What Is Imitation Crab?

Do you love crab but don’t have crab money? Do you want to eat crab but don’t want to crack any shells? Do you love finely minced fish paste? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you’ll love imitation crab! But what is imitation crab meat? What is imitation crab made of? What is in imitation crab? Let’s get some genuine answers to your imitation crab questions!

What is imitation crab meat?

Let’s start by answering the question some folks may be asking: Is imitation crab real crab? As the name implies, imitation crab is fake crab. Imitation crab is processed fish meat, binding agents, and fillers. It’s basically the hot dog of the sea. Real crab is delicious, but it can be cost prohibitive. That’s where imitation crab comes in. It’s somewhat similar in taste and texture but much cheaper. Imitation crab shows up on menus under the names crab sticks, krab, and seafood sticks. It’s used in place of real crab in things like California sushi rolls and seafood salads. Imitation crab was first mass-produced in Japan in the 1970s and began showing up in the U.S. in the late 1980s. In Japan, imitation crab is known as “kamaboko.”

What is in imitation crab?

Now that we have a rough idea of what imitation crab is, that leads us to the question, what is imitation crab made of, exactly? Imitation crab is mostly made of a product called surimi. Surimi is a fish paste. To make it, producers shred white fish and mince it into a paste, then press it into shapes, and heat and pasteurize it. These days, it’s usually made with pollack, which is the fish typically used in frozen fish sticks and fast food fish sandwiches. 

How is imitation crab made?

To make imitation crab, the surimi is combined with binding agents like egg white, starch, vegetable oil, and/or sugar, then producers add orangish, reddish food coloring to complete the crab costume. 

Is imitation crab vegan? Is imitation crab vegetarian? 

Because imitation crab is made of fish paste, it is neither vegan nor vegetarian. If you’re following a pescatarian diet, then imitation crab can be acceptable as long as you’re okay with egg. And since the binding agents in imitation crab usually contain wheat products, it’s not typically gluten-free either. However, you can find vegan and gluten-free versions of imitation crab out there. Just make sure to read those labels. 

Is imitation crab cooked?

The fish in the surimi used to make imitation crab is heated and cooked during the process. So, can you eat imitation crab raw? Yep, that means you can eat imitation crab “raw,” straight out of the packaging. I like to eat imitation crab right out of a can while I ride the bus. But I’m a jerk.

About the Author

Will Morgan

Will Morgan, a freelance contributor to Sporked, is an L.A. based writer, actor, and sketch comedy guy. Originally from Houston, TX, he strongly believes in the superiority of breakfast tacos to breakfast burritos. Will traveled the world as one of those people that did yoyo shows at elementary school assemblies, always making a point to find local and regional foods to explore in whatever place he was, even in rinky-dink towns like Tilsonberg, ON. Will spends his birthdays at Benihana’s. Let him know if can make it.

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