August 12, 2019 | Updated June 06, 2022
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I grew up with deviled crab, an old school comfort food dish many of our moms used to make back in the day.
What is deviled crab? Crabmeat, breadcrumbs or crushed crackers, onion and celery, seasonings, and a little butter… OK, maybe a lot of butter.
The result is substantial, tangy, herby, and yet the flavor of the crab still shines through. As with crab cakes, the best deviled crab is heavy on the crab and light on the filler.
Historically you’d serve your deviled crab in its own shell, but if you don’t have them or this somehow skeeves you out, use shallow, oven-proof bowls or ramekins.
As you may be able to tell here, I am using our local Dungeness crab, but any crab will do. Blue crabs are the norm where they live, although I’ve even seen people make deviled crab with spider crabs, which is pretty trippy. In general, if you are using the shells, you want larger crabs — at least the size of a normal blue crab.
That’s not to say you couldn’t use the shells of smaller crabs to make an appetizer, especially since deviled crab is a traditional starter for a larger seafood feast.
Lots of variations exist for deviled crab, which, incidentally gets its name from the presence of cayenne or hot sauce. It’s not actually spicy-hot, but there’s just enough to keep things bright and interesting.
I am a big fan of using three specific, branded ingredients, which is a rarity for me. First, I prefer to use crushed Saltines for the breading instead of breadcrumbs. I like the variation in texture and the flavor. I also use Old Bay Seasoning and a bit of Tabasco hot sauce. With these last two, I think the Old Bay is more critical, although I’ve made deviled crab with Cajun seasoning and it was almost as good.
Oh, about that butter. You need it. And lots of it. Sure you can use some sort of oil, but butter is important to my version of this dish. You need a full stick, too. You’ll thank me later…
Side note: This recipe, more or less, works well with clams, oysters, shrimp, crawfish or lobster.
- 1 cup minced shallot or onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 jalapeno or serrano chile, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound crabmeat
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 3 green onions, chopped
- 3 tablespoons minced parsley
- 1 sleeve Saltines, crushed (about 4 ounces)
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 stick butter, melted (about 1/2 cup)
- Lemons or limes, for serving
- Cook the onions in the olive oil in a small pan over medium heat until they turn translucent, a few minutes. Add the garlic and minced chile and cook another minute or two. Turn off the heat and let this cool for 10 minutes or so.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, add all the remaining ingredients, except for the melted butter and the citrus. Mix well. Preheat the oven to 400F.
- When the onion mixture has cooled, mix it into the crab mixture. Stuff the mixture into cleaned crab shells or whatever else makes you happy. Drizzle the melted butter over the stuffed shells evenly.
- Bake for 20 minutes, and serve with wedges of lemon or lime.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
we are in haines alsaka enjoying the dungeness crab im catching .we tried your recipe few nights ago ..it was fantastic ..next time for my preference id do a little less chili so as to taste the crab a bit more ..cleaned up the shells and used them for the bowels ..will be doing this recipe lots now thanks
Boy you do come up with some good ones! I can hardly wait to try this on a Keto cheat day. I could probably sub pork rinds for saltines but I think it would be pale imitation.
im in haines alaska and getting dunguness every day.we are gunna try it tomorrow ..my concern now is that it sounds kind of dry with the saltines and no fluid ..tell its not so
This looks delicious but you can’t call it a deviled crab. Come down to Tampa and get yourself a real one sometime.
Chris: The dish exists outside Tampa. I can assure you this is a faithful rendition of deviled crab where I am from. That said, I would like to try the Tampa version someday.
Spider crab? Are they edible? Who knew?
Lauri: Yep. I used to eat them when I lived on Long Island. Hard to get into, but good.
Beth: Yep, it works really well with canned.
Can’t wait to try! Will probably catch a few (blue crabs) this weekend, might try it with them.
I scored 4 blue crabs last week, (just enough for me), but used them for spaghetti & crabs, like my Mom used to make. Delicious, and I hadn’t had for a very long time, so doubly so!
Hi Hank, what quantity is a stick of butter?
Maureen: 113 grams, or about 1/2 cup.
I don’t have access to fresh crab here in Iowa. Do you think this would work well with a good quality canned lump meat?
HI Hank, this sounds delicious, and I’d love to make it. I cannot use Saltines due to a medical dietary restriction, but I have found another brand that works well for me. How many oz/grams is “one sleeve” of Saltines?
Becka: it’s about 4 ounces or 40 crackers.
Use unsalted saltines instead.
Morning Hank, So where does the Tabasco come into play?
Rob: Whenever you want it to. I add some to the mix, and more when I eat it.
Hmmm. Could we do this with lobsta? 🙂
i follow a lot of your recipes and they are always pretty tasty.
i have a friend who is a gamekeeper, here in oxford, and he furnishes me with a lot of the things you do recipes for. venison, pidgeon, pheasant, duck, even a woodcock once! i also catch my own crayfish, the american signal kind, they are abundant in oxfordshire.
i just wanted to say thank you for some pretty decent meals ive shared with the Mrs.
keep up the good work