Crab Salad is a simple mixture of delectable real lump crab meat and diced crunchy celery tossed in a creamy dressing of mayonnaise, a touch of Dijon mustard, fresh lemon juice, capers and fresh parsley. It's a wonderful seafood salad to enjoy on its own over crisp butter lettuce, but also delicious in a crab salad sandwich, crab pasta salad or elegantly served in avocado halves or hollowed out tomatoes.
I didn't grow up eating crab. In fact, my first taste of anything similar was in college and it was imitation crab meat (Krab). And, to me, it doesn't taste at all like the real thing. For this salad, it's worth the splurge to buy real lump crab.
What is imitation crab made of?
I think this SF Gate article quote says it best, "Imitation crab is made with a type of fish called surimi. Manufacturers add fillers, flavoring and color to surimi to mimic the taste, texture and color of real crab legs."
Ingredients You Need to Make Crab Salad
- Crab Meat: real lump crab meat
- Celery: for the best texture, use the tender, lighter green ribs from the heart of the head of celery.
- Mayonnaise: good quality store-bought mayonnaise or homemade mayonnaise
- Mustard: good quality, creamy Dijon mustard is ideal
- Lemon Juice: freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Capers: ideally non-pareil capers
- Parsley: fresh, flat leaf parsley (also called Italian parsley)
- Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- Butter Lettuce Leaves: optional for serving
- Just as with a great crab cake recipe, a real crab salad recipe should be all about enhancing the flavor of the crab meat not competing with it (also true for Shrimp Salad). Avoid using a large amount of dressing, that can weigh down the salad and make it goopy. Use just enough to coat every tender bite with creamy, salty, tanginess to bring out all of that delicious crab flavor.
- For the dressing, use good quality mayonnaise (or homemade mayonnaise if you're feeling ambitious), fresh lemon juice and, ideally, salt cured capers, though brine cured will also work.
- Use the inner, tender and crisp ribs of celery for a delicate, pleasant crunch throughout the salad.
How to Store
Crab salad will last up to 3 days, stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
- If you're making crab salad sandwiches, this recipe will make 4 large sandwiches on hoagie rolls or brioche buns or 8 small sandwiches on potato or brioche rolls or brioche slider buns.
- Make a Crab Pasta Salad for 4. Cook 8 ounces of dry, short pasta like rotini, shell pasta, or macaroni according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water to cool. Drain thoroughly then toss pasta with crab salad. Refrigerate for at least one hour to allow the flavors to meld; toss again just before serving. (See my Seafood Pasta Salad for a version of this salad with both crab and shrimp.)
- For delicious appetizers, serve in avocado halves and/or hollowed out tomatoes. Create a bed of lettuce on 6 serving plates using butter lettuce leaves. Arrange avocado halves and tomatoes on the lettuce and fill with salad. Divide any remaining salad artfully among plates and serve.
How to Make Crab Salad
Step 1: Make dressing by stirring together mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, fresh lemon juice, capers and parsley.
Step 2: Place fresh crab and diced celery in a large bowl. Spoon dressing over and toss gently to coat; serve.
- butter lettuce leaves for lining individual serving bowls or salad plates
- 1 pound lump crab meat picked through for bits of shell
- 1 rib celery finely diced
- ⅓ cup mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons capers coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper optional
- Arrange butter lettuce leaves on 4 individual serving bowls or salad plates.
- Add lump crab and celery to a large bowl.
- Make dressing by stirring together remaining ingredients, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, capers and fresh parsley.
- Spoon dressing over crab and celery; gently toss to coat evenly. Adjust seasoning if needed with salt and pepper. Divide salad among 4 prepared bowls or plates and serve.
- Serve this on its own or as crab salad sandwiches (this recipe works for 4 hoagie rolls or 8 potato or brioche rolls) or tossed with cold cooked pasta for a wonderful seafood pasta salad (adding 8 ounces of dry pasta cooked according to package directions and cooled will make 4 generous servings). Or serve scooped into avocado halves or hollowed out tomatoes for an elegant meal.
- Check the mayonnaise label if you're following a Paleo or Whole30 diet, or make your own Avocado Oil Mayonnaise, which is appropriate for either diet.