This crab stand-in has come to be popular end the past couple of decades and is commonly found in seafood salad, crab cakes, California sushi rolls and crab rangoons.

In short, imitation crab is processed fish meat — in fact, it’s sometimes referred to as “the hot dog the the sea.” However, you might still wonder what it’s make from and also whether the healthy.

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This write-up explains everything you should know around imitation crab.

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Imitation crab is made from surimi — fish meat that has actually been deboned, wash to eliminate fat and unwanted bits, climate minced right into a paste. This dough is mixed with other ingredients before being heated and also pressed right into shapes that mimic crab meat (1, 2, 3, 4).

While imitation crab is made from seafood, it generally contains no crab — other than a tiny amount that crab extract that is sometimes added for flavoring.

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

Packages of crab-like assets may be labeling “imitation crab,” “crab-flavored seafood” or “surimi seafood” yet must follow federal government labeling rules. In Japan, surimi-based seafood is often referred to as kamaboko (5).

On restaurant menus, imitation crab might be spelled “krab” to suggest that that fake.


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

Nutritionally worse to actual Crab

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

Here’s how 3 ounces (85 grams) the 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, i beg your pardon 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% that the RDI11% of the RDI
Folate0% the the RDI11% the the RDI
Vitamin B128% that the RDI163% that the RDI
Magnesium9% that the RDI13% that the RDI
Phosphorus24% that the RDI24% that the RDI
Zinc2% that the RDI43% the the RDI
Copper1% the the RDI50% the the RDI
Selenium27% of the RDI49% that the RDI

Though both have actually a similar number of calories, 61% the imitation crab calorie come indigenous carbs, whereas 85% the Alaska king crab calories come indigenous protein — v none from carbohydrate (6, 7).

If she trying to boost your protein intake and reduce your carbohydrate intake — for instance, if she on a low-carb or ketogenic diet — real crab would better fit her goals.

Compared come imitation crab, genuine crab is also significantly higher in several vitamins and also minerals — consisting of vitamin B12, zinc and also selenium. This is partly since some nutrients space rinsed away throughout surimi processing (5, 8).

On the various other hand, real crab has tendency to be higher in sodium 보다 imitation crab, despite both do a big contribution towards 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 might be added to imitation crab, this isn’t prevalent (10, 11).


despite a comparable calorie count, imitation crab is greater in carbs and lower in protein, omega-3 fats and also several vitamins and also minerals than actual crab.

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

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

Water: Generally the 2nd most numerous ingredient in imitation crab, water is required to obtain the appropriate texture and control product costs.Starch: Potato, wheat, corn or tapioca strength are often used come firm up the surimi and make it freezable. However, if excess strength is offered in stimulate to cut costs, the product can come to be sticky and also soft.Sugar and also sorbitol: These assist the product organize up come freezing and thawing. They additionally contribute a small sweetness.Salt (sodium chloride): next from adding flavor, salt help the minced fish kind a sturdy gel. Potassium chloride, i beg your pardon performs the exact same functions, might be substituted for some of the salt.

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


The main ingredient in imitation crab is surimi, which is typically mixed v water, starch, sugar, egg whites, vegetables oil, salt and also additives.

Several additive — including some you might prefer to protect against — room generally added to imitation crab to achieve the desired color, flavor and also stability.

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

Red colorants: Carmine — which is extract from tiny bugs referred to as cochineals — is widely offered to shade imitation crab red. Paprika, beet juice extract and lycopene from tomato may additionally be used.Glutamates: Monosodium glutamate (MSG) and a comparable compound, disodium inosinate, might serve as flavor enhancers. Other flavorings: These may include real crab extract, artificial crab flavorings and also mirin (fermented rice wine).Preservatives: Sodium benzoate and also several phosphate-based additives are regularly used to boost shelf life.

Though typically recognized together safe through the FDA, few of these additive are connected with health and wellness concerns and may need more study (15).

For example, MSG may cause headaches in part people, while carrageenan is attached to intestinal damage and inflammation in animal and test-tube researches (16, 17, 18).

Furthermore, studies display that phosphate additives may cause kidney damage and increased heart disease risk — partly because high phosphate intake from additive can damages blood vessels. Civilization with kidney an illness are at higher risk (19, 20).

In addition, some world may discover it unappetizing that the carmine generally used to shade imitation crab is extract from insects.


several additives are offered in imitation crab to attain the wanted color, flavor and also stability. Few of these are linked to potential wellness concerns.

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

Imitation crab is additionally convenient, as it can be included to dishes without further preparation. Additionally, some imitation crab sticks space packaged in grab-and-go, snack-sized portions with dipping sauce.

If you concerned about all the the additives in imitation crab, there room healthier execution — just as there space healthier execution of hot 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 commodities are gluten-free and made there is no genetically modified (GMO) ingredients. Those more, some mock crab may be certified to show that the seafood to be sustainably sourced.

However, these much more natural commodities cost roughly 30% extra and aren’t as commonly available.


Imitation crab is affordable and convenient. A few brands contain much more natural ingredients, however you’ll pay extra because that them.

Aside native the truth that imitation crab is a extremely processed, additive-laden and less nutritious variation of real crab, it also carries environmental, mislabeling and allergenic concerns.

Environmental Impact

Some pollock provided to do surimi has actually been overfished — endangering animals such together Steller sea lions that eat pollock — or is recorded in means that damage habitats of various other sea life.

That said, surimi manufacturers are increasingly using other species of white-fleshed seafood, such together cod, Pacific whiting and also squid (1, 12).

It’s also possible to use non-fish meats, such as deboned chicken, beef or pork to do surimi — though this is uncommon (1, 14, 21).

Another environmental problem is that the minced fish meat provided to make surimi is washed numerous times to boost color, texture and smell. This offers a the majority of water and generates wastewater, which have to be cure so that it doesn’t contaminate oceans and harm fish (1).

Mislabeling, Food Safety and Food Allergies

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

It’s difficult to recognize the actual ingredient without distinct testing.

When 16 surimi-based commodities purchased in Spain and also Italy to be tested, 25% noted a fish varieties different from that established by DNA analysis.

Most that the mislabeled products were imported from eastern countries. Part labels failed to even note the the surimi to be made from fish — a optimal food allergen. Food allergy labeling is compelled in EU countries and also the US, including for imported foodstuffs (12, 22).

Inaccurate and also inadequate product labels boost your danger of an allergic reaction to an ingredient the isn’t effectively disclosed.

Mislabeling additionally conceals potentially toxic fish. In fact, two of the mislabeled oriental surimi products contained a species of fish linked with ciguatera poisoning, the most commonly reported toxin-based seafood illness (12, 23).

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


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

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

Since imitation crab is precooked, you have the right to use it straight from the package because that cold dishes, such as dips and salad, or add it come dishes girlfriend heat.

Here space multiple means to usage imitation crab, categorized by type:

Flake-style or chunks:

DipsSpreadsCold crab saladCrab cakesSauteesStir-friesCasserolesQuichesChowdersQuesadillasPizza topping


Appetizers with cocktail sauceCalifornia-style episode rollsSandwich wraps


Crab cakesLettuce wrapsEnchilada meatFish tacos

Recipes because that imitation crab dishes can frequently be uncovered on manufacturers’ websites.

Imitation crab is quite versatile. However, provided its nutrition and health considerations, it’s better to use it for unique occasions rather than routine recipes.


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

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

While it’s considerably less high value than actual 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 also don’t have the spending plan for genuine crab, imitation crab is a an excellent alternative that’s basic to use.

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