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Easy Crab Salad (Real Crab Meat)

Make an easy crab salad that’s budget friendly and big on flavor without any dyed fish for a feature ingredient. This classic salad is great for lunch or as an appetizer but plan ahead–it needs an overnight chill in the fridge for proper flavor.

Crab salad in a bowl with a cracker.

I cannot get on board with white fish dyed pink and mixed with additives to look like crab. I ate bucket loads of the stuff as a kid but it’s far from the kind of food your body needs.

But real lump crab meat is expensive so you do have some options here: You can use canned lump crab meat or flaked canned crab if needed. I used canned lump crab meat here and it was just fine.

What does crab salad contain?

This easy crab salad recipe features real crab meat as its primary ingredient. It’s coated in creamy mayonnaise (you have to try my homemade mayonnaise recipe) and flavored with salt, pepper, old bay seasoning, fresh dill, and lemon juice.

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    The addition of crunchy celery and zesty red onion brings a pop of flavor and texture that is delicious!

    Want to add a little extra something to your crab salad? Feel free to throw in some crunchy cucumber, crisp bell pepper, and/or chopped shrimp.

    What kind of crab meat should I use? 

    Crab salad recipes often call for imitation crab. If you want to use that, you can but it’s not an ingredient I can really get behind.

    I find that real crab meat provides a more genuine seafood taste, so look for fresh, frozen, or yes even canned lump crab meat. If you go with a frozen crab you must thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before using it. 

    Overhead image of crab meat salad in a bowl near fresh dill and a couple of slices of lemon.

    Is crab salad healthy?

    Crab meat is an excellent source of protein and Omega-3 fatty acids (great for heart health!). Plus, even though mayo gets a bad wrap sometimes, it’s actually loaded with some super beneficial vitamins and minerals and is best if made homemade.

    As for the rest of the salad, it packs a nice little punch of vegetables, too. 

    So yes, crab salad is pretty healthy. I do recommend using real crab meat from a nutritional standpoint, though. Real crab is significantly higher in protein and other vital nutrients. 

    Here’s what you’ll need to make this easy crab salad.

    • Lump crab meat
    • Celery
    • Mayonnaise (homemade mayonnaise)
    • Red onion
    • Lemon juice
    • Old bay seasoning
    • Fresh dill
    • Sea salt
    • Pepper

    Tips for easy crab salad

    So you want to make the best crab meat salad ever? Good thing I put together a few tips and tricks to help you get there. Here they come. 

    • Get real crab. I really do recommend using real lump crab meat as opposed to imitation crab. The flavor and texture are just a million times better. Be sure to thaw your frozen crab (if using) in the fridge overnight. I tested this recipe with canned lump crab meat to save money and it was still very good.
    • Tiny veggies. I recommend that you chop the onions, celery, and whatever other veggies you choose to use very finely. They will spread more evenly throughout the salad, yielding a more well-balanced bite. 
    • Go fresh. Sure you could buy dried dill and bottled lemon juice but I really recommend using fresh dill and freshly squeezed lemon juice when possible. The flavor is just so much better and it’s really not a whole lot harder to find.
    • Don’t over-mix. ​ Overmixing this salad can break up hearty chunks of delicate crab meat and turn it mushy. Gently fold the crab meat into the dressing and other ingredients to preserve its texture.
    • Chill. Allow the crab salad to chill in the refrigerator overnight before serving. Not only is it better served chilled, but this time in the fridge will help the flavors meld together, enhancing the overall taste of the salad.
    Overhead image of crab meat salad in a bowl near fresh dill, lemon, and crackers.

    Ways to serve crab salad

    Whip up this crab meat salad recipe and use it however you please; as a dip, a sandwich filling, or just on its own with some fresh butter lettuce. There are so many options but here are some of my favorites to get you started. 

    • As a dip. Dip your favorite buttery cracker or chip into this outstanding crab salad. The butteriness of the cracker paired with the creamy dressing is an unbeatable combination.
    • In pasta salad. Toss crab meat salad in with some elbow noodles. Crabby pasta salad! So good.
    • In a sandwich. Slather your favorite sandwich bread or hoagie roll with mayo and load it up with crab salad, crispy romaine, and/or sliced tomatoes. If you have a little extra time on your hands I challenge you to make your own sourdough or French bread. This recipe will yield enough for about 6 sandwiches.
    • In an avocado. Stuff a seeded avocado half with this crab salad, you’ll be in heaven. Sprinkle it with cheddar cheese and throw it under the broiler for a minute or so and you won’t even know what hit you. 
    • In a cucumber. Looking for a healthy, low-carb lunch option? Halve a cucumber, remove the seeds, and stuff it with crab meat salad.
    • In a green salad. Add some protein to your greens with this southern crab salad. Try adding a scoop to my Homemade Caesar Salad or this Charred Caesar Salad

    What to serve with crab salad

    So you’ve got your crab salad stuffed inside a tasty sandwich or on top of your favorite salad. What could you serve as a side? Here are some of my favorite options. 

    How to assemble crab salad

    Mix all ingredients except the crab together first. This means less tossing and mixing and you won’t break up your crab meat.

    Overhead image of a bowl of lump crab meat next to a bowl full of the remaining ingredients for crab meat salad.
    Overhead image of the sauce for crab meat salad in a bowl.

    Pour the mayonnaise mixture over the crab and gently toss to combine.

    Adding the sauce to crab meat salad.

    Cover and place the crab salad in the fridge overnight for the flavors to develop properly. It will make some liquid as it sits; this is okay. Just use a slotted spoon when serving.

    Mixing sauce into crab meat salad.

    How long does crab salad last in the fridge?

    Crab salad is best enjoyed chilled so keep it covered in the fridge until you are ready to enjoy it. If you plan on keeping it for more than a couple of hours, seal it in an airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to 3 days. 

    More easy seafood recipes 

    Looking for more easy, delicious seafood recipes? Here are some of my top picks.

    Crab salad in a bowl with a cracker.

    Easy Crab Salad (Real Crab)

    Juicy lump crab meat, crunchy celery, and red onion are tossed together in a tangy dressing of mayonnaise, lemon juice, fresh dill, and more to make the perfect crab salad.
    Prep Time 10 minutes
    Chill Time 12 hours
    Total Time 12 hours 10 minutes
    Servings 6 servings
    Author Rachel Ballard

    Ingredients
      

    • 1 pound lump crab meat I tested with canned
    • cup diced celery
    • ¾ cup mayonnaise homemade
    • 3 tablespoons minced red onion
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    • 1 teaspoon Old bay seasoning
    • 1 tablespoon fresh dill
    • ½ tsp sea salt
    • ¼ tsp pepper

    Instructions
     

    • Drain crab and set aside.
    • In a bowl mix the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
    • Pour the sauce over the crab and gently fold the mixture together. Avoid over mixing to help keep the crab together.
    • Taste for seasoning and add more if you choose to then cover and refrigerate 12 hours or overnight.
    • Serve with crackers, on a sandwich or over lettuce cups.

    Nutrition

    Serving: 0.5cup (heaping)Calories: 258kcalCarbohydrates: 1gProtein: 14gFat: 21gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 13gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 44mgSodium: 1008mgPotassium: 188mgFiber: 0.2gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 76IUVitamin C: 7mgCalcium: 45mgIron: 1mg
    Tried this recipe?Tag us on Instagram @feastandfarm and hashtag it #feastandfarm
    Course Salad
    Cuisine American
    Keyword crab meat salad, crab salad, crab salad recipe, crabmeat salad

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    About the Author

    Rachel Ballard, RN, BSN brings more than 20 years of professional nursing expertise to Feast and Farm. With a love for nutrient dense foods that support wellness, she works to distill complex health information and current trends into recipes that fuel the best version of yourself. Read more about Rachel here.