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

Green mussels vs. Black mussels, what’s the real difference?

For starters, if you were to look at both mussels side by side, the most obvious and prominent key major difference between green and black mussels would lie in the color.

5-Second to Learn the Main Difference

Green mussels have a mostly lightish gray shell with beautiful green hues and a prominent green lip around the top of the shell. On the other hand, black mussels have a shiny black bluish shell.

Besides this obvious distinction in color, there are also a few more differences worthy of note, which this article will go through in the following points.

What are Mussels?

Mussels are members of many families of bivalve mollusks. They are similar to oysters and clams but are more long and narrow in shape in contrast to the wide and oblong shape of clams or oysters. They can also be found either in saltwater or freshwater habitats.

Many mussels happen to be of the blue or black variety, but for the sake of this article, we will be focusing on black and green mussels.

The Key Differences Between Black and Green Mussels

Color – The difference is in the shell

The green mussel is different from the black mussel in that it has a more grayish shell with a brilliant green lip on the top of the mussels shell.

On the other hand, the black mussels simply have a darkish blue to a shiny black shell.  

Size – A contrast in size

green black mussels

Regarding green mussels vs. black mussels, another obvious distinction is the size.

The average green mussel is around 6 inches in size, whereas black mussels, in contrast, are only 2.5 inches.

Green mussels are basically double the size of black mussels and will give you more meat and nutrients per mollusk.

Texture – Tender or chewy

The texture of both black and green mussels can be somewhat chewy, but black mussels are known for being more soft and tender, firmer than a scallop but more tender than a clam.

On the other hand, green mussels are known for being a lot chewier, meatier and firmer than black mussels.

This is important to note when it comes to cooking with mussels. While the black mussel can become mushy and break apart, the green mussel will hold its shape well in contrast.

So if your end goal is to have a mussel retain its structure, green mussels are a must.

Flavor – Intense or mild

The overall flavor profile of mussels is reminiscent of the ocean with a subtle mushroom undertone.

The black mussels are known for having a much more intense flavor, which goes unrivaled amongst other species. In contrast, the green mussel is a lot milder.

Where the black mussel is deeply intense in flavor, the green mussel is much more delicate and has a flavor profile that lies between a clam and an oyster.

Overall black mussels have an intense and distinct flavor, and green mussels are more subtle and much less pronounced in flavor.

Availability – Different parts of the world

black mussels

The black mussel is farmed in their natural environment on ropes, which can be easily pulled from the ocean, making harvesting a simple process.

Black mussels are also native in abundance throughout many places all around the world, making black mussels not only much more available but also relatively easy to collect and harvest.

On the contrary, green mussels are mostly exclusively farmed and are primarily found in New Zealand. But also in some select parts of North America and South America. It makes them a lot more difficult to cultivate and harvest.

The Cost – Expensive or budget friendly?

With such a difference in cultivation comes a deviation in price.

Compared to green mussels, black mussels are much more abundant and have a more budget-friendly price tag.

For instance, frozen mussels in the US cost around $2.50 per pound and about fifty cents to a dollar more fresh. At this price, the average American can easily fit black mussels into their weekly budget if it pleases them.

On the other end of the scale, green mussels can cost anywhere from $10 to $14lb, whether frozen or fresh. This price tag is high because green mussels are not as prevalent in many grocery stores as black mussels.

green mussels

However, green mussels are becoming much more common in local Asian supermarkets. If you want a variance in your seafood or want to try different mussels, check out your local Asian market. You may stumble across some green mussels straight from New Zealand.

FAQs About Green Mussles and Black Mussels

Are green or black mussels better?

When it comes to green mussels vs. black mussels taste, it is truly a matter of preference.

As stated above, the taste of green mussels is much milder, which lies between oysters and clams. At the same time, black mussels are sweeter and have a more distinct, pronounced flavor.

If you like a much fuller flavor, opt for a black mussel; otherwise, go with the green mussel for a more subtle and delicate flavor.

Of course, for any seafood chowder or coconut curry, either will contribute beautifully to your dish.

Do black and green mussels taste the same?

Both mussels are quite similar, with a reminiscence of the ocean and a very subtle earthy undertone.

However, despite this similarity in flavor, there is also a distinction that is important when choosing the right mussel for your particular dish.

The black mussels tend to be more intense in flavor whereas green mussels are much more delicately flavored.

Are green or black mussels healthier?

Both black and green mussels have a very impressive nutritional profile and are an excellent source of B12 and manganese.

Green mussels contain antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, iron, and selenium.

In contrast, black mussels contain protein, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and folate and also abundantly exceed the daily recommended amount of selenium, iodine and iron.

Green mussels have also managed to alleviate infirmities such as arthritis, asthma, ADHD and muscle soreness. Of course, don’t try any supplement without your doctor’s approval beforehand.

Which mussels are bigger black or green?

Green mussels are around 6 inches in size whilst black mussels are only 2.5 inches. In comparison, green mussels are practically double the size of black mussels.

The choice is yours, more black mussels to fit the bigger size of the green mussels, or having fewer mussels in the case of the green variety, because of the additional meat per mollusk.

Are frozen mussels good to eat?

Landlocked civilians rejoice! Fresh is generally always the better option, but there is not much contrast between fresh and frozen Mussels.

With the freezing process, you will retain most if not all of the nutrients. The only sacrifice will possibly be in the flavor or texture.

Plus, if you cook your mussels ever so briefly by just steaming them, you may be able to prevent a completely rubbery texture.

In Conclusion

Green and black mussels have their differences, but all mussels are a great healthful and nutritious option to add to your diet.

Green mussels are slightly better for you, but not by a huge margin. And on a budget, black mussels win hands down. Enjoy this Nutrient-dense food.

I’m Jennifer Schlette, a Registered Dietitian and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. I love cooking, reading, and my kids! Here you’ll find the healthiest recipes & substitutions for your cooking. Enjoy, and be well, friends!

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