Soft Shell Crabs Recipe

July 26, 2012 9 Comments

Soft Shell Crabs Recipe

An Easy Soft Shell Crab Recipe

Soft Shell Crabs are a special treat when they are in season and that comes in late Spring down the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. This is the time when these blue-claw crabs wake up from their hibernation under the ocean floor and shed (molt) their hard shells so they can grow up and become bigger blue-claw crabs.

This must also be the time when they mate because I remember as a kid visiting my grandparents down at the Jersey shore, we would go around the docks with our nets after the first full moon in May looking for soft shell crabs and if you found one, you usually found two.

My grandmother would fry them up, slap them on some Wonder bread with a little mayo and serve them to my mom and dad. Me, I wouldn’t go near them and couldn’t even watch them eat these crab sandwiches with those legs dangling out from the bread. Now I find them delightful.

Buying Soft Shell Crabs

Once a blue-claw crab molts its hard shell, the soft, paper thin underneath shell will harden in just a couple of hours so fishermen catch them before they molt and stick them in tanks until they loose their hard shell.  Once this happens they are shipped to fish markets around the country live.

Why their shells don’t harden after they are shipped, I don’t know but I guess they have to be in the water for that to happen. You want to buy them live in season or frozen out of season sometime after July.

If you ask your fishmonger where the crabs are from, he should be able to tell you what state they are coming in from. They typically come from down south in the early part of the season and work their way north.


Soft Shell Crabs are sold to the fish markets by size. They are measured across their backs from one point to the other.

  • Mediums are 3 ½ to 4 inches
  • Jumbos are 5 to 5 ½ inches
  • Hotels 4 to 4 ½ inches
  • Whales are over 5 ½ inches

Don’t Be Afraid To Make Them At Home

Lot’s of folks like soft shell crabs but only order them when dining out at a restaurant because they don’t want to prepare them at home. If it’s the cleaning part you don’t like, just let your fishmonger do it for you but if you look at this video, you’ll see it is very easy to do. By the way, this my first iPhone Cooking video done at our local fish market.

Cooking soft shell crabs couldn’t be easier as you’ll see below but in my opinion, “Less Is More”.  Soft shell crabs already are sweet and briny tasting so not much has to be done. A little seasoned flour and a lot of butter. Just kidding, you don’t need that much butter.

You can also deep fry soft-shelled crabs but to me why cover up those delicate, briny Crustaceans with a thick batter. Keep it simple and pan fry in a little butter to bring out all their flavor.

Maryland Crabs For Sale Online

Soft Shell Crabs Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Serving Size: 2 servings

Soft Shell Crabs Recipe


½ cup flour Salt & Pepper, to taste

Favorite seasoning - could be Old Bay - we like Fisherman's Wharf

4 tablespoons butter

4 soft shell crabs, cleaned

1 lemon, cut up into wedges

How To Prepare At Home

Combine the flour with the salt and pepper and favorite seasoning in a bowl or storage container. Dredge the crabs in the flour, shake off excess flour and reserve.

Heat a frying pan, large enough to hold all 4 crabs, over medium heat until hot. If you don't have a large enough pan, cook in batches.

When the pan is hot, add the butter. When the butter is hot, add the crabs to the pan bottoms up. Pan fry the crabs for 2 - 3 minutes then turn over and pan fry the other side for 2 - 3 minutes until golden brown.

Remove from pan, plate and squeeze a little fresh lemon juice on top. You can use the remaining lemon wedges to serve with the crabs. I served our crabs on top of some fresh arugula salad and new potatoes.

This dish could not be any easier so I'm going to include it with my "Quick & Easy" recipes. You know what? It also fits "As Good As It Gets" recipes.

Last modified on Mon 1 June 2015 8:35 am

Comments (9)

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  1. Jenni says:

    Love the video–your first! Very cool:) Seems like the best way to prepare is the simplest. Often the case. Too many times, people think that the more ingredients you can throw at it, the better. Rarely true, in my experience! 🙂

  2. D. Cohen says:

    Thank you so much! I’ve never known how to clean them for cooking, and because of you – now I know. Great to not be afraid to do all this, and therefor be ready to cook up a lot this weekend.

  3. LINDA says:


  4. Wendy says:

    made this a few days ago from soft shell crabs we got on Fresh Direct. Delicious! love how simple your recipe is…really brought out the fresh flavor of the crabs

  5. Rod says:

    Tried the recipe with some fresh soft shell crabs. Taste was great even though it was such a a simple
    recipe. Can’t wait to make a batch of ’em again soon. Thanks.

  6. Marianne says:

    I was raised in Baltimore and was taught to clean soft crabs by my father, who was raised near the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The problem I have with buying soft crabs in restaurants and pre-cleaned crabs is that most (if not all) fish mongers use scissors to cut off the face but neglect to pull out the sand bag that’s behind the eyes. Nothing’s worse than spending a lot of money in a restaurant for a nice soft crab dinner and getting a mouthful of sand. Yuck! Unfortunately I don’t buy them out anymore. I hate cleaning an already-cooked crab. You didn’t show that in your video and you should. Very important.

  7. Claudette says:

    I think it would be good to offer the option of squeezing out the “tamale” — that greenish yellow stuff inside the crab. You squeeze it out from the body through the opening where the eyes were cut off. I always remove it.

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