Mussels with Saffron Cream Sauce

The Simple Art of EatingWell

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Saffron, tomato and a touch of cream yields a flavorful sauce for these simple steamed mussels. Soak up the sauce with plenty of crusty whole-grain baguette.

Mussels with Saffron Cream Sauce

Makes: 4 servings

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  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups diced plum tomatoes
  • 1 cup fish or seafood stock or bottled clam juice (see Tips)
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads (see Note)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4 pounds mussels, cleaned (see Tips)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish


  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, celery and garlic and cook, stirring often, until just starting to brown, 30 seconds to 4 minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes, stock (or clam juice), saffron, salt and pepper; bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in mussels. Cover and cook just until the mussels have opened, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat (discard any unopened mussels). Stir in cream and sprinkle with parsley, if using. Serve with the sauce from the pan.

Tips & Notes

  • Tips: Bottled clam juice can be very high in sodium. We like Bar Harbor brand, which has 120 mg sodium per 2-ounce serving. Look for it in the canned-fish section or the seafood department of your supermarket.
  • When shopping for mussels, look for ones that are closed—or those open only a fraction of an inch. When you get them home, store them in a large bowl with a few damp paper towels on top for up to 1 day. To clean them, discard mussels with broken shells or whose shell remains open after you tap it. Hold mussels under running water and use a stiff brush to remove any barnacles; pull off any black fibrous “beards”. (Some mussels may not have a beard.) Mussels should be “debearded” no more than 30 minutes before cooking.
  • Note: The dried stigma from Crocus sativus, saffron adds flavor and golden color to a variety of Middle Eastern, African and European foods. Soak it in a little water, wine or broth for about 30 minutes before adding to a dish to help release its delicious flavor. Find it in the spice section of supermarkets, gourmet shops or at It will keep in an airtight container for several years.


Per serving: 278 calories; 18 g fat (8 g sat, 7 g mono); 77 mg cholesterol; 11 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 18 g protein; 1 g fiber; 493 mg sodium; 513 mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (33% daily value), Iron & Vitamin A (26% dv), Folate (17% dv).

Carbohydrate Servings: 1

Exchanges: 1 vegetable, 2 lean meat, 3 fat

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