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Life in Rural France

Living the French Dream….The Good, The Bad, and The Hilarious

Two tins filled with cooked mussels in white wine sauce

Mussels in White Wine Sauce | Moules Marinières

One of my Dad’s favourite dishes to order when he came to France was Mussels in White Wine Sauce with cream. Or Moules Marinières à la crème in French.

Growing up in Leigh-on-sea in Essex, we lived by the cockle sheds and ate a lot of seafood. Every Sunday as kids, the family would walk down to the seafront and always come home with a seafood feast. 

We’d indulge in cockles, winkles, shrimps, prawns and mussels. The only one I couldn’t stomach, which Dad loved, was welks.

When I moved to France, pretty much every time I ate out, I’d order Moules Frites, aka mussels with French Fries. They definitely varied in quality from restaurant to restaurant, so I vowed that one day I’d make my own. 

And now I finally have. And bonus, it wasn’t hard to do and didn’t take very long at all. The longest part was cleaning the mussels.

Where does the recipe for Mussels in White Wine sauce come from

Two fisherman on a boat going through fishing nets

There is much debate as to where the recipe originates from, but one thing we do know is that Moules Marinières means “mariner’s mussels”. And mussels were traditionally part of a fisherman’s diet and eaten on their boats.

Probably because they were easy to gather from the coastal shores of France such as Brittany, Normandy.

The first version of the dish was prepared using garlic, shallots and butter, with the wine being added at a later stage along with other ingredients such as cream and tomatoes. 

It was during the Belle Époque period in the late 19th century that Moules Marinières became popular with tourists.

But Moules Frites, which are served all around France, are said to have originated in Belgium not France.

The best mussels in France

The seaside town of La Rochelle with a tower in the background

Living in the Poitou Charente region, I’m only 90 minutes away from La Rochelle, which, along with its surrounding islands, is known for its mussels and oysters. 

I had one of the best Moules Marinières I’ve ever had when we visited the island of Ile d’Oléron at La Gaieté restaurant.

The French dish of Mouclade, also mussels in white wine sauce, comes from La Rochelle and uses saffron and curry spices to give the dish a bit of a kick.

And in the north of La Rochelle, you’ll find the little town of Charron where there are approximately 40 mussels producers. 

The mussels from here, produced using traditional techniques, have the official Moules la Charron label.

What is the best white wine to cook mussels in?

A pot of mussels in white wine sauce with a glass of wine and French bread

When it comes to cooking mussels, you’ll want to choose a white wine that complements the delicate flavours of the mussels without overpowering them. 

A dry, crisp white wine with bright acidity is typically a good choice for cooking mussels.

In France, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to wine, especially where I live in the Charente

We have some wonderful vineyards right on our doorstep.

But when it comes to mussels, my top three choices are Muscadet, Chablis (unoaked Chardonnay) or Sancerre (Sauvignon Blanc).

How many calories are there in mussels in white wine sauce?

As with most recipes, the number of calories in mussels in white wine sauce can vary depending on the specific recipe and serving size.

As a rough estimate, an average serve (which typically contains butter, garlic, and cream) may contain around 400-600 calories. However, this can vary depending on the amount of butter, cream, and other ingredients used in the recipe.

But who’s counting calories when eating mussels? I like to take a leaf out of Julia’s book when cooking any French food.

“The only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook.”

Julia Child

What goes with mussels in white wine sauce?

For me, the best way to serve mussels is with copious amounts of fresh crusty French bread. 

And if you’re feeling decadent a portion of homemade fries to go with it.

There’s nothing better than mopping up the remaining sauce with bread when all the mussels have been eaten.

Preparing mussels for cooking

Preparing your mussels for cooking is an important part of the process. I like to soak mine in water for about an hour before I’m ready to start cooking. 

The best place to prepare your mussels is in the sink, so get rid of the water and empty your mussels into the sink. Then discard any that are open because you want the mussels to be closed before cooking.

Next up you need to remove the byssus, the tufty beard bit that sticks up. Just pull it and it should come away from the mussel easily enough.

Then give them a good scrub under cold water before returning them to the bowl.

Most mussels you get from the supermarket or fish counter are usually pretty clean but I like to be sure. 

You’ll know if they’re fresh because they should be all shiny with no horrible fishy smell.


Never boil your mussels otherwise they won’t open. Add no more than a couple of inches of liquid to the pan, that way they’ll steam instead of boil.


1 kg of Fresh Mussels (moules)

150 ml of dry White wine (vin blanc) – Muscadet works well

2 Cloves of Garlic (ail) finely chopped

3 Shallots finely chopped

3 tablespoons of Unsalted Butter (beurre) – I used demi-sel, which is readily available here in France

250 grams of Creme Fraiche

A Handful of Chives (ciboulette)

Parsley for garnish (persil)

2 Lemons (citron)

Chorizo – this is optional, but I love to add in some diced chorizo for colour and flavour

1 Baguette


Step 1 – Scrub your mussels under cold water and remove any beards or barnacles. Get rid of any mussels that are damaged, broken or open. Put your washed mussels into a large bowl whilst you get on with the next step.

Step 2 – chop your garlic, shallots, chorizo and chives. Juice one of the lemons and cut the other lemon into wedges ready to serve with the cooked mussels

Step 3 – add your butter to the pan and melt. Add in your shallots and season with salt and pepper. Cook till soft. Then add the chorizo and cook for another couple of minutes. 

Step 4 – Add the white wine, lemon juice and garlic and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and then stir in your creme fraiche.

Step 5 – add your mussels to the pan and stir to ensure they’ve been covered with the juices. Then add a lid and steam for 5-6 minutes until the mussels are open. Give them a stir a couple of times as you wait for them to open.

Step 6 – they’re ready to serve. Add your mussels to your bowls and top with a wedge of lemon and sprinkle with parsley.

NOTE: Remember to give your guests an empty bowl for discarding the shells and it’s a nice touch to have a finger bowl with water as eating mussels can be a bit of a messy job.

The best mussel in white wine recipes in the world

That’s a hard one, but as I live in France and am a big fan of Julia Child, I’d have to say her recipe was my favourite. For once, it wasn’t too hard with a ridiculous amount of ingredients. 

I’ve now developed my own twist on her tried and tested recipe. 

I’m also a bit of a Jamie Oliver addict, and I loved his take on steamed mussels with his smoky bacon and cider recipe.

Don’t forget to check out all my other recipes >>>

Bon appétit et merci beaucoup!


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About Me

I’m Kylie….

And I live in the beautiful Charente region of France having made the move back in 2016, and I’ve never looked back.

Now, I’m sharing everything I’ve learned about living in rural France. From visiting wineries & chateaux to negotiating French admin and learning the language.


Here are my favourite resources I use each time I travel!

🇺🇸 🇨🇦 Travel Insurance US & Canada – I use Safety Wing

🇪🇺 🇬🇧 Travel Insurance UK and Europe – I use Globelink

🚘 Car Hire Comparison – I use Discover Cars

🚌 🍷 Day Trips and Wine Tours – I use Viator

🚂 Booking Train Tickets – I use Trainline

🏨 Accommodation – I use Booking.com

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