When you want to serve a seafood salad but also want it to be elegant and elevated—crab salad is the answer. This easy creamy crab salad is made with fresh lump crabmeat, fresh horseradish, lemon and green onions. It’s the perfect seafood salad for all kinds of occasions—and can be served in lettuce cups, as an open-faced, or stuffed into hoagie rolls for a sandwich reminiscent of a lobster roll.
What Makes This the Best Crab Salad
For starters, it’s made with fresh crab meat. One quick search on the internet and you’ll find most are made with imitation crab meat. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing—it’s also not truly a crab salad then.
On top of that, this recipe comes from out resident Southerner, Jenni Lata, and is loaded with layers of flavor. It’s fresh, flavorful and highlights the sweet, delicate flavor of crab perfectly.
How to Make Crab Salad
Crab meat: This salad really depends on good quality fresh crab meat, so it’s not the time to skimp! Best if you can find fresh, domestic lump crab meat over the imported, pasteurized kind, but the only way to know if it’s great is to taste it. It should taste clean and sweet and lightly salted. Make sure you pick over the meat carefully for shells, there’s always a few hiding in there!
Condiments: mayonnaise plus a dash of ketchup are the base for the dreamy dressing.
Seasonings: this relies on a few pantry staples to build its flavor. You’ll need some Worcestershire, Tabasco, and Old Bay. If you don’t have Old Bay, any seafood seasoning will work.
Produce: the rest of the salad is rounded out with some simple produce including lemon (zest and juice), celery and scallions (aka green onions). The only specialty item you may have a hard time finding is fresh horseradish root. We grate some fresh horseradish over the salad right before serving for a fresh punch of heat. It’s a must-try if you can find it. If you can’t find fresh horseradish, use prepared horseradish found in the refrigerated section (not creamed horseradish).
- Drain and Pick Over Crab
- Mix Together the Dressing
- Mix the Salad Together
- Serve Crab Salad
Drain and pick over the crab meat—discard any shells and transfer the crab meat to a medium mixing bowl. You’ll need the bowl to be big enough to mix the entire salad together (about 3 cups).
In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, ketchup, lemon juice and zest, Worcestershire, Tabasco, and Old Bay. Season the dressing with kosher salt and black pepper to taste.
Add the dressing, celery, and green onions to the bowl with crab and mix gently until combined. Season to taste with more salt, pepper and lemon as desired.
We like to spoon this crab salad into bibb lettuce leaves and grate fresh horseradish over top. It’s also great stuffed into a hoagie roll or piled onto a toasted piece of bread. You can also enjoy it as a dip with celery sticks and crackers.
Tips for Making Crab Salad
- If you can’t like Jumbo lump crab meat, you can also use regular lump crab meat (which tends to be a bit more affordable).
- If you’ve never cooked with fresh horseradish root, here’s a quick education.
Fresh horseradish root looks a bit like a large parsnip. It has a lovely peppery flavor that is a perfect match for sweet crab meat. Horseradish roots can be large but a little bit goes a long way. Peel the bottom end of the root and grate it using a microplane over the top of the crab salad. It will look a bit like grated parmesan cheese but with a peppery zing!
Real Crab Meat vs Imitation Crab Meat
Before you get started making this crab salad recipe, it’s essential to understand the difference between real crab meat and imitation crab meat.
Real crab meat comes from actual crabs and is harvested from their shells. It offers a distinct flavor and texture that is unique to each crab species. The taste can range from sweet to briny, and the texture varies from tender to slightly firm.
On the other hand, imitation crab meat, also known as surimi, is a processed seafood product made from white fish, usually pollock, combined with starch, fillers, and flavorings to mimic the taste and texture of real crab. While it may resemble real crab meat, it has a more uniform appearance and a softer texture. It generally offers a mild and slightly sweet flavor.
When it comes to cooking, real crab meat shines in dishes that celebrate its natural taste, such as crab cakes, crab bisque or this crab salad recipe. Imitation crab meat is often used in salads, sushi rolls, and other dishes where its versatility and affordability make it a popular choice.
Substitutions and Variations
- Instead of green onions, throw in some leftover diced onion (red onion or white onion works).
- Feel free to add a dash of garlic powder for some additional depth of flavor.
- We DO NOT recommend using imitation crab meat in place of fresh crab meat. Fresh is what makes this salad so delicious!
- Toss in some chopped fresh parsley, cilantro, chives or tarragon.
Store any leftover crab salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. We do not recommend freezing crab salad.
How to Serve Crab Salad
- As lettuce wraps
- Stuffed into a hoagie
- Open-faced sandwich
- Dip with celery and crackers
Once you decide how to serve it, pair this crab salad with polenta fries, healthy cornbread (or gluten-free cornbread) or homemade sweet potato rolls.
More Seafood Recipes
If you love a seafood salad, then be sure to check out our Salmon Caesar Salad or Salmon and French Lentil Salad.
If dips are your thing, Smoked Trout Dip and Smoked Salmon Dip are always a hit! Either is the perfect party app.
You can never go wrong with a bowl of steamed mussels. This mussels recipe will become your new go-to!
Crab Salad Recipe
- 1 pound fresh jumbo lump crab meat
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon Tabasco
- ½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
- ½ cup finely chopped celery
- ¼ cup thinly sliced scallions
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 small piece horseradish root, peeled
- Serving: celery stalks and leaves, Bibb lettuce leaves, toasted bread, rolls, and/or crackers
- Carefully and gently pick over 1 pound crab meat, discarding any bits of shell. Transfer crab meat to a medium mixing bowl.
- For the dressing, in a separate mixing bowl whisk together ½ cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon ketchup, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, ½ teaspoon Worcestershire, ½ teaspoon Tabasco, ½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and a few turns of cracked black pepper.
- Add dressing to crab meat and gently fold together with a rubber spatula. Fold in chopped celery and scallions. Season to taste with additional salt, pepper and lemon.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld (or up to 4 hours).
- To serve as a dip, pile crab salad into a serving bowl. Sprinkle with additional Old Bay seasoning. Using a microplane, grate fresh horseradish generously over the top of the crab. Garnish with celery leaves. Serve with celery stalks and buttery crackers.
- Or, to serve as a salad, spoon crab salad onto Bibb lettuce leaves and garnish as above. You can also serve open-faced on toasted bread or stuffed into toasted hoagie rolls.