Bairdi Crab Is the Sweet Shellfish You Haven't Heard About, but Need to Try—Here's Where to Buy and How to Cook It

It's loved for its long, easy-to-crack legs, sweet flavor, and succulent meat.

chipotle lime snow crab table layout

Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, ASMI

With its mild flavor and snowy, succulent meat, bairdi crab might be the sweetest shellfish you've never heard of. This Alaskan shellfish is certainly not as high-profile as the ever-popular king crab, but it deserves its own spotlight: It's one of the most sustainable and ethically responsible crabs you can purchase right now.

It's also a delicious option to add to your summer (or year round) seafood repertoire. "The subtle flavor is a huge crowd pleaser and seems to capture the sea spray, clean air, and beauty of Alaska all in one bite," says Chris Shepherd, a James Beard Award-winning chef and the founder of Southern Smoke Foundation.

With their long legs, bairdi crabs look a little intimidating, but they're actually easy to cook at home. Here's everything you need to know about this Alaskan specialty.

What Are Bairdi Crabs? 

Biardi is one of two species of snow crab; opilio crab, the type actually marketed as snow crab, is the more popular of the two. In contrast, bairdi crab is bigger (it grows to be 3 to 5 pounds, while opilio tops out at about 2 1/2 pounds) with sweeter-tasting meat. Both are found in the Northern Pacific Ocean. 

In stores, you'll find Alaska bairdi crab listed as snow, bairdi, or tanner crab, says Theresa Peterson, an active fisherman, resident of Kodiak, Alaska, and the Alaska fisherman and fisheries policy director at Alaska Marine Conservation Council.

whole bairdi snow crab on parchment

Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, ASMI

When Bairdi Crab Is in Season

The Alaskan bairdi snow crab fishery opens in January and typically runs through March or April, depending on the year's quota size, but Biardi crab is available frozen year round. Only adult male crabs are retained to be sold.

While the Alaska Department of Fish and Game canceled the 2022-2023 snow crab season, that applied to opilio crab—not bairdi crab. The department also canceled the red king crab season, since both of those crab populations have seen drastic declines in numbers. While it's not known exactly what has caused the collapse of those fisheries, it's believed that climate change is among the likely factors. So far, the bairdi snow crab population has remained relatively steady, making it the more sustainable and ethical option to buy and consume right now.

Nutrition and Health Benefits of Bairdi Crab

Like other shellfish, bairdi crab is a source of lean protein and high in nutrients, including amino acids, iron, omega-3s, and vitamins A, B12, C, and D.

bairdi crab clusters

Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, ASMI

Where and How to Buy Bairdi Crab

You may find bairdi crab in your local grocery store's seafood or frozen sections. It's also available to order online through retailers, including Pike Place Fish Market via Goldbelly and  Whidbey Island Seafood Company.

Petersen says to look  for bairdi, snow, or tanner crabs at the grocery store and to make sure that the crab comes from Alaska. "Checking the origin of your crab, and all seafood, and ensuring it comes from Alaska guarantees it is wild and sustainable," she says.

Since bairdi crab is so big, you likely won't find a whole crab for sale. It's usually sold as either crabmeat or in a cluster, which typically includes four crab legs and one claw.

Best Ways to Cook Bairdi Crab

If you're buying a cluster of bairdi crab, it'll already be cooked, but you'll need to steam it again. "Steaming is important," says Shepherd. "Yes, the crab is fully cooked and could be eaten as is, but to reach its full potential it is best to lightly re-steam the crab for seven to 10 minutes."

What that does, according to Shepherd, is pull out any excess water that was trapped in the meat from the freezing process, bringing back the firm texture and sweetness of the bairdi crabmeat. "This process makes bairdi the star of the show, but also makes it absolutely perfect in a fish boil," says Shepherd.

snow crab cakes meal

Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, ASMI

How to Eat Bairdi Crab

Bairdi crab is versatile: The size and availability of the species make it not only manageable for cooking at home, but enjoyable as either the star dish served with a garlic butter dipping sauce or an ingredient in sandwiches, salads, or omelets. "The great thing about bairdi is it's plentiful with good yields, which means after you use it for dinner, you can pick it and use it in an omelet for breakfast the next day or even a salad at lunch," says Shepherd.

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Martha Stewart is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy.
  1. "Alaska closes snow crab season for first time, threatening industry." The Maritime Executive.

  2. Hirji, Zahra. "Climate change likely culprit in Alaska snow crab collapse." Los Angeles Times.

  3. "Shellfish: types, nutrition, benefits, and dangers." Healthline.

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