Mussels Saganaki (Μύδια-σαγανάκι)

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IMG_6860When visiting Thessaloniki and the surrounding areas, chances are you’ll dine at one of the many tavernas that offer fish and seafood. Thessaloniki is Greece’s second largest city and its port is located on the Thermaic Gulf.

Upon sitting down with your friends, the waiter will clean and set your table, bring bottles of water and offer the day’s specials and recommendations. After hearing the tantalizing list of choices, mezedes are ordered: grilled octopus, deep-fried calamari, salads like taramasalata, melitzanosalata, Htipiti, a Horiatiki (Greek salad), a few orders of fries, some grilled sardines or fried fresh anchovies, shrimp saganaki, and always, always, always…mussels saganaki.

Arch of Galerius, Thessaloniki, Greece
Arch of Galerius, Thessaloniki, Greece

There are a few rivers that empty into the Thermaic Gulf and nearby you will find mussel farms that feed the demand of the seafood industry in the area. The denizens in and around Thessaloniki eat alot of mussels – so much that one can even buy bags of shucked mussel meat in salt water…that’s convenience!

Mussels Saganaki is always ordered when we go to a Psarotaverna (fish & seafood) tavern. Saganaki refers to any dish served in the two-handled vessel (it’s more than just the flaming cheese dish). Think tajine or paella…it can mean the vessel and the dish contained in t he vessel. So many options.

The very essence of Mussels Saganaki are the mussel meat themselves, very ripe tomatoes passed through the box grater, a hot banana pepper, some crumbled Feta cheese and dried Greek oregano. That’s it!

It’s very important to use ripe, delicious tomatoes in this dish however, in the real world, tasty tomatoes are not always available but another valuable Greek ingredient comes to the rescue – tomato paste.IMG_6440

As mentioned above, one can buy fresh shucked mussels in a bag in the Thessaloniki area (you can tell people make Mussels Saganaki alot). That convenience is not available to most of us but this dish is just as easily prepared using fresh mussels in their shell.

All one has to do is scrub and clean the mussels, steam then open and shuck the mussel meat out. Reserve that mussel broth though, it only makes this dish all the tastier.IMG_6864

This dish is served most commonly with Ouzo or Tsipouro (a home-distilled eau de vie with or without the anise flavouring). Lots of bread are called for here, it would be a sin to leave behind all that tasty sauce behind.

My trip to Greece tick-tocks closer and closer. The sights, the sounds, the smells and tastes are all coming back to me. I will be having Mussels Saganaki on many occasions.

For those of you not going to Greece, I give you an authentic taste of Thessaloniki, a taste of Greece…..Mussels Saganaki!IMG_6861

Mussels Saganaki (Μύδια σαγανάκι)

(makes 2 appetizer servings)

1lb of fresh mussels, shucked

1/4 cup of olive oil

2 ripe medium-sized tomatoes

(or 1 Tbsp. of tomato paste dilluted in 1/2 cup of water)

2 Tbsp. of dried Greek oregano

1 hot banana pepper

1/3 cup of crumbled Feta cheese

  1. Rinse your mussels under cold tap water. If any mussels are broken, discard them and if you see any slightly open, gently tap them. If they close, they are alive and if not – then they are dead and therefore you must also discard them. Pull the beards from the mussels and brush off any barnacles that may be on the shell surface. Rinse under cold water and place in a strainer (with a plate) underneath and store in the fridge for up to 1 day.
  2. When you are ready to cook your mussels, place them in a bowl with water and a little bit of flour. The mussels are alive, will breath and any sand they spit out will adhere to the flour and sink to the bottom of the bowl. After 30 minutes, rinse the mussels and reserve.
  3. Place a skillet on your stove-top over high heat and add the olive oil and the mussels. Cover and allow the mussels to steam. They will release their own liquid and steam open after 3-5 minutes. Remove the mussels from the heat and allow to cool a bit so you can safely shuck the mussel meat.
  4. Pluck the mussel meat out of the their shells and reserve some mussels in their shells for presentation. Discard any mussels that did not open and reserve your mussel meat and the juices (liqueur).
  5. In the same skillet over high heat, add the liqueur back in along with the grated tomatoes (or tomato paste diluted in water) and slices of hot banana pepper. Once the liquid comes to a boil, reduce to medium and simmer until your sauce has thickened to a loose sauce.
  6. Add your mussels and gently stir in. Allow them to warm in the sauce for a couple of minutes. Now add your crumbled Feta and dried Greek oregano and plate in two serving dishes.
  7. Serve immediately with lots of crusty bread, sip on some Ouzo or Tsipouro and be transported to a seaside taverna in Greece.IMG_6868

Note: Salt and pepper are really not needed here. The mussels and Feta cheese provide all the salt needed in the dish and as for pepper, the hot banana pepper takes care of the heat aspect. then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.

© 2007-2009 Peter Minakis

© 2009 – 2016,
Peter Minakis

. All rights reserved.

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48 Comments for “Mussels Saganaki (Μύδια-σαγανάκι)”


AaaaH! Saganaki…so many varieties! I confess to not knowing this mussel version Peter. Thanks for sharing it in all its deliciousness!


That dish looks awesome! I’m not a big mussel fan, but I’m sure that I’d devour your saganaki!




When I saw mussels in your post I knew that I would be bookmarking this one … :) Love the simplicity and flavors, and will be sure to make this soon.


Wow…they look so luscious. I always order shrimp saganaki when I’m in a Greek restaurant. Question: I thought ‘saganaki’ dishes always had ouzo or some brandy in the preparation (even if you’re not going for the ‘flame’ presentation).


Είσαι φοβερός! Πολύ καλή συνταγή!
Όμως έχω μια απορία: Το hot banana pepper μοιάζει σε γεύση με το τσίλι?


as you know by now, i’m pretty squeamish about seafood, but that pool of sauce looks extremely appetizing. i think i just need to bite the bullet and eat seafood until i start to like it. i’ll start slow and work my way up to octopus. :)


When I looked at the photo, I expected a long list of ingredients, because it looked quite complex. I was surprised to find only a few ingredients on the list!!! Beautiful colors in the sauce!!


I would have expected a long and drawn out recipe judging from the photos but the list was a pleasant surprise. I am sure my husband would love to come home to this.


Last week I had chicken oreganata and since then I’ve been looking for Greek recipes… so glad I stumbled upon your blog. Yummy!


I forgot you’re such a blogging machine. I can’t keep up with you!

I’m loving this dish peter. I wish i had that in front of me right now with a crusty baguette. Loving the pictures of the homeland as well.


Wow Peter…more than the saganaki I love that gorgeous summer pic of the Arch of Galerius…does it have a story? Just curious. :)

One more thing..I know its not related and isn’t really funny…but saganaki rhymes with nagasaki so much.


Oh man I can almost smell how good that is, which is torture sitting here on a cold grey Minneapolis morning


I love mussels…this recipe looks so delicious and simple to make. I am very jealous that you will be heading to Greece soon – you lucky guy.


Saganaki makes me drool. And mussels — they’re such a lovely, affordable dish to make in the summer. And they won’t heat up your kitchen too badly either!

Don’t you just love the box grater technique for tomatoes? When I discovered that, I seriously wondered why I hadn’t thought of it myself much earlier~!


Well if that’s not a classic Thessaloniki dish. I love them. Ouzo Melathron in Monastiraki also prepares them great. Never tried to do them myself.


This looks so delicious! I would love to try mussel saganaki in Greece one day, but until then I can use your recipe to make my own:) Thank you for sharing!


I love mussels so this is a winner for me. Thanks for the recipe!

I would love to pay a visit to Greece. I once lived in a “Greek suburb” in Australia and it was so fabulous.


That’s a huge amount of oregano!

I can’t wait to make this, the mussels are delicious and criminally cheap around here.


I’d rather jump on a plane to Thessaloniki, but since I can’t do that right away, these mussels will be a good substitute. Great looking sauce.



I am looking for a recipe for hot banana peppers stuffed with a Greek melty-type cheese with olive oil on top. I had this at a Greek restaurant and haven’t been able to find a recipe. I think the cheese may be Saganaki.

Anyone have a recipe close to this?


I know the one you’re talking about…usually a piquante (hot) banana pepper. I have a recipe but it’s not posted yet…a tomato sauce, the pepper lightly fried & then removed. Slit the pepper, place the cheese in the cavity and gently poach in the sauce to melt the cheese.

Recipe to come…



Lisa, saganaki is not a cheese but a cooking method.
Maybe the stuffed peppers you tried where with feta cheese, or (even less propably) with “graviera” cheese wich is melty,