Kitchn Love Letters

The $3 Find I’m Constantly Picking up in the Seafood Section

published Mar 21, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
A person standing in front of an open refrigerator inside a kitchen
Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

When I was a kid, my mom would serve me something that I considered, at the time, to be the peak of All Things Fancy: sticks of imitation crab with melted butter or cocktail sauce for dipping. I loved ordering crab legs at Red Lobster, my favorite restaurant, but I loved noshing on these perfectly formed crab sticks — without putting in the sweat equity of cracking the shells and digging out the meat, all the while praying it would come out in one intact chunk. 

Credit: Jessica Harlan

To this day I still hold a soft spot for that packaged imitation crab, which I buy near my supermarket’s fish counter. It’s sold under several brands, including Crab Classic (my favorite) and Crab Supreme, and the idea is always the same. The packages are not actually crab, but rather surimi, which is minced Alaskan pollack that’s been seasoned with sugar, rice wine, and other flavorings (including a tiny amount of crab and crab extract) to mimic the delicately sweet flavor of king crab or snow crab legs. At around $3 for an eight-ounce package, surimi is far more affordable than crab, it’s got a super-long shelf life, and it’s easy to use and prepare — you can even eat it right out of the bag (something I do quite a bit!).

Buy: Crab Classic Imitation Crab, Flake Style, $3.29 for 8 ounces at Instacart

Credit: Jessica Harlan

Surimi is the star ingredient in California sushi rolls and deli crab salads, and is also a mainstay in my own kitchen. One of my family’s favorite dinners is DIY hand rolls: I make a batch of sushi rice in my rice cooker and set out platters of ingredients, including flaked surimi, sticks of cucumber, bell pepper, avocado, and sheets of nori to wrap it all up. I’ve also become famous in my neighborhood for the crab dip I bring to get-togethers: I mix up finely chopped surimi with cream cheese, prepared horseradish, and lemon juice, sometimes pouring cocktail sauce over the whole thing, and serving it with Club Crackers and celery sticks.

Credit: Jessica Harlan

I’ve found plenty of other ways to use surimi too. During the pandemic, I tried sushi bake. And when I have leftovers from hand roll night, I top avocado toast with a few chunks of surimi or just eat pieces piled onto butter crackers. It’s also great mixed into scrambled eggs, added to ramen noodles for extra flavor and protein, and swapped for the real deal in crab cakes. 

Sure, I’ll still order King crab legs any time I’m at a seafood restaurant, but my beloved pack of Crab Classic will always have a place in my fridge when I’m craving that yummy crab flavor without the high price tag.

Do you have a go-to buy in the seafood section? Tell us in the comments below.