green mussels – another common mussel type in the USA. It is native to New Zealand and the Indo-Pacific coasts.

Also known as the green-lipped mussel, it is easy to distinguish from the black mussel. It is larger, growing up to 6-inches long. At the lips, it is dark-green, with the color fading towards the hinges. Near the point of attachment, it has a brownish to yellowish tinge.

These mussels prefer areas that are about 2-meters deep, with plenty of food.


While the green-lipped is native to New Zealand, countries like India and the USA rear them. However, farming of these mussels adheres to strict regulation and requires keen monitoring. Areas of concern are water and feed quality.

A possible reason for such a move is their fast growth rate. The mollusks grow fast and may out-compete other creatures. In addition, they are bottom feeders and can ingest toxins. The toxins can be hazardous when consumed by humans.


A distinguishing attribute of the green mussel is its color. It is green, with some parts appearing brown or yellow. The shell is smooth and firm. Also, compared to most mussels, the green-lipped is pretty large. On average, it can grow up to 6-inches.

On the inside, the shell has a silver to fading brown appearance. The flesh is firm, with a solid cream appearance. When cooked, it looks yellowish. The meat is chewy and tender but less intense than that of the black mussel.

Availability and Cost

Green mussels have a higher price tag than most mussel varieties. Among the reasons is its exclusive natural growth in New Zealand. As such, it may not be present at all times due to seasonal changes.

Furthermore, they are large, offering you a decent serving of its flesh – It is roughly twice as large as the black mussel.

You can find them frozen or fresh in the seafood market. Plus, there are the canned types, which may have preservatives. In restaurants, you may get the meat only, fully or half-shelled varieties.

Difference between Black and Green Mussels

An obvious contrasting point between the two mussel types is their appearance. Black mussels are dark, with a slight shininess. Their body is smooth and small, with many people suggesting that they resemble blue mussels.

On the other hand, green mussels are green at the lips. The color takes on a dull brown to a light shade of yellow near the hinges. They are also large. When put side to side with black mussels, the green mussels appear to be more prominent.

The other variation is the meat. Green mussels have more meat, but it is chewy. There is some tenderness to it, with the taste being mild. Some suggest that it is sweet. Black mussels have little flesh, described as somewhat rich to intense. It is tender but not chewy.

Many culinary experts vouch for black mussels, as their intensity makes them diverse. However, the green-lipped is also diverse, but not to its counterpart’s degree.

The black mussel is readily available as it inhabits different environments. They can live in saltwater and freshwaters. Farming them is effortless as it is a natural process.

Green mussels mostly occupy the Indo-Pacific regions, with large populations in New Zealand. Their range is increasing due to farming in countries like India. Rearing is subject to strict monitoring and regulations. The scarcity of green mussels reflects on their costly price tag. The black ones are readily available hence their affordability.

A similarity the two mussel varieties share is their packaging and presentation. You can get them fresh, frozen, fully-shelled, half-shelled, or meat only. In addition, there are canned varieties with a long shelf life.

The table below summarizes the differences between the black and green mussels.

How are Green and Black Mussels Used?

Mussels are a popular delicacy due to their fantastic taste and health benefits. A serving of mussels is rich in fats, proteins, zinc, sodium, and vitamin B12. Moreover, they are delicious if prepared in the right way.

You can pick any between green and black mussels. They have roughly the same nutritional value; thus, you won’t miss out on some nutrients. Before preparing mussels, like most seafood, ensure that they are alive. Inspect the shell, and if it appears broken, discard it. Dead shellfish emit some toxins, which can affect you when you eat them.

If the mussels are fresh, you can put them in a water tank. Change the water regularly to keep them in good shape.
A point to note is that you should consume the mussels the same day you purchase them, fresh or frozen. The standard ways of preparing mussels are by steaming, grilling, and pan-frying.

If you are an adventurous eater, you can eat them raw. However, there is a risk of diseases, so you should get them from a trusted vendor. The taste may be salty, mineral-like, and a texture close to mushrooms. You can sprinkle some lemon juice, vinegar, or soy sauce to enhance the smack of raw mussels.

Steamed Mussels

Steaming is a common way of preparing mussels, as it is quick and easy. It is ideal for both fully-shelled and half-shelled mussels. You may also steam mussel meat to rejuvenate it.

In this method of preparing the shellfish, time is crucial. Black mussels are small and will take a short time to be ready, around 5-7-minutes. Green mussels can take a longer time, up to 13-minutes, to be ready.

You can let out your culinary creativity when it comes to the liquid base. You may use vinegar, wine, or chicken broth, to get a diverse flavor.

How to Steam Mussels?

  1. Clean the mussels thoroughly and set them aside. Chop up some onions, garlic, lemongrass, and ginger and set them aside. You may add more veggies as you desire.
  2. Put the mussel in a cooking vessel and add your preferred base. For starters, you can use plain water and a tablespoonful or two of vinegar. Throw in the chopped veggies and cover the lid. Let it boil.
  3. If you have black mussels, 7-minutes is enough. For green-lipped mussels, you can wait for up to 13-minutes. Open the lid to check their state. The dish is ready if most have their shells popped open.
  4. Serve the mussels, including the base, which will be a great accompaniment. You can serve with lemon slices and chilies to capture the shellfish’s essence.

Pan-Fried Mussels

Pan-frying is a perfect way to prepare mussels. It infuses the flavors of the other ingredients into the edible mollusks. There are several ways to go about it.

First, you can steam the mussels, and once opened, you toss them into the pan. Add some of the base liquid to the pan and have an amazing stew. Optionally, you can grill the mussels, and when opened, put them in the sauté.

It is also a good way of preparing mussel meat. The result will be a dish with some smokiness, with a spicy flavor mash-up.

How to Pan-Fry Mussels

  1. Chop up veggies like onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, and pepper. Toss them in the pan with a dash of olive oil and sauté until you get an even consistency.
  2. Add the mussels and continue sautéing. A tablespoonful of vinegar and soy sauce will do justice to the food’s smack. Pour the base liquid and cover the pan. Let it cook for 3-5-minutes. If the shells open, it means they are ready.
  3. Serve the mussels hot, with mashed potatoes or sticky rice.

Related: How Long do Mashed Potatoes Last?

You Might Ask

Can You Eat Mussels Raw?
Some adventurous individuals relish the savor of raw mussels. You pry open the shell and add some lemon juice, vinegar, or soy sauce. You then suck up the contents of the shell. If you want to eat raw shellfish, get it from trusted sources to prevent health complications.

Can Eating Mussels Be Dangerous?
Mussels are bottom feeders and can absorb some toxins into their systems. When you consume mussels with toxins, you expose yourself to health problems. For instance, you can suffer from mercury and lead poisoning, brought about by pollution of their habitats.

Are Mussels Healthy?
Mussels are a favorite dish to many people, courtesy of their health benefits. They contain nutrients like zinc, proteins, and sodium. Furthermore, they are good sources of selenium, which helps in thyroid health.
Mussels are also rich in iron, hence, they can help fight anemia.

Closing Remark

Mussels are popular shellfish, which you will find in most eateries that deal in seafood. There are many types of mussels, including the green and black varieties.

In this piece, we look at the difference between the two. You understand that besides their colors, they also vary in size, with the green-lipped being the biggest. Use the information provided above to know which is which.

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