Recipe courtesy of Sara Moulton

Spicy Crab Boil

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  • Total: 1 hr 5 min
  • Prep: 10 min
  • Cook: 55 min
  • Yield: 3 to 4 servings
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18 live blue crabs

2 tablespoons Crab-Boil Spices, recipe follows

1/2 tablespoon cayenne

1/4 cup table salt

2 lemons, quartered

1 onion ,halved

3/4 pounds small potatoes (about 2 inches in diameter)

1 head of garlic (not separated into cloves)

3 ears of corn, shucked

1 tablespoon Crab-Boil Spices, or to taste, for sprinkling over boiled seafood

Accompaniment: French bread

Crab-Boil Spices:

1/4 cup pickling spices

2 tablespoons mustard seeds

2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns

1 tablespoon celery seeds

2 tablespoons dried hot red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons ground ginger

5 bay leaves

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 tablespoon minced dried chives

1/4 cup sea salt


  1. In a kettle bring 5 gallons water to a boil. 
  2. While water is coming to a boil, in a deep sink rinse crabs in 2 or 3 changes of water. (Do not fill sink too full or crabs may crawl out.) Add 2 tablespoons Crab-Boil Spices, cayenne, salt, lemons, and onions to boiling water and boil 5 minutes. Add potatoes and garlic and boil until tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer potatoes and garlic with a large sieve to a large platter and keep warm, covered with foil. Add corn to boiling water and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer corn with tongs to platter and keep warm, covered with foil. 
  3. Return water to a boil. Transfer about 6 crabs carefully with long tongs to sieve, holding them down in sieve with tongs, and turn crabs out into boiling water. Add remaining crabs in same manner. Return water to a boil and cook crabs until just cooked through, about 10 minutes. (To determine doneness, remove a claw and crack it with the handle of a dinner knife. Use knife to extract meat from claw.) Transfer crabs with sieve to another large platter and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon Crab-Boil Spices. 
  4. Serve with French bread.

Crab-Boil Spices:

  1. In a food processor combine all ingredients and pulse until mixture forms a coarse powder. Crab-boil spices keep in a well-sealed container for several months in a cool, dark place. 
  2. Yield: about 1 cup