Cold Mussel Escabeche with Vinegar and Pimentón

This tapa is one of those dishes that you’ll find in most bars in Spain, made with canned mussels. But don’t fool yourself. Sometimes those cans are very expensive, filled with the highest-quality mussels that have been perfectly cooked. Here we’re re-creating a very popular tapa right at home, without opening an expensive Spanish can.

Metric version of recipe

Yields 8 portions

Ingredient Amount
Prince Edward Island mussels, cleaned thoroughly, debearded 2 lbs.
Extra virgin olive oil, Spanish 1 cup
Garlic cloves, medium 6 ea.
Orange, zest 1 tsp.
Pimentón (Spanish hot paprika) 1 Tbsp.
Sherry vinegar 1/2 cup
Black peppercorns 1 tsp.
Fresh rosemary 2 sprigs
Fresh thyme 2 sprigs
Bay leaf 2 ea.
Salt 1/2 tsp.


  1. Bring 1 ½ quarts of water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Place 10 mussels in a sieve and immerse it in the boiling water for 5 seconds, or just until the mussel shells open. Transfer the mussels from the sieve to a colander and place the colander over a medium bowl to catch any juices from the mussels. Repeat until you have cooked all the mussels.
  2. Open the mussels and remove them from the shells. Transfer them to a medium nonreactive bowl, being careful to keep them whole. Reserve under refrigeration. Strain the liquid in the bowl through a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer into a small saucepan (there should be roughly 1 cup of the mussel liquid). Bring the liquid to a boil over medium heat, and reduce to about ¼ cup, 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Heat the oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Split open the garlic cloves by placing them on a chopping board and pressing down hard with the base of your hand or with the flat side of a knife. Slice off the tough root end of each clove and discard the skins. Add the split garlic to the oil and brown it on all sides, about 2 minutes.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and add the reduced mussel water, orange zest, pimentón, vinegar, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, and salt. Allow the escabeche to cool to room temperature, then pour it over the mussels. This dish usually tastes even better the day after you cook it. To serve individual portions, place approximately 8 mussels on each small plate, then stir the oil-vinegar mixture just before spooning it over the mussels. Garnish with marinated herbs and garlic cloves. Alternatively, place the mussels back in their shells and spoon the oil-vinegar mixture over them.

Additional tips

By scalding the mussels for a mere few seconds, you cook them just enough to be edible but not so much that they become chewy. This technique can be used for any bivalves.

Recipe credit: José Andrés, as presented at the Worlds of Flavor International Conference & Festival. Published with permission of the author. All rights reserved. Served at the World Marketplace on Friday, Nov. 3, 2006.

© 2018 The Culinary Institute of America