Crab Dinner Sides
Crab is a rich and sweet meat — the best sides complement crab without overpowering it. Here are a handful of the best crab side dishes:
- Steamed Artichokes with Garlic and Butter
- Cottage-Cut French Fries
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Lemon and Garlic Butter Dipping Sauce
- Brandy-Infused Mayonnaise Dip
- Twice-Baked Garlic Mashed Potatoes
- Zucchini, Onion and Corn Hash
- Almond Caesar Salad
- Cold Sesame and Ginger Noodles with a Peanut Sauce
- Avocado Deviled Eggs
Keep reading for our complete list of the best side dishes to complement your next crab dinner.
Odds are if you love crabs, you've loved them for a while — you've probably encountered some of the traditional favorite side dishes served at crab dinners. Juicy, roasted vegetables, creamy potatoes and classic butter dips are beloved for good reasons — versatile and minimalistic, they perfectly complement the sweet taste of crab.
1. Roasted Vegetables
Crab has a sweet, buttery taste, so it is important to choose a side that won't overshadow the light meat. Roasted or grilled vegetables are a perfect companion to a savory crab dinner. Try cooking carrots until they are crisp and tender — the earthy flavor of carrots pairs perfectly with crab's melt-in-your-mouth smoothness. Roast asparagus to bring out its bright undertones. Simultaneously nutty and hearty, crispy and soft, roasted Brussels sprouts are a guaranteed success. If you have access to a grill or a grill pan, use the heat of a real fire to cook some veggies and give them subtle smoky flavors. Try tossing together a variety of in-season vegetables to bring a depth of flavor to your meal. During summer dinners, combine zucchini and bell peppers for a light, tangy dish — in autumn, try hearty vegetables like carrots, onions and squash for a cold-weather taste. Grilled or roasted vegetables pair well with all varieties of crab, which is part of the reason they are a traditional side dish. Try serving them alongside hot or cold crab meals — they even go with fried crab cakes.
2. Creamy Potatoes
Subtle and creamy, potatoes are crab's natural companion — and the options are nearly endless. Roast fingerling potatoes with rosemary and thyme for a sophisticated flair, or stick to the basics and smash up a bowl of mashed potatoes. But the basics don't have to equal boring — drizzle garlic butter and sour cream over the top for a gourmet touch. Try twice-baked garlic mashed potatoes for an even creamier side — spike them with chunks of butter and cheese for extra deliciousness before you bake. If you have any extra crab meat, you can toss it into mashed potatoes mix for a hearty twist. Cook red potato wedges with tangy greens or boil them in salt and butter for an authentic New England salt potato dish. You can never have too much cheese in your life — fry some cheesy potato pancakes for an unconventional twist on the traditional side. With an infinite variety of cooking methods and possible additions, potatoes are an easily prepared and upgraded side dish that will quickly fill out a crab dinner.
3. Lemon Garlic Dipping Sauce
A lemon garlic butter dip is probably crab's most iconic companion. The standard recipe combines clarified butter with a spoonful of lemon and a dash of garlic — the slight citrus tang gives a light, refreshing flavor to the crab, and the garlic melds with the smooth butter to give a perfectly savory taste. Feel free to spice up the simple sauce. A teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce adds thickness and sweetness to the dip. Toss in extra herbs and spices such as parsley, rosemary, salt and pepper, but be careful not to overdo it — the key to this sauce is its simplicity. The dip is good enough to stand on its own, so keep the ingredient list low. Butter-based dips and sauces are best with warm or room-temperature crab dishes. The sauce will solidify if paired with cold crab meat, so if you're serving a cool crab meal, it's probably best to pair it with a different, cream-based sauce.
Some nights, you just don't have a lot of time. But don't worry — these simple side dishes don't require much effort to be delicious. Try one of these three tasty and fast sides when you're approaching a dinner deadline.
1. French Fries
Potatoes are already an excellent complement to crab. French fries take them to the next level of taste and convenience — nothing beats the crispy snap of a french fry. For classic and quick french fries, all you need is russet potatoes, flour, paprika, vegetable oil and garlic and onion salt. Once you cut the potatoes into thin sections, dip them into the herb and spice batter and then fry them over the stove. French fries are a charming finger-food side for your crab dinner, and they are perfect companions to crab legs or other crab meals that require you to eat with your hands. Try some french fry variations like thick and creamy steak fries or skinny, crunchy oven fries for added interest. Cottage fries are melt-in-your-mouth potato slices spiced with cayenne pepper and herbs, and sweet potato fries have slightly sweet undertones that pair beautifully with crab and seafood. Whichever way you slice it, french fries are a fun, fast and tasty side dish for a crab dinner.
2. Raw or Steamed Vegetables
Don't worry if you don't have time to roast or grill vegetables — raw or steamed veggies are a quick and light side dish for a crab meal. Blanch green beans in well-salted water and sauté with garlic, red pepper and butter for a fresh and delicious side that's ready in under 20 minutes. Steam hard vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and carrots for a light side dish that will complement the rich and filling taste of a crab dinner. For added flavor, garnish the steamed veggies with a generous serving of garlic butter. You could even leave some vegetables raw for an incredibly fast and chic side — slice carrots into long strips perfect for dipping or cut broccoli into small florets for easy handling. Raw vegetables have the benefit of being able to be dipped into the same sauce as the crab, which cuts down on preparation time. Bell peppers, celery and snow peas are other options for good dipping veggies.
3. Flavored Dips and Sauces
It doesn't take much to make a smooth, flavorful dip or sauce. A simple and fast idea is to create your own flavored mayonnaise. Add fresh dill, Dijon mustard and a squeeze of lemon for a Dijon mayo, or toss in some chipotle seasoning for a Southwestern kick. For a perfect sweet-and-sour complement to steamed crab legs, whip together a gourmet brandy-infused mayonnaise. Combine a cold hollandaise sauce with sour cream and a little mustard for a smooth, creamy dip. If you like a little heat with your crab, blend up a spicy Diablo dipping sauce — using tomatoes, garlic and serrano chile, this thick sauce will bring your guests back for more. Crab legs are only as good as their dipping sauce. An easy and fast side dish idea is to have a variety of sauces available on the table for your guests to choose from — have a classic butter dipping sauce next to a mustard mayo or hollandaise. This will create a fun spread that invites everyone to explore different flavor options, but won't cost you hours of preparation.
To give your crab dinner an upscale flair, try one of these fancy, gourmet sides.
1. Fresh Artichokes
The ultimate high-end finger food, artichokes have a light and nutty flavor with a slight lemon undertone. You can prepare artichokes in a variety of ways — roast them with fresh herbs and garlic, stuff them with butter, cheese and breadcrumbs or bake them with a squeeze of lemon and drizzle of olive oil. For a simple and elegant dish, cover the artichokes with garlic and butter and then steam them for around 20 minutes to soften the leaves. Once cooked, serve each guest with a whole artichoke and a butter or mayo-based sauce for dipping. As a bonus, you can use some of the same sauces for both crab and artichokes. Both the veggie and the crustacean pair beautifully with a lemon garlic butter sauce or a flavored mayonnaise dip, which allows you to cut down on preparation time without sacrificing flavor or classiness.
2. Crisp Green Salad
For an understated and sophisticated side dish, try your hand at a fresh salad. Salad sides give any dinner a gourmet tone. Keep it simple with a romaine-heart salad dressed with a homemade dressing made with shallots, mustard, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Go a little heartier with an almond caesar salad, complete with home-baked Italian-style croutons and a parmesan, anchovy, mustard and garlic dressing. Serve a pear and cashew tossed salad to give your dinner a hint of fruit — the light, refreshing salad provides a refreshing contrast to buttery-sweet crab meat. Grill apples for a smoky late-fall salad, or whip together a lavish red wine vinaigrette to give your favorite salad a fancy upgrade. The options for a green salad side dish are just about endless — no matter how many crab dinners you host a season, you're sure to find the perfect salad to complement each occasion.
3. Cocktail Sauce
Give your crab dinner an instant class with a homemade cocktail sauce. But just because it's homemade doesn't mean it's overly complicated. You can create a rich and flavorful cocktail sauce by combining ketchup, horseradish, Worcestershire and Tabasco sauce with lemon. Experiment with different amounts of each sauce, or add freshly ground black pepper for an extra kick. A cocktail sauce is a simple way to add sophistication to your dinner without spending hours in the kitchen. Easily prepared, a cool and refreshing cocktail sauce is an elegant companion to a crab dinner.
If you feel as though you're in a side dish rut, branch out by trying some of these unique but delicious sides for your next crab dinner.
1. Sweet Corn
For many people, corn doesn't immediately come to mind when they think about a crab dinner. But the sweet and versatile vegetable is a tasty accompaniment to a crab meal. For an easy side dish that you can eat with your hands, simply steam corn on the cob with lemon juice and sugar and smear it with butter, garlic and salt before serving. Wrap ears of corn in aluminum foil and grill over hot coals for a juicy and smoky side. Toss together crisp corn, tomatoes, jalapeño peppers and chopped onion for a refreshing and light corn salad. Saute diced zucchini, onion and corn over medium heat for a buttery and tender vegetable hash. Fry some sweet corn fritters for a crispy side you can easily eat with your hands.
2. Asian Noodles, Vegetables and Sauces
Try pairing crab with an Asian-inspired side dish for a unique, memorable and refreshing dinner. For an innovative dipping sauce, try your hand at nước mắm, a traditional Vietnamese fish sauce that combines rice vinegar, fresh lime juice, garlic, sugar, chiles and ginger root for a sweet and spicy kick. This light sauce will bring a new flavor to your crab dinner and is perfect alongside steamed crab legs. Pair cold sesame and ginger noodles with a spicy peanut sauce and fresh sliced vegetables to add depth to your crab dinner. Have some fun in the kitchen making smacked cucumber — break cucumbers with a heavy knife so they can absorb a salt, chili oil, garlic and bright rice vinegar marinade. Dry-fry green beans with a garlic sauce for a fresh, crunchy and light side that pairs well with rich crab dishes.
3. Deviled Eggs
Deviled eggs might be the go-to side dish for warm summer dinners. A creamy and savory finger food, they pair beautifully with a wide range of dishes, including crab. For a classic taste, mix mayo, vinegar and mustard with egg yolks and dust with paprika. But deviled eggs are easily customized — use avocado and lemon for a green twist on the traditional recipe, or spike the mix with bits of juicy bacon and minced jalapeño peppers for a spicy Southwestern flavor. You could even add some buffalo sauce to your eggs for an extra kick. Try laying out a platter of deviled eggs at your next crab dinner — you probably won't have any left over by the end of the night!
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