Crabs are unique, mesmerizing creatures. While a delight to the eye, they are equally amusing to our palates – dancing on our tastebuds with lingering sweet, salty, and buttery flavors. There’s a fantastic variety of crab species to discover.
The Blue, King, Dungeness, Snow, Florida Stone, and Peekytoe Crab are the most popular crab species sought after by chefs. The meat is a prized delicacy, boasting sweet and slightly salty flavors. The Orangutan, Japanese Spider, Candy, Calico, and Palawan Purple.
There are thousands of different crab varieties. Discussing them all would be blissful, but that would take hours, if not days. So, we’ve assembled a list of the most popular culinary crabs, ending with some of the most unique species to discover.
12 Amazingly Different Species of Crabs to Discover
Choosing the tastiest crab species remains a never-ending debate. However, most chefs seemingly agree on the top six best-tasting crabs.
The first half of our list will discuss the top crab species that deservingly earned their spot as a culinary delicacy. The latter six take you on a wild excursion of the most unique crab species to discover.
The Blue crab’s Latin name is Callinectes sapidus, meaning “beautiful swimmer.” This species is worthy of its name, boasting a beautiful blue-green hue. They typically range from 3½ inches to 5½ inches or larger.
Blues predominantly reside along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, through Nova Scotia, the Gulf of Mexico, and as far south as Uruguay. Known as the most common species on the East Coast, it’s no wonder they’re one of the most popular crabs to eat.
Blue crabs are prized for their tender meat and sweet, delicate flavors. They are amongst the most heavily harvested crustaceans globally and generally sell at high prices in ports and seafood markets.
King Crab (Alaskan King Crab)
Well deserving of its name – the King crab is the largest edible species worldwide. These big boys can have a leg span reaching six feet wide and weighing over 20 pounds.
King crabs primarily reside in the North Pacific Ocean, the Japanese, and the Bering Sea. These ginormous crustaceans come in three varieties: red, blue, and brown. They all sport sharp spikes along their shells and have two different-sized pinchers. The smaller one handles food, while the larger claw smashes prey.
King crabs have a preceding reputation. The leg meat is prized for its rich, sweet flavors and tender texture, which rival lobster tail. Despite their short harvest season and limited availability, King crabs remain among the most common species for commercial harvest.
Named after the fishing village in Dungeness, Washington, the Dungeness crab is a large purple-brown crustacean with a smooth, spineless carapace and relatively short legs.
Dungeness crabs reside in waters along the western coast of North America, traveling from Alaska to Mexico. They are among the most common and tastiest crab variety in the west Pacific.
Dungeness crabs are a sustainable seafood option. This seafood delicacy has dense, succulent pink flesh with a sweet, slightly nutty flavor.
Snow crabs are reddish-brown crustaceans with extraordinarily long legs and reach an average of 4 pounds. They receive their name for their delectable meat, which transforms from red to snow white when cooked.
Snow crabs reside in deep waters of the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans. They are a cold and deep-water species, residing in rock crevices at depths of up to 3,000 feet.
Snow crab legs are amongst the most popular and delicious crab preparations. When cooked, snow scrabs offer a sweet and subtle briny flavor with a firm, fibrous texture.
Florida Stone Crab
Florida Stone crabs, otherwise known as “stonies,” are a unique species prized for their large, robust claws filled with succulent meat. To add to their appeal, Stone crabs are amongst the most sustainable fisheries worldwide – their sizeable claws take around 12 to 18 months to grow back.
Unlike other crabs, only the claws are eaten. Fishermen twist off one of their large claws and return it to their home waters. Stone crabs mainly reside in Florida, along the Gulf of Mexico, but can venture north along the East Coast.
Florida Stone crabs’ claws are a prized delicacy. The meat is sweet and delicate, with a texture similar to lobster and shrimp. The meat is mainly served cold with a dipping sauce.
The Peekytoe Crab is a Maine rock crab that gets its unique nickname from the term “picked toe.” In Maine, “picked” means “pointed” – the name refers to the pointed shape crab leg. The crab reaches around five inches across and boasts a pretty reddish-orange shell.
Peekytoes inhabit the rocky areas of the East Coast of North America. Fishermen considered them a pest and throwaway by-product of lobster fishing. However, around 1997, they became a prized crustacean, sought for their delicious meat.
The Peekytoe crab meat is commonly handpicked. So, they are generally shell-free and ready to indulge. The meat is mildly sweet and succulent.
The Orangutan crab is one of a kind. This unique species resembles its namesake with a rusty red, shaggy coat covering its entire body.
Orangutan crabs reside in the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific, favoring bubble coral as a home.
This unusual crab is also known as a “decorator crab.” Their fur traps bits of plankton and edible debris, which camouflages and protects the crab from predators. However, the crab also feeds on the debris while grooming itself with its long pinchers.
Japanese Spider Crab
The Japanese Spider crab’s long legs make it the world’s largest crab species, spanning up to 12 feet long and weighing over 40 pounds.
Japanese Spider crabs are thought to live an astounding 50 to 100 years.
This monstrosity resides along the rocky and sandy continental shelf and slope of Japan’s Pacific coast. Japanese Spider crabs are a deep-water species, surviving depths of 2,000 feet.
The Candy crab, also known as the Oates’ soft-coral crab, is a dazzling crustacean first discovered in 1893. Most Candy crabs are a pink cotton candy color. However, the crab can change color to mimic the soft coral reefs where it lives.
You can find the Candy crab in the warm, shallow waters of the Indo-Pacific.
The Oates’ soft-coral crab is the only species in its genus. So, it’s not only an exceptionally beautiful crustacean but completely unique too.
Although Japanese Spider crabs are the largest marine-dwelling crustaceans, Coconut crabs claim the title of the largest land-dwelling crab species. Coconut crabs are gigantic, featuring legs that span up to three feet and weighing over 6 pounds.
Coconut crabs are only found on islands across the Indo-Pacific coastlines. They exclusively reside on land and are unable to swim once they mature.
Like their namesake, Coconut crabs primarily feast on coconuts. They use their strong, robust claws to crack into coconuts with minimal effort. However, they also eat other fruit, nuts, and even animals like rats and birds.
The Calico crab, also known as the shy-face crab, is characterized by its shy nature and beautifully patterned shell. At first glance, it almost resembles a cartoon, featuring a white body covered with cute orange, red, or purple spots.
The Calico crab is native to the western Atlantic Ocean and is often found buried in the sand or offshore along the Chesapeake Bay to the Dominican Republic.
During the day, only the eyes of the Calico crab are visible above the sand – hence its common name, “shy-face crab.”
Palawan Purple Crab
While there are several magnificent purple crab species, like the Vampire and West African Fiddler crab, the Palawan Purple crab is the most spectacular. Its body is a bright, iridescent purple with vibrant orange claws.
The Palawan Purple crab was only identified and scientifically described in 2012. This unique species only resides on Palawan Island in the Philippines.
The newfound species is unfortunately threatened by mining activities in the Palawan region, which serves as a major hotspot for biodiversity. Around About half of the Palawan species are endemic (found nowhere else).
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Different Breeds Of Crabs Are There?
Crabs belong to the order Brachyura. There are approximately 7,000 thousand varieties of crabs divided and over 850 species.
What Are The Different Types Of Crab?
Crabs are split into four primary categories for classification:
- Dromiacea: 240 living and 300 extinct species
- Raninoida: 182 species, 24 genera, and 4 families
- Cyclodorippoida: 99 living and 27 extinct species, and 3 families
- Eubrachyura: Eubrachyura is split into two groups – Heterotremata (over 4,000 living species) and Thoracotremata (over 1,000 living species)
Which Crabs Are Not Edible?
The Xanthidae crab family is considered toxic and inedible. Xanthid crabs can retain harmful toxins like saxitoxin and tetrodotoxin in their muscles and eggs. These toxins can be lethal for humans.
The five most common inedible crabs include:
- Emerald crab
- Floral Egg crab
- Mosaic Reef crab
- Shawl crab
- Toxic Reed crab
What Are Large Crabs Called?
Large crabs are mostly referred to as Kings crabs or Japanese spider crabs.
King crabs are the largest crab species used in the kitchen. It has an impressive leg span of six feet wide. However, the Japanese spider quickly puts the King crab to shame, reaching up to 12 feet long.
Our list of amazingly different crab species is only a drop in the ocean. There are thousands more unique varieties worth exploring.