Cornmeal-Crusted Soft-Shelled Crabs with Cilantro-Lime Tartar Sauce

Total Time:
36 min
15 min
1 min
20 min

4 servings

  • 2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 live soft-shelled crabs (preferably 4 to 5 inches wide), cleaned
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 cup self-rising cake flour, see cook's note
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Accompaniment: Cilantro Lime Tartar Sauce, recipe below
  • Cilantro-Lime Tartar Sauce:
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup chopped dill pickles
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh jalapeno chile (including seeds)
  • Whisk together buttermilk, eggs, salt, and pepper and pour into a 3-quart shallow dish. Add crabs and soak, covered and chilled, for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

  • Heat enough vegetable oil to measure 1-inch deep in a wide shallow skillet to very hot.

  • Whisk together flour and cornmeal and transfer to a large sealable plastic bag. Lift 1 crab out of buttermilk, letting excess drip off, and shake in bag to coat with flour. Knock off excess flour and transfer to a tray. Repeat with remaining crabs, arranging them in 1 layer as coated. Shallow-fry the crabs, 4 at a time, turning over halfway through frying (watch out for popping or use a frying screen), until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Reheat oil to very hot between batches. Drain crabs on paper towels and serve with tartar sauce.

  • Cooks' note: If you can't find self-rising cake flour, you can use 1 cup all-purpose or cake flour mixed with 2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Cilantro-Lime Tartar Sauce:
  • Stir together all sauce ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to use.

  • Yield: 1 1/2 cups

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