Made with imitation crab sticks, this crab salad recipe is a refreshing, creamy and delicious side salad dish. It’s typically also served as a spread on toast or sandwiches or as a dip with vegetables and crackers. Requiring just a handful of ingredients, this imitation crab salad recipe is easy and quick to make, delicious and budget-friendly.

Imitation crab salad in a white bowl with baguette slices on a wooden board

What is imitation crab made of?

Imitation crab, also known as crab sticks, krab sticks, seafood sticks or surimi seafood is a processed seafood made to resemble real crab legs in looks and taste. It was created as a less expensive alternative to the real deal. The main ingredient is surimi, which is a seafood paste made from white fish meat, usually Alaska Pollock, mixed with fillers, starch, natural and artificial crab flavors and red food coloring for the outside.

It’s a popular ingredient for many popular dishes like California rolls, sushi rolls, crab cakes, seafood pasta and various dips and appetizers.

Crab salad ingredients

I’ve kept this recipe for crab salad or imitation crab dip simple and basic, using only a handful of ingredients. This will let the crab meat shine by itself. I will provide more ingredient variations and possible substitutions further down in this article.

Ingredients for imitation crab dip with surimi, shallot, parsley, paprika and mayonnaise
  • Crab meat: Make this crab salad with imitation crab meat which is an inexpensive alternative to real crab. Imitation or fake crab can be bought in most larger supermarkets.
  • Shallot: Using a shallot adds a sweet and pungent taste to the salad. Red or sweet white onions are fine as well as they are mild in flavor. A yellow onion is too strong in taste for this recipe.
  • Mayonnaise: Use a good quality mayonnaise as a smooth and creamy dressing for this dip or salad. This can be store-bought or homemade. Either low fat or standard mayonnaise is fine to use.
  • Parsley: Fresh parsley adds some bright, fresh, peppery notes as well as a vibrant color to the crab salad.
  • Paprika: Use smoked paprika powder or pimentón for extra smokiness and a bit of heat. Sweet paprika powder is also fine here.
  • Seasoning: Salt and pepper as basic seasoning.

Ingredient variations

This appetizer with crab meat is very versatile as it can be made with a variation of ingredients. To the base recipe we can add any of the following:

  • Eggs: Mix some finely diced hard boiled eggs into the salad. The eggs add a delicious creamy texture to this dish.
  • Vegetables: Add finely diced green onion, celery, cucumber or pickled cucumber.
  • Dressing: Vary the dressing by adding lemon juice, sour cream or Greek yoghurt to the mayonnaise. To give the dressing more punch add a teaspoon of mustard.
  • Herbs: Both chives and dill pair well with crab sticks.
  • Spices: Use curry powder for some extra taste and aroma, or make it spicy by adding cayenne pepper or chili flakes.
close up of imitation crab salad or surimi salad with parsley on a wooden board with slices of bread

How to make crab salad

This recipe comes together really easy and fast, without any cooking. And while chopping the ingredients with an electric food chopper or food processor is possible, I would recommend to chop it all by hand. The dip still needs to have some small chunks of shallot and crab meat and with an automatic chopper the ingredients are often too finely mixed and perhaps even puréed which is not what we want for this recipe.

  • Chop the ingredients: Finely chop the crab sticks, shallot and parsley by hand. Make sure that especially the shallot is properly chopped as you don’t want to end up with too large a chunk of onion when taking a bite.
preparing crab salad with surimi, parsley and shallot in a green bowl
  • Combine the dressing: In a mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, smoked paprika powder, chopped shallot, salt and pepper and mix well.
  • Make the crab salad: Add in the parsley and imitation crab and stir together gently with a spoon, making sure everything is coated well.
  • Chill or serve: Serve immediately or cover the bowl with plastic cling wrap and chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

How to store

This crab recipe can perfectly be made in advance. Make the salad and place in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Same when having leftovers.

Take out of the fridge just before serving or eating. It might be hard to eat it while it’s still in the fridge.

While crab sticks can be frozen, I would not recommend to freeze the finished crab salad as mayonnaise doesn’t freeze very well. The texture when thawing won’t be the same anymore.

close up of imitation crab salad or surimi salad with parsley on a wooden board with slices of bread

Serving suggestions

As an appetizer

Serve as an appetizer at any dinner party or festive occasion. You can make a platter of crab salad appetizers served on:

  • Crackers: Spread the salad on crackers and garnish with parsley or red onion.
  • Endive boats: Spoon the dip into endive spears and garnish with diced jalapeño peppers and red onion.
  • Lettuce wraps: Spoon the dip into butter lettuce cups.
  • Cucumber slices: A slice of cucumber works great as a healthy cracker. Spread some crab salad on top of the cucumber.
long 4 lettuce wraps with surimi salad or crab salad

As a spread

Imitation crab salad is delicious on a sandwich or toast. Spread a thick layer on a slice of toast or bread. Optionally add lettuce and slices of tomato on top.

As a dip

Add the crab salad in a bowl and serve alongside crackers or vegetable sticks like carrots, cucumber, radish and bell peppers to dip.

Consider serving this imitation crab dip together with other dips to make an appetizer platter, like this roasted eggplant dip, Greek tzatziki dip or chestnut hummus.

More festive appetizers to try

close up of imitation crab salad or surimi salad with parsley on a wooden board with slices of bread
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5 from 7 votes

Imitation crab salad

This crab salad recipe, made with imitation crab sticks, is a refreshing, creamy and delicious salad dish. It's typically served as a spread on toast or sandwiches or as a dip with vegetables and crackers. Requiring just a handful of ingredients, this imitation crab salad recipe is easy and quick to make, delicious and budget-friendly.
Prep Time10 minutes
Total Time10 minutes
Course: Sauces & Dips
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4
Author: Sabine


  • 7 ounces (or 200 grams) imitation crab sticks (surimi)
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika powder
  • cup fresh parsley
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  • Peel and finely dice the shallot. Finely mince the crab sticks and chop the parsley.
  • In a medium bowl, add the shallot, mayonnaise, smoked paprika, salt and pepper and mix well to combine.
  • Then add in the crab meat and parsley and stir gently to combine.
  • Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate and serve later.


  • Chopping: Chop the shallot, parsley and crab sticks preferably by hand as it will result in a better consistency for this crab dip salad. 
  • Store: The crab salad keeps well in the fridge for up to 3 days when stored in airtight containers. 
  • Freeze: Due to the dressing, this salad doesn’t freeze well so I wouldn’t recommend it.
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