Soft-shell Crabs with Garlic-Caper Sauce

Soft-shell crabs are something I didn’t know existed until they became a popular deep-fried filling in sushi. I loved that rich, crunchy texture and meaty flavor wrapped inside nori. But it wasn’t until I moved to the Atlantic coast that I began seeing soft-shell crab served in more diverse settings. For example, a departure from the deep-fried preparation.

Lightly sauteed and then served with a buttery garlic and caper sauce, this recipe presents crabs with the crunch and juice that the deep-frying method offers, but without the overwhelming county-fair-like batter. I felt I could taste the crabs better when cooked this way, shells and all!

On a recent long weekend at Manteo (Outer Banks, N.C.), we visited the fish monger for fresh seafood. The soft-shell crabs had just come off the boat and were still squirming around in their pretty blue shells. We ordered two large ones for $2 each and the monger cleaned them for us.

Of course, when I took them home, I removed that yellow stuff from the gill-like area, pulled out the bubble thing and squeezed out more yellow guts. It’s all very technical, but I remembered watching something once on the Food Network about it. But of course, most people just eat everything.

Here are my nicely cleaned crabs.

Then I was ready to cook! I prepared this with a side of couscous and seared sea scallops.

Adapted from Emeril.

Softshell Crabs with Garlic-Caper Sauce


  • 2 soft-shell crabs, cleaned and patted dry
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Few chive blades, chopped

Season crabs with salt and pepper and dredge in the flour, shaking off excess. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, add the oil and saute the crabs until soft, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove the crabs and set aside. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Then add the capers and white wine. Cook until wine has reduced to about 1/2. Swirl in the butter and the chopped chives. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, I put some arugula salad on the plate, then the crabs and finished with the rich and fragrant butter sauce. Really, we poured that sauce over everything. And then took our plates and wine to the back deck of our beautiful beach farm house on the cove (a friends’ – not ours!).

The crab shells were crispy but still easy to much. The sauce was so flavorful – capers add a nice salty bite to counter the butter and garlic. It was quite chic for a Southern delicacy!

It was a great way to spend the first night in a long weekend of decadence.

Enjoy your summer beach cooking, friends! xoxo


2 responses to “Soft-shell Crabs with Garlic-Caper Sauce

  1. Laura Spradley

    We caught Dungeness crabs in the Straits of Juan de Fuca and cooked them up last weekend. Actually, we caught 10 females that we had to throw back and one hapless male that we ate along with three crabs we had to buy from a crab shack. Not allowed to eat soft shell crabs here. Would love to try some Atlantic crabs some time!

  2. What a lovely way to start your weekend. My husband will love this!

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