Why You Should Stop Overlooking Spanish Canned Mussels

The tinned seafood boom that started a few years ago is still in full swing, and if you are looking to try your hand at a new briny treat, skip the sardines and anchovies for a moment and grab some Spanish canned mussels. Tuna and other classic favorites may still be the stars of the canned fish world, but one of the appeals of tinned, preserved food that ships around the world is the vast variety of unique things you can sample from different cuisines.

Canned mussels might not seem to have the appeal of freshly steamed shellfish, but they are actually incredibly flavorful. That's not just because they are packed at the height of freshness, but also because of the delicious oils and marinades they come in.

Spanish canned mussels are some of the highest-quality mussels in the world, particularly those from the region of Galicia in northwest Spain. The mussels there are left to fully grow and plump up before they're packed, producing full chunky globs of briny meat. The larger mussels are also big enough to sit in the liquids preserving them for a longer time without breaking down.

While they come in different flavors, the most common sauce is escabeche, which is a mix of paprika, garlic, vinegar, and bay leaf. Compared to tender, mild sardines or tuna in olive oil, Spanish canned mussels are true flavor bombs that can turn simple crackers into a luxury meal.

Spanish canned mussels are a traditional treat with tons of seafood flavor

We may be just waking up to the joys of canned fish, but the Spanish have known its pleasures for a long time — and they have perfected the art. Known as "conservas," a whole host of canned seafood from Spain's rich shores is packaged within a day of being caught. They are particularly attentive to pairing the right flavors with the right type of seafood, like the tangy, spicy escabeche that brings an acidic brightness to meaty, salty mussels.

Beyond the care taken in growing and packing them, what makes Spanish mussels so great is the geography of the rocky shores in northwestern Spain where they're harvested. People are so proud of their mussels there that the mollusk is even celebrated during festivals in the summer and fall.

As for actually eating them, you can't go wrong with some classic crusty bread or crackers, but piling them on top of potato chips is also a popular and tasty choice. If you do want to accent your canned mussels a little bit, simple garnishes like lemon juice, pickles, or a dash of hot sauce will complement them well, and a thin spread of butter can add a little extra richness.

You can also spoon the shellfish over warm dishes like pasta or risotto — just be careful to only add the mussels right before you finish cooking. Otherwise, they'll become overcooked and tough. With something as delicious as Spanish canned mussels, you don't need to do much extra work.