Coconut crabs may seem like a formidable foe in the world of seafood. After all, coconut crabs have been spotted chowing down on whole chickens and birds thanks to their giant claws. However, once this terrestrial creature has been conquered, it quickly becomes a tasty dish.
Read on to learn more about the mysterious coconut crab, including what it is, what it tastes like, and six reasons you should try this shellfish.
What Is Coconut Crab?
Coconut crabs, also commonly called “robber crabs,” are a species found on the coasts of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. They’re called robber crabs because they’ll grab nearly anything on the ground that might be food and run off with it.
The coconut crab is a type of hermit crab, but the crabs are giant, unlike the tiny hermit crabs most people are acquainted with. A single coconut crab typically has a body length of up to 16 inches, weighs up to nine pounds, and has a leg span of up to three feet.
Coconut crabs get their name from one of their favorite meals, whole coconuts. The coconut crabs climb up palm trees and knock down the coconuts. They then take their large pincers and effortlessly break into the coconut.
Along with coconuts, the crabs primarily eat fruit and nuts. The crabs are omnivores and eat meat from birds, rodents, and insects.
What Does Coconut Crab Taste Like?
The taste of coconut crab lies somewhere between regular crab meat and lobster meat. The texture and sweetness are similar to blue crab, a high-quality luxury crab in the United States. The texture is tender and rich, with a slight butteriness similar to lobster.
The coconut crab is prepared differently worldwide, as some places serve it simply and steamed, while others combine it with a sauce and vegetables. Coconut crabs are hearty and meaty, and you can eat almost the entire crab.
The texture varies slightly between the legs, body, and claw meat. The tenderest meat is in the giant claws, but all coconut crab meat has a somewhat creamy texture. Because of the large size of the crab, one or two coconut crabs are often shared amongst an entire table.
6 Reasons You Should Try Coconut Crab
In case you need more convincing, here are six reasons you should try coconut crab.
Coconut Crab Is a Delicacy
Thanks to the giant size and delicious taste of a coconut crab, humans have reduced the vast crab population in all native habitats. Therefore, conservation strategies are now in place to help the vulnerable population.
Because coconut crab is harder to find, it’s achieved a rarer status that attracts people to the shellfish. The coconut crab is considered a delicacy in most areas where it is served. You’ll have to pay more for one of the rarest crabs in the world, but it’s entirely worth it when you taste the delicious coconut crab.
Crab Is a Low-Fat Protein Source
Like any edible crab, the coconut crab offers a lot of protein with a very low-fat content. Unlike red meat, the crab has little to no fat, often containing less than one gram in total in a serving. Thanks to this, you can indulge in a big plate of coconut crab without the health concerns you might have with the same amount of red meat.
In addition to protein, crab meat has a high phosphorous and vitamin B12 content, two essential nutrients many overlook. And unlike lean cuts of meat, which have higher nutritional value, crab meat doesn’t lose out on that decadent flavor everyone loves.
Coconut Crab Is Chock-Full of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Seafood is often praised for its high nutritional value, especially compared to other protein sources. Crab has high contents of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are heart-healthy nutrients.
In addition, fish like tuna and mackerel are criticized for their mercury content, but crab is known to have little to no mercury content issues. Trading in red meat for a piece of coconut crab for a meal can be a heart-healthy choice without the risk of mercury. Crab has a relatively high cholesterol content, but it is still lower than red meat options.
Coconut Crab Is Delicious on Its Own
One of coconut crab’s most remarkable aspects is its taste can stand on its own. No need for chowder or copious ingredients to help out the flavor because even if the meat is just steamed, the flavor is complete.
The coconut crab is typically best when it’s prepared simply because the fresh flavor shouldn’t be masked. The crab legs are often served as an appetizer, and the body meat is usually prepared similarly to lump crab meat.
Although coconut crab is typically served steamed, possibly with some sauteed vegetables, some areas serve it with additional sauces. The crab meat acts as a flavor sponge, so any sauce or curry used in the dish gets soaked into the tender meat.
Coconut Crab = Giant Crab Legs
While coconut crab legs aren’t the largest in the world, they are impressive. Many large crabs, unfortunately, have large swathes of the leg and body that aren’t edible. King crabs are one of the biggest crabs in the world, but only about one-quarter of their body weight is edible.
With coconut crabs, almost the entire crab’s weight is edible. The shell is fairly thin on the body and legs, so a ton of juicy crab meat is hiding in the legs and body. The coconut crab’s giant claws are often the most coveted piece of meat, as the meat inside is creamy, juicy, and incredibly tender.
Coconut Crab Is a True Destination Meal
You’ll be hard-pressed to find coconut crab outside of its natural habitat, so this is typically a meal that people hope to check off their list while on vacation. Although coconut crab is incredibly rare, you’ll often find it a popular street food in Indonesia and Japan.
Seafood markets are a staple destination in these areas, and you can easily find rare and delicious specialties in the market. You can pick out your coconut crab in many places, and they’ll bring it up to a cook, who will prepare it fresh for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some frequently asked questions about coconut crabs.
How poisonous are coconut crabs?
Coconut crabs on their own are not poisonous and pose no threat if cooked properly. However, consuming coconut crabs that eat sea mangoes may lead to poisoning in humans. The sea mango is poisonous and can transfer through the coconut crab’s diet.
Like any other crab, you should never eat coconut crab raw as it could lead to food poisoning. The coconut crab should steam, boil, or bake to a level that eliminates any lingering germs after cleaning.
Do coconut crabs have a lot of meat?
Yes, coconut crabs have a lot of meat. Coconut crabs are the largest terrestrial arthropod in the world, and people have hunted them specifically for their large size. A single adult coconut crab can weigh up to nine pounds and have a leg span of up to three feet, which all translates to edible body and leg meat.
Nearly the entire coconut crab is edible, excluding the intestines, which most people find unappetizing.
Is a coconut crab stronger than a lobster?
Yes, coconut crabs are stronger than lobsters. In fact, coconut crabs may be the strongest shellfish in the world. As terrestrial crabs, coconut crabs move around coastal habitats and regularly lift, push, and pull weights up to 66 pounds.
The real strength of the coconut crab lies in its claws, which have a stronger force than most animal bites, including leopards and bears. The crab’s pinching power is one of the reasons hunting coconut crabs is a dangerous task.
Can you cook and eat a coconut crab?
Depending on where you are, yes, you can cook and eat a coconut crab. In the crab’s native habitats, including Guam, Japan, and many islands in Indonesia, you can hunt, cook, and eat coconut crab all day.
However, cooking and eating coconut crab is illegal in other areas, including the continental United States and Australia. In most areas that allow you to eat coconut crabs, there are strict guidelines on which crabs can be hunted, thanks to the conservancy methods.