Soft-shell crabs are considered a seafood delicacy worldwide, owing to their delicate flavor, crispy shell, and buttery meat. Most importantly, they are only available fresh in warm seasons. Read on to learn more about this little, delicious crustacean, and some of the best recipes to prepare with it!
What Are Soft-Shell Crabs?
In the United States, a “soft-shell crab” or “softies” refers to the popular blue crabs, Callinectes sapidus, that have recently shed their shell during the process of molting (molting is the shedding of the outsized outer shell for replacement at specific times in the life cycle of invertebrates). However, in other parts of the world, the term “soft-shell”, when applied to crabs, can refer to a different crab species that has simply undergone molting.
If the crabs are not caught immediately after molting, their shells become hard and they are no longer considered soft-shell crabs. Interestingly, these crabs can be savored whole, without having to remove their outer shell. In fact, the shell is the most intriguing element owing to its wonderful crust. However,the lungs must be removed from these crabs prior to cooking to minimize the health concerns revolving around their toxic nature.
What Do Soft-Shell Crabs Taste Like?
Their name says it all! Soft-shell crabs are actually super soft, buttery, and creamy. They offer a mix of sweet and salty flavors with a typical seafood smack. Soft-shell crabs are savored alongside their shell that’s paper-thin and offers a hearty crunch. Although raw crabs are slimy-textured and unappetizing, they are irresistibly tempting when deep-fried, grilled, boiled, or even sauteed.
When Is Soft-Shell Crab Season?
Soft-shell crabs are, no doubt, one of the best summertime treats. They begin appearing in the markets in May, the start of their molting season, and run through September or October until the temperature drops below 10°C. The best thing is, these tender crabs are available all year round in frozen form in your local grocery store and online. However, we much prefer fresh crabs to the frozen ones in terms of flavor, appearance, and texture.
Recipes with Soft-Shell Crabs
As soft-shell crabs are quite small in size, and expensive at the same time, they’re often leveraged into appetizers in many high-end restaurants. However, they can be turned into a wholesome meal when served alongside vegetables, and other accompaniments as in protein salad recipes.
Whole deep-fried or grilled soft-shell crabs tucked into sandwiches along with sliced tomatoes, lettuce, and sauces are quite a popular food in the U.S. Similarly, crab cakes are one of the most delicious and popular items in the U.S. These savory cakes are made even more flavorful with soft-shell crab meat combined with mayonnaise, dijon mustard, eggs, breadcrumbs, and hearty seasonings. Use this recipe for Summer Farro Salad that we simply love to munch on alongside crab cakes for a delicate blend of flavors.
These softies taste equally amazing in pasta dishes, casseroles, wraps, and tacos. For a simple recipe, try serving lightly-seasoned, and grilled softies over Cacio e Pepe, or swap them in our recipes for Sous Vide Scallops with Peas and Pasta, and Shrimp Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes.
While marinating these crabs for cooking, especially grilling, the rule of the thumb is to add as little seasonings as possible to be fully able to experience their own delicate flavor. In many cases, a butter-herb seasoning works perfectly well, especially if you’re grilling them whole.