Classic Crab Roll Recipe

Classic Crab Roll

The Spruce / Elaine Lemm

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 5 mins
Pickling: 4 hrs
Total: 4 hrs 20 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
651 Calories
27g Fat
83g Carbs
25g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 651
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 27g 35%
Saturated Fat 6g 30%
Cholesterol 121mg 40%
Sodium 1090mg 47%
Total Carbohydrate 83g 30%
Dietary Fiber 9g 31%
Total Sugars 40g
Protein 25g
Vitamin C 117mg 586%
Calcium 243mg 19%
Iron 4mg 24%
Potassium 850mg 18%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This classic crab roll will be a showstopper at your summer barbecue, picnic, or even just a simple lunch. Less tedious to make than its more famous counterpart—the lobster roll—a crab roll is every bit as sweet, succulent, and hearty. We like to infuse the mayonnaise with lemon juice and zest for a citrusy kick to cut the richness of the shellfish and mayonnaise. In addition, you can top these rolls with fresh homemade seasonal vegetable pickles (whatever's at the market will be perfect) because they complement the filling so wonderfully. Cider vinegar adds rich, fruity acid, but any type of vinegar you use for quick-pickling will work well.

Crab is such a delicious, versatile shellfish to cook with at home and is especially good fresh. Fresh crab is typically easy to find pre-shelled in refrigerated cans at well-stocked fish markets. You can buy it frozen, as well—either will work well in this recipe.


For the Pickles:

  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 carrot, shredded

  • 1/2 red onion, or scallions, thinly sliced

  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes

For the Mayonnaise:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

  • 1 lemon, zest finely grated, and juiced

  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco, or other hot sauce

For the Rolls:

  • 4 brioche hot dog rolls, or regular hot dog or sandwich rolls

  • 12 ounces lump crabmeat

  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh chives

  • Kosher salt, to taste

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 4 to 8 leaves lettuce

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. You will need a minimum of 4 hours but no more than 12 for pickling. Place the vinegar and sugar into a nonreactive saucepan and heat to a gentle simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the salt and leave to cool (the vinegar does not need to be cold but must not be hot, or it will cook the vegetables).

  3. Place the carrot, red onion, and radish into a large glass or stainless-steel bowl and pour the cooled vinegar mixture over. Cover and leave to marinate for 4 hours. 

  4. Stir the mayonnaise, lemon juice, zest, and hot sauce (if using) together in a small bowl.

  5. Lightly toast the hot dog buns or rolls, or place onto a heated grill or griddle pan for a few moments to lightly char.

  6. Check through the crabmeat carefully to make sure there are no broken bits of shell. Stir together the crabmeat, mayo, and chives, then add salt and pepper to taste. Tuck a couple of leaves into each of the rolls. Divide the crab mixture between the rolls and pile onto the leaves.

  7. Dress with a few pickles or serve on the side. Serve immediately. Enjoy.


Deciding on which white crabmeat to use can be confusing as there are several types and grades.

  • Jumbo Lump is the most expensive because each crab only produces two large chunks. It is also the sweetest and meatiest with a beautiful texture. For this sandwich, jumbo lump meat is a little extravagant, as the delicate flavor is lost to the other ingredients.
  • Lump crabmeat is also sweet and tasty and perfect for this sandwich as the texture is firm but not tough. The flavor is robust enough to stand up to other ingredients and makes a beautiful looking roll with its clean white color.
  • Special Crabmeat is a lower-priced option, made up of smallish flakes of meat taken from the body of the crab. Though not as flavorful as lump, it will make a decent and tasty sandwich.

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