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Steamed Mussels in Sambuca Cream Sauce


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This Steamed Mussels in Sambuca Cream Sauce recipe promises a tantalizing fusion of flavors where the sweetness and brininess from the mussels, perfectly compliment the anise undertones, from both the Sambuca and fresh basil. And let’s not forget about the luxurious cream that ties everything together.

In less than 15 minutes, you’ll have a seafood dish that’s sure to impress, whether as a delightful appetizer or a hearty meal.

A white "mussels" pot filled with steamed mussels in sambuca cream sauce.
Serve immediately with crusty bread.

What Do Mussels Taste Like?

Mussels have a distinct flavor that’s often described as mildly sweet and briny, with a hint of ocean freshness. Their taste can vary slightly depending on factors like where they’re harvested and how they’re cooked.

When properly prepared, mussels offer a tender, succulent texture with a subtle sweetness that pairs well with a variety of seasonings and sauces.

How to Clean Mussels

Cleaning mussels is an essential step to ensure they’re safe to eat and to enhance their flavor. Most mussels purchased from a fish market or grocery store are already debearded, but it’s still important to inspect them and give them a quick rinse before cooking.

  1. Inspect the Mussels: Check the mussels for any cracks, broken shells or strong odors. Discard any mussels that are damaged or have open shells.
  2. Debearding (if necessary): If you notice any mussels with beards (a string-like membrane protruding from the shell), you’ll need to remove them. Hold the mussel firmly in one hand and grab the beard with your other hand. Give it a firm tug in the direction of the hinge (the pointy end of the mussel). The beard should detach easily. If it doesn’t, you can use a sharp knife to cut it off.
  3. Rinse the Mussels: Place the mussels in a colander or large bowl and rinse them under cold running water. Use your hands to gently scrub the shells to remove any debris or grit.
  4. Soak (optional): Some cooks like to soak the mussels in cold water with a bit of flour added. This helps to encourage the mussels to expel any sand or grit that may be trapped inside their shells. Let the mussels soak for about 5-10 minutes, then give them another quick rinse.
  5. Discard Open Mussels: Before cooking, give the mussels a final check. Discard any mussels that are open and don’t close when tapped or gently squeezed. This indicates that the mussel is dead and should not be consumed.

Why You Should Make Steamed Mussels in a Sambuca Cream Sauce

  • Quick and Easy: Ready in under 15 minutes, this mussels recipe is perfect for busy weeknights or impromptu gatherings.
  • Flavor Explosion: The combination of mussels, Sambuca, basil and cream creates an unforgettable taste experience.
  • Versatile: Serve it as an elegant appetizer or a satisfying main course, paired with crusty bread for dipping.
  • Simple Ingredients: With just a handful of pantry staples, you can whip up this gourmet dish in no time.


Easily replace the mussels in this seafood recipe with clams, or do a combination of both.

If you’re looking to replace Sambuca in the recipe for Steamed Mussels in a Sambuca Cream Sauce, you’ll want to choose a substitute that can provide a similar depth of flavor and aroma. Here are a few options:

  1. Anise Liqueur: Sambuca has a distinct anise flavor, so another anise-flavored liqueur like Pernod or Pastis could be used as a substitute. Be mindful that the flavor intensity may vary slightly.
  2. White Wine: A dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio, can add depth and complexity to the dish without the strong anise flavor. You may need to adjust the seasoning to compensate for the lack of sweetness from the liqueur.
  3. Chicken or Vegetable Broth: If you prefer to omit alcohol altogether, you can use chicken or vegetable broth to provide liquid for cooking the mussels. This option will result in a slightly different flavor profile, but can still yield delicious results.

How to Prepare Mussels in Sambuca Cream

  1. Prepare Aromatics: Sauté garlic, shallots and crushed red pepper in olive oil until fragrant.
  2. Add Liquid: Pour in clam juice and Sambuca, bring to just under a boil.
  3. Steam Mussels: Add cleaned mussels to the pan. Cover and steam until they open, discarding any that don’t open.
  4. Finish with Cream Sauce: Stir in heavy cream, chopped tomatoes and basil. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve: Plate mussels with sauce. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and crusty bread.

How to Serve and Store Steamed Mussels

  • Serve the Steamed Mussels in Sambuca Cream Sauce immediately for the best flavor and texture, with plenty of crusty bread.
  • To store, remove the mussels from the shells and place in the cream sauce.
  • Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1-2 days.
  • Reheat gently on the stovetop until heated through before serving.

More Steamed Mussels Recipes to Love

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A green bowl filled with steamed mussels in a Sambuca cream sauce.

Steamed Mussels in Sambuca Cream Sauce


This Steamed Mussels in Sambuca Cream Sauce recipe promises a tantalizing fusion of flavors where the sweetness and brininess from the mussels, perfectly compliment the anise undertones, from both the Sambuca and fresh basil. And let’s not forget about the luxurious cream that ties everything together.


  • 2 pounds mussels
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8-ounces clam juice
  • 4– to 5-ounces Sambuca liquor
  • 1 small Roma tomato, chopped
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
  • Lemon wedges, for serving


  1. Place the mussels in a bowl of cold water with the flour. Let them soak for 5-10 minutes to remove any dirt or debris. Discard any mussels that are open, or have cracked shells.
  2. In a deep pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add minced garlic, shallot and crushed red pepper flakes. Sauté for a few minutes until fragrant.
  3. Pour in clam juice and Sambuca liquor. Allow the mixture to come to just under a boil.
  4. Add the rinsed mussels to the pan. Cover with a lid and steam until the mussels open, about 1 minute.
  5. Discard any mussels that remain closed.
  6. Reduce heat and stir in heavy cream, chopped tomatoes and fresh basil.
  7. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Heat the cream sauce through, making sure to coat the mussels evenly.
  9. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and crusty bread for dipping.
  10. ENJOY!

Steamed Mussels Recipe! Here’s your new favorite way to enjoy mussels. The sweetness and brininess from the mussels pair so well with the anise flavor from, not only the Sambuca, both also from the fresh basil. The cream is the perfect touch! This fabulous seafood appetizer is done in 10 minutes! #mussels #seafood #seafoodlover #easyrecipe #quickrecipes #dinnerideas #learntocook #foodtiktok

♬ French-style stylish piano – harryfaoki


  • Soak the mussels for at least 5-10 minutes to remove any dirt or debris. Rinse well.
  • You will average about 21-25 mussels per pound.
  • Inspect the mussels and discard any with cracked shells or ones that remain open after tapping.
  • Easily replace the Sambuca with anise liqeur, or chicken or vegetable stock for an non-alcoholic version.
  • A deep sauté pan with lid can be used instead of a mussels pot.
  • Try not to overcook the mussels.
  • Serve immediately with crusty bread.
  • To store leftovers, remove the mussels from the shells and place in the Sambuca sauce. Store in the fridge for up to 2 days.
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Appetizer, Dinner
  • Method: Easy
  • Cuisine: Seafood

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WELCOME! My name is Melissa Latin aka. Charlotte Fashion Plate. Happy to meet you! I am more than just recipes. I love fashion and style too! Most importantly, I love my Family (my Hubby and my Fur Babies). My Husband (aka my “Kitchen Bitch”) means the world to me. He’s pretty damn cool too. Not only is he one of the nicest guys you will ever meet, he also has had a lengthy career in professional hockey. Not only winning two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the early ’90’s, but most recently winning the Calder Cup with the Charlotte Checkers, amongst many other accolades. If you live in Charlotte and play hockey, or have a family member who plays, be sure to contact him!

Our life has changed dramatically in the past few years with the passing of our two goldendoodles, Vegas and Viva. We were lucky enough to have Vegas for five years (totally wish it was longer). Most recently, losing our Viva to a brain tumor in July of 2020. We welcomed our mini goldendoodle 7, almost seven years ago. We just added the amazing Hazel! Of course, I am always posting tons and tons of photos! Be sure to check out my recipe for Pet Bone Broth! This broth is super rich in nutrients and will provide your pet with a multitude of health benefits!

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  1. […] This is a super easy recipe for Clams in a Sambuca Cream Sauce. You can also use this recipe for mussels. I decided to forgo the sausage and keep everything else exactly the […]

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