Spicy Soft Shell Crab

This spicy soft shell crab is the perfect way to use up all those delicious soft shell crabs. Don’t worry if you have never cooked soft shell crabs before. I walk you through everything from cleaning to cooking!

Spicy Soft-Shell Crab by Nutmeg Nanny

I first had soft-shelled crab about 6 years ago. My husbands fraternity brother was getting married and the couple had an insane cocktail hour.  They had everything you could have ever wanted. There was a tree made from prosciutto. I’m serious. A freaking prosciutto tree.

Anyway, after wandering around and looking at table after table of food I noticed my husbands friend had a plate of fried soft shell crab deliciousness. I was intrigued. So I tried a nibble of his, thought to myself “hey that’s not bad” and went on my merry way. {I had apparently missed the fresh soft-shell crab that was being pan fried over by the raw bar….again, this was a cocktail hour. What the heck!?}

Spicy Soft-Shell Crab by Nutmeg Nanny

Fast forward to last Saturday and I find myself obsessed with the idea of trying to make soft-shell crab at home. Obviously I had no idea what I was doing and oddly enough there was not a man making it fresh behind the raw bar in my dining room. Weird…right?

So I set off to the interwebs and luckily found this awesome step by step (with pictures…score!) tutorial from Georgia Pellegrini. I explained how to clean the crab in the directions but if you are a visual learner you might want to pop over and take a look at her post.

I seasoned my flour with red cayenne pepper and seasoned salt but feel free to play with any seasonings you adore. I think a dash of Old Bay would be a great addition. They fry up quickly and the hint of heat was perfect. If you have never had soft-shell crab I should note that you do eat the whole thing. When you are done eating there should be nothing left on the plate. It seems weird but it’s totally delicious. Trust me!

Spicy Soft-Shell Crab by Nutmeg Nanny


Spicy Soft-Shell Crabs

This spicy soft shell crab is the perfect way to use up all those delicious soft shell crabs. Don't worry if you have never cooked soft shell crabs before. I walk you through everything from cleaning to cooking!

Yield: 4 crabs

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 8 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes


  • 4 fresh soft shell crabs
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon red cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt (I like Lawry's brand)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Lemon wedges


Using kitchen shears cut off the "face" of the crab, right behind the eyes. You are only cutting about 1/2 inch.

Flip the crab over to the bottom side and pull up on the middle "lever" looking piece. Cut it off. This is piece is called the apron.

Flip the crab back over and lift up both sides, pull out the lungs.

Rinse the crabs under water and if desired press out the green "tamale" from the inside of the crab. (Not sure what in the heck is a green "tamale"? It's simply the greenish-yellow stuff from the inside of the crab. You can't miss it, but honestly it doesn't taste gross so don't feel like this step is necessary)

Pat the crabs dry and set aside while you prepare the flour and oil.

In a small dish add flour, red cayenne pepper and seasoned salt. Mix together. Lightly coat the crabs in flour and set aside while the oil heats

In a large skillet add 1 inch of oil and set over medium high heat. When the oil is hot add 2 crabs and cook 4 minutes per side. The crabs will be done when their shell turns red and they are plump.

Add cooked crab to a paper towel lined plate. Sprinkle with kosher salt.

Add remaining two crabs to a the skillet and repeat.

Serve hot or room temperature with lemon wedges.

26 Responses to “Spicy Soft Shell Crab”

  1. #
    Tracey — May 13, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Oh my word, want!!! I’ve never made soft shell crab at home but I’m going to have to remedy that this summer. I mean it would be a crime not to, right?

  2. #
    Gina @ Running to the Kitchen — May 13, 2013 at 8:26 am

    You are braver than me! soft shells are one of the few things I can’t bring myself to eat. I WANT to. badly. It’s just so weird that you eat the whole thing. Eyeballs and all? gah! Good for you for tackling this one at home 🙂

  3. #
    claire @ the realistic nutritionist — May 13, 2013 at 10:02 am

    Soft shell crab = my weakness.

  4. #
    Cathy @ Savory Notes — May 13, 2013 at 11:20 am

    I’ve never had soft shell crab before, but it’s always been one of those things that I *want* to try. Now after seeing your deeelicious photos, it’s something that I *NEED* to try.

  5. #
    katie — May 13, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    this looks amazing but i will admit i can’t bring myself to eat soft-shell crab. Maybe I’ll give it a try sometime soon! lol.

  6. #
    Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama — May 13, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    I want to try soft shell crab so badly but I’m not going to lie it scares me. This looks SO good though…. I might have to try.

  7. #
    Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking — May 13, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    Such a great recipe, and your photos are gorgeous! As a Maryland girl, I’ve enjoyed plenty of crab in my life but am ashamed to say I’ve never made it myself. That’s gotta change this summer, with this stunning recipe!

  8. #
    Deborah — May 13, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    I have never tried soft shell crab, but it’s one of those things that I’m dying to try one day. These do look mighty tasty!!

  9. #
    Joanne — May 13, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    I always think of soft shell crabs as something you can only order in restaurants (or eat at weddings) so I am totally impressed that you conquered them at home!

  10. #
    Ruthy @ Omeletta — May 13, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    Soft-shell crab season is the most wonderful time of the year! (forget Christmas) I lie in wait for it all winter long- it’s the first sign to me that warmer weather is here to stay. These crabbies look delicious!!

  11. #
    amanda @ fake ginger — May 13, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    I’ve always been scared of soft-shell crab but these look amazing! I wish I could find some here!

  12. #
    Audra | The Baker Chick — May 14, 2013 at 11:44 am

    This looks amazing! I love soft shell crabs but I don’t think I’m brave enough to cook them at home.

  13. #
    Kate | Food Babbles — May 14, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    This is just breathtakingly gorgeous!! I’ve never had soft shell crab. It’s always kind of freaked me out, honestly. But yours has my mouth watering looking at it. Now I need to give it a try. And a prosciutto tree?!? Awesome!

  14. #
    sally @ sallys baking addiction — May 14, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    We just had soft shell crab over the weekend! They were not homemade though – we got them out at a restaurant. And now, I have to make them at home! I live in Maryland, so I am a huge crab lover!

  15. #
    Megan {Country Cleaver} — May 14, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    My dad RAVES About soft shell crab, even to this day. He was in the navy 28 years ago on the east coast, but I still hear about it! They must be mind blowing. One day I will be brave and try 🙂

  16. #
    Bree {Skinny Mommy} — May 15, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Oh my goodness can I come to your house for dinner?! These look amazing!

  17. #
    Reeni — May 16, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    I’ve never tried these before and I have to admit I’m a little scared but I trust you and if you say they’re good I’m a believer. I won’t pass them up if I get the chance to try them!

  18. #
    Denise — May 19, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    I have always wanted to tackle this recipe, but the cleaning of the crabs seemed daunting. I am wildly intrigued again, thanks to you. Off to check out that tutorial.

  19. #
    ashley - baker by nature — May 20, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    I JUST ordered some soft shell crabs off fresh direct tonight! I was getting all nervous on what to do with them… but now, I know!

  20. #
    Kelly Senyei | Just a Taste — May 22, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Nothing screams “summer” like soft shell crabs! Love this spicy version!

  21. #
    Charles — May 31, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    You make me yearn for a return to when I lived near the Chesapeake Bay and could enjoy these babies fresh. Nothing like a soft crab sandwich in the summer.

  22. #
    SBB — June 28, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    As a Marylander, let me suggest that you never settle for frozen soft shell crabs – they just never crisp up or taste as light and wonderfully sweet as those that are fresh. They cook very fast so finding them is the most difficult part of the endeavor. Whether using panko, corn starch with flour, some other light breading or naked, sauteing them in butter is even more delicious than in oil. I highly recommend using Old Bay or Phillips seafood seasoning for the real deal. I’ve never used high heat butter but it was recommended by the person who sold me that last several I bought before locating them again today. If you can muster the courage to try them, you will not be sorry. They are truly among the world’s best delicacies.

  23. #
    Nicole — July 20, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    I would not lie it looks really nice, but i would not be able to eat that, firstly those crabs were not washed and where i am from we like to season meat/fish/crab with freshly ground seasonings ( chives, garlic, thyme etc) secondly those crabs were not cleaned, the back and the eyes are still in place, that’s nasty

    • nutmegnanny replied: — July 25th, 2016 @ 9:18 pm

      Hi Nicole – if you read the entire recipe you would see that I did, in fact, clean the crabs. I took a picture of them whole just to show off what the crabs looks like.

  24. #
    Lila Velasquez — December 6, 2017 at 10:44 am

    I tried them once with red chilli and garlic, just delicious. I ate two and wanted more. Do not be finicky, it melts in your mouth.


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