Can You Eat Red Crab – Is It Toxic For Humans?

If you are a seafood lover, then you may want to cook red crab.
But can you eat red crab? Is it safe for humans?

There are many of confusing info you can find online, so let’s unravel this crab mystery.

About Red Crab

Red crab may refer to Red king crab, Christmas Island red crab, Deep-sea red crab, Pelagic red crab and Dungeness crab.

But when somebody says “red crab” that refers to Christmas Island red crab. This is a large crab with a shell of about five inches wide and it weighs over a pound.
They have eye-catching red color and as usual in the animal world, males are bigger than females. They have a long lifespan of about 20 to 30 years.

Red crabs have exceedingly white meat with a red tint on the surface, which gives them that name.

red crab

This is a species of terrestrial crab found only on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.
It is the only one of its kind in the world. These red crabs aren’t the same crabs that you can see at seafood restaurants.

Some Interesting Facts About Christmas Island Red Crab

  • This is a land crab. However, it breathes through its gills and will die if dried out
  • They are endemic – which means they can be found only in one place in the world
  • Cars aren’t allowed to be on the road during the crab’s migration

red crab on land

Did you know this info? It is definitely worth dropping by Christmas Island to watch a blanket of red crabs migrate to the ocean. Just don’t forget to wear boots.

Why It Isn’t Edible?

These crabs are protected in Australia as an endangered species!

The Christmas Island Red Crab receives special protections from the federal government. They are protected from “take” and being traded or sold. A criminal violation can result in very high fines and even imprisonment.

In the past 15 years, their population has been reduced by up to 40% because of crazy yellow ants. You can’t find Christmas Island Red Crab on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, but to preserve the species, you can not eat them.

Is Their Flesh Poisonous?

If you still wondering what would happen if you eat their meat, there is an answer. Their flesh is made up of 96% water, they are too tiny and lack taste to be considered edible. Meaning, they aren’t dangerous or toxic, but not tasty. You won’t have some health issues or other consequences, just problems with the law. 😀

Edible Red Crab Types

But there are some edible red crab types you can eat and enjoy their taste. Try these two species, they are very popular and tasty.

  1. Dungeness Crab – These crabs are one of the most abundant varieties on the market. They can be found in purple or brown colors and they are larger than many common varieties.
  2. Dungeness Crab edible species
  3. Red Rock Crab – It is similar to but smaller than the Dungeness crab. This species usually measures less than 6 inches across the back. Its meat is very tasty.
red rock crab edible

What Other Crab Types Can I Eat?

There are many different types of edible crabs. They differ in size, origin, texture and flavor. Here we’ve rounded up the six most popular edible crabs:

  1. Snow Crab – When cooked, it produces bright white meat, that’s why we called it Snow crab. It is more firm and less sweet than other crab varieties.
  2. King Crab – This crab has an impressive weight of up to 25 pounds. It has sweet and tender meat and it’s prized all over the world.
  3. Stone Crab – They are popular because only their thick, squat legs can be eaten. They have firm, sweet meat.
  4. Jonah Crab – Famous for its melt-in-mouth meat, this crab is similar to Dungeness crab but smaller. It has a sweet, delicate flavor.
  5. Blue Crab – It has bright blue claws. If you bought Lump crab from the store, what you’ve been eating is probably Blue crab.
  6. Softshell Crab – Softshell crabs are actually Blue crabs, but with larger shells. They can be eaten whole.

When prepared properly, the crab can be some of the most delicious seafood on your table. The mentioned crabs offer a wide variety of flavors and textures.

How To Prepare Crab?

If you decide to eat some of these crabs from the list of edible spicies, there are 2 ways you can prepare them. You can choose between two methods  – boiling and roasting. Here we’ll explain both methods:


Boling is the most common way to cook crabs and the steps are pretty simple.

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Make sure to salt it enough, it should be pretty salty. You can add any seasoning you prefer.
  2. Add crabs, quickly, one right after the other. They should cook for the same amount of time. Bring the water back to a boil and cook until the crabs start floating. This will happen in 10-15 minutes, depending on their sizes.
  3. Use tongs to remove the crabs and set them out until they cool down. That’s it. They don’t have to cool down completely, just enough for you to continue handling them.

woman with crab


  1. First, preheat the oven to 450 °F.
  2. Clean crabs and then you need to quickly boil or cook them.
  3. Toss the cleaned crabs with some oil or butter, aromatics, spices or herbs (for example minced shallot, garlic or minced ginger and green onion).
  4. Set these crabs in a mainly single layer in a  roasting pan and cook in a hot oven until the crabs are browned and sizzling for about 10 minutes.

crab dish

You can serve these crabs with roasted vegetables, creamy potatoes, lemon garlic dipping sauce, french fries, fresh artichokes, etc.
Since crab is light so you’ll probably have room for dessert, you can go with lemon cheesecake or classic chocolate cake.

How To Eat Crabs?

Crabs are delicious to eat, but for first-timers, they can be a bit messy and confusing. Here are some tips for a quick and easy way to eat a crab.

  • Prepare your table – Eating crabs is messy, so prepare your table for leftovers and splashes. It is best to put some heavy-duty paper or even newspaper to protect your table. Also, that will make your cleanup much easier.
  • Prepare utensils – That means crab mallet, dull knife and a claw cracker
  • If you haven’t already cooked the crabs, do so – Steam the crabs. Normally, crabs are steamed with a  layer of seasoning.
  • Eating  – Pull off all the legs and claws with a twisting motion. You can use a dull knife. Usually, a little meat will come out with the leg and eat it.
  • Toss the legs and save the claws – Turn the crab over on its back and open the apron.
  • Take the top half and bottom half in each hand and pull off the top shell. Toss the top shell.
  • Take this bottom half and break it in half – Take one of the halves and cut it in half with a knife. Now the meat should be exposed, use your fingers to pull the meat out. Use a knife to get the meat for small chambers.
  • Pick away all the chunks of the meat in the body – You can start with claws.
  • Crack the claws with a hinged cracker and hit them with a crab mallet (or knife).

To Wrap It Up

This large crab lives on two islands in the Indian Ocean. They are notable for their appealing red color and their famous migrations during the spawning season. But they aren’t edible.
However, many other crab varieties are edible, and not just that – but delicious!

Diana writes educational articles for those who want to learn more about this area. Everyday cooking experience, as well as online research, help her gather all the knowledge needed to complete articles. She is a food lover who likes to spend time preparing meals for friends. Diana’s favorite food is pasta, but she also adores sweets such as pancakes, and cakes. In her free time, she loves to spend time in nature walking her dogs. Also, she loves researching quick and healthy recipes.