This is an imitation crab salad like no other. Loaded with flavour, and some unexpected ingredients, Creamy Crab Salad tastes like first class on a stand-by budget! It’s creamy, it’s cheesy, and the chives add such a bold and fresh oniony flavour. This ain’t your average crab salad!
CREAMY CRAB SALAD
Crab is one of those things that you might think I had a lot of while growing up. Newfoundlanders have the ocean right at their fingertips, and seafood is readily available. But, my family didn’t eat fish as often as some other Newfoundland families. And, when it came to shellfish of any kind, that wasn’t happening at all! I’m trying to make up for lost time with this Creamy Crab Salad.
I remember eating lobster only once as a kid. Friends of my parents had cooked lobsters and invited us to dinner. I think I enjoyed cracking open the shell more than I did eating the meat! Crab was a little different. I remember eating that a few times. Once, my mother even let us cook it in the house! You see, if she didn’t like something, then we didn’t get to have it.
Like lobster and crab, shrimp, mussels, clams, etc., were all foreign. My mother would not cook them, because she didn’t like those types of seafood, so we grew up not having them. Maybe that’s why I don’t care for shellfish in my adult years. I can eat lobster and crab, but I’d have to be near death to eat mussels.
Imitation crab is different though, because it’s not shellfish at all. Most imitation crab is made with Alaskan Pollock, and I can eat squid, pollock, cod, tilapia, and halibut until I burst. Salmon is good too, but that’s pretty much my limit when it comes to seafood. I am trying to get used to shrimp though. We’ll see how that goes!
I would like to start this post with a proclamation. Are you ready for it? Here goes! There is nothing wrong with imitation crab. There, I’ve said it! I have been buying imitation crab for almost twenty years. Would I prefer real crab meat? Of course I would! But, I’m far from rich, and I live nowhere near an ocean. Depending on where you live, crab meat can be very expensive. And, to be honest, imitation crab is quite good!
You might need to try a few brands to find the right imitation crab for you. I’ve tried a few that I didn’t care for too much at all. Sometimes, they can be too salty, and sometimes, they can taste like nothing. I mean that! In the past, I have purchased imitation crab that had absolutely zero flavour. So, before give up on it, try a few brands first.
My favourite brand, Sea Quest, is luckily the most recognizable and easily found imitation crab. Here in Ontario, it’s available in almost every grocery store. From my experience, flaked imitation crab tastes better than stick imitation crab. If you’re new to imitation crab, start with flaked crab first. It always has a better flavour and texture.
CHEESE AND CORN? WHAT!?
Okay, so this is a recipe for crab salad, so obviously, there will be carb in it! I should mention here that you can use real crab meat if you want. Fresh crab meat or even canned crab meat will do just fine. Just be sure to lightly pat the crab meat dry first, otherwise, your Creamy Crab Salad will to be watery.
I grew up believing that one could not consume dairy with seafood. I also grew up believing that babies came from old tree stumps in the woods, that swallowing bubble gum would cause your bum to stick together, and that eating raw dough would cause leukemia. Back in my youth, Newfoundlanders were full of superstitions like that. I put the bubble gum rule to the test many times, and I lived to tell the story. So, I’m adding cheese to my crab salad! #rebel
Here’s the thing about shredded cheese in a creamy, mayonnaise sauce: the cheese softens too and almost becomes a part of the sauce itself. It certainly adds creaminess and a bunch of flavour. I used old cheddar, but you can use your favourite brick-style cheese.
The addition of the corn adds not only a little bit of sweetness, but also some really nice contrasting texture. Imitation crab is soft and flaky, so the kernels of corn adds pops of sweet texture. It also adds a nice yellow colour, which looks beautiful next to the orangey crab and the green chives.
MY SECRET INGREDIENT
There are probably thousands of crab salad recipes out there. But, each one of them is probably just a little bit different. We all make recipes our own way and adapt them slightly to suit our personal tastes. In fact, I highly encourage you to make my recipes your own. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try something new in an existing recipe. My only warning is to stay true to baking recipes, because those are carefully measured and usually quite precise.
The secret ingredient in my Creamy Crab Salad is grainy mustard. Yes! If you don’t already have some on hand, get yourself a jar of good grainy mustard. Inglehoffer is my favourite brand. I’ve tried others like French’s and Maille, but I found them to be way too strong for my tastes. Just use your favourite. It adds so much flavour and you will miss it if you skip the mustard completely.
HERE’S THE OTHER INGREDIENTS YOU WILL NEED
So, we have talked about the crab, the corn, the cheese, and the grainy mustard. That’s what I would call the bulk of the salad. The rest is what I would call the basics and you probably have them in your pantry or fridge already.
It’s a creamy salad, so we need something creamy. For me, the choice is mayonnaise. Mayonnaise and seafood work perfectly together. The imitation crab will soak up the tanginess of the mayo. In addition to that, you will need some chives. Please do not use dehydrated chives from your spice rack. Use fresh chives. The flavour profile is completely different and you will certainly taste the freshness.
Lastly, you will need a little help from our good, old, faithful seasonings – salt and pepper. Hold back on the salt until everything is mixed together. Some brands of crab are saltier than others, and you don’t want to over salt your salad. Ground black pepper is a must and I can never have too much of it. I absolutely love it! And, finally onion powder, garlic powder, and celery salt will round out the flavours.
By the way, you can skip the celery salt and add some diced celery to your salad. In our home, celery is not a well-loved ingredient by some, so I often leave it out so that all of us can enjoy the dish.
HOW TO GET THE MOST FLAVOUR INTO YOUR SALAD
Once you have mixed all of your salad ingredients together, there is one more thing that you can do to get the best results. It’s simply and costs no money at all. All you need to do is to cover the salad well, and store it in your fridge for at least two hours. This will give the ingredients time to get to know one another and marry together.
The salad will keep in your fridge for three days. Be sure to toss it well before serving as some of the sauce mixture might have settled to the bottom. That’s it. Now, enjoy!
Creamy Crab Salad
- 2 pounds flaked imitation crab (completely thawed if previously frozen)
- 1 cup canned corn, drained well
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon grainy mustard
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon celery salt
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Add the mayonnaise, grainy mustard, chives, ground black pepper, celery salt, onion powder, and garlic powder to a bowl. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
- Flake the imitation crab into a large bowl.
- Add the cheese and corn to the bowl with the crab.
- Pour the mayonnaise mixture over the crab, cheese, and corn. Toss gently and coat evenly.
- Taste and season with salt if needed.
- Transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.
- Creamy Crab Salad can be safely stored in the fridge for three days.