Soft Shell Crab
Soft Shell Crab [Callinectes sapidus]

Soft Shell Crabs are most commonly Blue Crabs (due to availability and size). To grow, a crab must periodically molt its entire exoskeleton and grow a new larger one. After the molt the crab is highly vulnerable for a period of days until the new shell hardens. This is the "soft shell" crab of commerce.

More on Crabs.


In Southern California soft shell crabs are commonly served in sushi bars where they are very popular. They may also be seen in specialty seafood restaurants but not much elsewhere. Along the Southeast Coast and the Gulf Coast they are served more generally.

Soft Shell Crabs should, like any other crab, be purchased live, but in many regions they can only be had frozen. If frozen, thaw in cold running water just before cooking.

Soft Shell Crab

  1. With kitchen shears cut off the face of the crab just behind the eyes. This will kill live crabs immediately.
  2. Pry up one side of the carapace and pull out the spongy gills (dead man's fingers), then do the other side. See photo to the left.
  3. Turn the crab over and pull the apron (tail) away from the body and break it off.
  4. The crabs will now generally be lightly dusted with flour and pan fried or deep fried and eaten whole with some sort of seasoning.

sf_cbsoftz 060917   -   www.clovegarden.com
©Andrew Grygus - agryg@clovegarden.com - Photos on this page not otherwise credited © cg1 - Linking to and non-commercial use of this page permitted