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What is the Difference Between Dungeness and Alaskan King Crab?

Niki Acker
Updated May 16, 2024
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The difference between Dungeness crab and Alaskan king crab is probably bigger than you think. They are both decapod crustaceans - a group that also contains lobsters, crayfish, and shrimp - and they are both found in Alaskan waters, but their similarities end there. King crabs are not true crabs, as the Dungeness is, but rather crab-like crustaceans. They are believed to have evolved from hermit crabs. This crab is a single species living along the Western coast of North America, while Alaskan king crabs encompass three different species of king crab living in Alaskan waters.

Both Dungeness and Alaskan king crab are highly prized as delicacies. Both may be cooked by steaming or boiling, and both are low in fat and high in protein. The flesh of both crabs are sweet and delicate.

A Dungeness crab may reach eight to ten inches (20-25 cm) in length and may be caught in many areas along the coast from Alaska to Northern Mexico. The Dungeness is named after a Washington town where the species was once harvested. Alaskan king crab species are much larger than Dungeness ones.

The red king crab is the largest and most coveted of the Alaskan crabs and said to be superior to lobster in taste. The blue king crab, sometimes marketed as red king crab, is the second largest and tastiest option, followed by the golden or brown king crab. Each type is fished in different areas of Alaskan waters.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch lists Dungeness crab as a best choice. The crabs are caught with traps, and fishers return all females and immature males caught to the wild population. The protections that the species enjoys have led to a healthy, sustainable population.

All Alaskan king crab species are designated as a good choice, but Russian-caught king crab should be avoided. Fifty percent of the populations of these crabs are not overfished, but many populations are recovering from earlier decades in which king crab fishing was not well regulated. Only 10% of king crabs sold in the United States come from Alaska, but buying imported king crab is not an environmentally sound choice.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Niki Acker
By Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a DelightedCooking editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range of interesting and unusual topics to gather ideas for her own articles. A graduate of UCLA with a double major in Linguistics and Anthropology, Niki's diverse academic background and curiosity make her well-suited to create engaging content for WiseGeekreaders. "
Discussion Comments
By Misscoco — On May 16, 2011

@B707 - One of my favorite Dungeness crab dishes is crab dip. First you mix crab meat, cream cheese, sour cream, Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, and pepper together. Then spread it on toasted, buttered French bread. Yum!

By B707 — On May 14, 2011

Just reading about Dungeness and Alaska king crab makes my mouth water! My family used to go down to the Washington Coast. Then we would get up early in the morning to catch Dungeness crabs in the large tidal pools. Boy, were these fresh crabs ever tasty and nutritious. They were also free.

The worst part was the cleaning and taking out the meat. After that, it was time to eat. One of my favorite crab dishes is crab louie, a salad with crab, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, avocado, eggs and homemade Thousand Island dressing. Does anyone have a favorite crab dish?

Niki Acker
Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a DelightedCooking editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range...
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