How to Make an Incredible Mussel Bisque (Recipe Included)

Seafood Soups

The first time I made this recipe I made it the way most chefs make a mussel bisque. That is, you steam the mussels, strain the broth, and remove the mussel meats from the shells. Then you make the bisque and the mussel meats are added whole at the end.

mussel bisque

Well, guess what?

I didn’t like it.

It just didn’t have enough mussel flavor, especially the broth. It tasted like a mussel soup which wasn’t bad by any means but it just didn’t taste like a bisque.

The defining feature of bisques is the rich and flavorful stocks that come from the shells of crustaceans such as lobsters, crabs, and crayfish. For example, there is just no substitute for homemade lobster stock when making a lobster bisque.

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How to Make a Mussel Bisque Taste Like a Bisque

Mussel broth, as wonderful as it is, is a little too tame for bisque. It needs a little help to bring out some additional depth of flavor. So I re-made the recipe with two adjustments.

1. Reinforce the broth with clam juice

You could also use lobster stock but I’ll take a wild guess and say you don’t have lobster stock lying around. Bar Harbor brand clam juice is by far the best store-bought option. Clam juice is a lot brinier than mussel broth and it will strengthen that background ocean flavor that is an essential characteristic of bisques.

2. Puree the mussel meats

Most chefs would consider this sacrilegious. But it gives the bisque a more mussel-rich flavor. I thought it worked like a charm. Every spoonful was thoroughly enhanced with that distinct but subtle sea essence of mussels.

Yes, the bisque did turn a darker color which is why most chefs would find it unsuitable for serving. Admittedly, the bleak, greyish hue doesn’t look particularly great. But as a home cook, I’m not overly concerned with presentation. Nourishment and flavor are my primary concerns and this recipe fulfills both.

That said, chomping down on some whole mussels certainly enhances the experience and makes it more hearty and satisfying. In the recipe below, simply reserve one-quarter of the mussels after steaming and add a few into each bowl when serving.

More Bisque Recipes to Try

Kitchen Tools You’ll Need

Medium stockpot (best choice) (good choice)

Cutting board

Sharp knives


Mussel Bisque with Fennel Recipe

mussel bisque

Mussel Bisque with Fennel

This mussel bisque is made with Atlantic blue mussels and bursts with the flavors of the sea. With its delicate mussel broth and hint of sweetness, this recipe is sure to impress.
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
CuisineAmerican, French
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time50 minutes
Servings4 servings
AuthorCraig Fear


For the mussel broth

  • 3 pounds mussels rinsed and cleaned
  • 1 cup white wine dry
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup additional clam juice or lobster stock, to measure about 4 cups of broth total (see instructions)

For the soup

  • 4 TBSPs butter unsalted
  • 1 fennel bulb cored and diced, about 1 ½ to 2 cups (make sure to reserve the fennel fronds)
  • 1 small to medium yellow onion
  • 1 carrot stalk
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups mussel broth
  • ¼ cup white rice
  • ¼ cup sherry or Madeira
  • 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • ¾ of the reserved mussels
  • 1-2 cups heavy cream
  • Fennel fronds chopped, about ¼ cup, loosely packed
  • Sea salt to taste
  • ¼ of the reserved mussels divided into each bowl

Optional seasonings, to taste

  • Salt and pepper
  • Fennel fronds chopped
  • Paprika pinch or two
  • Cayenne pinch
  • Nutmeg pinch or two
  • Splash sherry or Madeira


  • Clean mussels of any dirt or debris by rinsing well in cold, running water. Discard any that are not tightly closed or whose shells are cracked or damaged.
  • Add 1 cup water and 1 cup of dry white wine to a medium to large stock pot and bring it to a rolling boil. Add the mussels, cover and steam for 5 to 10 minutes or until all the shells open. Discard any that do not open. Strain the mussel broth and set the mussels aside. You should get about 3 cups total. Add enough lobster stock or clam juice to the mussel broth to measure 4 cups of broth total.
  • You can remove the mussel meats from the shells now or do it later when the rice is simmering. Set the mussel meats aside. You should get about 2 – 2 ½ cups total.
  • Melt butter over medium heat in a medium-sized stock pot and add fennel, onion, carrot and bay leaf and saute about 5 to 10 minutes until softened and fragrant. Add garlic cloves in the last minute.
  • Add mussel broth, white rice, sherry or Madeira and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a steady boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until rice is cooked through. Remove the bay leaf.
  • Remove the stockpot from the stove top. Take ¾ of the mussel meats, add to the stock pot and puree the bisque with a handheld immersion blender. Be very careful not to splatter hot soup!
  • Add 1 cup of cream and the fennel fronds and stir in. Add up to 1 more cup of cream, if desired. Salt, to taste.
  • Ladle bisque into individual bowls and add a handful of the remaining whole mussel meats to each bowl. Add optional seasonings, to taste.


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 570kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 37g | Saturated Fat: 22g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 0.5g | Cholesterol: 146mg | Sodium: 888mg | Potassium: 1005mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 1732IU | Vitamin C: 26mg | Calcium: 136mg | Iron: 8mg
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How to Make an Incredible Mussel Bisque (Recipe Included)

About the Author

Craig Fear is the creator of Fearless Eating and the author of three books, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution, Fearless Broths and Soups and The Thai Soup Secret. After years helping clients with digestive issues, Craig decided to pursue writing full-time. He intends to write many more books on broths and soups from around the world! Click here to learn more about Craig.

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