10 minutes is all you need to make this all time favourite! This kani salad is absolutely to die for! Throw in some sriracha and sweet mango slivers for a truly delicious Japanese crab salad.
- Why You’ll Love Kani Salad
- What Is Kani?
- What Is Kani Salad?
- What Does Kani Taste Like?
- What Is the Difference Between Kewpie Mayo and Normal Mayo?
- Recipe Overview
- Variations and Substitutions
- How to Make This Salad Perfectly
- Great Mains for This Salad
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why You’ll Love Kani Salad
Crazy easy and super delicious! It keeps well and you can also make it ahead of time. Great when you’re short on time or something to keep in the fridge for later.
This spicy kani salad recipe is so vibrant in colour, and loving the thin strips of ingredients to create a unique texture.
Love its versatility too. You can enjoy it on its own, have it with some white fluffy rice, use it as a topping for fancy nigiri or as a side dish to a Japanese feast. Also makes for a delicious addition to homemade poke bowls.
Besides, if it can be whipped up in 10 minutes, that in itself is a winner in our recipe books!
What Is Kani?
Kani, short for kanikama, is the Japanese word for ‘crab’. Kani, however, is not crab in its natural form but rather imitation crab meat which actually contains no crab meat at all, unlike the crab meat we used in our risoni salad with hot smoked salmon and crab.
In 1974, Sugiyo Co. of Japan invented the ever-popular crab sticks that are made with some form of whitefish, wheat, egg white, seasoning, crab flavouring and red dye to make them resemble real crab.
Consumed all over the globe, these crab sticks resemble the real thing enough for them to be used in so many types of dishes and promise to be a mainstay in our recipes.
Japanese crab sticks can be found in the freezer section of your supermarket. If you’re unable to find them in your local supermarket, head to any Asian grocery store.
The proper Japanese-style crab sticks are uniform in size, usually individually wrapped, and when defrosted, you’ll find that they are soft to the touch and easily come apart in long, perfect strands. It is its shredded form that gives us this delicious kani salad.
What Is Kani Salad?
Kani salad is a Japanese-inspired salad recipe that incorporates kani, julienned vegetables such as carrots and cucumber, stirred through with Kewpie mayonnaise dressing.
As the imitation crab sticks can be pulled apart, once it is mixed through with the julienned vegetables, it creates a noodle-like composition.
Some popular variations include sprinkling panko breadcrumbs throughout the kani salad recipe to give it some crunch, or in our case, we added slivers of fresh mango. We love a good mango kani salad as it is sweeter and yet another great summer salad recipe.
For a spicy kani salad, we added sriracha with our Kewpie mayonnaise. Squeeze some lemon for a good balance of flavours.
What Does Kani Taste Like?
Kani is slightly sweet, mild in flavour yet possesses all the usual flavours of seafood. While kani may have been invented to imitate crab due to scarcity and price, these imitation crab sticks are no longer consumed as an alternative to real crab.
Crab sticks are very much a stand-alone food product that people of all generations can enjoy!
What Is the Difference Between Kewpie Mayo and Normal Mayo?
For this recipe, it is important to use Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise. Western mayonnaise uses whole eggs, while Kewpie mayonnaise only uses egg yolks, resulting in a richer, creamier product with a slightly yellower tinge.
Kewpie mixes the egg yolks with rice, seasoning and a good blend of vinegar. It does not add sugar which regular mayonnaise does.
The egg flavour is more prominent in the Kewpie, while it never really gives that curdled texture that normal mayonnaise sometimes has. The consistency of Kewpie is much smoother.
Flavour/Texture: This Japanese crab salad has all the delicious flavours of the ocean mixed through with the freshness of the mango, cucumber and carrot. Stir through the creamy mayonnaise with the perfect amount of sriracha. This helps to bind all the ingredients together.
Soft, crunchy and creamy.
Ease: These kani salad ingredients are easy to find and even easier to prepare. If you’re really short on time, you can get pre-packaged julienned carrot and cucumber. No cooking required, which is always a big plus for us.
Time: 10 minutes. Enough said.
These are the ingredients you need for Kani Salad:
Kani: Make sure you’re getting the proper Japanese crab stick and not the imitation crab that comes in flakes or chunks. Defrost, remove plastic wrapper and gently pry the strands apart.
Carrot and cucumber: Just a medium sized one will be enough.
Mango: Ensure the mango is ripe but firm, or it will be challenging to julienne. For this spicy kani salad, a sweeter variety would be a better choice.
Kewpie mayonnaise: Easily found in any supermarket these days. They last incredibly well in the fridge, or add some wasabi powder to accompany our kingfish sashimi salad with pickled radish.
Sriracha: Another global Asian condiment that just adds so much flavour. Also easily found in supermarkets and keeps really well. Be sure to try our spicy tuna salad and red pomelo with sriracha!
Variations and Substitutions
Panko breadcrumbs: A popular addition to a kani salad recipe is to sprinkle panko breadcrumbs on top of the salad. Gives it that extra bit of crunch, and you don’t even need to toast it beforehand.
Omit mango: When mango is out of season, just leave it out. This spicy kani salad without the mango is just as delicious. The mango just gives it sweetness, but we have made it many times with and without it.
Regular mayonnaise: You can, of course, use regular mayonnaise if you prefer it, if you have some leftover you just want to finish off, or if you simply can’t get a hold of some Kewpie. Flavours will differ slightly, but not enough to dismiss the recipe.
Heat levels: Leave out the sriracha if you don’t like spicy food, and certainly add more if you’re on the other side of the spectrum! Sriracha aioli is a popular sauce, so you can make extra for dipping air fryer parsnip fries or mix through our chicken and gem lettuce salad.
Sesame seeds: You can sprinkle some black sesame seeds on top for flavour and garnish.
Avocado: To make it a bigger meal or side dish, add half an avocado on top of the kani salad and serve.
Tobiko or Ikura: If you really want to make your kani salad, a nice dollop of ikura on top of the salad would finish off nicely. You can also stir through some tobiko throughout the salad for tiny pops of joy!
Step by step instructions for how to make Kani Salad:
Defrost the crab sticks and remove the wrappers. With your fingers, gently pry the strands of crab apart.
Peel the carrot and mango and julienne to the same length and thickness.
Julienne the cucumber with the skin on to the same length and thickness as the carrot and mango. Do not include the seeds, as the salad will get soggy.
How to Make the Creamy Mayonnaise Dressing
In a small mixing bowl, add the Kewpie mayonnaise and sriracha sauce.
Then add the juice of ½ a lemon. Mix until well combined.
How to Assemble the Salad
In a mixing bowl, add all the ingredients together.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
How to Make This Salad Perfectly
Crab meat: Ensure you’re buying the actual crab sticks and NOT the chunks or flakes. While they are all imitation crabs, it’s a completely different product. The chunks are denser and really starchy. In fact, they don’t taste all that good and are quite “fake” in flavour.
More importantly, they don’t shred or come apart, which is what is required for this salad.
Kewpie mayonnaise: This Japanese mayonnaise is what ties it all together. Usually found in either the Asian/Japanese aisle of your supermarket or perhaps in the condiments/mayonnaise section.
Julienned vegetables/mango: Try and julienne the mango, carrot and cucumber around the same length and thickness. This will give the salad the perfect texture and consistency.
Cucumber: Discard the seeds of the cucumber to avoid the kani salad ingredients from getting too soggy.
Great Mains for This Salad
What to serve with kani salad? Try these delicious main dish recipes:
Feel like a delicious Asian night? No better way to serve up the kani salad with either easy honey garlic tofu recipe or Asian pork meatballs with sweet soy broth over a hot bed of rice!
If you want to really treat yourself or having friends over, you can go wrong with these sumptuous lobster tacos. Don’t they already sound so good?
Frequently Asked Questions
Although used interchangeably to describe Japanese imitation crab, surimi is actually the type of white fish, such as Alaskan Pollock that is used to make the kanikama.
The imitation crab to get to make an authentic Japanese crab salad are the ones that come in stick form. Found in the freezer section, the sticks are uniform in size and usually individually wrapped. They can be easily pulled apart like string cheese.
The large packets of imitation crab that look like big chunks are not the correct kani salad ingredients.
Placed in an airtight container, it will stay in the fridge for up to 2 days. Once mixed through with the mayonnaise, it should be consumed quickly.
It is always best to mix the Kewpie mayonnaise dressing with the kani salad ingredients when it’s time to eat. Transport both the salad and dressing separately and mix when ready to serve.
This mango kani salad is a real crowd pleaser. Love the texture of the stringy crab sticks accompanied by the freshness of the fruit and vegetables. Easy to make and such a joy to consume. You just might have to make an extra portion!
More Salads with Seafood
Kani Salad [Japanese Crab Salad]
- ½ cup mayonnaise, Kewpie
- 2 tsp sriracha
- ½ lemon, juiced
Click on the toggle below for conversion to US Cooking Units.
- Defrost the crab sticks and remove the wrappers. With your fingers, gently pry the strands of crab apart.
- Peel the carrot and mango and julienne to the same length and thickness.
- Julienne the cucumber with the skin on to the same length and thickness as the carrot and mango. Do not include the seeds, as the salad will get soggy.
- In a small mixing bowl, add the Kewpie mayonnaise, sriracha sauce and the juice of ½ a lemon.
- Mix until well combined.
- In a mixing bowl, add all the ingredients together.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- A popular addition to a kani salad recipe is to sprinkle panko breadcrumbs on top of the salad. Gives it that extra bit of crunch, and you don’t even need to toast it beforehand.
- When mango is out of season, just leave it out. This spicy kani salad without the mango is just as delicious. The mango just gives it sweetness, but we have made it many times with and without it.
- You can, of course, use regular mayonnaise if you prefer it, if you have some leftover you just want to finish off, or if you simply can’t get a hold of some Kewpie. Flavours will differ slightly, but not enough to dismiss the recipe.
- Leave out the sriracha if you don’t like spicy food, and certainly add more if you’re on the other side of the spectrum!
- You can sprinkle some black sesame seeds on top for flavour and garnish.
- To make it a bigger meal or side dish, add half an avocado on top of the kani salad and serve.
- If you really want to make your kani salad, a nice dollop of ikura on top of the salad would finish off nicely. You can also stir through some tobiko throughout the salad for tiny pops of joy!
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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