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

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

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This short article explains every little thing you should know around imitation crab.

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

While imitation crab is make from seafood, the generally consists of no crab — various other than a small amount that 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 do 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 government labeling rules. In Japan, surimi-based seafood is often called kamaboko (5).

On restaurant menus, imitation crab may be order “krab” to suggest that that fake.


Imitation crab is made from surimi, i m sorry is minced fish flesh — frequently pollock — that has been deboned and washed, then merged with other ingredients, heated and formed right into crab-like cuts.

Nutritionally worse to real Crab

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

Here’s how 3 ounces (85 grams) the imitation and also Alaska king crab to 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 m sorry 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% of the RDI11% of the RDI
Folate0% of the RDI11% of the RDI
Vitamin B128% the the RDI163% of the RDI
Magnesium9% that the RDI13% the the RDI
Phosphorus24% the the RDI24% of the RDI
Zinc2% that the RDI43% of the RDI
Copper1% the the RDI50% the the RDI
Selenium27% that the RDI49% that the RDI

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

If she trying to rise your protein intake and reduce your carbohydrate intake — because that instance, if you on a low-carb or ketogenic diet — genuine crab would far better fit your goals.

Compared to imitation crab, actual crab is additionally significantly greater in numerous vitamins and also minerals — consisting of vitamin B12, zinc and also selenium. This is partly due to the fact that some nutrients are rinsed away during surimi handling (5, 8).

On the other hand, real crab often tends to be greater in sodium 보다 imitation crab, though both make a huge contribution towards the day-to-day limit the 2,300 mg. Salt is often included to both real and imitation crab, though the amount varies by brand (9).

Lastly, actual crab is generally higher in omega-3 fatty acids than imitation crab. Though omega-3-rich oil can be included to imitation crab, this isn’t prevalent (10, 11).


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

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

The other significant ingredients in imitation crab room (2, 5, 13, 14):

Water: Generally the second most abundant ingredient in imitation crab, water is essential to obtain the right texture and also control product costs.Starch: Potato, wheat, corn or tapioca strength are regularly used to firm increase the surimi and also make the freezable. However, if excess strength is supplied in stimulate to reduced costs, the product can become sticky and soft.Sugar and also sorbitol: These help the product hold up come freezing and thawing. They also contribute a small sweetness.Salt (sodium chloride): aside from adding flavor, salt helps the minced fish form a sturdy gel. Potassium chloride, which performs the very same functions, might be substituted for several of the salt.

After combining this ingredients v preservatives and other additives, the crab mixture is cooked and also pressed right into the desired shapes, as well as vacuum sealed and pasteurized come kill perhaps harmful bacteria (5).


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

Several additives — consisting of some you may prefer to protect against — space generally included to imitation crab to attain the desired color, flavor and stability.

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

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

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

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

Furthermore, studies present that phosphate additive may bring about kidney damage and also increased heart disease risk — partly since high phosphate input from additive can damages blood vessels. Human being with kidney an illness are at higher risk (19, 20).

In addition, some human being may find it unappetizing the the carmine typically used to shade imitation crab is extract from insects.


numerous additives are supplied in imitation crab to achieve the wanted color, flavor and stability. Some of these are connected to potential health concerns.

There are several reasons imitation crab is popular. One is the affordable price, i m sorry is around 1/3 that the price of genuine crab (1).

Imitation crab is also convenient, together it can be added to dishes without further preparation. Additionally, part imitation crab sticks are packaged in grab-and-go, snack-sized portions with dipping sauce.

If you’re concerned about all the the additive in imitation crab, there are healthier versions — simply as there space healthier execution of hot dogs.

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

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

However, these much more natural products cost about 30% extra and also aren’t as commonly available.


Imitation crab is affordable and convenient. A couple of brands contain more natural ingredients, however you’ll pay extra for them.

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

Environmental Impact

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

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

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

Another environmental difficulty is that the minced fish meat supplied to do surimi is washed number of times to boost color, texture and smell. This provides a many water and generates wastewater, which must be treated so the it doesn’t contaminate oceans and also harm fish (1).

Mislabeling, Food Safety and Food Allergies

Some imitation crab products don’t list seafood ingredients accurately, which increases food safety and also allergy risks.

It’s impossible to understand the actual ingredient without unique testing.

When 16 surimi-based products purchased in Spain and Italy were tested, 25% detailed a fish species different indigenous that identified by DNA analysis.

Most that the mislabeled assets were imported from eastern countries. Some labels failure to even note that the surimi was made indigenous fish — a top food allergen. Food allergy labeling is required in EU countries and the US, including for imported foods (12, 22).

Inaccurate and inadequate product labels increase your risk of an allergy reaction come an ingredient the isn’t correctly disclosed.

Mislabeling additionally conceals possibly toxic fish. In fact, 2 of the mislabeled asian surimi commodities contained a types of fish linked with ciguatera poisoning, the most frequently reported toxin-based seafood disease (12, 23).

If you have actually food allergies, it might be finest to stop unlabeled imitation crab — such as in appetizers in ~ a party — as it may harbor usual allergens consisting of fish, crab extract, eggs and also wheat (13).


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

You can find imitation crab one of two people in the refrigerated or frozen ar of stores. They offer several types, including flake-style, chunks, sticks and 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 to dishes girlfriend heat.

Here are multiple means to usage imitation crab, categorized by 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 because that imitation crab key can regularly be found on manufacturers’ websites.

Imitation crab is fairly versatile. However, given its nutrition and health considerations, it’s much better to usage it for one-of-a-kind occasions fairly than regime recipes.


since it’s precooked and easily accessible in several different cuts, imitation crab is basic to usage in appetizers, salads and also main dishes.

Imitation crab is a very processed food made by combining minced fish with starch, egg whites, sugar, salt and additives to mimic the flavor, color and texture of actual crab meat.

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

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If you’re making a dish because that a distinct occasion and also don’t have the budget plan for real crab, imitation crab is a an excellent alternative that’s straightforward to use.

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