How To Shred Imitation Crab

Imitation crab, aka “the hot dog of the sea,” is a cheaper alternative to the real deal while still providing you with healthy omega-3s. But those chunky crab sticks are sometimes thicker than you want for your recipe, be it tagliatelle, salad, or even sushi. So how do you shred imitation crab? 

Shredding Imitation crab is simple and easy. All you require is defrosted imitation crab, a non-serrated knife, and a clean, flat surface to work. Then, using the side of the blade, you run it lengthwise along with the stick, and the stick will come apart. Lastly, cut the shreds to their desired length. 

Shredding imitation crab is simple once you know the trick. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can use it for a whole host of recipes. This affordable protein source is healthy, versatile, and can be eaten straight out of the packaging. But it’s still good to know what imitation crab is made from and how to consume it safely.  

7 Easy Steps On How To Shred Imitation Crab

  1. Ensure your imitation crab is defrosted. 
  2. Remove the crab sticks from their packaging and place them on a flat, clean surface
  3. Fetch a non-serrated knife
  4. Place the side knife blade at one end of the stick
  5. Using firm pressure but not enough to cut, run the flatted blade down the stick
  6. Repeat this action on the sides and bottom of the stick
  7. When all the sticks you require are shredded, cut them to the desired length

What To Do With Imitation Crab?

Imitation crab meat can be used in many different recipes. Examples include:

  • Crab alfredo
  • Crab cakes
  • Crab casserole
  • Crab dip 
  • Crab enchiladas 
  • Crab Rangoon
  • Crab rolls
  • Crab salad
  • Crab tagliatelle
  • Seafood macaroni salad
  • Seafood tacos
  • Sushi

But the culinary world is your crab (oyster).  

What Is Imitation Crab?

Imitation crab is a processed food composed of proteins, starch, and oils. The fish used is referred to as “surimi.” This is essentially leftover scraps of white fish meat, such as pollock, that have been shredded and minced until a paste. MSG may also be added to the surimi and food coloring to give it a more “crab-like” appearance. 

Binding agents are also used to make faux-crab sticks. Sometimes these are part of the surimi; other times, they are additional ingredients. Common biding agents are starches, such as potato or corn starch, egg whites, vegetable, or sugar. Depending on the brand of imitation crab, one or more of the binding agents will be used. 

After combining the fish and binding agents, the mixture is pressed into the “stick” shape and then heated. This process keeps the imitation crab from falling apart until you wish to cut or shred it. 

How Long Does Imitation Crab Last?

Because imitation crab is made from white fish meat, It can last sitting out at room temperature for two hours. How long does imitation crab last in the fridge? Thawed imitation crab can last three to five days in the fridge. How long is imitation crab good for in the freezer? Frozen imitation crab can be good for up to 12 months in the freezer.

Can you Freeze Imitation Crab?

When shopping at the grocery store, you will find fresh or frozen imitation crab. Fresh imitation crab will usually be located next to fresh shrimp or fish in the seafood aisle.

Sometimes you may have leftovers after using some of your fresh imitation crabs and need to save some for later, and the question arises can you freeze imitation crab meat? You definitely can freeze leftover imitation crab meat. They can keep up to a year in the freezer.

Is Imitation Crab Gluten Free?

The majority of imitation crab out there in the market is made with wheat as one of the ingredients. So Does Imitation Crab Have Gluten? Imitation crab does contain gluten.

There are small companies that do make gluten-free imitation crab. Here are some of them:

  • Trans-Ocean
  • Kanimi Seafarer Teasures
  • Kroger
  • Classic Creations (Walmart)

Does Imitation Crab Have Shellfish?

Imitation crab is made with leftover scraps of white fish meat. Starch and oils are also added. Though they look and sometimes feel like real crab meat, Imitation crabs do not have shellfish.

Is Imitation Crab Vegan?

Imitation crab is a processed food composed of fish, so it isn’t vegetarian or vegan. Popular crab substitutes for those on a vegetarian or vegan diet include:

  • Palm hearts
  • Shredded jackfruit
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Tofu

Some vegetarian seafood imitations are out there, but they are harder to source than faux-chicken or vegan sausage. 

Can You Eat Imitation Crab Raw?

Imitation crab is already cooked as part of the processing to achieve the stick shape. Thus, you can eat it directly out of the packaging if you desire, much like people do with canned tuna. 

Can Pregnant Women Eat Imitation Crab?

Pregnant women can still eat imitation crab when pregnant. It is low in mercury and high in omega-3s and vitamins D and A. Making imitation crab meat also means it is precooked and pasteurized. 

However, real crab is also a “safe” food when pregnant. Thus, you don’t have to limit yourself to imitation crab if you crave the real thing. But do note you do need to cook real crab before consuming it. 

Imitation Crab Food Poisoning

Imitation crab, like any food, can spoil. Imitation crab must be stored in the freezer or fridge in an airtight container. It lasts up to 6 months in the freezer, and an open packet will last 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator. However, some sealed packets will last much longer in the fridge; consult the brand’s instructions for advice. 

Like any fish, if it is left out for a few hours at room temperature, it should be considered “off” and discarded. Nor should any imitation crab that has been thawed be refrozen. 

Imitation crab goes off in the same manner as fish. Signs of spoiled imitation crab include a slimy surface and an intense and unpleasant fishy smell. Also, if eaten, spoiled imitation crab will have a rather sour taste. 

Imitation Crab Nutrition VS Real Crab

While imitation crab still contains many healthy nutrients, they differ from real crab. Both imitation crab and the real deal have important benefits, such as B12 and Omega-3s. But real crab has higher nutritional value, especially when it comes to protein. 

Imitation crab, however, has 6.25 grams of sugar in a 3 oz serving, whereas real crab has none. Consequently, imitation crab has carbohydrates where real crab does not. This can be a problem for people on a low-carb eating plan, although it isn’t an issue for everyone. Also, people with conditions such as celiac disease need to avoid imitation crab due to gluten.

Bottom line: Crab is a healthier, more nutrient-packed choice than imitation crab. However, imitation crab still contains nutritional benefits at a much more affordable price. 

3.5 oz Imitation Crab % DV3.5 oz Real Crab %DV
Calories4.7% (95 kcal)4.8% (97 kcal)
Fiber 2%
B1 (Thiamin)3%4%
B2 (Riboflavin)6%5%
B3 (Niacin)4%8%
B5 (Pantothenic Acid)0%8%


Shredding imitation crab is easy and can be used in a wide range of recipes. While imitation crab doesn’t pack the same nutritional punch as real crab, it is much more affordable, safe to be eaten while pregnant, and still contains some essential minerals, vitamins, and nutrients. Shred and enjoy.