These crab legs are steamed to perfection, then tossed in a flavorful garlic butter sauce. A simple, yet satisfying way to enjoy fresh seafood, and it takes just minutes to put together! Crab legs make for a great appetizer or main course option.
Where I live, the winter months are crab season. There is plenty of fresh crab to be had, and we enjoy crab legs for the holidays every year. This recipe really takes things over the top with three types of crab in an easy butter sauce. Add a side of bread and a salad, and dinner is served.
Types of crab legs
You can make this recipe with one type of crab, or with multiple varieties of crab. The most common types of crab include Dungeness crab, snow crab, king crab, stone crab, and blue crab. Crab species and availability tend to vary depending on your geographic area. Where I live, Dungeness crab are local to the region, so that’s what I often use. Snow crab and king crab are often found nationwide, either frozen or previously frozen. You can’t go wrong here, so choose what is available, looks the freshest, and what is affordable to you.
How to cook crab legs
I find that the easiest way to cook crab legs is to steam them. Heat 2-3 inches of water in a large pot until boiling. Place the crab legs in the pot and cover the pot. Cook until the crab is warmed through. Drain the water from the pot, then melt butter for the sauce. Add fresh garlic, along with salt, pepper and chopped parsley. Toss the crab in the butter mixture, then serve immediately.
How long to cook crab
The majority of the crab that you buy at the store is pre-cooked, so in this case, all you’re really doing is reheating the crab. Typically crab legs take about 5-7 minutes to heat through. Legs tend to cook quicker than the body pieces of the crab. If you choose to cook the crab bodies along with the legs, you’ll want to add another 3-4 minutes to the cook time.
How do you know when crab legs are done?
Crab legs are cooked through when the flesh turns red and opaque. If you’re buying pre-cooked crab, the flesh will already look this way, since you’re just heating it up. Raw crab is more of a gray color, and will take a little longer to cook. Plan to add another 5-7 minutes to the cooking time if you have raw crab.
Tips for the perfect crab dinner
- Plan on 1 1/2-2 pounds of crab legs per person. You can easily double or triple this recipe if you need to feed a larger crowd.
- You can serve the garlic butter sauce over the crab legs, or simply steam your crab and serve the sauce on the side for dipping.
- My favorite accompaniments to crab include crusty sourdough bread and a fresh green salad or steamed vegetable. Other great side dish options include macaroni and cheese, steamed rice, angel hair pasta or even roasted potatoes.
- You can ask your fish monger to crack and clean your crab for you, which saves a ton of time later on.
- If you have frozen crab, thaw it in the fridge for 1-2 days before you cook it.
I find that crab is so good on its own that it needs minimal treatment. That being said, you can easily customize this recipe to your tastes.
- Spices: Try adding some spices to the garlic butter such as Old Bay, Cajun seasoning, smoked paprika or onion powder.
- Herbs: Skip the parsley and use fresh dill, basil or chives instead.
- Asian: Add 1 teaspoon of ginger to the sauce, along with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and use cilantro instead of parsley.
Whether it’s a special occasion or you’re just looking for a unique and unexpected dinner option, this crab recipe is always a big hit!
More delicious seafood recipes
Crab Legs with Garlic Butter Video
Crab Legs with Garlic Butter
- 6 pounds crab legs Dungeness crab, king crab, snow crab or a combination of different types
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- lemon wedges optional
- Place 3 inches of water in a large, deep pot over medium heat. Bring the water to a boil.
- Crack the crab legs with a seafood cracker.
- Place the crab legs in the pot and cover.
- Cook for 5-7 minutes until crab is heated through. If you have raw crab, cook for 10-12 minutes until flesh is red/orange and opaque.
- Drain the crab legs and cover to keep warm.
- Melt the butter in the pot. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Turn off the heat and stir in the salt, pepper and parsley.
- Return the crab to the pot and toss to coat with the garlic butter. Serve immediately, with lemon wedges if desired.