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Crab and Lobster Salad Lobster and Crab meat
salad stuffed in a Papaya

Just Itchin' for Some Imitation Shellfish!

by Cheryl Hill-Burrier

Crab and lobster are great all by themselves or mixed with ingredients to make a meal, dip, or even a salad. But if you have shellfish allergies, you know why imitation crab and lobster meat has become so popular. Now, don't get me wrong, it's still real seafood, just not real shellfish and, let me tell you, it tastes darn good!

There are about seven million people in the U.S. who are allergic to shellfish. And, just like the folks who are allergic to milk, peanuts or strawberries, shellfish is just one more food allergy. Reactions include itching, hives, abdominal pain, wheezing, nausea and swelling of body parts. Nice, huh? However, I have a friend with shellfish allergies who never hesitates to dig into a bowl of boiled shrimp. The only problem is, he always comes away with a swollen face, lips and eyes, looking pretty much like a big old puffer fish! Luckily for him, these symptoms go away quickly, until the next time he eats shrimp.

What is imitation crabmeat?

So, what is imitation crabmeat? Well, the meat is actually a process called surimi, a Japanese word meaning "ground meat". Oh, now don't start kickin' up a bunch of dust. After all, hamburger, hotdogs and sausage are ground meat. The surimi seafood produced in the U.S. is made with Alaskan pollock and/or Pacific whiting, both really good, clean fish.

The process is pretty simple. The cleaned fish are washed and minced, and then blended with either crab or lobster flavoring or tiny amounts of natural crab or lobster. Then a binder like starch or egg white is incorporated to hold it together. The meat is fully cooked, and then packaged and sold in grocery stores.

Now, I'm a crab-a-holic and don't have shellfish allergies, but I still buy this meat because I love the taste, the really low cost, and I know how easy and versatile it is for cooking. Plus, it's lower in fat and calories than real crab, high in Omega 3's, and you don't have to worry about it being out of season. I'm telling you; you just can't go wrong here. And just to prove my point, Subway sandwich stores, which are known for sandwiches that help you lose weight, now have a Subway Seafood Sensation Sandwich made with, you guessed it, imitation crabmeat because it's high in flavor and low in calories.

Where to find imitation crabmeat

But, that's not the only place you can find this meat. The Louis Kemp Company produces Crab Delights and Lobster Delights, which can be found in your grocery store refrigerator section. The Crab Delights are sold in 8-ounce packages as flake, chunk, leg style, and even a new garlic-herb flake meat, all of which sell for about one-quarter the cost of real crab. Their Lobster Delights, which are moist, chunk-style meat, sell for about one-fifth that of real lobster. Chicken of the Sea is a bit more expensive, but they produce imitation crab in 3.53-ounce pouches that can be found on your grocery shelf. All of these meats can be used in main dishes, salads and appetizers.

The baked crab had an incredibly smooth flavor, while the batter-fried recipe tasted exactly like fresh soft-shell crab. In fact, the popularity of this imitation shellfish has grown so much that Future Food in Carrollton, Texas is producing incredibly delicious dishes like Krab Louie Salad, Krab Pasta Salad, Cajun Krab Dip, Roasted Garlic Krab Dip, Jalapeño Krab Dip and more. Their product lines are sold across the U.S., and can be found in stores like Walmart Supercenter, Super Target, Randall's and Albertson's.

Well, you don't have to tell me twice. With a quick trip to the store for our Crab Delights and other ingredients, Larry and I got to work in the kitchen to try out some recipes. I baked and Larry fried and, oh boy, are you gonna love what we have for you. The baked crab had an incredibly smooth flavor, while Larry's batter-fried recipe tasted exactly like fresh soft-shell crab.

So, now that you've got the skinny about this great tasting meat, don't you just feel like a little stink-bait for thinking badly about it before?

Gulf Shore Baked Crab/Lobster

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 8 ounces imitation crab or lobster flake OR real crab or lobster
  • 1/2 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup potato chip crumbs
  • 5 jumbo-sized foil muffin pan liners
Shred the crab or lobster into a bowl and set aside.

Place a large handful of potato chips onto a sheet of wax paper and place another sheet on top. Crush the potato chips well using a rolling pin and set aside.

Melt 2 of the 3 tablespoons of butter in a medium-size saucepan. Over medium-low heat, whisk flour into the butter and continue to whisk while adding the milk and Tabasco sauce until thickened. Stir the crabmeat, cheese, red bell pepper, salt, pepper and mustard into the mixture. Stir well and remove from heat.

Place the foil muffin pan liners into a muffin pan and spoon about 1/2 cup crab mixture into each liner. Top each with the potato chip crumbs and bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until browned.

Note: Makes 5 baked crabmeat servings. This recipe can be doubled and cooked as a casserole, and it also makes a nice crab dip.

Batter-Fried Crab

  • 1 8-Ounce package chunk or leg-style crabmeat
  • 3 cups cooking oil
  • Wet Batter:

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Place ingredients into a blender and blend well. Place into a mixing bowl and set aside. Dry Batter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Place all ingredients into a mixing bowl and blend well.

Dip crab pieces into the wet batter and then into the dry batter and set onto a plate.

Pour oil into a large frying pan or deep-fryer and preheat to 325°F. Drop battered crab into the oil and cook until golden brown. Remove and place onto paper towels to drain excess oil. Serve with tartar sauce or seafood cocktail sauce.

Crab Louis Salad

  • 1 medium head Romaine lettuce
  • 1 pound flake crabmeat or imitation crabmeat
  • 2 large tomatoes, each cut into 4 wedges
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, each cut into 4 wedges
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
Rinse and drain the lettuce, tear off 4 large leaves and place one leaf on each plate. Shred remaining lettuce and evenly distribute on top of each plate.

Set aside 4 large pieces of crabmeat and shred the rest into flakes. Place an equal amount of flaked crabmeat onto each plate, along with two tomato wedges and two egg wedges.

Drizzle each salad with Crab Louis Dressing, then garnish each plate with the reserved large pieces of crabmeat, topped with a sprinkle of paprika. Makes 4 servings.

Crab Louis Salad Dressing

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green onion
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Tabasco sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish, plain or creamy
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream, whipped
Mix all ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl and refrigerate until ready to use. Makes 4 servings

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