Skip to main content

Dungeness Crab: Cook, Clean, and Create Great Recipes

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.


I Keep My Promises

Several weeks ago, I had a conversation with Shauna Bowling (you know her as Brave Warrior here on HubPages). Of course we were talking about food, and she expressed her love for Dungeness crab. I promised her that I would create an article on that specific species of crab (it truly is different from all of the rest). And so, I present the results of that research.

Did You Know?

  • There are over 4,400 varieties of crabs (but only a fraction of those are harvested commercially).
  • Some (but not all) crabs walk sideways.
  • 20% of all marine crustaceans caught, farmed, and consumed worldwide are crabs, amounting to 1.5 million tons annually.
  • In the United States, there are about 7 varieties of crabs that are fished and/or farmed: In the Atlantic and Gulf Coast regions there are the blue, stone, and Jonah crabs; in Hawaii you will find the Kona crab; and in the Pacific Coast and Alaska regions are the king, snow, and Dungeness crabs.
  1. King crab is the largest species, fished from October to January in the Bering Sea and Norton Sound, Alaska. The shells are tough and spiny and require pliers and a firm grip to extract the delicious meat.
  2. Snow crabs are fished from the North Atlantic from the wintry months of January through April. They have four legs plus a claw arm and can be eaten without tools.
  3. Blue crabs are gathered along the Atlantic coast from April through December. They are steamed and served whole.
  4. Stone crab also comes from the Atlantic, from North Carolina to Florida. Only the claws are eaten. In fact, fishers pull the crabs from the ocean, remove one claw, and then toss the poor little crab back into the brinny where it eventually grows a replacement claw.
  5. Jonah crab comes from the Atlantic and is found from North Carolina to Maine. Only the legs are consumed.
  6. Dungeness crab is my absolute favorite; I don't think I am allowing any local bias when I state that it is the sweetest, most tender crab meat available. Dungeness are harvested from Alaska to the West Coast from late fall to early spring.
  7. Kona crab is fished from September through April in and around the Hawaiian Islands. Only males can be harvested.

Let's Talk Some More About That Dungeness Crab

Dungeness crab meat is so very sweet and succulent that many compare it to the taste of fresh lobster. Only the males can be harvested. The website Crab-o-Licious has some photos that show how to differentiate male and female Dungies.

So protected are these delicacies that there are also size requirements. Adult males must be at least 6 1/4 inches across. (Those in the know use a dollar bill to check the size of their catch.) A legal Dungeness crab weighs about 2 pounds.


Dana is a self-avowed coffee-reliant freelance food writer/blogger with a healthy appetite, a taste for culinary adventure, a thirst for good beers, and an endless hunger for food photography.

She is also an excellent cook with an obvious appreciation for the beauty of the Dungeness crab. She showcases it here in this rich crab bisque seasoned with a dash of smoked paprika, a pinch of Old Bay seasoning, and a splash of luxurious cream.


Most (actually all other) recipes for cioppino simmer the seafood components in a tomato-rich broth. Flavorful yes, but the beauty of each element is lost within the stew. In this recipe, Tasty's Matthew Francis cooks each piece of seafood to perfection, one delicious type at a time, arranges them on one side of a wide shallow bowl, and then pours in a generous ladleful of broth on the other side. Watching the herby-tomato sauce flow toward the cooked scallops and clams is like seeing the ocean tide caress the shoreline.

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Delishably

Crab Cakes

Tom Douglas is an American executive chef, restaurateur, author, and radio talk show host who lives and works in Seattle, Washington. His credentials are amazing. He won the 1994 James Beard Award for Best Northwest Chef and in 2012 won the James Beard Award as Best Restaurateur. He is the author of Tom Douglas' Seattle Kitchen, which was named the 2001 Best American Cookbook by the James Beard Foundation. In 2005, he appeared on an episode of the Food Network's Iron Chef America, where he defeated Chef Masaharu Morimoto.

Restaurants? The list is staggering. He owns and operates:

  • Assembly Hall
  • Brave Horse
  • Cantina Lena
  • The Carlile Room
  • Trattoria Cuoco
  • Dahlia Bakery
  • Dahlia Lounge
  • Etta's
  • Home Remedy
  • Lola
  • Palace
  • Rub with Love Shack
  • Seatown
  • Serious Pie, and
  • Tanakasan

Yes, I'm his biggest fan and thrilled that in the next year he will be opening a new restaurant just 5 miles from where I live. Why am I telling you all of this? He has experience, authority, and some real cooking chops, so when he shares a recipe, I take it seriously.

Mary and Joy are two foodie friends who share the blog A Passionate Plate. They took the lovely photo (above) and presented their version of Tom's world famous crab cakes. Though probably delightful, the Passionate Plate version is the antithesis of what Tom was presenting. He does not use bread crumbs in his crab cakes but has devised a way to prepare cakes that hold together but allow the pure sweet flavor of the Dungeness crab shine through. Tom's crab cakes are sold at his restaurant Etta's and are probably one of the most requested items on the menu. Note that they are soft and need at least an hour’s chilling time before pan frying.


  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
  • 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

    1 pound fresh Dungeness crabmeat, drained, picked clean of shell, and lightly squeezed if wet

  • 4 cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • About 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Green cocktail sauce
  • 4 lemon wedges


  1. In a mini-food processor, combine the egg yolk, vinegar, mustard, bell pepper, onion, the 2 teaspoons of parsley, Tabasco, paprika, thyme, salt, and pepper. Pulse to finely mince the vegetables and combine all the ingredients.
  2. With the motor running, slowly add the oil through the feed tube until the mixture emulsifies and forms a thin mayo.
  3. Transfer the mayo to a large bowl and stir in the sour cream, then use a rubber spatula to fold in the crabmeat. Gently form 8 patties, about 3 inches wide by 3/4-inch thick.
  4. Put the bread crumbs in a shallow container and mix in the 3 tablespoons parsley. Lightly dredge the patties on both sides in the bread crumbs. Cover the crab cakes with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour or longer.
  5. Put two large nonstick skillets over medium heat and add about 2 tablespoons butter to each pan. When the butter is melted, add 4 crab cakes to each pan. Gently fry the crab cakes until they are golden brown on both sides and hot through, turning once with a spatula, about 4 minutes per side. The internal temperature should be 155 F.
  6. Transfer the crab cakes to plates, serving 2 to each person, accompanied by ramekins of green cocktail sauce and lemon wedges.

Makes 8 large crab cakes (4 servings).

Crab Dip

This crab dip appetizer by TheAttainableGourmet is adapted from a recipe that appeared in Food and Wine magazine. With cream cheese, sharp Cheddar, and sour cream it's pretty difficult to not create a yummy dish. Fold in succulent crab meat and then broil until the topping is golden and the mixture is bubbly and ooey-gooey and ohmygoodness!

Crab Eggs Benedict

Sandy Kwan, the creator of the blog FancyFoodFancy is my kind of person. She has the courage to admit what all of us secretly think but don't say out loud. She confesses that she relies on the recipe of Julia Child for the hollandaise sauce, a sauce so perfect, so luxurious that she would "...happily eat it on cardboard."

Is it the hollandaise that makes this Crab Benedict so wonderful, or is it the Dungeness crab? Let's not argue. Let's just agree that both are equally important and a runny poached egg makes everything happy.

Crab Risotto

Luca (SimplyDelishEats) made this dish in much the way that I discover recipes in my kitchen. She had recently experienced an amazing lobster risotto, bought some crab on sale at her local grocery store, and decided then and there that she would use that crab to recreate the risotto.

I will admit that I have not yet tested her recipe, but the ingredients and proportions appear spot-on and the photos of the completed dish have me salivating as I write this. We need to try creamy crab/mushroom risotto very soon.

Oven-Roasted Crab

This is without a doubt the messiest, most decadent meal I will ever post. Forget about knives and forks. Push your utensils aside. Have a stack of napkins (and perhaps a finger bowl) at the ready. Put away your inhibitions and genteel manners. Grasp this buttery oven-roasted crab with your hands, rip and twist, enjoy the succulent meat, lick the shells, and have some crusty french bread slices to sop up the sauce.

Are You Interested?

Questions & Answers

Question: Why do crabs walk sideways?

Answer: It's because of the way their legs are constructed. Our knees point forward, and so we are able to walk forward. The "knees" on a crab are pointing outward (to the sides) so that is how they move.

© 2018 Linda Lum

Related Articles