Sweet, tender, and succulent wild-caught Alaskan crab is a delicious protein to use in a picture perfect Chinese-style stir fry, where saucy crab legs are piled high in a decadent display of sustainable abundance. Made with basic ingredients that you likely have stashed in your pantry and fridge, a crab stir fry is a low-maintenance meal you can make on a moment’s notice, as long as you have some snap-and-eat crustaceans on hand.
Whether you’re using mild snow crab legs or briny Dungeness in your crab stir fry, these ready-to-eat varieties of crustacean make any crab meat stir fry easy to make, ready in under 10 minutes.
Here’s a quick and easy stir fry crab recipe that makes a deliciously messy, sweet ‘n spicy finger-lickin’ crab stir fry — bibs highly recommended. This crab stir fry can serve 2 to 3.
3 tbsp oil
1-2 tsp ginger, grated or minced
1 heaping tbsp shallots, finely diced
Pinch of dried chili flakes; or 1 fresh hot chili, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1-2 tsp garlic, minced
1 package crab legs (Dungeness or snow crab), thawed
Splash of sake, white wine, Shaoxing wine, or beer
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 cup low-sodium stock (veggie stock or even water)
Tender green herbs, like cilantro, chives, or scallions.
The right cooking oil for stir fried dishes can withstand high heat without burning. Something like peanut or canola oil works well for stir fries.
Ginger is always a nice addition to stir fries, imparting a fresh, herbaceous flavor that helps to balance out the fried deliciousness of the finished dish, while dried chili flakes or a spicy red chili of any kind add just a bit of heat to whet your appetite. Use as much chili as suits your palate.
Shallots will give the stir fry some natural sweetness, adding dimension to the dish and complementing the sweetness of the crab meat.
Garlic adds a savory umami note that helps to add even more depth to your stir fry.
Sliced green bell pepper is optional, but will add a hint of flavor, contrasting texture, and visual interest to the plate.
Whether you’re using thawed Dungeness or snow crab legs, use kitchen shears to break them down into manageable, stir-fry-able pieces; snip them into 2 to 3 inch pieces or crack the legs apart at their joints and trim off any of the hard, translucent tendons that become exposed.
Alcohol, whether wine, sake or beer, is an excellent ingredient to use to deglaze your wok, as its flavor adds a nice balance to the dish. You’ll just need a splash of it, so pick something you’ll want to drink with your finished crab stir fry.
Low-sodium broth is going to be the base of your sauce. But water works fine as well; you may just need to use a tad more soy sauce later on. Soy sauce is going to be your main salt source for this stir fry. Adjust the seasoning to your taste, adding more if needed once your stir fry sauce reduces a bit.
The richness of oyster sauce will help to create a glazy, savory coating of umami to your stir fry crab legs. It’s sweet, salty, sticky, and integral to a good crab stir fry. Try to find a good quality bottle of this, avoiding sauces with added caramel color or MSG if possible.
Any addition of tender green herbs will simply be stirred in at the end, adding fresh flavor and texture.
Ideally, you’ll want to have access to a wok for stir fries, since the design of the wok gives you lots of surface area to work with. That means each ingredient will get plenty of direct contact with the cooking vessel. If you don’t own a wok, use the widest pan you have available to make your crab stir fry.
Heat your cooking oil over high heat, until it’s hot enough that it begins to shimmer. Add in your ginger, shallots, hot chili, and bell pepper, frying for about 30 seconds until you see the bell pepper pieces beginning to soften. Then add garlic, cooking for another 20 seconds or so until it’s no longer raw.
Just before the garlic begins to pick up any color, toss your crab legs into the wok, moving them around so that they get coated in the sizzling oil and begin to pick up some of the aromatic flavors in the pan. Stir fry for 3 minutes.
Remove crab legs and bell peppers with tongs, setting aside on a plate for now; it’s fine if there are still some bits of garlic, ginger, and chili left in the wok.
To your hot wok, add in a splash of sake/white wine/Shaoxing wine/beer to deglaze any bits that are sticking to the surface. Then, stir in soy sauce, oyster sauce, and stock (or water). Allow this mixture to reduce for a few minutes, stirring constantly; the wok should be hot enough that bubbles will form around the sides of your sauce mixture when you’re not moving it around. Once the sauce has reduced a bit, take a moment to carefully taste it to see if it’s seasoned enough for your taste; if not, add a touch more soy sauce
Finally, reintroduce the crab legs to the wok, stirring to coat with the sauce. Cover the wok (you can use any lid that is big enough to mostly cover your ingredients, even if it’s way smaller than the circumference of the wok) and allow the crab and sauce to meld flavors for 3 minutes. Remove from heat, then stir in any tender green herbs.
Transfer your stir fried crab legs to a serving platter, along with a side of your favorite chili sauce, steamed rice, and napkins galore. Enjoy immediately.