Soft Shell Crab Recipe with Salad and Spicy Sauce

Soft shell crabs are much easier to cook at home than you might think. This soft shell crab recipe with salad and a killer spicy sauce helps you easily make the most of their fleeting season.


Buy very fresh soft shell crabs from a source you trust, and have the fishmonger clean them for you.

Live soft shells are here

In our tiny new town there’s a tiny old fish market just up the road. Like most of the shops around here, it’s a real place run by real people—the kind of establishment where they know enough to give you a free lemon when you shell out for a big mess of fish and they sometimes pepper the friendly conversation with a little too much information about family legal affairs. They probably figure that everyone knows already, anyway—and they’re probably right.

A few days ago, the shop window rang alive with the Good Word, scrawled in handwriting on a sheet of looseleaf. “Live soft-shells are here.” Amen, sistah.

Six soft shell crabs, please

It’s early in the season yet, and soft-shells are coming to the Northeast from Florida rather than from the Chesapeake, where they’ll really hit their stride in a few weeks. They’re pricey right now, so when I asked for six, the fishmonger, no doubt trying to save me from personal bankruptcy and not at all to make my cheeks flush red with panic and passion, inquired as to how many people I planned to feed. I think I must have made a little choking sound in my throat, followed perhaps by a few words of unintelligible Spanglish. Then, simply, “I’d like six, please,” and a swift, I’d like to think not-ungraceful, exit.

In other spring news...

Meanwhile, back in that bigger town where, but for the grace of wireless, I rarely go these days, people are getting their freak on for another spring delicacy. At Serious Eats this week, they’re talking about this article by Josh Ozersky at and pondering why foodies freak out about ramps in the springtime. I, for one, like ramps a sort of unnatural amount. Last year around this time I even made them kid-friendly (or, if you prefer, exploited the hell out of them) by turning them into a dip. And as you probably know by now, you’ll usually find me right on the front lines of the biggest mob freaking out about spring’s first vegetables.

Soft Shell Crab Recipe with Salad and Spicy Sauce

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Serves 4


  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 8 cleaned soft shell crabs
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons safflower oil (or other high-heat cooking oil)
  • 1/2 cup Kewpie mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha (more or less, to taste)
  • 1/2 shallot, minced
  • Mixed seasonal greens of your choice
  • 1 pint mixed cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 English cucumber, sliced
  • 1 ripe Haas avocado, sliced


  1. Sprinkle the flour onto a plate and dredge each crab lightly in the flour.
  2. Heat butter and oil in a heavy 12-inch skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add three of the crabs shell-side down in a single layer. Cook for four minutes on the first side, then flip and cook for three minutes on the other side. Repeat with the remaining crabs.
  4. While the crabs are cooking, combine the mayo, soy sauce, sriracha and shallot in a small bowl and mix well.
  5. Place a bed of greens and some cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and avocado slices in each of four wide bowls. Lay two crabs over each, and drizzle with spicy sauce. Serve warm.

Nutrition Information

Amount Per Serving:

Calories:: 513 Total Fat:: 40.1g Carbohydrates:: 14.4g Fiber:: 4.1g Protein:: 25g