06/04/2012 05:51 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Softshell Crabs With Garlic-Herb Butter

Softshell crabs are one of those culinary delights that are virtually impossible to find at any time of year except their designated season. Come late spring down the East Coast and along the Gulf of Mexico, a mass exodus of blue crabs surfaces from hibernation beneath the ocean floor. These crabs soon molt, their hard shells temporarily exchanged for a thin skin that's fully edible, and rich in flavor.

Summer Entertaining Guide »

Sweet, briny and incredibly juicy, softshells need little assistance to showcase their unique flavor. Lightly dusted in flour, salt, and pepper and pan-fried in lemon and butter, the crabs emerge crisp and golden-brown on the outside, with a succulent interior. Serve them on a bed of fresh summer salad, or dress them up with a sprinkle of parsley to enhance the crustaceans' briny flavor.

Battered and deep-fried, the crabs beg to be paired with a tangy cabbage slaw and thrown on a sandwich with a dollop of rémoulade. -- Niki Achitoff-Gray

See 5 soft-shell crab recipes »

RECIPE: Pan-fried Softshell Crabs with Garlic-Herb Butter

Manhattan's Grand Central Oyster Bar serves this dish each spring, in softshell season.


8 tbsp. salted butter, softened
2 small cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 small shallot, peeled and minced
1½ tsp. white wine
½ tsp. minced fresh dill
½ tsp. minced fresh thyme
½ tsp. minced fresh chives
½ tsp. minced fresh cilantro
½ tsp. minced fresh parsley
½ tsp. minced fresh tarragon
½ tsp. minced fresh basil
½ cup flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup olive oil
8 jumbo softshell crabs, cleaned
2 lemons, 1 juiced and 1 cut into quarters
4 sprigs curly parsley

Essential Barbecue Techniques »

  1. Combine butter, garlic, shallots, wine, dill, thyme, chives, cilantro, minced parsley, tarragon, and basil in a bowl and set aside.

  2. Combine flour and salt and pepper to taste in a wide dish. Heat half the oil in a a large skillet over medium-high heat. Dredge half the crabs in the flour, then sauté crabs, turning once, until golden brown, 2 to 2½minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Repeat process with remaining oil and crabs.

  3. Remove skillet from heat, add garlic-herb butter and lemon juice, and swirl until melted. Divide crabs between 4 plates; spoon butter over crabs. Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley sprigs.

Softshell Crab Sandwiches with Remoulade: Get the recipe »

Grilled Softshell Crab Sandwiches with Jicama Salad and Tomato-Avocado Salsa: Get the recipe »