Mussels Escabeche (Mussels Poached in Vinaigrette)

Mussels Escabeche (Mussels Poached in Vinaigrette)

Mussels Escabeche (Mussels Poached in Vinaigrette) are adapted from Txikito restaurant in NYC. They are intended to imitate a canned version that is popular in the Basque region. Escabeche describes a technique of preserving food by poaching it in a sweet and sour vinaigrette.

Mussels Escabeche (Mussels Poached in Vinaigrette)

Print This Recipe Total time Yield Source Adapted from The Basque BookPublished
Mussels Escabeche (Mussels Poached in Vinaigrette)


  • 3 ½ pound fresh mussels (in the shell)
  • dry white wine (as needed)
  • 1 cup extra-vrgin olive oil
  • 2 leeks (white and light green parts finely diced)
  • kosher salt (as needed)
  • 1 red onion (finely diced)
  • 1 carrot (peeled and finely diced))
  • ½ teaspoon coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 sprigs lemon thyme
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 jalapeño (halved and seeded)
  • ½ cup rice vinegar
  • ½ cup Champagne vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon sherry vinegar
  • lightly toasted baguette slices
  • mayonnaise (optional)
  • sweet Spanish paprika (as needed)
  • dill fronds (as needed)


Steam the mussels: Rinse the mussels thoroughly under running water. Gently remove their beards by pulling in the fibers that protrude from the shells. Add about ½‑inch dry white wine to a large saucepan set over medium-high heat. Bring the wine to a simmer and let it gently bubble a few seconds to burn off some of the alcohol. Add ⅓ of the mussels to the pan, cover and steam the mussels about 30 seconds. Uncover the pan and use tongs or a slotted spoon to move any of the mussels that have already opened to a large bowl. Cover the pan again, checking and removing the opened mussels every 30 seconds. Discard any mussels that have not opened after 3–4 minutes of following this process. 

Add more wine to the pan to return the level to about ½‑inch. Repeat the steaming process with the remaining mussels in 2 more batches. 

Once the mussels are cool enough to handle, separate the meat from the shells. Place the meat into a clean, heatproof bowl as you work. Discard the shells.

Make the escabeche: In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add leeks and a pinch or two salt, sweat until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the onion and carrot, and continue to cook until tender, another 5 minutes. 

Meanwhile, use a double thickness of cheesecloth to create a sachet by combining the coriander seeds, black peppercorns, and lemon thyme sprigs secured with kitchen string.

Add the sachet, sugar, water, jalapeño, and all three vinegars to the pan of vegetables. Simmer and cook until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. The vegetables should be tender but not mushy.

Remove the sachet and jalapeño halves from the mixture and discard. Pour the escabeche mixture through a fine-mesh sieve held over the bowl of mussels. Allow to cool about 10 minutes, then cover and chill well. Transfer the vegetables from the sieve to a separate bowl, cover and chill until ready to serve.

To serve: Bring the mussels and vegetables to room temperature. 

Spread toasted baguette slices with a thin swipe of mayonnaise (if using). Top with mussels and vegetables. Garnish with a drizzle of the escabeche liquid, paprika and dill fronds.