Imitation crab, sometimes known as crab sticks, surimi, or krab, is a product made from pulverized fish. So, no, although its name might suggest that it doesn't actually contain any seafood, it does, and it's not vegetarian. Although it doesn't have the exact flavor, texture, and nutritional value of real crab meat, it's a less expensive option that can play essentially the same role in the kitchen. It's nutritious too, with a three-ounce serving of imitation crab containing 6.5 grams of protein and significant amounts of vitamin B12, selenium, and phosphorus.
Much more accessible than real crab meat, you can find this product sold widely, pre-prepared in various forms like sticks or flakes. One of the more appealing things about this seafood is that it comes pre-cooked, so you can enjoy it immediately after you take it out of the packaging without any additional preparation required. Of course, that doesn't mean you can't cook with it. In fact, there are so many ways to use it aside from just making sushi. If you need inspiration, there are plenty of options to transform it into an appetizer or meal. Get ready to discover how crab sticks are much more adaptable and useful than you think. You just need to know the right ways to work with them.
Turn It Into A Dip
You can go about making crab dip in a few ways. First, you can follow a classic recipe but substitute the real crab with the imitation product. Chilled dips usually contain cream cheese, mayonnaise, seafood seasonings, onions, lemon juice, and hot sauce. If you want to upgrade the presentation, form it into a cheese ball appetizer and coat it in scallions for a unique look. While undoubtedly decorative, the downside to this is that you have to wait several hours for the mixture to set before you can shape it.
Another option is to make a warm dip like dippable crab rangoon, which contains a similar set of ingredients, including cream cheese, mayo, gochujang, soy sauce, and sour cream — except you bake it in the oven like a casserole until the top is golden brown. With either type, you can dunk celery, crackers, wontons, bread slices, and more in the dip.
Put It In Sandwiches
Imitation crab is versatile because it works in hot and cold sandwiches. For instance, you can make something similar to a lobster roll except with crab sticks. Mix the chunks with mayonnaise, lemon juice, parsley, and seasonings, then load it onto buttered, toasted rolls. Another possibility is to upgrade your BLT sandwich by using shredded crab sticks, avocado, and a dash of hot sauce in addition to the classic ingredients. The krab adds a light, fluffy texture, which contrasts with the crispy bacon and lettuce.
Lastly, an imitation crab and tuna salad sandwich can be your ultimate lunch if you enjoy seafood. It's not tricky to make since you can produce a classic tuna salad and then add chopped crab sticks to the mixture. The combination of tuna and imitation crab, among creamy mayo-based dressing, is terrific on both toasted or untoasted bread slices.
Use It In Egg Dishes
Mock crab meat is an excellent inclusion to many types of egg dishes because the flavors are a great match. You can use it as a component in either omelets or quiche. For omelets, combine imitation crab, green onions, and cheese for the filling. Other ingredients to experiment with include garlic, jalapeños, onions, peppers, or spinach. The same applies if you use it in quiche — just chop it into tiny bits or purchase it in flake style to make things easier.
Alternatively, imitation crab is a clever way to dress up deviled eggs by using it as a finishing touch. It pairs with the mustard, mayonnaise, relish, and other common ingredients used in the appetizer. An easy option is to place shreds atop the filled deviled eggs and sprinkle on some Old Bay seasoning or fresh herbs for color.
Form It Into Crab Cakes
You definitely can't go wrong when you make imitation crab cakes. Although the texture isn't identical to real crab meat, the product works just as well and produces tasty results. Some ingredients to include in the patties are dill weed, mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Other delicious components that enhance the flavor are cayenne, onions, butter, or chives. Ideally, you need to add binding ingredients like breadcrumbs and eggs so the savory cakes don't fall apart when you hold them.
If you want uniform patties, try to use a cookie or ice cream scooper, which makes them all the same size and perfectly round. You can cook them in many ways, so it's all up to preference. They crisp up quite nicely if you use a skillet or an air fryer. The oven works just as efficiently, but it does take longer.
Air Fry It
If you have crab sticks, throw them in the air fryer and create crab-flavored fries. You don't need a special coating for them to turn perfectly crunchy, but putting some seasonings on them is a good idea for flavor purposes. Once cooked, dip the sticks into your favorite sauces or use them as a topping for other dishes.
One TikTok user posted a video demonstrating how they brought this snack to life. In the video, they sprinkled garlic powder and paprika on the imitation crab, ensuring they distributed the seasonings with oil. They cooked them for six minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Although you can make it that simple, there are ways to uniquely customize them, like making a fiery version with Cajun spices. Don't forget it might take more or less time to cook, depending on how big the batch is, so check on them periodically.
Add Protein To Salads
Imitation crab is suitable for multiple types of salads. It's best to use it chilled and straight from the package because it has the best quality; although it's safe to eat the krab within three days from when you opened it, you need it as fresh as possible for salads since its flavor and texture will be more apparent. With frozen imitation crab, defrost it in the refrigerator the night before.
Regarding pairings, tangy ingredients such as fresh lemon juice, red onions, and horseradish shine when you couple them with the krab, lettuce, kale, or spinach. In potato or macaroni salad, you don't need to make any modifications. Keep the same primary elements and dressing, then fold in chopped pieces of the imitation crab. Chunky pieces are perfectly fine. You don't necessarily need thin strands because salads can really benefit from the textural variety.
Use It As A Stuffing
Stuffed peppers and mushrooms are delicious with veggies and rice in the filling, but if you want to make something with more substance, try including some imitation crab. Luckily, dishes like these taste delicious with all sorts of filling ingredients. For a sophisticated mushroom appetizer, use the flaked crab sticks as the stuffing base and bring out its best qualities with herbs like oregano, thyme, parsley, rosemary, or dill.
Also, include a cheese such as mozzarella or parmesan and a creamy component like mayonnaise or cream cheese. After you fill the mushrooms, bake them until they're tender and the stuffing is bubbly. It's a similar approach when you make stuffed peppers, except they can work as an entrée. In that case, you can incorporate more elements, like shrimp, onions, garlic, celery, or even Italian sausage.
Add It To Pasta Dishes
Flaked or chopped imitation crab can instantly upgrade your next pasta dish. The most important thing to remember is that you need to heat it gently. If you overcook it, it can end up being dry and possibly lose its flavor. However, when you prepare it right, it provides a light yet slightly chewy texture to the dish. It works best in meals with creamy or cheesy sauces — think fettuccine Alfredo or macaroni and cheese.
It also works in complex dishes like an imitation crab linguine with citrusy hints of lemon juice, rich butter, and milky mozzarella cheese. Or, if you want to go all out, you can make homemade ravioli using the same elements as you would if you used real crab in the filling. Namely, mix the imitation crab chunks with lemon juice, ricotta cheese, and seasonings to stuff the ravioli.
Put It In Soups
Imitation crab is ideal for creamy and broth-based soups, which gives you plenty of room to experiment. No matter which soup or chowder you add it to, wait until towards the end of cooking. Otherwise, the imitation crab might turn more rubbery than it is to begin with. It only needs to get hot, so adding it for the entire cooking duration is a mistake.
If you don't know where to start, make corn or potato chowder as usual and then mix in the chopped or flaked imitation crab a few minutes before serving. If you make a brothy soup, use seafood or vegetable stock as the base and let the flavor harmonize with classic soup veggies like celery, potatoes, onions, and garlic. Nevertheless, there's no harm in adding more elements, like corn, zucchini, green beans, or mushrooms, if you want to bulk it up.
Bake It In Crescent Rolls
Use canned crescent rolls to make tasty appetizers with the imitation crab. One thing to do is make a starter reminiscent of the dish crab rangoon. Traditionally, crab rangoon is stuffed wontons with crab, cream cheese, and spices. Find a recipe to make the traditional stuffing, except use crab sticks instead and chop them into thin pieces. Then, put a dollop of the mixture inside the crescent dough and roll it so it's fully enclosed.
This idea comes from a TikTok video where the user demonstrated how to make delicious crab puffs, which they finished by topping with everything bagel seasoning before baking. Another way is to create pinwheels by spreading the filling mixture onto a sheet of crescent roll dough. If you fold it similar to a cinnamon roll and then slice it, you'll have gorgeous pinwheels that you can bake.
Make Seafood Enchiladas
Make a filling with imitation crab, shrimp, and vegetables to craft unbeatable seafood enchiladas. Although these differ from chicken or beef enchiladas, you can still use onions, garlic, cilantro, peppers, and chili powder in the recipe because they taste great with the krab. Remember, however, that shrimp and imitation crab take on unpleasant textures if you overcook them, so be careful when you make the mixture on the stovetop.
You can use either regular canned enchilada sauce or a homemade sauce. When you make it from scratch, it gives you the freedom to prepare a creamier sauce that complements the seafood. For example, make a traditional roux and include components such as sour cream, whole milk, seafood broth, and seasonings. In terms of cheese, any shredded cheese will do, such as Monterey Jack or a three-cheese blend.
Add It To Casseroles
Casseroles are convenient since you can include starches, vegetables, protein, and sauce all in one dish. What makes them even more advantageous is using ingredients like imitation crab, which you don't need to cook before transferring the dish to the oven. However, if you cook the other components on the stovetop, it doesn't hurt to add the crab stick chunks so they can get up to temperature with the rest of the food.
This dish tastes great with all sorts of grains and starches, ranging from rice to quinoa to potatoes. You can include it in a sushi bake casserole or invent your own recipe with ingredients like rice, cheese, green onions, cabbage, and bell peppers. Honestly, there aren't any limits to what you can add. Just allow the baked casserole to set before you serve it so it's the correct consistency.
Create A Refreshing Ceviche
Ceviche is a Peruvian dish made with citrus and raw fish — instead of cooking the fish, the lemon or lime juice cures it. This dish usually contains herbs, onions, tomatoes, and other elements, depending on the variation, and because imitation crab is pre-cooked, you can use it to make ceviche without needing to worry about the freshness of the fish. The final result tastes incredible since you can use the krab right out of the package while it's still soft and fluffy.
Purchase the already flaked product, or make sure to shred it first. To make the dish colorful, choose ingredients like red onions, cilantro, avocado, and tomatoes to accompany the mock crab. You can also include peppers such as serranos or jalapeños for a nice balance of heat. You don't need much in the marinade for it to work its magic — lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and your favorite spices will do nicely.
Top Avocado Toast
Adding imitation crab to avocado toast boosts both the protein and flavor. It's super simple, too. Just make the toast as usual, whether you prefer to use avocado slices or make a mash. Then, load it up with diced crab sticks. Add a dash of fresh lime juice, zest, and herbs such as parsley, cilantro, or chives to make it livelier.
For folks who prefer their food spicy, a drizzle of siracha or another type of hot sauce does wonders. Another unique approach is to make your toast have a similar flavor profile to a California roll: Layer fresh avocado, cucumbers, crushed seaweed, imitation crab, and sesame seeds on the toast to assemble a simple yet mouthwatering creation.
Fill Tacos And Burritos
Make a less expensive version of crab tacos by using imitation crab instead. For the best texture, chop the crab into smaller chunks instead of just putting whole crab sticks into the tacos. This not only improves the presentation but also makes it easier to eat. You can make homemade salsa or pico de Gallo to top the tacos with or go for classic garnishes such as lettuce, cheese, and tomatoes.
For the base, lightly sauté some onions, imitation crab, and jalapeños until they're aromatic and tender. As for burritos, there are many ways to use the krab. A simple option is to add it to a vegetable and rice burrito. Or, for a more sophisticated meal, pair it with shrimp, cheese, green onions, beans, and a spicy sauce.
Make A Stir-Fry
Build a flavorful meal when you combine imitation crab with stir fry ingredients. Use many vegetables, such as snow peas, red peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, and carrots, which give the dish a vibrant appearance. Ideally, add the vegetables in stages depending on their cooking times so they all end up with the right texture. They shouldn't be soggy but still have a crisp and tender bite when you eat them.
Since you make this dish with high heat, you must wait until the end of cooking to add the imitation crab, to ensure its consistency remains delicate and smooth. Including red pepper flakes, ginger, soy sauce, or chicken bouillon can give the dish a deeper flavor. Serve it as is or over rice.
Use It As A Nacho Topping
Switch up your nacho game by swapping your typical protein with shredded imitation crab. You can gently heat the krab flakes and add them to the warm cheese (with any other seafood you want). Alternatively, you can sprinkle cold imitation crab on as a final touch alongside other chilled components, such as shredded lettuce, olives, or diced tomatoes.
If you make a nacho bar for a party, separate all of the toppings into different bowls with utensils for each one. To prevent dirtying so many dishes, you can make sheet pan nachos instead by piling everything onto the chips and baking it. However, this works better when you plan to use shredded cheese rather than cheese sauce because the sauce just makes the chips soggy when baked. Another thing to keep in mind is that this method might dry out the imitation crab, so beware.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.