Are Japanese Spider Crabs Edible? Everything You Need To Know

29 May 2023Shopify API

Can you really eat a spider crab? Read on to find out are Japanese spider crabs edible here!

Japanese Spider crabs are the largest crustaceans on the earth. They are also known as “Macrocheira kaempferi” or takaashigani in Japanese which is loosely translated to “long-legged crab”. They look like a giant spider because of their extremely long legs.

Although they might look like giants, they are gentle creatures. They are characterised as arthropods since they don't have a backbone, external skeletons and multiple jointed appendages which are its ten legs.

They have the largest leg span of 3.7m from claw-to-claw, which is the highest in any arthropod. They lay up to 1.5 million eggs per season which takes about ten days to hatch. They are not avid hunters and prey on dead animals or plant matters mostly.

Are Japanese Spider Crabs Edible?

Japanese spider crabs are crustaceans that are edible and a very popular delicacy in Japan. However, you won’t find Japanese spider crabs in regular restaurants. The white meat from the claws of the Japanese spider crabs is known to be very flavorful. Japanese spider crabs’ meat is used in sandwiches and pastas to make it more flavorful. 

are japanese spider crabs edible

Fishing for them is not easy since they live deep inside the ocean. They are usually caught in small trawling nets by fishermen. 

In an effort to protect and maintain the number of their species, fishing for them is banned during the spring mating season since the last few years saw a serious decline in their numbers.

Japanese Spider Crabs are edible and are savoured by people around the world for their rich flavour. They have a unique taste and texture which makes them a delicious treat. They are also a great option if you're looking for sustainable and cheaper options in seafood.

Benefits Of Eating Japanese Spider Crabs

While Japanese spider crabs are known for their delicious taste, they also offer some potential health benefits. Here are a few:

Japanese Spider Crabs are Nutrient-rich

Japanese spider crabs are a good source of essential nutrients, including protein, vitamins, and minerals. They contain important minerals like selenium, zinc, copper, and magnesium, which play vital roles in various bodily functions.

Japanese Spider Crabs are Low in fat

Japanese spider crab meat is relatively low in fat, particularly saturated fat. It can be a good choice for individuals seeking to reduce their fat intake while still enjoying seafood.

Japanese spider crabs are packed with Protein 

Crab meat, including that of Japanese spider crabs, is rich in high-quality protein. Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues, supporting muscle growth, and maintaining overall health.

Japanese spider crabs are a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids

Japanese spider crabs, like other seafood, contain omega-3 fatty acids, specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fatty acids have been linked to numerous health benefits, including heart health, brain function, and reducing inflammation.

Japanese Spider Crabs have Antioxidant properties

Japanese spider crabs, particularly their shells, are a potential source of antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect the body against oxidative stress, which is associated with chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and aging.

Japanese Spider Crabs contain Chitin and glucosamine

The exoskeleton of Japanese spider crabs contains chitin, a fibrous substance. Chitin is believed to have potential health benefits, including promoting gut health and supporting the immune system. Additionally, chitin is a precursor to glucosamine, a compound known for its joint health benefits.

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Interesting facts about Japanese spider crabs

  • Japanese spider crabs, scientifically known as Macrocheira kaempferi, are the largest arthropods in the world. They can have a leg span of up to 3.8 meters (12.5 feet) and can weigh up to 19 kilograms (42 pounds).
  • These crabs have an exceptionally long lifespan compared to other crustaceans. They can live for up to 100 years, with some individuals even reaching an estimated age of 150 years.
  • Japanese spider crabs have a distinctive appearance with their long, spindly legs and a reddish-orange color. They have a rounded body covered in a spiky carapace, and their legs are equipped with sharp spines for defense.
  • They are primarily found in the waters around Japan, particularly in the Suruga Bay, but can also be spotted in other parts of the Pacific Ocean. They inhabit depths between 50 to 600 meters (164 to 1,968 feet).
  • The rough texture and coloration of their carapace provide effective camouflage, resembling the rocky and sandy ocean floor, helping them blend in with their surroundings and avoid predators.
  • Despite their intimidating appearance, Japanese spider crabs are generally considered to be docile creatures and are not aggressive towards humans. They are primarily scavengers and feed on dead animals and plants.
  • During mating season, male crabs carry the females on their backs until the females molt and become receptive. This behavior helps protect the vulnerable females and ensures successful reproduction.
  • Japanese spider crabs have the remarkable ability to regenerate lost limbs. If they lose a leg or claw in a battle or accident, they can regrow a replacement during their molting process.
  • While Japanese spider crabs are often appreciated for their unique appearance, they are also a sought-after delicacy in Japanese cuisine. Their tender and flavorful meat is used in various dishes, such as sushi, sashimi, and hot pot preparations.

How To Cook Japanese Spider Cook?

Cooking a Japanese Spider Crab can be physically demanding and tedious.

  • Ideally, it is recommended to leave the crab in a fridge for a few hours to kill it.
  • After that, place it on its back and make a sharp knife cut straight through its back. This makes sure that it has had a swift demise.

Because of their enormous size and leg span, Japanese spider crabs can be a bit more tricky to cook than a regular crab.

  • The first step is to put them in a large pot of boiling water and cover it with a lid.
  • It should be placed for about 15-20 minutes per kilo in boiling water. You can adjust the time according to the weight and the number of crabs.
  • After it is cooked properly in boiling water, you have to remove the grey spongy gills and the stomach sac that can be found right behind the jaws.
  • It is also recommended to rinse it to remove any excess protein.

You can also use the stock water to prepare other dishes like stew or paella.

  • You can then start breaking off its legs which are rich in crab meat. You can use a hammer or a rolling pin to make the process easier.

The body contains flavourful meat which is deemed sweeter than the rest of the crab meats by many.

  • Separate the body and the shell before scraping down the meat. Make sure to discard the pointed gills from the centre of its body.
  • You can find both brown and white meat in a single crab so you can choose to separate it or mix it according to what the recipe demands.

Preparing the Japanese spider crab is a tiresome job and calls for a lot of manual work which adds to the price tag of these dishes.

The price of a plate of this delicacy can range from 100$ to 500$ which is slightly on the pricier side, but it's still cheaper than a lot of seafood like clams and caviar. It is also a bit trickier to eat. Some people enjoy picking it with their fingers but some find it cumbersome. 

You can either eat it using your fingers or use tools like small knives, metal kebab skewers, pliers and other crab-picking tools.

Let us go through some simple recipes you can make using the Japanese Spider crab.

Related: Why Japanese Eat Raw Fish

Japanese Spider Crab Recipes

Boiled Japanese Spider Crab Recipe


  • 2 Medium sized spider crab
  • Coarse salt
  • 2 Bay leaves


  1. Add the bay leaves, 2-3 spoons of coarse salt and plenty of water into a big pot.
  2. Bring it to a boil.
  3. If the crab is alive, put it in cold water before putting it into the boiling pot so it does not break its legs.
  4. Once it is in the boiling pot, let it cook for about 15- 18 minutes (you can adjust it according to the size of the crab).
  5. Drain the water and let it sit until it comes down to room temperature.
  6. Open the crab, cut it and serve.

Baked Japanese Spider Crabs Recipe


  • 1.5Kg cooked spider crab
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 large spring onion, finely sliced
  • 1 leek, only the white part finely sliced
  • 2 large tomatoes, peeled and deseeded
  • 150ml tomato sauce
  • 50ml brandy
  • 1 ladle shellfish stock
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Few knobs of butter
  • 1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley


  1. Boil the crab with salt and drain it. Let it come down to room temperature.
  2. Remove the legs and claws of the crab and set it aside. Separate the shell of the crab from its body by turning the crab upside down. You can later use the shell to put the sauce in.
  3. Remove the brown meat from inside the shell and put it in another bowl. Remove the gills and pull out the brown meat from the centre of the body.
  4. Open the claws and legs using hammers and pull out the white meat. Make sure there are no hard bits in the meat.
  5. In a medium sized pan, heat oil and butter. Slowly add the onions, leek and poach and slow-cook for 15- 20 minutes.
  6. Use the ladle of the shellfish stock to wet the sauce and add the meat. Stir and cook well for a few minutes.
  7. Pour the sauce into the shell. Make sure that the consistency of the sauce is right. It shouldn't be too liquid or dry. Add a layer of breadcrumbs and butter for the extra flavour.
  8. Preheat your oven at 200° C and bake the crab shell for about twelve minutes or until the breadcrumbs turn golden brown. Sprinkle parsley on the crumbs before serving for an added flavour.

Japanese spider crabs can be turned into a number of delicacies including broths with garlic or chilli flavour, crab cakes, crab rolls, crab ravioli etc. You can store it in the refrigerator for up to four days. 

Make sure to check the crab by smelling and tasting it to make sure that it is not spoiled. You should also not put a live crab inside boiling water since their legs could get detached.

Where can I eat Japanese spider crab?

There are many places where you can eat Japanese spider crab, both in Japan and abroad. 

Here are a few of the most popular options:

  • Kani Doraku is a famous crab restaurant chain with locations all over Japan.
  • Sakanaya Uosei is a seafood restaurant in Numazu, Japan, that specializes in Japanese spider crab.
  • Hokkaido Crab House is a restaurant in New York City that specializes in seafood from Hokkaido, Japan.
  • Sushi Yasuda is a Michelin-starred sushi restaurant in New York City.
  • Miyabi is a Japanese restaurant in Las Vegas that offers a variety of Japanese spider crab dishes.

If you're looking for a more unique dining experience, you can also try visiting a Japanese spider crab fishing village. 

Here are a few of the most popular Japanese spider crab fishing villages:

  • Heda, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan
  • Kamogawa, Chiba Prefecture, Japan
  • Toba, Mie Prefecture, Japan

How to eat a Japanese Spider Crab?

After the Japanese spider crab has been cooked, the meat from the legs and claws can be picked out with your fingers. The meat from the body can be scooped out with a spoon. The roe can be eaten as is, or used to make sushi or sashimi. However,be careful not to eat the gills, as they are poisonous.

What does a Japanese spider crab taste like?

The meat of a Japanese spider crab is known for its delicate and sweet flavor. The taste of a Japanese spider crab can be described as mild and slightly reminiscent of other crab species. The texture of the meat is also quite tender and succulent. 

Japanese spider crab meat is often considered a delicacy in Japanese cuisine and is enjoyed both on its own and in various preparations like sushi, sashimi, and crab cakes. 

Some people compare the taste of Japanese spider crab meat to that of other crustaceans, such as snow crab or king crab, but with its own distinct flavor profile.

Does Japanese spider crab taste good?

Many people find the meat of Japanese spider crab to be delicious and enjoyable. It is often considered a delicacy in Japanese cuisine and appreciated for its delicate, sweet flavor and tender texture. The meat is highly sought after for its unique taste and is used in a variety of dishes such as sushi, sashimi, and hot pot preparations.

How much is a pound of Japanese spider crabs?

In general, a pound of Japanese spider crab can cost anywhere from $50 to $100. However, it is not uncommon to find Japanese spider crab for even higher prices. For example, a 10-pound Japanese spider crab can cost upwards of $500.

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