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What is Imitation Crab?

Imitation crab, also known as crab stick, is a seafood product crafted from surimi—ground fish paste—flavored and colored to mimic real crab meat. It's a popular, budget-friendly alternative used in dishes like sushi and seafood salads. Curious about how it compares to the real deal in taste and nutrition? Dive deeper to discover the full story behind this seafood substitute.
Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus

Imitation crab is a seafood product made from surimi, or Asian fish paste, and is often known as Krab in the United States. Krab is sold in chunks or sticks and is usually found in the fresh seafood section of most grocery stores. It can be used in a variety of dishes, from salads and stir-fries to dips and appetizers.

Pollock is most often the main fish ingredient used in preparing imitation crab meat. The fish is first skinned and boned and then minced, or cut into very small pieces. The minced pollock and/or other fish are rinsed before being formed into the fish paste known as surimi. The finished surimi is shaped into chunks or tubes and cut into blocks or sticks. It is cooked to give it a texture closer to real crab meat and is coated with a reddish food coloring to give it pink tint like real crab.

Imitation crab is sold in chucks and sticks.
Imitation crab is sold in chucks and sticks.

Since it is already cooked, this meat is convenient for adding to many dishes when cooks want a crab-like flavor. The fish should never actually be cooked more, as it will become tough, but instead, cooks should just heat it through by adding it to stir-fries, soups, and casseroles at the last minute. It can also be mixed with heated cream cheese and served as a hot dip. Krab is also good on crackers as an appetizer.

Imitation crab can be added to sushi.
Imitation crab can be added to sushi.

Imitation crab is also good served chilled. Small pieces are great for snacks and it can be added to vegetable and pasta salads. When adding krab to a pasta salad, it usually works best to stir in the mayonnaise, seasonings, and other ingredients, such as sliced celery first. The meat tends to have a stringy texture and it may fall apart in the salad if over-mixed, so cooks should fold it in gently after adding everything else to the pasta salad.

Crab sticks usually contain little or none of the real thing.
Crab sticks usually contain little or none of the real thing.

Most people find that imitation crab doesn't taste like real crab meat, but many people who enjoy crab also enjoy krab. Nutritionally, it has a bit less protein and potassium and a lot more sodium than genuine crab, but it also has less cholesterol and carbohydrates.

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Discussion Comments


No, there is no shell fish in Krab at all, however, crab is a shellfish. The two are not the same thing whatsoever. Actually while I like krab and eat it often, I don't think that it tastes like real crab meat at all.


Crab cakes contain crabmeat known as blue claw. A crabcake

should at worst be 80/20, 80 crab, 20 filler.


If anybody orders crab cakes from a menu at any seafood restaurant, they might as well close down. You can't say crab cakes and serve them pollock, turbot and whatever else they say.

And to make things worse, the content is at best 80/20. Guess which number is filler?


If you are allergic to shellfish, can you eat the imitation "krab" meat?


I like adding krab to salads. I've never tried heated krab, but I do know that it tastes great when served cold.

I start with some iceberg lettuce. Then, I peel and dice a cucumber. Finally, I pinch off bits of krab from the lump and add it to the salad.

Sometimes, I use a light Italian dressing, but I actually like the taste of this salad plain. The flavors are so subtle, and adding a powerful dressing to it can take away from that. It all depends on what mood I'm in at the time.


I served imitation crab appetizers at my friend's baby shower. They disappeared quickly.

I put a slice of cucumber on several saltine crackers and topped it with krab. Everyone commented on how refreshingly light they tasted. It was like eating cooked sushi on a cracker!


@feasting – I started eating real crab a few years ago, and I accidentally bought some imitation crab at the supermarket. After eating it, I didn't even realize it wasn't actual crab!

So, yes, you are likely to love it. Once I saw the word “imitation” on the package, it was too late for me to care. I was already hooked.

I started looking up all kinds of imitation crab recipes. I eat this stuff for lunch a couple of days a week in different dishes.


Imitation crab pasta sounds delicious! I once had some pasta in a restaurant with real crab, and I loved that.

How much would you say that imitation crab resembles the real thing? Is someone who loves crab likely to love imitation crab, as well?


If you are allergic to food dyes can you eat imitation crab?


Does imitation crab lower cholesterol levels?


if you are allergic to fish can you eat imitation crab? I was told it is not from the crab family and can be eaten. I only eat tuna fish and salmon in the house.


How many calories in imitation crab


is imitation crab meat good to eat to lower your cholesterol and triglycerides?


so then there is no shell fish in crab?

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    • Imitation crab is sold in chucks and sticks.
      By: Shariff Che'Lah
      Imitation crab is sold in chucks and sticks.
    • Imitation crab can be added to sushi.
      By: nalineimages
      Imitation crab can be added to sushi.
    • Crab sticks usually contain little or none of the real thing.
      By: Gordon Logue
      Crab sticks usually contain little or none of the real thing.