What is Imitation Crab & 10 Popular Crab Stick Recipes

Are you craving the sweet, tender taste of fresh crab meat but you live somewhere landlocked?

Imitation crab, or what the Japanese call Kanikama, is a delicacy designed to mimic the taste of real crab. As a substitute for real crab, imitation crab is an inexpensive crab alternative that is readily available at the majority of grocery stores. 

In this article, I cover some key information on imitation crab and provide you with 10 popular crab stick recipes so that next time you’re craving crab, you are well prepared.

Enjoy the taste of crab from your home with the following crab stick recipes.

Keep reading to find out more.

What is imitation crab? 

Imitation crab is made from surimi - the flesh of fish that has been deboned, washed, and then minced into a paste. The paste is blended with other ingredients before being heated and pressed into a shape that mimics real crab meat.

Although imitation crab is made of seafood, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t contain any crab other than crab extract that is occasionally added for flavoring.

Fish such as pollock is often used to make surimi thanks to its mild color and odor. This fish is also used to make fish sticks and other breaded fish products. 

10 crab stick recipes 

1. Spicy crab sushi roll 

Spicy crab sushi roll is a very popular crab stick recipe. The crab meat from the crab sticks is shredded and then seasoned with sriracha spicy mayo. Whether you’re having guests over or are making spicy crab sushi rolls for a party of one, this is a recipe you’ll want to try!

Spicy crab sushi roll recipe URL: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/241197/spicy-sushi-roll/ 

2. Volcano roll

As the name suggests, this dish is renowned for its unique volcano appearance. The volcano roll is an inside-out maki roll where the nori seaweed wraps the seafood and vegetable fillings inside, leaving the sushi rice on the outside. It's then topped with a baked spicy and creamy ‘lava’-like crab salad, making it look like a volcano or lava. 

Volcano roll recipe URL: https://peasandcrayons.com/2013/04/volcano-roll.html 

3. Kanikama sushi nigiri 

This sushi recipe is absolutely divine and is incredibly easy to make with imitation crab. Its unique taste comes down to both the vinegared rice and the thinly sliced layer of imitation crab that sits on top, then wrapped by a thin strip of nori seaweed. Alongside this, in comparison to salmon nigiri, this recipe is significantly less expensive thanks to imitation crab’s reasonable price!

Kanikama sushi nigiri recipe URL: https://izzycooking.com/kanikama/ 

4. Crab salad 

Crab salad is a refreshing salad that is often flavored with crab, celery, bell peppers, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and seasonings. It is incredibly simple to make, yet it’s loaded with delicious imitation crab meat, fresh vegetables, and zingy lemon juice. Simply switch out the real crab for imitation crab. You can serve this delicious dish on its own, over a bed of lettuce, or in a sandwich.

Crab salad recipe URL: https://www.thespruceeats.com/simple-crab-salad-3054377 

5. California roll

A California roll is a fresh take on traditional Japanese rice rolls. This type of maki sushi (rolled sushi) is made by rolling ingredients such as cucumber, imitation crab, and avocado in seasoned rice. California rolls are often topped with mayonnaise, teriyaki, and crunchy onions and are absolutely delicious if you’re a sushi fan.

California roll recipe URL: https://tasty.co/recipe/california-roll 

6. Crab and shrimp ceviche 

Ceviche generally consists of fresh raw fish mixed in spices, citrus juices, and chopped vegetables or peppers. Ceviche is well seasoned with lemon and honey for a sweet and tangy aftertaste, and as an appetizer, is mouth-wateringly delicious.

Crab and shrimp ceviche recipe URL: https://www.bigoven.com/recipe/shrimp-and-crab-ceviche/441097 

7. Imitation crab soup 

Imitation crab soup is the perfect dish for a cold winter’s day. Although imitation crab soup recipes differ, they often contain a chicken broth base and feature a variety of vegetables, oyster sauce, and imitation crab! That being said, you can put anything in a soup, so the options are truly endless when it comes to making imitation crab soup.

Imitation crab soup recipe URL: https://www.food.com/recipe/mock-crab-soup-83528 

8. Shrimp and imitation crab pasta

If you’re a big fan of seafood, then you really can’t go wrong with shrimp and imitation crab pasta. This recipe is rich and creamy, made with imitation crab meat, shrimp, tomatoes, and garlic while being tossed in a delicious white sauce and topped with fresh Parmesan cheese. Al dente pasta cooked to perfection with cooked shrimp and crab makes the ultimate indulgent meal that the whole family can enjoy!

Shrimp and imitation crab pasta recipe URL: https://anaffairfromtheheart.com/shrimp-and-crab-pasta-with-apple/ 

9. Imitation crab alfredo

Keeping in line with the pasta theme, there’s nothing more indulgent than a creamy imitation crab alfredo. This pasta dish features delicious imitation crab in a creamy, parmesan sauce with garlic and parsley.

Rich, creamy, and packed with flavors from the sea, this crab alfredo is the best kind of comfort food. It all comes together in a heavenly mix of flavors in each bite! 

Imitation crab alfredo recipe URL: https://cookiesandcups.com/crab-alfredo/ 

10. Imitation crab cakes 

There’s nothing like a golden pan-fried crab cake that is packed full of seafood flavor. Featuring panko bread crumbs and Old Bay spice, these crab cakes are a mid-week winner.

Simply fry and voila! My favorite way to serve crab cakes is with a delicious sweet chili dipping sauce. Once you try how delicious they are, you won’t believe how easy they are to make at home.

Simply swap out the fresh crap for imitation crab.

Imitation crab cakes recipe URL: https://dizzybusyandhungry.com/crab-cake-on-a-bun/ 

Can you eat imitation crab meat raw?

Yes, you can absolutely eat imitation crab straight out of the packet. While it doesn’t need cooking when you buy it from the grocery store, it’s not actually raw. Imitation crab is fully cooked during the process of making crab sticks. You can chop them up and add to a variety of cold meals such as salads, sushi, and ceviche directly without having to cook it first! This is one of the reasons that imitation crab is so convenient.

How bad is imitation crab meat for you?

Generally speaking, imitation crab is highly processed and contains food additives such as MSG, which can trigger adverse side effects in some people. 

Compared to regular crab, the imitation crab meat nutrition profile also lacks many of the vitamins and minerals found in fresh crab, including protein, vitamin B12, and selenium. Real crab meat also provides a much wider range of nutrition than imitation crab meat.

There’s no denying that fresh crab reigns superior in a lot of ways - it is absolutely delicious and is generally healthier for you. That being said, imitation crab is significantly cheaper than real crab meat, and if you live in a place that is landlocked, then it can make an excellent substitute for your favorite seafood recipes. Despite the fact that it isn’t as healthy as real crab and there are healthier seafood options, there’s no denying how useful it is. If you want a versatile ingredient that is convenient and easy to incorporate into your recipes, then imitation crab is a wonderful treat.

Is imitation crab vegan?

As imitation crab doesn’t actually contain real crab meat, people often wonder if imitation crab is vegan. Surimi, the main ingredient in a crab stick, is a paste made from finely ground fish. As a result of this, imitation crab is not suitable for vegans since it contains real seafood.