Light & Lemony Crab Salad

Pick up some inexpensive imitation crab meat, turn it into a light, summery meat "salad" that's a kissin' cousin to chicken salad. Tuck it into a soft sandwich roll, scoop it over a lettuce plate, spread a little across crackers. This is a summer staple, easy to make, easy to use, handy to have on hand for a summery lunch or supper, even a breakfast omelet.

Light & Lemony Crab Salad, another meat salad ♥ Easy, inexpensive protein.

Home-style Whole Food, Simply Prepared, "Plain" But Perfect. Just Six Ingredients. Real Food, Fast & Flexible, Mere Minutes to the Table. Another Quick Supper, a Kitchen Parade Specialty. Hearty & Filling. Fun Picnic Food. A Summer Classic. Not just easy, Summer Easy. A New Addition to The Homemade Pantry, a Kitchen Parade Specialty. Budget Friendly. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special. Great for Meal Prep. Perfect When Cooking for One or Two. Easy DIY. Low Carb. High Protein. Naturally Gluten Free. So Good!!

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Increasing Our Everyday Protein Consumption

Every so often, I bring home a two-pound package of "imitation" crab from a Sam's Club run. It isn't real crab at all, of course, but instead chunks of meaty, slightly sweet fish. (For more info including an ingredient list, please see TransOcean Crab Classic Imitation Crabmeat. For more info on its Marine Stewardship Council certification for sustainability practices, please see MSC and Wikipedia.)

For us, imitation crab is an inexpensive source of quick and convenient protein. I move it into a glass storage container (affiliate link) and both my husband and I pick from that, me usually for a quick lunch salad with protein, he for a quick hit of protein before bed.

No cooking. No cleanup. High protein. (About 7 grams of protein for 100 calories.) For us, imitation crab is a big win.

But if we're not using it up fast enough, then I use about a pound to make a simple, moist crab salad that makes great sandwiches, cracker toppings and kinda-sorta fancy "extra" omelets.

Once you have the imitation crab on hand, everything else is easy, probably already in your fridge.

Light & Lemony Crab Salad, another meat salad ♥ Easy, inexpensive protein.

Recipe Overview: Light & Lemony Crab Salad

  • Crab Salad is a meat salad vs a vegetable salad or a fruit salad. Like the more familiar chicken salad and egg salad, Crab Salad is just finely chopped imitation crab (plus some finely chopped vegetables for a little crunch) bound together by a touch of mayo that's lightened and loosened with lemon zest and lemon juice.
  • When to Serve = Serve Crab Salad atop salad greens for a light lunch or supper; in a sandwich with a slice of tomato and some greens; on crackers for a quick snack; tucked into an omelet. One year, I did lunch for a few women friends and family, lettuce plates topped with three small scoops of Crab Salad, chicken salad and egg salad.
  • Distinctive Ingredients = Imitation Crab + Lemon
  • Short Ingredient List = both the above + celery + bell pepper + sour cream
  • For Garnish = None is needed but a little fresh herb never hurts, I'd probably choose dill or tarragon
  • Kitchen Tools = A food processor makes quick work of the chopping but isn't required.
  • There are no special techniques here, just chopping the crab and vegetables in a food processor or by hand, then stirring together with the other ingredients in a bowl. Easy-peasy, you can definitely do this!
  • This is a time-friendly recipe, it takes only about 10 minutes to make.
  • This is pantry-friendly recipe, aside from the imitation crab, all the other ingredients are ones you may already have on hand.
  • This is a calorie-friendly recipe, heavy on protein, light on mayo, bright with flavor.
  • This is a budget-friendly recipe, the Imitation Crab is inexpensive, all the other ingredients are easy to keep on hand and use up.
  • A pound of imitation crab yields about 3 cups of Crab Salad.
  • So good! I hope you love it!

  • Need to stick with a more familiar meat salad? Try my signature Chicken Salad for Sandwiches.
  • Apparently, I'm smitten with meat salads, here are a few more meat salad recipe ideas.

An omelet filled with Light & Lemony Crab Salad, another meat salad ♥ Easy, inexpensive protein.

You Might Wonder Be Wondering ...

Have another question? Ask away, I'll do my best to answer!

  • What about using real crab meat, instead of imitation crab meat? Maybe. Real crab is so pricey, so delicious, that I like to save the real thing for dishes where the crab itself really shines, crab cakes, say. But that's me, living in the Midwest and eternally frugal about food. Your take may be different!
Light & Lemony Crab Salad, another meat salad ♥ Easy, inexpensive protein.

For Best Results

For my weekly column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I interviewed chefs and translated their restaurant recipes for home kitchens. The most illuminating question? "How can a home cook ensure the same results?" So now I ask that question of myself, too, for my own recipes. Have another question? Ask away, I'll do my best to answer!

Pay Attention to Consistency To serve Crab Salad in scoops or mounds on top of lettuce or stuffed into a large tomato, say, you probably want the chunks of crab to be a little larger, more distinct, more "forkable". For this, instead of pulling out the food processor, you can probably just as quickly chop the crab, peppers and celery by hand.

But if you'll be serving the Crab Salad in sandwiches (especially croissants, so good!), the food processor really does make quick work of evenly chopping the crab to the right consistency. To help the mixture bind well, I like to do half the crab quite small and the other half a little bit larger. I learned this when perfecting "my" chicken salad, see Chicken Salad for Sandwiches. Texture really does make a difference. I also opt to process the peppers and celery separately, it takes just a minute or two more time but you really keep good control over the consistency of each individual ingredient.

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Light & Lemony Crab Salad, another meat salad ♥ Easy, inexpensive protein.


Hands-on time: 10 minutes
Time-to-table: 10 minutes
Makes about 3 cups
  • 1 pound (454g) imitation crab
  • 2 mini peppers, preferably orange and/or yellow, trimmed & seeds removed (about 60g)
  • 1 rib celery, trimmed and roughly chopped (about 60g)
  • 1/4 cup (60g) mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons (30g) sour cream
  • Zest & juice (about 4 tablespoons) of a lemon

In a food processor (or possibly by hand), process the crab, then the peppers alone, then the celery.

After processing everything, move it to a bowl and stir in the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon zest and lemon juice.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Use within about three days.

ALANNA's TIPS For this recipe, any size food processor should work fine, from a mini food processor (affiliate link) to a larger one like my much-appreciated Cuisinart 7 Cup Food Processor (affiliate link) which last year replaced my very first Cuisinart purchased way back when I had my very first apartment 40+ years ago. (Imagine‼ What appliance lasts that long? I did replace bowls and blades but the base unit was a real workhorse for years.) Now think about how you're serving this. If it's for a dinner-style salad supper, aim for larger chunks of crab, peppers and celery; in fact, it might be easier and faster to just hand chop it all. But if it's for sandwiches, crackers, scoops, omelets, etc., definitely use the food processor and process the crab in two batches, one processed until quite fine, another left slightly larger. I've kept this recipe quite light, using just enough mayonnaise, sour cream and lemon juice to hold the chopped crab together without overpowering the crab flavors. I also opted out of other flavors that might also take over, onion especially but even fresh herbs.

FOR MORE INFO If you "skipped straight to the recipe," please scroll back to the top of this page for ingredient information, ingredient substitutions, tips and more. If you print this recipe, you'll want to check the recipe online for even more tips and extra information about ingredient substitutions, best results and more. See .

TIMING TIP Unlike similar salads, Light & Lemony Crab Salad is good to go as soon as it's made. At the same time, it stays fresh and lovely for up to three days.

VARIATIONS Lime vs lemon? Possibly. Dill pickle juice instead of lemon? Possibly.


  • For a luncheon plate, put three scoops atop salad greens and a few plus a few crackers, a couple of cheese squares and some fresh veggies. Once I did three different meat salads: Crab Salad, Chicken Salad and Simple Egg Salad. (For still more ideas, see my growing collection of meat salads.) If you like, use a scoop like the ones we use for cookies. These scoops come in all different sizes (affiliate link) but my two favorites are small (holds 1 tablespoon) and larger (holds 2-2/3 tablespoons).
  • A dollop of Crab Salad is great on Ritz crackers, I'd definitely add a small container to a summery Charcuterie for Two.
  • I've long loved a morning (or evening!) omelet with some Crab Salad tucked inside. It feels fancy ... just a touch elevated from everyday fare.

More Meat "Salads"

~ meat salads ~
Chicken Salad for Sandwiches ♥, simple, fresh, useful. WW Friendly. High Protein.

Simple Egg Salad ♥, classic with a twist, perfect for make-ahead sandwiches.

Easy Ham Salad ♥, a great way to use up leftover ham from the freezer.

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ crab recipes ~
~ mayonnaise ~
~ sour cream recipes ~
~ lemon recipes ~

~ All Recipes, By Ingredient ~
~ How to Save Money on Groceries ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail, you'll find my current address in the FAQs. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.