Why Are Mussels Different Colors?

If you regularly eat mussels, you may notice that some mussels can differ in color. Or, while you are taking a stroll along the beach, you might see that some mussels have different colored shells. So, why do some mussels have different colors?

Mussel shells differ in color depending on the type of species and where they are located. The mussel’s flesh or meaty inside part can also vary in color, and the gender of the mussel determines this. The pale white meat indicates a male mussel and a warmer, orange color, a female.

Humans have enjoyed mussels for thousands of years. There are numerous health benefits connected with eating mussels as they are an essential source of vitamins and minerals. Besides being good for you, mussels are a tasty and fascinating food source. Most mussels eaten are saltwater mussels and come in an assortment of colors.

The Different Colors Of Mussels

The main reason mussels are different colors on the outside is that they belong to a different species and can be found in various locations around the world. Even though mussels are a popular seafood item, people are generally only familiar with black mussels – they are unaware that mussels come in beautiful, diverse colors, such as blue and green.

While eating mussels, you may also notice that the meat inside can vary in color, depending on the mussel you are eating. Mussel meat, the inside fleshy part that we eat, can vary in color, depending on the species or gender of the mussel.

The Mediterranean Mussel, the Mytilus Galloprovincialis, can be recognized by the color of the meat. The female mussels are orange, and the male mussels are white or creamy.

The Different Varieties of Black Mussels

Black mussels are the most well-known and most consumed species of mussels due to their availability. They are generally easy to identify as their shells are black. There are three main kinds of black mussels, they are:

  • Bay Mussels, also called Foolish Mussels (Mytilus trossulus)
  • Mediterranean Mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis
  • Choromytilus meridionalis

Popular Black Bay Mussels

The scientific name for Bay Mussels is Mytilus trossulus. These black mussels are the easiest to find at most seafood markets in the United States. They thrive along North America’s Pacific and Atlantic coastlines, where they are harvested naturally or farmed with ropes suspended into densely packed areas so mussels can grow on them.

Bay Mussels are a firm favorite, as they are known to have a sweet taste and dense texture. These black mussels are also the most affordable as they are readily available and easily grown in the United States.

The Mediterranean Black Mussel

Mytilus galloprovincialis is universally known as the Mediterranean Mussel; this black mussel can be found in the Mediterranean Sea and all along the Atlantic Coast of southern Europe. It is often mistaken for a blue mussel due to the bluish rim on its outer shell. Mediterranean Mussels are known for their mild, delicate flavors.

The Southern African Black Mussel

The Choromytilus meridionalis is a black mussel that is indigenous to southern Africa. Most people prefer these black mussels because of their bold and intense flavors accompanied by a tender and soft texture.

The Different Kinds Of Green Mussels

The most common types of mussels found are black and green mussels. Green mussels are far larger than black mussels and are indigenous to the Indo-Pacific region. There are two main species of green mussels:

  • Asian Green Mussel (Perna viridis)
  • New Zealand Green-Lipped Mussel (Perna canaliculus)

The Asian Green Mussel

This green mussel is widespread within the Indo-Pacific area and can also be found in Japan, the Persian Gulf, and Singapore. Asian Green Mussels are well known for their sweet flavor and chewy texture.

The New Zealand Green-Lipped Mussel

The New Zealand Green-Lipped Mussel is also known as the Greenshell Mussel. It is native to New Zealand and is easy to identify due to the green color found outside of its shell.

Green mussels have a mild, sweet taste and do not overwhelm seafood dishes with their fishy flavor the same way black mussels often do. Green mussels are much larger than black mussels and tend to be tougher and chewier than most other shellfish.

Green mussels are far more expensive as they are larger and more challenging to find. They are grown naturally in New Zealand and must be commercially farmed elsewhere.

The Different Varieties Of Blue Mussels

Blue mussels are medium-sized, edible mussels that attach themselves to rocks in tidal areas. The two most common types of blue mussels are the following:

  • Chilean Blue Mussel (Mytilus platensis/Mytilus edulis platensis/ Mytilus chilensis)
  • Blue Mussels (Mytilus edulis)

Characteristics Of The Chilean Blue Mussel

The Chilean Blue Mussel (Mytilus platensis) is known by various scientific names. It is located near the coastal areas of Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and the Falkland Islands. The Chilean Blue Mussel has a sweet flavor, and the texture of the meat is soft and succulent.

The Blue Mussel

The Blue Mussel, known as Mytilus edulis, is an important food source in Europe and other parts of the world. Blue mussels are gathered from deep water using rakes or dredges, or they are farmed commercially on ropes.

Blue mussels are mainly farmed in the southern region of Europe along the Mediterranean coast. However, they can also be found along both coasts of North America as well as in Japan.

The cultivated mussels are more expensive than the wild mussels and are usually more flavorsome. Wild Blue Mussels have thicker, silvery shells, while the farmed Blue Mussels have thinner, dark shells. Blue Mussels are well known for their distinctive, rich sweet taste.

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The Different Colors Of Mussel Meat

The color of mussel meat can differ according to the gender of the mussel. In general, the female mussel will be an orange color, and the male will be a creamy, white color. However, the meat of the indigenous South African black mussel species Choromytilus Meridionalis can be black or blue in color.

The Mediterranean and the South African species taste similar, but the South African species have a more intense, bold flavor. So, if you are somebody who does not particularly enjoy a strong, bold fishy taste while eating mussels, it is best if you stay away from South African black mussels.

The Differences Between Black, Green, and Blue Mussels

There are many differences between black, green, and blue mussels. These differences depend on their geolocation, color, taste, and texture.

 The differences in mussel types are illustrated in the table below:

Mussel TypeGeolocationColourTaste  & Texture
Bay Mussel (Mytilus Trossulus)Along the Pacific and Atlantic CoastlinesBlackSweet flavor with a firm, dense texture.
Mediterranean Mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis)  Mediterranean SeaBlack with a bluish rimMild, delicate taste with a buttery texture.
Choromytilus Meridionalis    Southern AfricaBlackBold, robust flavor with a soft and succulent texture.
Asian Green Mussel (Perna viridis)    Along the Indo-Pacific region.GreenNatural sweet flavor with a chewy texture.
New Zealand Green Lipped Mussel (Perna canaliculus)    New ZealandGreenLight, mild and sweet flavor with a slightly tougher texture.
Chilean Blue Mussel (Mytilus platensis)    Coastal areas of Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and the Falkland Islands.BlueSweet flavor with a tender texture.
Blue Mussel (Mytilus edulis)Found in Japan, the southern part of the Mediterranean, and parts of the USA.BlueSweet flavor with a softer texture.


Mussels are a diverse and colorful species. Numerous factors differentiate green, black, and blue mussels. They include characteristics such as taste, texture, size, and where they can be found.

Green, black and blue mussels make a flavorsome culinary treat for anyone who loves the taste of seafood. Mussels are delicious, and though they may differ slightly in color, taste, and texture, they can be used interchangeably in most seafood recipes.