Mussels and Rice Recipe (Bulgarian-style)

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This Bulgarian-style mussels and rice recipe is loaded with fresh herbs and comes together in about an hour.

The mussels are also complemented with carrots, onions and tomatoes which give them a more nuanced flavor.

Keep reading for the full recipe.

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Mussels with rice on a plate.

Mussels and Rice Recipe (Bulgarian-style)

Bulgarian-style mussels with rice is a dish that’s mostly served on the East Coast of Bulgaria.

There are a few different variations of this dish, but it typically boils down to fresh mussels which are cooked with some rice and a variety of veggies.

This particular recipe is made with a handful of carrots, onions and tomatoes.

However, the secret ingredient that makes these mussels stand out is lovage.

Lovage is a herb that’s commonly used in the Balkans as a seasoning for seafood dishes like oven roasted sea bream.

It has a distinct flavor which is hard to replicate with other herbs or seasoning.


  • Mussels – Make sure the mussels you buy are fresh by checking if their shells are closed. You can place them in some water while you bring them back home.
  • Rice – Any type of short grain rice will do.
  • Vegetables – The mussels are cooked with an assortment of carrots, onions, tomatoes and green Cubanelle peppers.
  • Seasonings – The only seasonings you’ll need are some black pepper, fresh parsley and fresh lovage.

Ingredients for mussels with rice.

How to Make

Check out the recipe card at the end of this article for detailed, step-by-step instructions.

Start by running the mussels under cold water and thoroughly cleaning them.

Remove the ones that are opened up or have a broken shell.

Pour half a cup of water in a large pot, add the mussels and lovage and cook until the mussels open up.

Strain the mussels and save the broth for later.

Set 25 mussels with their shells on, aside and clean the rest.

Boiling mussels with lovage and straining them with a colander.

In the meantime, saute the onion in a large saucepan and add the rice.

Cook the rice for a minute or so, then add the finely chopped vegetables and broth, and season with salt and pepper.

Stir in the shelled mussels and cook under a closed lid for 10 minutes.

Add the rest of the mussels and cook for another 7 to 8 minutes.

A pot of rice with red peppers and carrots next to a pot with rice, vegetables and mussels.

Take the pan off the heat, season the mussels with the parsley and set aside for 15 minutes.

Finish by garnishing the mussels with a lemon wedge and parsley, and serve.

Stirring the mussels with a wooden spoon and seasoning them with fresh parsley.


Mussels, like most type of seafood, are quite sensitive to bacterial contamination and can spoil quite fast.

That’s why I don’t recommend storing them for later.

If you have any leftovers, it’s better to toss them out than risk food poisoning.

Mussels and Rice Recipe (Bulgarian-style)

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Mussels and Rice Recipe (Bulgarian-style)

These mussels with rice are complemented with varying flavors thanks to the addition of fresh lovage, carrots and tomatoes. Serve them with a glass of white wine to indulge in an authentic Bulgarian meal.
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Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Resting Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
by: Aya
Servings: 4
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: bulgarian, Mediterranean


  • 4 pounds mussels
  • 1 cup short grain rice
  • 1 cup tomatoes chopped
  • 1/4 cup carrots chopped
  • 1 cup onions finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp Cubanelle pepper chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup parsley fresh
  • 1 cup lovage fresh
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper


  • Run the mussels under cold water and remove the brown shoots coming from the shell. Throw out any mussels that have opened or have a broken shell.
  • Pour half a cup of the water in a large pot, then add 2 teaspoons of salt and place the lovage on top with its roots facing down. There should be about two and a half inches of space between the mussels and the edge of your pot. Otherwise, they won't open. Put the mussels on top and cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until the mussels open up.
  • Strain the mussels and set them aside. There should be about two cups of broth which you should save for later. If the broth is less than that, you can add some water.
  • Wash and strain the rice, then finely chop the onion, carrots and red pepper. Remove the seeds from the tomatoes and grate them.
  • Set aside 25 mussels with their shells on and thoroughly clean the rest.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and saute the onion for 5 minutes.
  • Add the rice and cook for no more than a minute.
  • Stir in the chopped vegetables and add 2 cups of the broth and 1 cup water, seasoning with the black pepper afterward. Mix in the mussels so some of the rice gets in their shells, put a glass lid on and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Add in the rest of the mussels and stir everything together so the shells of the mussels get filled with rice.
  • Cook for another 7 to 8 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and season the mussels with the parsley. Set aside for 15 minutes.
  • Garnish with a lemon wedge and parsley and serve. You can eat the rice with the shells instead of using utensils.


  • Always get fresh live mussels from a vendor you trust. All mussels should be perfectly closed if they're fresh.
  • Always clean the mussels thoroughly and under running water.
  • Technically you're not boiling the mussels but rather steaming them. That's why we add just a little bit of water to the pot. It's best to use a glass lid so that you can monitor when the mussels open and are ready to be taken off the stove. If in about 5 to 7 minutes there are still unopened ones -- throw these away.
  • The pot should be large enough so that there are 2-3 inches of free space between the lid and the mussels. If the pot is full to the top -- the mussels will not open when ready! 

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Calories: 656kcal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 21g | Cholesterol: 65mg | Sodium: 2472mg | Potassium: 1162mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 3147IU | Vitamin C: 48mg | Calcium: 116mg | Iron: 12mg

I do my best to provide you with the nutritional information for recipes but I'm not a certified nutritionist. The nutritional information provided should only be treated as an estimate since it will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.

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