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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 and Tuna Tartare). 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.
Serve as a side dish with a simple sandwich like Welsh Rarebit or a steamy, hot bowl of soup like Tomato Bisque, Winter Squash Soup, Potato Leek Soup or Vegan Butternut Squash Soup.
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.
Chef Mimi says
This is so beautiful. I wish I had a plate of this salad in front of me right now. I can’t get good crab. Canned is awful, frozen nearly as bad. It’s sad.
David @ Spiced says
You are totally right about imitation crab meat - it's nothing like the real thing. It has a place for sure...but not in a recipe where "crab" is in the title! I do enjoy crab salad, and I haven't made it in ages. This sounds like a great summer nibble!
Marissa Stevens says
It's nice to hear that I'm not alone in that opinion, David! Yes, perfect for summertime!
Made this and was excellent! What I did was mix in some avocado salsa! Put it to the next level!!!!
Marissa Stevens says
So glad you enjoyed this one, Frank!
Crab Salad recipe is great! I made it according to your recipe and the taste is great! Everyone in the family likes it, it makes me happy. thank you
Marissa Stevens says
I'm so glad that you and your family enjoyed this, Phoenix!
We absolutely loved this! I added a bit of diced shallot and chopped green onion and a generous sprinkle of Old Bays! I tossed some arugula with olive oil and fresh lemon juice and served our crab salad on top. Thank you! A perfect salad!
I'm so glad to hear it, Chris!! Thank you for coming back to let me know!
A simple & easy recipe that can be whipped up quick if you're in a pinch for last minute dinner guests. Can't wait to give this a try!
Thanks, Kevin! I hope you and David will love it!
Deborah Parke says
I made the crab salad last night along with your crab cakes. Both turned out soooo good! Thank you for all the amazing and healthy recipes!
Deb! How fun to have you here!! Remember that Halibut Curry you made for Keith's birthday dinner a lifetime ago? Still a favorite!! So glad that you enjoyed the crab recipes - love that you made them both. Girl after my own heart! xoxo
Kelsie | the itsy-bitsy kitchen says
OH EM GEE. Do you know how much I love crab? My parents go crabbing every summer and always come back with the best crab; I usually make my share into dip but I'm going to make this salad next time. It sounds delicious!
I'm so excited that you're going to try this, Kelsie! And I'd like to try that dip of yours!
Your crab salad in an avocado half sounds like a dream lunch to me!!!
Girl after my own heart! Thanks, Liz!
Cheyanne @ No Spoon Necessary says
While I did grow up eating crab (I'm from FL and we took our boat every year to the keys to go crabbing, so it would be weird if I didn't grow up eating it. lol), I've still definitely had my fair share of imitation krab. And you're right, it just doesn't taste like the real thing. I have been thinking about this salad since I saw your fantastic video, Marissa! This salad is definitely calling me name! Such a delicious use of crab!!! Can't wait to try it! Pinned!
aww, thanks so much, Cheyanne! And what fun childhood memories, crabbing in the Keys!
Karen (Back Road Journal) says
Your crab salad sounds light and flavorful just the way I like it.
Thanks so much, Karen!
Mary Ann | The Beach House Kitchen says
I love easy salads like this one Marissa! Perfect for the crabs we catch at the beach too! I've definitely be giving this a try!
Thank you, Mary Ann! Lucky you being able to catch fresh crabs locally!
David @ Spiced says
This sounds delicious, Marissa! I agree with you that imitation crab just doesn't come close to the actual taste and flavor of real crab. It's worth spending the extra money to get the real thing here! With that said, we don't eat crab all that often around here...and I really don't know why. I agree with Dorothy that a good brioche bun is the way to go here!
Thanks, David! I've been thinking the same thing, that we need to whip up some crab salad sandwiches this weekend!
Dawn - Girl Heart Food says
i didn't grow up eating crab...though, it's one of the major fishing components for our commercial fishers here, next to cod. These days, though, I do occasionally enjoy it and it's such a real treat. I love it more than lobster. You can never go wrong with crab salad, especially one with Dijon, lemon and capers! Yum!
Thank you, Dawn! And I agree. Crab is so good...it may be my favorite seafood!
Madison Smith says
Hi Marissa....! i also read your post and this is one of my favorite recipe...this looks sooo delicious with healthy...i can't wait make this....Thanks for sharing.....!
Thanks so much, Madison!
Dorothy Dunton says
Hi Marissa! This sounds delicious! I love the addition of capers. I can't decide between butter lettuce or brioche buns as the vehicle to get this into my mouth!
You made me laugh out loud, Dorothy! That is a tough choice!! Thank you, my friend!