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.

When I’m craving seafood, I turn to my favorite recipes which include seafood pasta, bacon wrapped scallops and this delicious crab dish. If you’re a crab lover, you’ll adore this recipe!

Crab Legs with Garlic Butter #crab #seafood #dinner #lowcarb #dinneratthezoo Crab Legs with Garlic Butter #crab #seafood #dinner #lowcarb #dinneratthezoo

A pot of crab legs tossed in garlic butter.

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.

An assortment of different types of crab on a sheet pan.

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.

A pot of dungeness, king and snow crab.

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.

A spoon pouring garlic butter over cooked crab.

Flavor variations

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.

A tray of crab legs seasoned with garlic and herbs.

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

5 from 25 votes

Crab Legs with Garlic Butter

AuthorSara Welch
A pot of crab legs tossed in garlic butter.
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.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time20 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine American
Serves 4


  • 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.


Calories: 206kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 61mg | Sodium: 203mg | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 709IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 10mg

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Costco had crab so I treated us ! I think the crab had been frozen but it still came out sweet and delicious! It really was a treat!

    1. 5 stars
      Crab is almost always frozen. You might be lucky enough to live in a place that sells live crabs from a tank; otherwise its all previously cooked and frozen because crab meat goes bad very fast.

      1. They don’t really need a sauce since they’re coated in garlic butter, but you could serve more melted butter or cocktail sauce on the side.

  2. 5 stars
    I love your tips on what to serve with the crab legs! Sometimes I am at a loss for what goes well with them! These are perfect!

  3. I’ll bring the Garlic Butter if you bring the Crab legs lol Going to try this if I can get a good price on the legs (senior speaking ) giggles

  4. 5 stars
    Eating crabs is definitely a messy affair, but oh so worth it. And I like your approach to keep everything simple. After all, really great crab doesn’t need a whole lot of seasonings. 🙂