Types of Crabs: Different Kinds of Crabs from Around the World (with Pictures)

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Types of Crabs: Different Kinds of Crabs
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Many people regard crab as one of the tastiest types of seafood you can choose from. There are many types of edible crabs that have white, sweet, delicious meat when cooked. There are giant snow crabs or king crabs with their long spiky legs and claws that contain most of the crab’s meat. There are also Dungeness crabs and blue crabs where most of the succulent snow-white meat is in the body.

Crabs are a type of crustacean that belong to the order Brachyura. There are thousands of different types of crabs that are divided into over 850 species. Most varieties of crab have hard outer shell (called an exoskeleton), 3 walking legs on either side of their body, and 2 pinching claws.

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Different types of crabs inhabit cold saltwater regions, warm sea areas, bodies of fresh water, and they also live on the land. For example, snow crabs live in the cold waters around Alaska, Greenland, Siberia, and Japan. However, the Florida stone crab is found in warmer seas in the Gulf of Mexico, on the coast of Florida, and in salt marshes in some US states.

Types of Crabs

Let’s look in more detail at some of the most popular types of crabs that you can eat. At the end of the article, you will also learn about a few crab species and different types of crabs that are rarely consumed.

King Crab

red king crab

Red King crab is a popular type of edible Alaskan crab

King crabs are one of the most common and best types of edible crabs due to their large size and delicate taste. In fact, species of king crabs are among some of the largest types of crabs on the planet.

From the many species of king crab, Red King crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) is a popular type of Alaskan crab.

When it comes to large crabs, the Red King crab is certainly one of the biggest crabs in the world. The bodies of these super-sized crustaceans can measure up to 11” (28 cm) across and weigh up to 28 lbs (nearly 13 kg). Much of the delicious white meat is found in the legs of the Red King crab that can have a span of nearly 5 ft. (1.8 m)!

Red King crabs are generally caught in cold North Pacific seas around Alaska, such as the Bering Sea and Norton Sound.

When caught in the wild, Red King crabs have light brown jaggy body. This becomes a deep red color when cooked. This also gives a pink tinge to the edges of the savory Alaskan crab meat that you extract from the claws and legs.

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Another type of huge Alaskan king crab is the Blue King Crab (Paralithodes platypus). This is not as large as the Red King crab, but can still weigh up to 18 lbs (8.2 kg).

Snow Crab (Rock Crabs)

snow crab

Snow crabs (rock crabs) are a type of edible Alaskan crab

Snow crabs (Chionoecetes opilio) are also called rock crabs and are a type of Alaskan crab with long legs. This species of crab is also found in the cold seas around Alaska and in the North Atlantic Ocean.

The body of this dark-brown colored crab can grow up to 7” (17 cm) across. This type of crab is usually eaten for its tasty white meat in the legs and claws. Unlike some other kinds of edible crabs, you can easily break open the legs to get to the meat.

Blue Crab

blue crab

Blue crab is a popular type of edible crab

As its name suggests, the Blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) has blue colored shell and legs when caught in the wild. These large-sized crabs are found in the waters around the East Coast of the US, the Gulf of Mexico, Japan, and Europe.

Blue crabs are a type of swimming crab that have 2 paddle-like feet to help it swim. In fact, its scientific name literally means ‘beautiful savory swimmer.’ These swimming crabs can grow to about 9” (23 cm) in width (excluding the length of the legs).

Apart from the blue color of its shell, one of the identifying features of this popular crab variety is the shape of its body (carapace). Rather than a round type of carapace, the side of a Blue crab’s body protrudes to a point.

Cooking a Blue crab causes the shell to turn a distinct deep red color common to most cooked crustaceans. The meat from cooked Blue crabs is described as salty-sweet. There is usually plenty of meat in the body as well as the legs and claws.

Blue crabs are also a popular type of crab to serve as a soft-shelled crab. This is when a crab has just shed its outer shell (exoskeleton) and the new one hasn’t hardened yet. Usually, soft-shell crabs are consumed whole sautéed or deep-fried.

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Dungeness Crab

Dungeness Crab

The Dungeness crab is a relatively large type of ocean crab

Another popular large variety of crab is the Dungeness crab (Cancer magister) which is brown to purple in color and has a hard shell.

These crabs usually grow to 8” (20 cm) in width, with the body and meat being a good source of meat. A single crab can weigh up to 4 lbs (1.8 kg) and up to one-quarter of its weight is tasty crab meat.

Dungeness crab is one of the best crabs to eat. One of the reasons Dungeness crabs are so popular is due to their sweet-tasting meat. The taste of this variety of crab is described as moist and tender with salty hints of the ocean.

Cooked Dungeness crabs take on a light pink to red color. Because the shell of Dungeness crabs is especially hard, crab crackers and shrimp forks are usually provided to extract the pinky-white sweet meat.

Florida Stone Crab

Florida stone crab

The Florida Stone crab has large claws with sweet and succulent meet

The Florida Stone crab (Menippe mercenaria) is another popular type of marine crab that is prized for its delicious delicately-flavored meat. These crabs are found in the warm waters in Central America and the East Coast of the US.

One of the identifying features of the Florida Stone crab is its large pincers on the front of its body. These brownish-red colored claws (chelae) with black tips are the same color as its hard outer shell. The crab’s carapace usually measures up to 6.5” (17 cm) wide, making this a medium to large-sized crab.

Rather than catch and cook the whole crab, when these crabs are caught, one claw is pulled off. The crabs are then returned to the ocean where they will grow a new claw within 18 months.

With the Florida Stone crab, it is only the meat from the large claws that is consumed. When cooked, its claws are a light pink to red color with black tips. The meat extracted from the claws is one of the best to eat – it is sweet and succulent with a firm texture. Due to the hardness of the claws, you need a mallet or crab crackers to get to the meat.

Peekytoe Crab

peekytoe crab

The Peekytoe crab (Atlantic rock crab) is a type of cold ocean crab

The Peekytoe crab (Cancer irroratus) is a brown rock crab species that thrives in cold waters in the Atlantic Ocean. This type of crab is identified by its brown color and purplish spots on its hard shell.

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Compared to the size of other popular types of edible crabs, the Peekytoe crab is a medium-sized crab. Its carapace can grow up to 5.25” (13 cm) in diameter. It has smaller chelae than other popular crabs, such as the Florida Stone crab.

The popular name of this crab was coined in Maine. Another name for this seafood delicacy is the Atlantic rock crab.

Japanese Spider Crab

Japanese spider crab

The Japanese Spider is a type of large crab with long legs

The Japanese Spider crab (Macrocheira kaempferi) is a scary-looking type of crab that tops the list of crabs with long legs. This is certainly a giant among all the varieties of edible crabs.

So, just how big is the Japanese spider crab? It has a large body which can measure up to 16” (40 cm) in width. The leg span can reach a massive 18 ft. (5.5 m) in length. The enormous cold-water crab can weigh up to 42 lbs (19 kg)!

Despite this large crab having a ferocious look of something out of a Sci-Fi movie, it is not an aggressive species.

Rather than being something to fear, the meat of a Japanese spider crab is a delicious delicacy. When it comes to taste, the spider crab has a sweeter taste than brown varieties of crab. Of course, the length of the long spindly legs means that it may take a bit of work to get all of the tasty flaky white meat out.

Horsehair Crab

Horsehair crab

The Horsehair crab is a type of small to medium-sized edible crab

The Horsehair crab (Erimacrus isenbeckii) is a popular crab variety in Japanese cuisine. These compact brown-orange crabs have a bumpy shell with orange or lightly-colored dots on it. It is also called the ‘hairy crab’ due to the spiky hairs on its body.

Horsehair crabs are generally found in the waters around Alaska and Northern Japan. This is a small to medium-sized crab. It is generally boiled in salt water to cook it. This crab variety is prized for the amount of meat in its body. The taste of Horsehair crab meat is described as sweet and delicate and is considered as one of the best tasting crab.

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Southern European Crab

Southern European Crab

The Southern European crab is a type of small edible freshwater crab

One type of edible freshwater crab is the Southern European crab (Potamon fluviatile). This is a type of green crab that is generally found in rivers and streams in Italy, Greece and the Balkans.

Compared to varieties of seawater crabs, the Southern European crab is tiny in comparison. An adult green crab may only average about 2” (5 cm) and they have been a popular food source for hundreds of years.

European green crabs have now become an invasive species in North America. You can boil them in a similar way to Blue crab and they have a rich sweet taste.

Brown (Edible) Crab

brown edible crab

The Brown crab is one of the most popular varieties of edible sea crab in the UK

The Brown crab (Cancer pagurus) is an edible crab with a reddish-brown shell, legs, and claws. Similar to the Florida Stone crab, the claws of this seawater crab have black tips. The Brown crab is one of the most popular varieties of crab in the United Kingdom.

This is a medium-sized crab variety with the carapace being between 6” and 9” (15 – 22 cm) wide. An adult brown crab can weigh up to 6.6 lbs (3 kg) with about one-third of its weight being meat.

Brown crabs have an oval body with edging that looks like a pie crust. The brown shell turns a lighter shade of brown when cooked. The taste and look of the sweet crab meat depend on the sex of the crustacean. The meat of the female crabs is a brown type of crab meat that has a rich flavor. The meat from male brown crabs is whiter and has a sweeter flavor.

Coconut Crab

coconut crab

Coconut crabs vary in size and coloring

Although rarely on the menu, Coconut crabs (Birgus latro) are an edible type of land-dwelling crab. Coconut crabs inhabit islands in the Indian and Pacific oceans.

Their behavior has also earned them various names. For example, the name ‘coconut crab’ is because of their ability to climb up palms, pick coconuts, and then open them on the ground. They are also called ‘robber crabs’ or ‘palm thief’ as they are speculative creatures that will steal anything edible they can find.

Many people say that coconut crabs taste like a cross between a crab and a lobster. They have sweet white meat that has an oilier texture than regular crab meat. If you happen to eat a coconut crab while visiting a Pacific Island, you may also find that they have a slight taste of coconut.

Hermit Crab

hermit crab

Hermit crab is a type of small crab that doesn’t develop its own hard shell

Hermit crabs make up a group of crabs in the Paguroidea superfamily and can include marine crabs and land hermit crabs.

Hermit crabs are not a true species of crab as they don’t belong to the Brachyura infraorder. These ‘crabs’ are more closely related to squat lobsters.

One of the unique features of this crab-like species is that they don’t develop their own hard exoskeleton. For protection from predators, hermit crabs need to find empty shells that they will ‘live’ in. Their soft curved bodies can retract into hard shells left behind by various types of snails. As hermit crabs grow, they have to discard their shells and look for larger ones.

You can eat hermit crabs; however, they are generally quite small and not worth the bother. Actually, the coconut crab is a type of hermit crab. But unlike most hermit crabs, coconut crabs develop a hard, calcified shell for protection.

Horseshoe Crab

horseshoe crab

The Horseshoe crab is rarely eaten due to its low meat content

The Horseshoe crab is a type of arthropod and, despite their name, are not a true variety of crab. Horseshoe crabs are from the Limulidae family and live in shallow coastal waters of the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific Oceans. Although this is an edible type of crab, it is rarely eaten because of its low meat content.

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