Pan-Fried Soft-Shell Crabs

Savor summer with this easy soft-shell crab recipe.


No summer seafood feast is complete without a soft-shell crab recipe. This pan-fried version is particularly easy, as it involves nothing more than dredging the crabs in flour and cooking them in butter. Once fried to crispy perfection, the crabs are garnished with fresh parsley and tangy lemon.

Since the season for soft-shell crabs is short—usually ranging from late spring to early summer—it’s worth enjoying them while you can. Try this crab recipe with salad, coleslaw, or grilled corn at your next summer gathering. For a tasty sandwich, serve fried soft-shell crabs in buttery brioche buns with lettuce, tomato, and tartar sauce.

What Are Soft-Shell Crabs?

Soft-shell crabs aren't a different species from regular edible crabs. They're simply crabs that have molted, or shed, their hard shell. They're caught right after molting.


  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

  • 12 soft-shell crabs, cleaned

  • 12 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • ¼ cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped

  • 3 lemons, cut in half


  1. Combine flour, salt, and pepper:

    Whisk flour, salt, and pepper together. Place on a dinner plate.

  2. Coat soft-shell crabs in flour mixture:

    Dredge 2 soft-shell crabs in flour mixture, shaking off excess (make sure crabs are completely coated).

  3. Cook crabs:

    Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. The oil should be very hot but not smoking. Place flour-coated crabs, back side down, in sauté pan; reduce heat to medium if pan starts to smoke. Sauté crabs until golden and crisp, about 3 minutes (do not stand too close to pan; crabs tend to spatter during cooking). Turn crabs over, and cook 2 minutes more.

  4. Add butter, parsley, and lemon:

    Add 1 tablespoon butter and a large pinch of parsley to skillet. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over crabs. Keep warm in a low oven. Repeat process until all the crabs are cooked.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do soft-shell crabs taste like hard-shell crabs?

Generally, soft-shell crabs taste briny and buttery, just like hard-shell crabs. The main difference is the texture of the meat, as soft-shell crabs tend to be more juicy and tender—almost creamy. They also have a slight crunch from the shell, which adds a satisfying contrast to the meat.

Can you eat the whole soft-shell crab?

Yes. Soft-shell crabs need to be cleaned before cooking; this process removes some body parts, including the gills and mouth. Once the crab is cooked, every part can be eaten.

Try These Other Crab Recipes:

Updated by
Kirsten Nunez
Kirsten Nunez, Freelance Writer

Kirsten is a freelance writer for

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