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Crab Stock: A Delicious and Versatile Base for Soups and Stews

Broths and Stocks

Crab stock is a richly flavored stock that can be used as a base in all sorts of seafood soup recipes, especially soups like crab bisque, crab chowder, and crab stew.

It’s not something many people make at home, however, the method for making crab stock is almost identical to lobster stock, a stock that is probably more familiar to my fellow New Englanders.

crab stock

And though crabs have historically not been important commercial fisheries in New England, that could be changing in the near future.

Why Crab Stock May Become More Common in New England

The southern New England lobster industry, that being all points south of Cape Cod, has suffered tremendous losses in recent decades due to rising water temperatures. As a result, lobstermen are being forced to adapt. Ironically, one of New England’s most abundant crab species, the Jonah crab, once a nuisance bycatch of lobster traps, is now being targeted.

Though still relatively unknown, even in New England, they’re slowly starting to catch on. As It turns out, Jonah crabs are quite delicious! They are medium-sized reddish-brown crabs with two large front claws and their meat is often described as sweet, briny, and flakier than the more well-known blue crab. And they make a fantastic crab stock.

That said any type of crab is interchangeable in making crab stock. Feel free to use whatever type of crabs are local to you. Blue crabs, stone crabs, Dungeness crabs, rock crabs, king crabs, snow crabs, etc. all make equally delicious crab stocks. Let me show you how to do it!

How to Make Crab Stock (Video Demo)

More Broth and Stock Recipes to Try

Some Recipe Notes

1. Consider fresh tomatoes

From the four pounds of Jonah crab claws, I got approximately 2 1/2 quarts of crab stock (pictured below) Not bad! That said, it was a tad on the sweet side. This was due to the tomato paste. Since shooting the video, I’ve learned that I actually prefer fresh tomatoes in my shellfish stock recipes as opposed to tomato paste.

2 and a half quarts of crab stock
2.5 quarts of crab stock

This is just my personal preference though. Most shellfish stocks use canned tomatoes or tomato paste but I now feel that they can add too much sweetness and obscure the shellfish flavor. I’ve amended the recipe below to include one and a half pounds of fresh tomatoes. You could even leave out tomatoes entirely for a bolder shellfish flavor.

2. One quart of water per pound of shells

I also amended the total amount of crab carcasses to two pounds as four pounds is quite a lot. But if for whatever reason you have more than two pounds, just know that one quart of water per pound of shells is a good ratio that will give consistently good results.

3. Consider whole crabs

I should also mention that even though I used leftover crab carcasses you could also use whole crabs to make a crab stock and not even bother with picking out the meat. One benefit of using whole crabs is that the bodies harbor some nice flavors.

Simply boil or steam some whole crabs (make sure to reserve the steaming liquid for the stock), then slice and/or break them up into smaller pieces and then make your stock. This is a great way to use the pesky and invasive green crabs because they are so small and have so little meat in them.

Crab Stock Uses

new england crab stew
Photo of Crab Bisque by Lynne Graves from New England Soups from the Sea

You can substitute crab stock for any seafood soup that calls for seafood stock. Shellfish stocks like lobster stock and shrimp stock are very interchangeable with crab stock as their flavors are quite similar. But crab stock could also be used in place of seafood soups that use clam juice or fish stock.

That said, the best use for crab stock is, of course, crab soups! Those that live in the mid-Atlantic area, especially near the Chesapeake Bay where the abundant blue crabs are celebrated in numerous regional soup recipes, surely know this well.

You can find many recipes for crab soups in my cookbook, New England Soups from the Sea. It includes the crab stock recipe below as well as the following crab soup recipes:

  • Crab-Bacon-Cheddar-Corn Chowder
  • Jonah Crab Bisque
  • Jonah Crab Stew
  • Summer Crab Soup
seafood cookbook imagery

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From Rhode Island to Maine—Get 80 locally inspired recipes that honor the traditions of America’s northeast.

It also includes many other types of seafood stocks and broths, including lobster stock, two types of fish broth, clam broth, and mussels broth, each of which has dozens of corresponding seafood soup recipes.

Crab Stock Recipe

how to make crab stock

Crab Stock

Crab shells, carcasses or even whole crabs can all be used to make a simple crab stock which will add depth and flavor to seafood soups.
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
CourseBroth
CuisineAmerican
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 25 minutes
Total Time1 hour 30 minutes
Servings2 quarts
Calories169kcal
AuthorCraig Fear
Cost$20

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds crab carcasses or any combo of shells, legs, claws and bodies
  • 2 quarts water or enough to cover carcasses
  • 1.5 cups fresh tomatoes optional
  • 1 medium yellow onion roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks celery roughly chopped
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic roughly chopped
  • 3 to 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Sea salt to taste

Instructions

  • Place crab carcasses in a medium-sized stock pot, add the water, making sure to cover the carcasses completely.
  • Turn the heat to high. As the water starts to heat up, skim any scum that forms on the surface.
  • Add all of the other ingredients (except the salt), cover and simmer assertively (meaning more than a gentle simmer but less than a full boil) for about one hour. After one hour, taste the stock. If more flavor is desired, continue simmering for at least another 20 minutes, with the cover off to let the stock cook down and the flavors condense.
  • When final flavor is achieved, lightly salt the stock.
  • Strain with a fine mesh strainer.
  • Chill whatever you won’t be immediately using. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Nutrition

Serving: 1quart | Calories: 169kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 0.2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 48mg | Sodium: 1040mg | Potassium: 893mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 1773IU | Vitamin C: 41mg | Calcium: 151mg | Iron: 2mg
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Crab Stock: A Delicious and Versatile Base for Soups and Stews
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About the Author

Craig Fear is the creator of Fearless Eating and the author of three books, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution, Fearless Broths and Soups and The Thai Soup Secret. After years helping clients with digestive issues, Craig decided to pursue writing full-time. He intends to write many more books on broths and soups from around the world! Click here to learn more about Craig.

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