Salty, sweet, juicy and addicting, this quick, easy garlic butter sautéed imitation crab meat recipe just might be your new favorite. Delicious enough for special occasions but easy enough for a Monday night, it takes barely 10 minutes to make.
This crab recipe can easily be doubled or tripled and comes in at well under 250 calories as a main course serving. And it's just so dang yummy!
Why I Love This Recipe
I've had plenty of imitation crab meat, aka kamaboko, at sushi restaurants over the years. Some is delicious (love it in a chirashi sushi bowl) and some was so-so (grocery store California roll with cream cheese). This imitation crab recipe is delicious with a few complimentary ingredients and stays sweet and tender with a short cooking time.
The Key To Tasty Imitation Crab
Like all fresh crab meat, freshness is key and if you buy it vacuum sealed, keep it refrigerated and sealed until you want to use it.
The second key to a delicious faux crab dish, is not to overcook it. Imitation crabmeat tends to dry out and lose it's lovely texture if overcooked. Just a few minutes in the pan with butter or olive oil is perfect. The combination of garlic and Old Bay spice will give this recipe it's nice golden brown color.
If you often have fake crab meat in your fridge, there are lots of great recipes you can make. Here are some of the best imitation crab recipes. Try spicy mango kani salad, an imitation crab salad popular at sushi restaurant classic. Crab rangoon, a hot imitation crab dip in crispy wonton wrappers, is another delicious way to use it.
Imitation crab works great in most recipes calling for real crab too. Creamy seafood salad, crab casserole recipes topped with bubbly mozzarella cheese and creamy seafood dips topped with salty parmesan cheese.
If you're a seafood lover, I've got sooo many delicious seafood dishes. Try my favorite appetizers like easy crab cakes, gf crab cakes, crab and corn fritters, and pasta dishes like my easy seafood alfredo recipe. These recipes use real crab and other seafood but by swapping the other seafood for surimi, they are a great way to use imitation crab sticks.
This delicious recipe uses just 6 ingredients and an inexpensive but tasty seafood. This tends to be a family-friendly recipe with the soft, sweet imitation crab meat. While many recipes use Worcestershire sauce, I find it overwhelming to the delicate flavor of this sweet seafood and so it is not in this recipe.
Imitation Crab Meat - This sweet, seafood product is also known as surimi, crab sticks or kamaboko stick and sometimes krab with a k. It is made of ground white fish mixed with starch and flavorings. It is far more economical than real crab meat and also easy to work with because there is no shelling involved.
Old Bay Seasoning - The signature flavor in this recipe, Old Bay is a classic pairing with many seafood dishes and especially crab, lobster and shrimp. With it's mild heat and savory mixture of spices, it really makes this dish. A small amount goes a long way, but if you love Old Bay as much as I do, feel free to double the amount.
Variations + Substitutions
There are some easy substitutions and variations you can do with this sautéed imitation crab meat recipe.
- Herbs + Spices - I've used chopped scallions but other herbs like fresh dill, parsley, cilantro, tarragon or thyme all make good substitutions or variations to suit your taste. If you don't have fresh garlic, you can use a ½ teaspoon of garlic powder.
- Butter - I love the flavor of real butter with real or imitation crab. If you don't have butter or prefer not to use it, olive oil or any neutral vegetable oil is a good substitute. If using oil, omit the 2nd tablespoon that is added at the end of cooking.
- Lemon Juice - White wine makes a great substitute for the lemon juice. Lime juice is alright too. If you like extra lemony flavor, add in the zest of the lemon too. Don't add more lemon juice though, as this will make your crab recipe too acidic. Are you a fan of lemon pepper? This is a the perfect spot to use it. Swap ½ teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning for the ¼ teaspoon of ground black pepper.
- Asian Butter Sautéed Krab - If you love the delicious recipes at Chinese restaurants, try this variation. Add in ¼ teaspoon grated ginger and ½ cup of thinly slice green peppers or snow peas when adding the garlic. Use lime juice instead of the lemon juice and add 1 teaspoon of soy sauce with the lemon. After cooking crab meat, serve it topped with chopped fresh cilantro with a side of white rice.
- Add-ins - Veggie and herb add ins can add a lot of freshness. Try adding ½ cup of either corn kernels, chopped fresh parsley or finely diced red bell pepper to the pan at the same time as the crab and green onions.
This is great served as a main dish, along with a fresh salad and some crescent rolls or bread. I like a good green salad or this apple kale slaw with buttery crab meat for a delicious meal. Garlic butter sautéed imitation crab is also delicious served over pasta or in toasted buns.
For a perfect appetizer, serve it on or alongside buttery crackers, toast points, on squares of nori or with crunchy kettle chips.
For a lighter version of crab rangoon creamy, cheesy and high calorie recipe, serve up this garlic butter sautéed imitation crab meat in crispy wonton cups or on tortilla chips. Just as tasty with far less fat and calories!
Chilled leftovers make a tasty filling for sushi rolls or chop the faux crab meat coarsely and use in this crab cake recipe in place of the real thing.
Step By Step Instructions
This easy recipe comes together fast, so it's best to prepare these simple ingredients before heating your pan. To prep ingredients, tear your imitation crab meat into bite sized pieces, thinly slice the green onion, and mince your garlic. Set aside on a plate. (I love this 10" Cuisinart non-stick pan)
1. Preheat a medium-sized sauté pan over medium heat. Once it's hot, melt 1 tablespoon of butter and add in garlic and Old Bay seasoning. Stir.
2. Quickly add in sliced scallions (green onions) and imitation crabmeat. Gently stir or toss once per minute for 3-4 minutes until heated through.
3. Add remaining tablespoon of butter and lemon juice. Toss gently to melt the butter and then turn off the heat.
4. Serve the garlic butter crab while warm.
Storing + Reheating Imitation Crab Meat
This recipe keeps really well for up to 4 days in the fridge. Store it in an airtight container and refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours of cooking for proper food safety. While you can freeze leftovers, the texture suffers a bit so I don't recommend freezing.
To reheat the butter sautéed crab, gently warm it in a medium sauce pan on low heat or microwave it in 20 second bursts, stirring between each, until it is heated through.
More Seafood Recipes
For more great seafood recipes including my favorite delicious crab cakes, check out these!
If you have any questions or comments, you can find me on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook. I try to answer any recipe related questions quickly as I know you might be in the middle of making it. Also check out my FREE PRINTABLE meal planner to make menu planning and grocery shopping a breeze. And if you like this recipe, I would love it if you give it a star rating in the recipe card.
Cheers and happy cooking, Friends! Sabrina
Quick, Easy Garlic Butter Sautéed Imitation Crab Meat
- 2 tablespoon Butter, divided
- ½ lb Imitation Crab Meat (Approx 1.5 cups)
- 1 clove Garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
- ½ c Green Onions, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
- ¼ tsp Each: Salt + Pepper
- Preheat a medium-size frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the butter and let it melt.
- Add minced garlic and Old Bay spice, stir and then add chopped green onions and crab meat. Cook 3-4 minutes, tossing gently every minute until all the crab is coated in the garlic, herbs and spices and it smells very fragrant.
- Add remaining tablespoon of butter and lemon juice. Toss until melted and incorporated. Serve up the garlic sautéed crab right away, while it's hot.