This Crab Imperial is a delicious, easy seafood dish and one of my all-time favorite crab meat recipes. You’ll want to make it again and again for special occassions and more.
Crab Imperial is one of the best easy lump crab meat recipes. Jumbo lump crab in a simple seafood recipe with a crunchy topping and simple imperial sauce.
Crab Imperial. Just thinking about this easy lump crab recipe makes my mouth water. Made with jumbo lump blue crab meat, it’s essentially an easier, less hands-on version of crab cakes.
I think Crab Imperial is one of the easiest casserole recipes that use crab. Actually, it might be the ONLY casserole I make using crab. But it’s oh so good.
And an easy recipe. This delicious crab imperial recipe is made in just a few steps, with no complicated ingredients or techniques required.
Just combine the ingredients, add to the casserole dish, top with your favorite crunchies, place in a baking dish and cook!
Don’t forget to PIN Crab Imperial!
The most common flavor accompaniments to the crab mixture are ground red pepper, Old Bay Seasoning and dry mustard.
If you want to get crazy, add an imperial sauce, my simple beurre blanc sauce. A simple lemon and butter topping that pairs well with most foods.
As the same for crab cakes, you can use a variety of bread crumbs from saltines, traditional Italian or in this batch, I used crumbled leftover Hot Dog Bun Croutons.
Sourdough, whole wheat and even panko breadcrumbs work perfectly.
This entire seafood dish takes just under 30 minutes to make and can be assembled ahead of time.
Crab Imperial can be served as the main entree, which is my preferred way to serve this lazy man’s seafood dish, but is also frequently used to top steak or stuff other proteins.
Serve it over baked chicken for Chicken Chesapeake or even use it to stuff shrimp, scallops and other fish.
So what is the difference between Crab Imperial and crab cakes? As I mentioned above, the two are very similar.
Crab Imperial is typically a little wetter and has more filler. Crab cakes (at least good ones) have less filler and are more dry, in order to hold them together.
They are both good and they both have their place on the menu. Here is a crab cake for reference (and my award winning crab cake recipe).
Imperial is better for serving large groups because your crab will go further and it isn’t as delicate as crab cakes.
You can also serve smaller portions alongside another protein or fish. Check out my Filet Mignon featuring a crab imperial topping!
Not everyone can everyone can grab fresh crab from the Eastern shore of Maryland like I can, but you can find good crab at your store. I prefer to use unpasteurized crab, but if that is all you can get your hands on, go for it!
Clarified butter is nothing but butter with the milk solids removed. Make sure to choose a high quality butter when making this liquid gold sauce.
What is good quality butter? Butter is required to have an 80% butterfat, but cheaper butters might also have more water. American butter typically doesn’t have as much flavor either.
Grades, ranging from the best grade AA to grade B, are based on flavor, body, color and salt and water content.
For just bread and butter, or something where the dish is butter-forward with uncooked butter, splurge for the AA grade. If you plan to mix it, clarify it or use it minimally, opt for a lower grade.
I keep 3 types of butter in my house. If you are spending the cash to make this pricey dish, you might as well also splurge for the high grade butter!
You may like these other easy crab recipes:
Tools for making crab imperial:
Measuring Utensils– I generally eyeball it, but you can measure things out, if you’d like!
Small Casserole Dish– I recommend using a shallow dish so it heats the whole way through without the top getting dry.
Questions you might have about how to make this recipe:
Do I have to use jump lump crab meat? You don’t, you can use a variety of crab meat that meets your budget. Feel free to use a mixture as well. Here is a guide to buying blue crab meat.
Next is knowing your type of crab meat. Here is a brief crab meat tutorial.
- Claw– dark meat that comes from the claw, a little more stringy than other varieties.
- Special– smaller pieces, comes from small little crevices or the “special” sections of the crab, good for flavoring and dips.
- Backfin– some larger lumps coming from, you guessed it, the back of the shell, whiter meat, does well in crab cakes, feathery texture.
- Jumbo lump– large, lumps of meat, the beauty is the large pieces used for crab meat cocktails or delicious to pop in your mouth plain, very tasty and moist.
Can I use imitation crab meat? I would advise against using imitation crab meat for this recipe. Crab is the main ingredient and will flavor the whole dish.
Imitation crab meat is just a white fish compressed into crab-like shapes and then tinted a weird orange color.
Can I use king crab or snow crab? What makes a good imperial is the blue crab. I supposed you can use one of the other two, but I would advise against it.
Is crab imperial keto friendly? This is not a keto friendly recipe because it contains bread crumbs. You can use one of the keto approved substitutes like pork rinds, as a binder.
Is crab imperial gluten free? If you use a gluten free alternative to bread crumbs, then yes, it is gluten free.
Is crab imperial dairy free? This recipe is dairy free. The recipe, minus beurre blanc sauce, is dairy free. You don’t have to use any sauce at all, or you can serve with fresh lemon wedges cocktail sauce, tartar sauce or chipotle aioli.
Can I serve this as an appetizer? Sure- kind of like a hot crab dip, some folks serve imperial with saltine crackers and crudites.
What should I use to garnish it? You can use nothing at all or green onions (scallions), chives or just lemon.
Can I freeze crab imperial? I generally don’t recommend freezing any recipe that contains mayonnaise.
You also need to be mindful to not refreeze seafood that has previously been frozen. Many brands of pasteurized, canned crab meat, has been previously frozen.
Can I use a soft shell crab? Soft shell crabs won’t peel and pick like a hard shell, so it isn’t advised.
Can I add cheese? Cheesy crab is always delicious- think about crab dip! But for this recipe I like letting my crab do the shining and not be overpowered by cheese. You can top yours with shredded cheese if you like.Crab Imperial is one of the best easy lump crab meat recipes. Jumbo lump crab in a simple seafood recipe with a crunchy topping and simple imperial sauce.
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- 2 pounds jumbo lump blue crab meat
- 2 tablespoons shallots , minced
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon flat parsley , minced
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove , grated
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons bread crumbs , divided
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup beurre blanc sauce , optional
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a small casserole dish with cooking spray.
- Combine jumbo lump blue crab meat, shallots, Dijon mustard, parsley, lemon juice, grated garlic, mayonnaise, bread crumbs and fine sea salt in a medium mixing bowl. Toss to combine and do not over mix. You don’t want those glorious bits of crab meat to break apart.
- Transfer mixture to casserole dish. Top with 2 tablespoons bread crumbs.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until hot. This will depend on how shallow your dish is, the top should be lightly browned.
- Serve with additional lemon wedges and enjoy.
- If you liked this dish, please come back and let us know how it was!