Recipe courtesy of Gourmet Magazine

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

Save Recipe
  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 36 min
  • Prep: 15 min
  • Inactive: 1 min
  • Cook: 20 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
Share This Recipe


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

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)


  1. 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.
  2. Heat enough vegetable oil to measure 1-inch deep in a wide shallow skillet to very hot.
  3. 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.

Cilantro-Lime Tartar Sauce:

  1. Stir together all sauce ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Cook’s 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.

Two-Ingredient Pizza Dough

Two-Ingredient Banana Pancakes

Pasta Pomodoro for Two

Steakhouse Sheet Pan Dinner for Two

Surf and Turf for Two