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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Potatoes. This salad loves potatoes. Serve it alongside my Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes or these glorious Mashed Potato Cakes.
- Mac and Cheese. Double up of seafood with this Lobster Mac and Cheese or try my Baked Mac and Cheese with Tomatoes.
- Coleslaw. Enjoy this Creamy Coleslaw as a side for Southern crab salad or slide it into a crab salad sandwich for a crunchy bite.
- Other “salads”. I love preparing this recipe to serve with my Creamy Red Potato Salad with Bacon or this BLT Pasta Salad.
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.
Pour the mayonnaise mixture over the crab and gently toss to combine.
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.
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.
- Easy Maryland Crab Cakes
- Salmon Patties
- Baked Salmon Fillet with Lemon and Dill
- Alaskan Salmon Burgers with Lemon Herb Mayo
- Mediterranean Baked Fish with Burst Tomatoes and Olives
Easy Crab Salad (Real Crab)
- 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.