If the Chinese restaurant cheesy crab casserole of your childhood still fills your dreams, this easy Crab Casserole Recipe is a dream come true!
Endless variations of this Chinese buffet crab casserole exist online, and after testing and re-testing, I've perfected this one to match my memories of the very best of them.
I've included variations and flavor options in the FAQ section below, so you can make this imitation crab casserole your own!
What you'll need to make this dish :
Before we get to the step by step directions, a few notes about ingredients:
Crab meat: in most US grocery stores, you have the option of chunk style or flake style crab meat. Either one works in this recipe, along with chopped crab sticks. Just flake up about half the crab and leave the rest in larger pieces.
Veggies: the recipe calls for finely diced celery and scallions in the cheesy crab mixture. Substitute chives, diced parsley, or omit if you prefer a greens-free casserole.
Cheese: cheddar is the classic type of cheese to use in this casserole, but substitute your favorite variety, or mix and match. Colby, colby-jack, pepper jack and Swiss are all great options.
Full ingredient list and measurements included in printable recipe card below.
Step by step instructions:
1. Prep crab
To begin, preheat your oven to 375℉. Lightly spray or grease an 8 x 8 square baking dish (equivalent to 2-quart casserole dish). Set aside. Next, prepare your crab. If using crab sticks, cut each into three pieces. If using chunk or flake style that's already portioned, transfer to a large bowl. Break up or shred about half of the crab chunks into smaller pieces.`
2. Combine all casserole ingredients
Now add the remaining ingredients to the bowl of crab. First, remove ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese and one tablespoon of diced green onion and set aside for topping. Then add mayo, sour cream, lemon zest, diced green onions and celery (if using) and ¾ cup shredded cheese to the imitation crabmeat. Stir to combine well.
Transfer crab mixture to your prepared baking dish. Spread evenly. Top with remaining ¼ cup cheese and 1 tablespoon green onions.
3. Bake and serve
Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the casserole is warmed through and the celery and onions are tender. If you're looking for a deeper golden brown on the cheese, broil for final 1-2 minutes of bake time. Remove from oven and serve.
FAQ's, Variations and Serving Suggestions:
I tested the casserole using a variety of seafood seasoning, garlic powder, black pepper and white pepper. Ultimately, I preferred the casserole that let the sweet crab meat really shine. But if you want a more savory crab casserole experience, feel free to add a ½ teaspoon of your favorite seasoning, Dijon mustard, hot pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce or even a simple ½ teaspoon salt. Since the crab mixture doesn't include raw eggs, taste the crab before baking to adjust seasoning.
Lots of recipes include cream cheese in their crab casserole, but after testing, I found the cream cheese to be too heavy and savory for my taste. I was hoping for a crab rangoon experience and it just didn't deliver. If you have cream cheese and want to include it, I recommend starting with a couple of tablespoons of softened cream cheese and a good pinch of sugar. Use a wire whisk to combine with the mayo and sour cream to form a creamy sauce. Add the rest of the ingredients and then taste and adjust.
Feel free to substitute your favorite shredded cheese here, including Colby, Swiss cheese, mozzarella, or even Parmesan cheese.
To store, transfer crab casserole to an airtight container or wrap the cooled casserole dish tightly with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Eat leftovers cold, or reheat in the microwave for 30-45 seconds until warmed through.
Imitation crab is made with surimi, a paste made out of finely shredded or pulverized fish. After the fish is minced, it is heated and pressed into shapes that resemble meat from a crab leg.