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Crab Salad

This easy-to-make crab salad is perfect for any occasion, especially summer get-togethers! Made with lump crab meat, fresh veggies, creamy sauce, and classic seafood seasonings, it’s packed with authentic flavors in every bite. It’s delicious on a hoagie roll, as a dip with crackers, or served on top of salad greens.

Much like my crab cakes, I use real over imitation crab meat in this recipe to avoid artificial flavors and other synthetic ingredients. Trust me, it tastes way better too! Plus, no cooking is required for this crab salad, meaning minimal fuss and more enjoyment for you!

Why I Love This Recipe

When summer rolls around, I make this crab salad recipe on repeat! Nothing can beat the sweet, succulent flavors of jumbo lump crab meat, especially combined with a rich, creamy sauce and traditional seafood seasonings like Old Bay.

crab salad on hoagie buns

The preparation is also as straightforward as it gets! Everything comes together in a matter of minutes, then all that’s left is to let it chill in the fridge to meld the flavors. Whether you’re hosting a backyard barbecue, going to a potluck, or just want a nutritious, high-protein lunch, this salad fits the bill!

Ingredient Notes

This crab salad recipe combines fresh, flavorful ingredients for the quintessential summer dish. Here’s a closer look:

  • Jumbo lump crab meat: You can use fresh or frozen lump crab meat for this salad. You can even make your own baked crab legs and use this meat.
  • Veggies: I use red onion and celery to add a savory crunch that complements the crab meat and gives the salad a nice bite and depth of flavor.
  • Mayonnaise & sour cream: Provide a creamy and slightly tangy base for the salad. Use full-fat sour cream and mayonnaise for the best results.
  • Lemon juice: A classic seafood pairing! Lemon brightens up the salad and enhances the natural sweetness of the crab. Use freshly squeezed lemon juice.
  • Seasonings: I use Old Bay and celery salt to give the salad a warm, slightly spicy, and authentically coastal flavor. You can use store-bought or homemade seasonings.


  • Crab meat: If fresh crab meat is unavailable or out of your budget, canned lump crab meat makes a convenient alternative. Drain it thoroughly before use.
  • Veggies: Instead of red onion and celery, try shallots, cucumbers, or bell peppers.
  • Sauce: For a lighter version, use Greek yogurt to replace mayonnaise and sour cream.
  • Lemon juice: If you’re out of fresh lemons, use an equal amount of lime juice or a ½ teaspoon of white wine vinegar.
  • Old Bay seasoning: If you don’t have any Old Bay, use paprika, cayenne, and ground mustard. Start with 1 teaspoon of paprika, then add a pinch of cayenne and ground mustard, adjusting both to taste.
ingredients to make crab salad

How to Make

Learn how easy it is to make this crab salad with my step-by-step instructions below.


Place the crab meat on a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Gently press the crab meat with the paper towel, being careful not to break up the lumps. Finely chop the red onion and celery into small, consistent pieces.


Step 1
Combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, Old Bay seasoning, black pepper, and celery salt in a bowl. Whisk the sauce until it’s smooth and the seasonings are incorporated.

making the dressing for crab salad

Step 2
Add the onion and celery to the dressing mixture. Stir to evenly distribute and coat the vegetables.

adding red onion and celery to crab salad dressing mixture

Step 3
Pour the dressing over the crab meat in a mixing bowl. Gently combine the ingredients. Use a folding motion rather than stirring to maintain the “lumps” of crab meat.

folding crab salad dressing into a bowl of lump crab meat

Step 4
Refrigerate the salad overnight to allow the flavors to marry. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap before refrigerating it to keep the salad fresh.

crab salad mixed together

Step 5
Before serving, garnish your crab salad with fresh parsley and a sprinkle of additional Old Bay seasoning for a pop of color.

crab salad garnished and ready to serve

Expert Tip

Even though store-bought crab salad from the deli is most often made with imitation crab, I can’t stress how much better fresh lump crab meat is in both flavor and texture.

The way you combine the crab meat with the dressing is just as critical here! Gently fold the meat into the dressing, rather than stirring vigorously, to preserve the lumps of crab. This step gives the salad a more satisfying creamy yet chunky texture.

Serving Suggestions

Crab salad is the perfect dish to bring to summer celebrations like 4th of July. For a complete spread, pair it with other summery options like Caprese salad, Southern pear salad, and zesty Italian pasta salad.

You can serve it on top of a bed of mixed greens drizzled with a light vinaigrette or tuck it inside a hoagie for a comforting meal. The creamy, rich flavors of this crab salad also complement crispy crostini or crackers, making it perfect for brunch or as an appetizer at your next gathering.

crab salad served on a hoagie bun

Cooking Tips

  • Quality of crab meat: For the best flavor and texture, always choose high-quality, fresh or pasteurized lump crab meat. Imitation crab will not provide the same results.
  • Chilling time: I highly suggest chilling the crab salad in the refrigerator for at least a few hours or overnight to let the flavors meld together for a more cohesive taste.
  • Serving temperature: Remove the salad from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before serving to make the flavors more pronounced and enjoyable.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I prevent my crab salad from becoming watery?

Ensure that the crab meat is thoroughly drained of any liquid and that the vegetables you use are not overly watery. If you are adding watery ingredients, mix them in just before serving.

What can I do if my crab salad tastes bland?

Adjust the seasoning with additional Old Bay, a bit more lemon juice for acidity, or salt and pepper. Tasting and adjusting the seasoning after the salad has chilled for a few hours can also help, as flavors meld and become more pronounced.

How can I ensure my crab salad is safe to eat during outdoor events?

Keep crab salad chilled until serving time by placing the serving dish over a bowl of ice, and don’t leave it out for more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit).

Storing & Reheating

Crab salad is best enjoyed fresh but can be kept in the refrigerator for later.


Crab salad can be stored in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. Use an airtight container to keep it fresh and prevent it from absorbing other odors.


I don’t recommend freezing crab salad due to the mayonnaise and sour cream, which do not freeze well and can cause the salad to become watery and separated once thawed.

More Seafood Recipes

Easy Crab Salad (Made with Real Crab)

Anna Kate
This easy-to-make crab salad is perfect for any occasion, especially summer get-togethers! Made with lump crab meat, fresh veggies, creamy sauce, and classic seafood seasonings, it’s packed with authentic flavors in every bite. It’s delicious on a hoagie roll, as a dip with crackers, or served on top of salad greens.
5 from 2 votes
Servings 8
Prep Time 20 minutes


  • 16 ounces lump crab meat (not imitation crab)
  • cup red onion (chopped (½ small onion))
  • ½ cup celery (chopped (1 stalk))
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 ½ tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp celery salt
  • fresh parsley for garnish (optional)


  • Drain liquid from crab meat and place in a medium sized bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, make the dressing. Combine mayo, sour cream, lemon juice, Old Bay, pepper and celery salt in a small bowl. Whisk to combine.
  • Stir in onion and celery.
  • Pour dressing mixture over crab meat and gently stir. You don’t want to stir the crab meat too much and ruin any “lumps” of crab.
  • Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to marry. Garnish with fresh parsley and additional Old Bay if desired.


Calories: 177kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 11gFat: 14gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 6gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0.03gCholesterol: 38mgSodium: 718mgPotassium: 169mgFiber: 0.3gSugar: 1gCalcium: 50mgIron: 1mg
Recipe Rating

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