The Seasoned Virginia’s Flavorful Crab Imperial
Posted August 24, 2023 by: Admin
Any Virginia native has likely experienced the delightful taste of Crab Imperial. This traditional dish is made with lump crabmeat, topped with Parmesan cheese, and baked until golden brown. It may seem fancy, but this easy recipe only requires 10 minutes of prep time!
Crab Imperial is a well-known American dish made with crab meat that is mixed with mayonnaise or a white sherry sauce. It is then placed in crab shells, scallop shells, or individual ramekins. The dish is typically topped with Parmesan cheese or breadcrumbs and baked until it turns golden brown.
Crab Imperial is similar to crab cakes, but without the filling. It has a sweet and salty flavor and is made with the same ingredients as a traditional crab cake recipe. However, the dish is baked in a casserole instead of being formed into cakes. Each serving is filled with chunks of crab meat in a delicately seasoned, creamy sauce.
The recipe calls for ingredients such as red bell pepper, onion, butter, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, egg, pepper, Old Bay Seasoning, crab meat, and Parmesan cheese. It is recommended to use giant crab meat for the best texture and flavor.
To make Crab Imperial, you need to sauté the bell pepper and onion, whisk the imperial sauce, and mix the vegetables and crab meat with the sauce. The mixture is then divided among individual ramekins or a baking dish, topped with mayo and Parmesan cheese, and baked until golden and bubbly.
Imperial Crab can be served as an appetizer or as a main dish. It pairs well with side dishes such as green salad, crusty bread, coleslaw, tomato salad, pasta salad, or roasted vegetables. The dish is keto-friendly with low carbs and can be made ahead of time for easy entertaining.
For the best Crab Imperial recipe, it is advised to use freshly grated Parmesan cheese instead of canned grated Parmesan. The dish can also be used as a filling for other seafood such as shrimp, salmon, or flounder. Squeezing fresh lemon juice on top adds a bright, tart flavor, and crackers or crusty bread can be served on the side.
This is just one of many delicious crab meat recipes to try. Some other popular ones include crab cakes, crab salad, and crab bisque.
For more details, the full recipe with specific measurements and cooking instructions can be found below. Enjoy!
What is the Imperial Crab?
Crab Imperial is a classic American dish made with crab meat that is combined with mayonnaise or a white sherry sauce and placed in blue crab shells, scallop shells, or individual ramekins. The crab mixture is topped with Parmesan cheese or breadcrumbs and baked until golden brown.
The difference between crab cakes and crab imperial
Crab Imperial has a sweet and salty flavor and is very similar to crab cakes without stuffing. Since it contains many of the same ingredients as a traditional crab cake recipe, crab imperial basically tastes like crab cake baked in a casserole! We will not add breadcrumbs or cookie crumbs to give the dish volume. Instead, each individual serving is packed with chunks of crab meat in a delicately seasoned, creamy sauce.
This is a quick overview of the ingredients you’ll need for a delicious crab imperial recipe. As always, specific measurements and full cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.
- Red Bell Pepper and Onion: Fresh greens that give the dish a savory flavor, a bit of color, and a hint of sweetness in the background.
- Butter: to fry the vegetables.
- Mayonnaise: The base of the creamy sauce brings together fresh crab and other ingredients.
- Dijon mustard: to give it an acid and spicy touch.
- Worcestershire sauce: provides salty flavor and umami.
- Egg: the binder.
- Pepper: just a pinch for a more complex flavor.
- Old Bay Seasoning – This classic seafood seasoning blend is a combination of celery salt, paprika, and other spices like red pepper and black pepper.
- Crab Meat: I use the good stuff – refrigerated giant crab meat!
- Parmesan Cheese: A final touch that adds a spicy and salty flavor to contrast nicely with the sweet and creamy base. It also helps the top to brown.
The Best Crab Meat for Imperial Crab
Giant crab meat is the best of the best! While it’s also the most expensive crab you can buy, it’s well worth the investment for special occasions. Nothing else has the same rich, buttery texture, bright white appearance, and large chunks.
I buy the refrigerated giant crab meat in the seafood section of the supermarket (not the canned version). This crab meat is fully cooked and ready to use in recipes.
If you don’t want to splurge on a container of jumbo crabmeat, you can also use lump crabmeat (which is slightly smaller than jumbo crabmeat) or even tailfin crabmeat (or a combination of these). I do not recommend using canned crab, crab meat, or imitation crab meat for this recipe.
How to make imperial crab
You can certainly serve your imperial crab in the shell, but I’ve used individual ramekins here to make it easier. You can also bake a larger casserole if you prefer. It’s an easy 30 minute meal with loads of flavor in every bite!
Detailed instructions are included in the recipe card below, but here’s the quick version:
- Sauté the bell pepper and onion.
- Whisk the imperial sauce.
- Add the vegetables and crab meat to the sauce. Stir to combine.
- Divide the mixture among individual plates or in a 1-quart baking dish.
- Top with mayonnaise and Parmesan cheese.
- Bake until golden and bubbly.
How to serve imperial crab
Imperial crab is served both as an appetizer and as a main dish, and is best heated in the oven. Since crab meat is expensive, serving smaller portions as appetizers in scallop shells can be a good way to stretch the amount you have.
The Crab Imperial also makes a great special occasion dinner. A little goes a long way (thanks to all those rich ingredients), so a small 8-ounce pan should feed one person. Pair the dish with a couple of lighter side dishes for the perfect meal!
What to eat with imperial crab
Here are some of our favorite sides that pair well with crab recipes:
- Green Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette, Caesar Salad, Wedge Salad, or our Favorite House Salad with Candied Walnuts
- French baguette, a loaf of crusty Dutch bread or no-knead cast iron focaccia
- Southern Cornbread, Skillet Cornbread, Bakery-Style Corn Muffins, Sweet Cornbread, Cake Mix Cornbread, Pumpkin Cornbread, Old Fashioned Cornsticks, or Jiffy Cornbread with Cream corn
- Angel Cookies (shown here), Southern Buttermilk Cookies, Puff Pastry Cookies, 3-Ingredient Buttermilk Cookies, Sweet Potato Cookies, Cheesecake Cookies, Easy Layer Cookies
- Homemade coleslaw or vinegar coleslaw
- Tomato Salad or Tomato Cucumber Onion Salad
- Cucumber and dill salad or cucumber and radish salad
- Hush Puppies or Hoe Pies
- Red Charleston Rice or Rice Pilaf
- Sauteed spinach with garlic
- southern kale
- Southern Style Green Beans
- okra and tomatoes
- 3 Ingredient Sour Cream Muffins
- Macaroni Salad or Easy Pasta Salad with Mayonnaise, Lemon, and Basil
- Potato salad
- Baked potato wedges or baked potatoes
- Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower
- Roasted Broccoli, Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad, or Broccoli with Cheese
- Roasted Asparagus or Sautéed Asparagus
- Fried apples or baked apple slices
- South Succotash
- Amish Green Beans with Brown Butter or Southern Style Green Beans
This imperial crab recipe is a keto-friendly low carb dish. Each serving has about 433 calories, 36 grams of fat, 22 grams of protein, and just 1.3 grams of carbs.
Preparation and Storage Tips
- Make ahead: You can make the crab imperial up to 1 day ahead and keep covered in the fridge until ready to bake. Let dishes come to room temperature on the counter for at least 30 minutes before baking. It’s perfect for entertaining!
- Leftover crabmeat recipes will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days.
- Do not freeze Imperial Crab. The creamy mayonnaise mixture will “break” when thawed.
- How to Reheat: Preheat oven to 350°F. Place the dish in the hot oven and bake until piping hot (about 10 minutes).
- I prefer jumbo chunks or chunk crab for this recipe, but you can substitute dorsal fin or a combination of chunks and dorsal fin. I do not recommend using canned crab meat.
- If you don’t have individual pans, you can substitute a 1-quart baking dish.
- Cooking just for two? Cut all the ingredients in half and bake 2 servings instead of 4. The rest of the instructions remain the same.
- Many crab meat recipes call for sherry, which I am not including here. If you like, you can add a splash of sherry to your mayonnaise mixture.
- Instead of Dijon mustard, add a dash of dry mustard to the crab mixture.
- Make it spicy by adding a pinch of cayenne pepper to the sauce.
For the Crab Imperial:
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons finely diced red bell pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely diced onion
- ¾ cup mayonnaise, divided
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
- 1 lb. crabmeat (jumbo lump, lump, or backfin)
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Grease 4 (8-ounce) ramekins or a single (1-quart) casserole dish with cooking spray. Set them aside.
- In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the diced red bell pepper and onion. Sauté until they become soft, which should take around 5 minutes. Set this mixture aside to cool slightly.
- In a large bowl, whisk together ½ cup of the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, beaten egg, ground black pepper, and Old Bay seasoning. Add the sautéed vegetables and stir to combine.
- Gently fold in the crabmeat, taking care not to break up the crab pieces.
- Divide the crab mixture evenly among the prepared dishes.
- Spread about 1 tablespoon of the remaining ¼ cup of mayonnaise on top of each dish.
- Sprinkle the grated Parmesan cheese over the mayonnaise layer.
- Place the dishes in the preheated oven, uncovered, and bake for approximately 20 minutes. The dish should be browned and bubbly when it’s ready.
Enjoy your delectable Crab Imperial straight from the oven!