Sweet and Spicy Beer Steamed Rock Crab

Live rock crab on a scale
Foodcollection / Getty Images
Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 15 mins
Total: 20 mins
Servings: 3 to 4 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
396 Calories
5g Fat
10g Carbs
66g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 3 to 4
Amount per serving
Calories 396
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 7%
Saturated Fat 0g 2%
Cholesterol 180mg 60%
Sodium 4573mg 199%
Total Carbohydrate 10g 3%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 5g
Protein 66g
Vitamin C 26mg 130%
Calcium 227mg 17%
Iron 3mg 17%
Potassium 951mg 20%
*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.)

Here's a delicious way to add extra flavor to your crabs, crab legs, or crab claws whether they're already cooked or raw—steam them with spiced beer. 

Steaming crab legs has the advantage over cooking that the crab juices and flavor remain in the shell and do not leak into the cooking liquid, and they don’t become water-logged. If they aren't already, make sure to lightly crack each leg or claw before steaming so the flavor can get inside. The idea is the same as in steaming mussels in white wine, except that the mussels open during steaming whereas with crab legs, it still takes considerable effort to get the meat out of the crabs.

An amber-colored beer is best for this recipe; it gives a depth of flavor without being too assertive. There is no need to open a fresh bottle of beer for this, as the recipe uses flat beer.

Sustainably harvested U.S.-produced red rock crab claws are becoming more available in markets. Pacific red rock crab is found on the West Coast, especially around Puget Sound and in the Seattle area. It has a very large front claw that contains most of the meat. An alternative to red rock crab is blue crab from the East Coast, namely the Chesapeake Bay area. Like red rock crab, it also has a good environmental sustainability rating. Unlike the red rock crab, its two pincher claws are similar in size. Blue crabs are a prized seafood in Maryland, where the iconic Old Bay seafood seasoning, which is also used in this recipe, was invented by a German-Jewish refugee who had escaped Germany before the outbreak of the Second World War. For this recipe, you can use other types of crabs too.

Good side dishes for steamed crab are potatoes in either form—roasted, baked, mashed, or fried—as well as corn on the cob, or roasted vegetables. For sauces, try tartar sauce or aioli. 

A tasty way to use any leftover crabmeat is to make a crab dip that is served cold, or a baked crab casserole or crab dip.


  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle amber beer, preferably flat

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed

  • 2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning, or other seafood seasoning

  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional

  • 2 to 3 pounds crab claws, legs or whole crabs

Steps to Make It

  1. In a large covered stockpot, bring the beer, sugar, seafood seasoning, vinegar, and spices to a boil over medium-high heat.

  2. Add the crabs and stir well.

  3. Cover and steam 5 to 7 minutes (10 to 15 for raw crabs), stirring well a few times.

  4. Remove crabs and serve hot, sprinkled with a little extra seafood seasoning, if desired.