This crab stand-in has end up being popular over the past couple of decades and also is commonly found in seafood salad, crab cakes, California sushi rolls and crab rangoons.

In short, imitation crab is processed fish meat — in fact, that sometimes called “the hot dog of the sea.” However, you may still wonder what it’s make from and whether that healthy.

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This write-up explains every little thing you have to know about imitation crab.

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Imitation crab is make from surimi — fish flesh that has actually been deboned, wash to remove fat and also unwanted bits, then minced right into a paste. This paste is combined with other ingredients before being heated and also pressed right into shapes the mimic crab meat (1, 2, 3, 4).

While imitation crab is make from seafood, that generally consists of no crab — other than a small amount the crab extract that is sometimes added for flavoring.

Pollock, which has a soft color and also odor, is commonly used to do surimi. This fish is also used to make fish sticks and also other breaded fish commodities (1).

Packages that crab-like products may be labeled “imitation crab,” “crab-flavored seafood” or “surimi seafood” but must follow federal government labeling rules. In Japan, surimi-based seafood is often dubbed kamaboko (5).

On restaurant menus, imitation crab may be assignment “krab” to show that it’s fake.


Imitation crab is do from surimi, i beg your pardon is minced fish meat — frequently pollock — that has been deboned and also washed, then an unified with various other ingredients, heated and formed right into crab-like cuts.

Nutritionally inferior to genuine Crab

Real crab is significantly greater in number of nutrients contrasted to imitation crab.

Here’s how 3 ounces (85 grams) of imitation and Alaska king crab compare (6, 7):

Imitation crabAlaska king crab
Calories 8182
Fat, which includes:0.4 grams1.3 grams
• Omega-3 fat25.5 mg389 mg
Total carbohydrates, which includes:12.7 grams0 grams
• Starch6.5 grams0 grams
• included sugars5.3 grams0 grams
Protein6.5 grams16.4 grams
Cholesterol17 mg45 mg
Sodium715 mg911 mg
Vitamin C0% the the RDI11% that the RDI
Folate0% of the RDI11% that the RDI
Vitamin B128% the the RDI163% the the RDI
Magnesium9% that the RDI13% of the RDI
Phosphorus24% the the RDI24% that the RDI
Zinc2% that the RDI43% that the RDI
Copper1% of the RDI50% the the RDI
Selenium27% that the RDI49% that the RDI

Though both have a similar number of calories, 61% of imitation crab calories come native carbs, whereas 85% that Alaska king crab calories come from protein — with none from carbohydrate (6, 7).

If she trying to rise your protein intake and also reduce your carb intake — because that instance, if you’re on a low-carb or ketogenic diet — real crab would much better fit her goals.

Compared come imitation crab, real crab is additionally significantly higher in numerous vitamins and also minerals — consisting of vitamin B12, zinc and selenium. This is partly because some nutrients space rinsed away during surimi processing (5, 8).

On the other hand, real crab often tends to be higher in sodium than imitation crab, though both make a big contribution toward the everyday limit of 2,300 mg. Salt is often included to both real and imitation crab, though the amount different by brand (9).

Lastly, real crab is generally greater in omega-3 fat acids than imitation crab. Despite omega-3-rich oil can be included to imitation crab, this isn’t common (10, 11).


regardless of a similar calorie count, imitation crab is higher in carbs and also lower in protein, omega-3 fats and several vitamins and minerals than genuine crab.

The key ingredient in imitation crab is surimi, which typically comprises 35–50% that the product by load (12).

The other major ingredients in imitation crab space (2, 5, 13, 14):

Water: Generally the 2nd most plentiful ingredient in imitation crab, water is required to gain the best texture and also control product costs.Starch: Potato, wheat, corn or tapioca starch are often used to firm up the surimi and make the freezable. However, if excess strength is offered in bespeak to cut costs, the product can become sticky and also soft.Sugar and sorbitol: These help the product hold up come freezing and thawing. They additionally contribute a small sweetness.Salt (sodium chloride): next from including flavor, salt helps the minced fish form a sturdy gel. Potassium chloride, which performs the exact same functions, might be substituted for some of the salt.

After combining these ingredients v preservatives and also other additives, the crab mixture is cooked and pressed into the preferred shapes, as well as vacuum sealed and pasteurized to kill potentially harmful bacteria (5).


The main ingredient in imitation crab is surimi, i m sorry is generally mixed v water, starch, sugar, egg whites, vegetables oil, salt and additives.

Several additives — including some you may prefer to prevent — are generally included to imitation crab to attain the wanted color, flavor and also stability.

Common additives in imitation crab include (1, 5, 12):

Red colorants: Carmine — i m sorry is extracted from tiny bugs dubbed cochineals — is widely offered to shade imitation crab red. Paprika, beet juice extract and also lycopene from tomato may also be used.Glutamates: Monosodium glutamate (MSG) and also a comparable compound, disodium inosinate, may serve together flavor enhancers. Other flavorings: These may incorporate real crab extract, fabricated crab flavorings and also mirin (fermented rice wine).Preservatives: Sodium benzoate and several phosphate-based additives space regularly used to improve shelf life.

Though generally recognized as safe by the FDA, some of these additive are associated with wellness concerns and also may need further study (15).

For example, MSG may reason headaches in some people, if carrageenan is linked to intestinal damage and also inflammation in animal and also test-tube research studies (16, 17, 18).

Furthermore, studies display that phosphate additive may bring about kidney damage and also increased heart condition risk — partly because high phosphate entry from additives can damage blood vessels. World with kidney condition are at higher risk (19, 20).

In addition, some human being may discover it unappetizing the the carmine commonly used to color imitation crab is extract from insects.


several additives are supplied in imitation crab to accomplish the wanted color, flavor and stability. Several of these are connected to potential health concerns.

There space several factors imitation crab is popular. One is that is affordable price, i m sorry is about 1/3 that the expense of actual crab (1).

Imitation crab is additionally convenient, together it can be added to key without further preparation. Additionally, some imitation crab sticks are packaged in grab-and-go, snack-sized parts with dipping sauce.

If you concerned about all of the additive in imitation crab, there space healthier execution — simply as there room healthier version of warm dogs.

For example, some brands include more natural ingredients, such together pea starch, cane sugar, sea salt, oat fiber and also natural flavors.

In addition, some assets are gluten-free and also made there is no genetically modification (GMO) ingredients. Those more, some mock crab may be certified to show that the seafood to be sustainably sourced.

However, these an ext natural commodities cost around 30% extra and also aren’t as commonly available.


Imitation crab is affordable and convenient. A couple of brands contain more natural ingredients, but you’ll salary extra because that them.

Aside indigenous the truth that imitation crab is a very processed, additive-laden and less nutritious version of genuine crab, it likewise carries environmental, mislabeling and allergenic concerns.

Environmental Impact

Some pollock offered to make surimi has been overfished — endangering animals such as Steller sea lions the eat pollock — or is recorded in ways that damages habitats of other sea life.

That said, surimi manufacturers are progressively using other varieties of white-fleshed seafood, such as cod, Pacific whiting and squid (1, 12).

It’s also feasible to use non-fish meats, such as deboned chicken, beef or pork to make surimi — despite this is unusual (1, 14, 21).

Another environmental difficulty is the the minced fish meat supplied to make surimi is washed several times to improve color, texture and also smell. This uses a lot of water and generates wastewater, which have to be cure so the it doesn’t contaminate oceans and harm fish (1).

Mislabeling, Food Safety and also Food Allergies

Some imitation crab products don’t list seafood ingredient accurately, which boosts food safety and allergy risks.

It’s impossible to know the actual ingredients without distinct testing.

When 16 surimi-based commodities purchased in Spain and also Italy to be tested, 25% provided a fish types different native that determined by DNA analysis.

Most that the mislabeled products were imported from asian countries. Part labels failed to also note that the surimi was made native fish — a peak food allergen. Food allergy labeling is required in EU countries and also the US, consisting of for imported foods items (12, 22).

Inaccurate and inadequate product labels boost your threat of an allergy reaction to an ingredient the isn’t effectively disclosed.

Mislabeling also conceals perhaps toxic fish. In fact, 2 of the mislabeled eastern surimi assets contained a varieties of fish connected with ciguatera poisoning, the most frequently reported toxin-based seafood illness (12, 23).

If you have food allergies, it might be best to prevent unlabeled imitation crab — such together in appetizers at a party — as it might harbor usual allergens consisting of fish, crab extract, eggs and wheat (13).


Pollock supplied in surimi is periodically harvested in ways that can injury other sea life, and imitation crab production offers excessive amounts of water. Seafood supplied in imitation crab is occasionally mislabeled, which deserve to increase food safety and allergy risks.

You can find imitation crab one of two people in the refrigerated or frozen ar of stores. They market several types, including flake-style, chunks, sticks and also shreds.

Since imitation crab is precooked, you deserve to use it right from the package for cold dishes, such together dips and also salad, or include it to dishes girlfriend heat.

Here room multiple methods to use imitation crab, categorized through type:

Flake-style or chunks:

DipsSpreadsCold crab saladCrab cakesSauteesStir-friesCasserolesQuichesChowdersQuesadillasPizza topping


Appetizers through cocktail sauceCalifornia-style episode rollsSandwich wraps


Crab cakesLettuce wrapsEnchilada meatFish tacos

Recipes for imitation crab bowl can regularly be uncovered on manufacturers’ websites.

Imitation crab is fairly versatile. However, provided its nutrition and also health considerations, it’s better to use it for special occasions fairly than program recipes.


since it’s precooked and easily accessible in several various cuts, imitation crab is easy to use in appetizers, salads and also main dishes.

Imitation crab is a very processed food made by combine minced fish v starch, egg whites, sugar, salt and additives come mimic the flavor, color and also texture of genuine crab meat.

While it’s substantially less expensive than genuine crab, it’s also less nutritious and also laced through questionable additives.

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If you’re making a dish for a one-of-a-kind occasion and don’t have actually the budget for real crab, imitation crab is a an excellent alternative that’s basic to use.

However, for day-to-day meals, opt because that affordable, minimally processed and nutritious proteins, such together cod, chicken and also lean beef.