Berbere Butter Mussels with Pickled Tomatoes

Let’s talk mussels! They are a pinch to make, insanely delicious, and make you feel extra fancy without breaking the bank ($3-7 a pound, yes please!). Best of all, they are one of the most sustainable seafood choices you can make– they grow easily and plentifully and require no “feed.” Here, I have taken one of my all time favorite spices, Ethiopian Berbere, to create a sumptuous sauce you will not want to waste, which is where that toasty baguette comes in handy! Top it off with pickled tomatoes and cilantro for an epic date night meal.


  • You want to cook mussels on the same day that you buy them. Keep them in the fridge in a large bowl covered with a damp towel until ready to use.
  • Berbere is becoming more popular these days, and many grocery stores carry it. If you have an Ethiopian/Eritrean population in your city, you can definitely find some at a local market (best to support them over Whole Foods!). Want to order online? Oaktown Spice Shop has you covered.

Serves 2 as a main, or 4 as a appetizer

  • 2 pounds live mussels in shell
  • 1 cup cherry tomato halves
  • ½ cup white vinegar or rice vinegar
  • Olive oil to coat pan. 
  • 2 onions, very thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch ginger, peeled and minced 
  • 1 tbsp berbere
  • 1 cup white wine
  • ½ tsp honey
  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp sherry or white wine vinegar
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • Salt and pepper, to taste. 
  • ½ cup rough chopped cilantro
  • Bread and lemons, for serving 
  1. Clean the mussels by scrubbing and debearding them. Place in a large bowl and cover with a damp towel. Return to the fridge until ready to use. 
  2. In a small bowl, salt the cherry tomatoes generously then cover with white vinegar. Add water if needed to keep the tomatoes completely submerged. 
  3. Heat a dutch oven over medium heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, then the onions. Saute for a minute or two over medium heat before turning the heat down to low. Cook, stirring somewhat regularly, for 30 minutes, or until the onions are very soft and starting to brown. Season with salt. 
  4. Turn the heat up slightly and add ginger and garlic. Saute for 2 minutes. 
  5. Turn the heat back down to low and add the berbere spice. Saute for 1 minute, stirring regularly to ensure the spices don’t burn. 
  6. Return the heat to medium, then add the wine and honey. Use a spoon to scrape up any fond that has built up on the button of the pan. Simmer until the wine reduces my half and the intense alcohol flavor burns off. 
  7. Add the broth and vinegar. Bring to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasoning. You want the broth to be just on the edge of salty. You can also add more berbere at this stage if you want a more intense stock, but this can add additional bitterness. Add additional honey if you want to mellow out any bitter flavors. 
  8. Add the butter and stir until it melts. Do one final taste test and adjust accordingly. 
  9. Add the mussels, stir lightly, and cover.  The mussels should not be drowning in broth, rather sitting on top of the sauce. Keep the heat on medium low and steam 6-8 minutes, or until all the shells have opened up. 
  10. Drain the cherry tomatoes. When the mussels are done, remove the lid, add the tomatoes, and stir lightly. 
  11. Divide into two bowls, ensuring each bowl gets a good amount of broth. Top with cilantro and enjoy.