Steamed Mussels with White Wine Cilantro Pesto Sauce

While pink was the color of most recipes in February, green is the theme for March, starting with these insanely good Steamed Mussels with White Wine Cilantro Pesto.
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I love seafood, fish, shellfish, you name it. If its from the sea I will eat it. Even seaweed.  I think a lot of people are intimidated by shellfish and recipes like steamed mussels or clams are really so easy that once you make them you realize how quick of a meal they are. Being a mom, I am all about quick and healthy meals. And YES my kids totally love eating shellfish, mostly to play with the shells after they eat. Hey whatever gets them to eat, right?

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You know what I am excited for? Daylight savings. The first day sucks, especially if its a school day, even though my kids like to wake up ridiculously early, it still sucks for some reason. BUT the great thing about it means more light later in the day and YAY for that. Winter’s shorter daylight is the bane of every food bloggers existence. We scramble to get our recipes and photos done earlier in the day so we have enough natural light and not have to work with dreaded artificial lighting.  Not that lights are that bad, I just don’t like using them. But with the shorter daylight hours in winter, comes making dinner recipes and or cocktail recipes at 10 am. Lunchtime is fun in winter. So are post lunch induced naps.

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In winter you either have amazing lunchtime meals, OR dinner is cold and hours old. Some recipes you just can’t or don’t want to eat cold and hours later, like steamed mussles. They are an eat as soon as they are cooked recipe. I think this is why a lot of bloggers make soups and baked goods in winter, they look the same the day after they are made. You can cook or bake at night and photo the next day. No mad scramble to get it all done in one day. Unless you are crazy like me and try photographing when its 5:00 and the streetlights have already turned on and you’re not using lights.  I like to live on the edge

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Also if you are crazy like me and scramble to make a recipe with what little light there is left to photo it because you really don’t feel like buying mussels for the 4th time in a month to make again  JUST to photo, you might end up burning half your bread while setting up for photos, making pesto and steaming the mussels. So I would suggest if you are making this recipe to eat and not photograph, buying one baguette should suffice. If you are photographing it, and are not the best multi-tasker cook like me, buy 2-3, maybe 4 baguettes. Just in case, you burn one like I did. Ok so I salvaged like 6 pieces, my kids were mad I burned most of the bread.

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I am pretty sure my kids would be A-OK with a dinner of just bread. They are carb monsters. I can’t blame them. Yummy hot crusty bread to dip in the pesto is so good. One of the reasons I love recipes like steamed mussels and or clams. An excuse to mop up all the sauce with good bread, even better when the bread isn’t burnt.

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Steamed Mussels with White Wine Cilantro Pesto Sauce
Recipe type: Seafood, Shellfish, Dinner
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
Steamed Mussels with White Wine Cilantro Pesto Sauce
  • 3 lbs mussels
  • 2½ cups dry white wine ( Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc)
For the Pesto
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • ⅔ c walnuts
  • zest and juice of one medium lemon ( about 2 tbsp juice)
  • 3 cups cilantro, rinsed, stems removed
  • 2 cups fresh basil, rinsed and stems removed
  • 1 cup arugula, rinsed
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ⅔ c extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Baguette, sliced and toasted
Prepare the mussels
  1. Scrub and remove the beards of the mussels and soak in cold water to remove any grit or sand. Change the water a few times until its clear. Leave soaking in cold water while you prepare the pesto. The mussels should close up when gently pressed or once they are placed in the water. Discard any that stay open.
Make the Pesto:
  1. In a food processor pulse the garlic and walnuts together until crumbly, add in the lemon zest and juice and then the cilantro, basil and arugula. With the processor on mix for about one minute and then slowly add in the oil through the feed tube at the top. Stop after half of the oil is mixed in and scrape down the sides. Turn the processor back on and add in the rest. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
To make the mussels
  1. Bring 1½ cups of the wine to a boil in a large pot, strain the mussels from their water bath and place in the pot. Cover and let steam 3 minutes. Remove the lid and stir checking to make sure all the mussels have opened. If not steam another 1-2 minutes and then quickly removed them from the pot. Discard any that didn’t open. Add the rest of the wine and bring back to a boil, add in 1 cup of the pesto and stir until starting to thicken. Add the mussels back in and stir for 2 minutes. Transfer to bowls and ladle sauce over the top. Serve hot with toasted baguettes.
I left out the parmesan in the pesto on purpose since I like it better without cheese when I use it with seafood. Feel free to add in ½-1 cup of shredded parmesan or romano cheese to the pesto before adding to the wine in the pot.
To make this TRUE Paleo/Gluten Free omit the bread and steam the mussels in chicken broth.


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This recipe is in memory of Shelly. The name my 5 year old gives to each and every mussel that I use in recipes such as steamed mussels. I asked her if she wanted to name them each something different, and she said ” Nope. Name them all Shelly”. My kids are crazy.

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  1. I can’t wait for daylight savings again…the scrambling will be over soon!! I can even take pictures after work. These mussels look amazing. Love your pictures. But more so the cilantro pesto!! Beautiful!!

  2. I love the name Shelly..very appropriate :) Great recipe and I’m like you. .any seafood and ill eat it!
    Gerry @ Foodness Gracious recently posted…Healthy Kale and Portobello Mushroom Veggie BurgerMy Profile

  3. This cilantro pesto sauce sounds amazing, I bet it’s good on a lot of different things. Beautiful pics!
    cheri recently posted…Sunflower Seed CandiesMy Profile

  4. These look incredible! Love the dark photos, too!
    Emily (Jelly Toast) recently posted…twice baked potato bitesMy Profile

  5. I love mussels; really like you I love most things from the sea. There is a local restaurant that I call my ‘Cheers’ and they have a great mussel dish on the Happy Hour menu. They change up the flavors periodically but they will always make them special for me…white wine and garlic are my thing.

    Which means I know I would love this version with pesto. Mussels are one of the few foods from the sea that are affordable her in our landlocked mountain state. They’re also now on my grocery list! :)
    Barbara | Creative Culinary recently posted…Leek and Bacon Quiche and a Collection of Savory PiesMy Profile

  6. These look super fancy, but the recipe looks simple! I love it! :)

  7. I love me some seafood, and I am ADORING this cilantro pesto. Imma put that on all the things!
    Now the only problem I have is…how to make sure I don’t drink the wine before it makes it into the dish. First world problems.
    Gorgeous always! Pinned!
    Taylor @ Food Faith Fitness recently posted…Lighter Coconut Caramel Sauce {GF}My Profile

  8. Oh Shanna this dish looks AMAZING! I love all the seafood you’re doing lately, and the photos are fabulous,, as usual.
    sue/the view from great island recently posted…Irish Whiskey Ice CreamMy Profile

  9. I happen to like my bread extra crispy. I think we’ve all been in the same boat–light fading, ingredients purchased numerous times. I’m so happy this one made the cut. I love mussels. Pinned.

  10. Oh goodness, my husband just loves mussels! This recipe looks incredible, especially the sauce :) YUM
    Nutmeg Nanny recently posted…Irish Whiskey Caramel SauceMy Profile

  11. Hooray for one more hour of daylight! I’m loving it already. Even though it’s been hard dragging myself out of bed the last couple mornings :/ My one son and hubby love mussels, especially with toasty bread. Pinning this gorgeous dish for them!
    Allie | Baking a Moment recently posted…Simply Perfect Pate a ChouxMy Profile

  12. Love this Shanna! Very pretty. I am cracking up about your burned bread…story of my life!
    Karen @ The Food Charlatan recently posted…Dye-Free Green Eggs and HamMy Profile

  13. Wow oh wow – this looks sssooo delicious! I’ll bet it would be great with clams too!
    Kristi @ Inspiration Kitchen recently posted…Split Pea & Ham SoupMy Profile

  14. These are DIVINE!!!!

  15. We are full into later sun sets and I am late to this post – but I had to say these photos are amazing. Those mussels look beautiful.
    kita recently posted…Cornmeal Buttermilk Waffles with Honey ButterMy Profile


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