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Soft-Shell Crab Sandwiches with Spicy Tartar Sauce

Scott Phillips

Servings: four.

Soft-shell crabs cook in minutes, are easier to eat than hard-shell crabs, and their sweet, briny flavor and crunchy-soft juicy texture can’t be beat. Soft-shells are usually eaten whole, and they make for a killer sandwich.

Video: Watch Fine Cooking‘s Juli Roberts demonstrate the proper way to clean shoft-shell crabs in four eay steps.


For the tartar sauce

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbs. minced red onion
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped dill pickle
  • 1 Tbs. rinsed and finely chopped capers
  • 1 Tbs. thinly sliced fresh chives
  • 1-1/2 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco

For the crabs

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup medium-grind yellow cornmeal
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 jumbo soft-shell crabs, cleaned (bodies about 5 inches across; 3 to 3-1/2 oz. each after cleaning)
  • 2 Tbs. canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter

To assemble

  • 8 slices white sandwich bread, toasted
  • 4 large leaves Bibb lettuce
  • 4 to 8 slices ripe tomato

Nutritional Information

  • Calories (kcal) : 600
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 320
  • Fat (g): 35
  • Saturated Fat (g): 6
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 15
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 11
  • Cholesterol (mg): 115
  • Sodium (mg): 1380
  • Carbohydrates (g): 35
  • Fiber (g): 2
  • Protein (g): 34


Make the sauce

  • In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, onion, pickle, capers, with spicy tartar sauce chives, Old Bay, lemon juice, and hot pepper sauce. Set aside.

Cook the crabs

  • In a wide, shallow bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Dredge the crabs to coat on both sides (if the top shells are thicker than a piece of paper, pull them off before dredging).

    Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the butter to the skillet and swirl the pan to melt it. Add the crabs top side down and cook, shaking the pan once or twice, until crisp and browned, about 3 minutes. The crabs may pop and splatter, so be careful. Flip the crabs and cook until crisp and just cooked through (an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the crab should read 145°F), about 3 minutes more. Transfer the crabs to a large paper-towel-lined plate.

Assemble the sandwiches

  • Spread the tartar sauce on the 8 slices of toast. Top 4 of the toast slices, sauce side up, with a piece of lettuce and 1 or 2 slices of tomato. Put one crab on each sandwich, top with the remaining toast, sauce side down, and serve.

Serve with Warm Green Bean, Pancetta & Tomato Salad with Parmesan.


Rate or Review

Reviews (2 reviews)

  • kelvin too | 10/14/2017

    Very good and tasty.
    I like it very much.

  • TheTooter | 05/30/2014

    This was totally delicious, maybe the best ever. The soft shells were so fresh; I waited for them to be unloaded from the truck. The sauce was perfect too. Made a fabulous meal.

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