Boiling whole Dungeness crabs is the simplest way to create a festive dinner that looks totally elegant but is actually deceptively easy to prepare.
During the holidays, when family and friends are coming into town, all I can think about is gathering everyone together to pop the champs and serve something special. Special, but easy. Because I don’t want to be spending all my time in the kitchen when I can be having fun with the family instead. Enter my plan to serve the easiest but still elegant Dungeness crab as part of our holiday feast.
While some people prepare Dungeness crab legs, I actually prefer the whole crab. It may sound intimidating to you, but honestly, this is the easiest crab you’re ever going to make. Because I live in a land-locked state, the Dungeness crabs I can get have already been cooked, which means the crab only needs an easy warm up before eating rather than a full immersive steaming or cooking.
What is Special About Dungeness Crab?
Dungeness crabs always feel so luxurious and are the perfect thing to serve for a special occasion. They’re the largest of the commercially harvested crabs in the world. And if you’re wondering which is better—Dungeness or king crab, I love both but if I had to pick a winner, it’s Dungeness crab for me. That’s because this West Coast crab is tender, meaty, sweet and delicate, with a particularly delicious flavor thanks to the fat in its shell. It also happened to be Julia Child’s favorite, so that says it all right there.
What’s in This Whole Dungeness Crab Recipe
This recipe couldn’t be easier. All you need are a few ingredients to make the Old Bay and lemon spiked melted butter or cocktail sauce. Here’s what you need:
- Whole, cooked Dungeness crabs
- Kosher salt
- Salted butter
- Old Bay Seasoning
- Prepared horseradish
- Fresh dill and parsley
- Sliced lemons and limes
Note: You’ll want to plan on about 1 crab per person, or if serving as an appetizer, 1 crab for every 2 people.
How to Make Whole Dungeness Crab
If you’re working with already cooked crabs, all you need to do is gently rewarm them (which takes no time), and then prepare your sauce and or dip. Of course if you’re lucky enough to get fresh crab straight from the ocean, here is a great video showing you how to steam a live crab with ease.
Here’s how to prepare your crab:
Gently rewarm your crab. Simply bring a stock pot of water to boil, turn off the heat, and immerse the crabs in the hot water to gently warm. This keeps the crab from becoming overcooked (for a second time) and tough.
Let it rest in its warm bath. Let the crab sit for about 10 minutes or until it becomes fragrant, then drain.
How to Clean Your Crab
To serve the crab, you’ll need to clean it first. This video shows the fastest and easiest way to clean the crab and prepare it for eating.
Use a heavy knife to pull the crab meat from the shell. After the crab has been cleaned, take the back of a heavy knife and crack the legs to make it easiest to pull the crab from the shell, no crackers required. I use skinny crab forks to pull the meat from the shell, but you can also go au natural and use the sharp ends of the claws to pick through the inside of the shells.
How to Serve Dungeness Crab
For serving, I like to keep it easy with the dipping sauce. I make a super simple lemon spiked salted butter with a bit of Old Bay Seasoning stirred in. Sometimes I also mix some ketchup and hot horseradish for a simple cocktail sauce option. Then for presentation, I like to arrange the crab on a platter with fresh lemon and lime slices, parsley and dill, and the dipping sauces. It’s definitely a showstopper.
What to Serve With Your Whole Dungeness Crab
- The Best Buttery Parsley Potatoes
- Easy Grilled Corn on the Cob
- Easy Cheddar Bay Biscuits
- Key Lime Pie
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
The Easiest Whole Dungeness Crab Recipe
- 4 cooked Dungeness crabs , about 2 pounds each
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 16 tablespoons 1 cup or 2 sticks salted butter
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
- 1 lemon , juiced
- ½ cup ketchup
- 1-2 teaspoons prepared horseradish , to your taste
- Fresh dill and parsley for garnish
- Sliced lemon and limes
- Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil, season with 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Once the water comes to a boil, remove from heat. Immerse two of the crabs into the water for 5-10 minutes until the crabs are warmed through. Remove the crabs from the water and set aside to drain. Bring the water to another boil and repeat with remaining crabs.
- Clean the crabs while the other two crabs are warming in the hot water. Crack the legs with the back of a heavy knife. Serve on a platter with fresh dill leaves, parsley and sliced lemons and limes.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Reduce the heat to low and skim the foam from the butter. Stir in the Old Bay Seasoning and the lemon juice. In a small bowl, mix the ketchup with the prepared horseradish. Serve the flavored butter and cocktail sauce alongside the crab.
More Recipes to Try For Special Occasions
- Grilled Lobster Tails with Smoked Paprika Butter
- Red Wine Braised Short Ribs
- Oven Roasted Chicken with Lemon Rosemary Garlic Butter
- Steamed Alaskan King Crab Legs
- Filet Mignon with Porcini Mushroom Compound Butter
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Gina @Running to the Kitchen
OMG! This looks amazing!!
Liz @ The Lemon Bowl
I could eat crab all day every day! Gorgeous photos!
Oh simply delicious, I love crab and I’m so excited to have all my jewels together for Christmas, can’t think of anything better.
a great idea and nice reminder, I never even think about Dungeness crabs, a nice option for holiday guests, thank you!
Laura | Tutti Dolci
I’m thinking this easy recipe + all the champagne needs to be part of my NYE menu. What could be better than that?!
Lynda @ Toddler Baby World
I really enjoyed reading your post. I thought your post was beautifully written. Thanks for guide!
Looking so gorgeous! but I don`t eat much the crab now a days. In my childhood we siblings eat together the crab! It was very funniest & adorable moment for me. You remembering me in my childhood, Thanks for this recipe!
Jennifer @ Show Me the Yummy
Ooooo I LOVE crab, but have never made it at home. Deeelish!