Zucchini Crab Fritters with Grapefruit Aioli

Fresh crab vs. canned crab – when does it make a difference? You’ll notice that virtually all recipes involving crab (crab cakes, crab balls, crab fritters, etc) call for fresh crab, picked over.  Most recipes are asking you to buy a whole, giant, ugly crab and return to ninth grade biology – a.k.a., dissect that little bugger.  Yes, take out all the meat, but also remove any tiny bits of shell and other icky bits that you might not want to snack on.  But is that always necessary? And if not, when is the short cut okay? Here’s the simple answer.  If the crab is standing alone (as in no breadcrumbs, mayo, garlic, etc.) then you need to get out your bio book and go to town on a few of the little guys.  
Luckily, or unluckily, however you look at it, crab all alone is rarely on the menu.  More often, I’m sure you find yourself making crabby treats like crab cakes, fritters, steak topping, etc.  You’ll be happy to know that rarely, if ever, could you even taste the difference between the canned stuff and the fresh stuff after it’s mixed with mayo and fried or piled high on a steak and smothered with bĂ©arnaise sauce.  So, feel free to make this next recipe and yes, head down the naughty canned meat isle and pick up a few cans of canned crab, guilt free.  You can smile smugly while popping the top – we won’t tell.  It goes without saying, of course, try to pick out the top quality brands when buying something as delicate as canned crab. 

Can I just add, while on the topic of canned meat, it is never, and I do mean never, okay to buy canned chicken. Or meat. In fact, I pretty much draw the line at canned crab and tuna fish. Because really, we can’t pop a chicken breast in the oven? Seriously? It’s too much work to slit open the package and slide it into a pan? Canned chicken was the precursor to the frozen pre-made peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Yes.  Didn’t you know?  People are now too busy to pull out two jars, open them, and spread the contents onto a slab of bread.  Gosh – they don’t have all day here.  Hello – the toaster strudel already ate up precious minutes this morning
Enough of that – now on to the recipe! Crab fritters are delicious. There is no doubt about it, deep fry crab, and people will keep coming back to your dinner parties.  Your spouse will probably think he/she forgot your anniversary.  For some reason, crab spells special.  These fritters are no exception.  In fact, they look like you spent all day making them.  If you follow the directions for the breading station, you can have them done in no time and happily, these can be made ahead of time.  Just store them in the fridge on a few paper towels (the crab, though drained, still holds moisture and can soggy up your bottom bread crumbs).  When your guests arrive, just heat up your oil and pop these pretty little packages in.

Though following the directions for these fritters will make you a delightful treat, I suggest that you spice up the crab mixture in the center by adding a few tablespoons of mayo, a pinch of cayenne, and a few tablespoons of chopped caramelized onions. Although the plain crab and egg white mix was good, it can’t hurt to kick it up a notch. Add anything you like, just watch the consistency which needs to stay together in the zucchini strips.

On to the aioli.  First, can I say yum? I’d never made a grapefruit aioli and it was lovely – fresh, tart, and sweet with that classic grapefruit citrus zing at the end.  Fortunately for you, I messed this up the first time around.  In a simple case of not reading the directions, but just the ingredients, I ended up mixing the grapefruit juice and zest into the mayo mix without reducing it by half over the stove.  Instead of throwing out the incorrect version, I saved it and made the correct version as well.  When my guests arrived I asked them to take the fritters and test both sauces.  Guess what?  My mistake sauce won!  Both were good, though, and both were gone by the time the fritter plate was clean.  The only difference, the sauce with the reduced grapefruit was what you would except, more tart and with a much stronger grapefruit taste.  If you want to get really adventurous, tempt your guests with yet another sauce – a chipotle aioli.  All you do is take about half a cup of mayo, two or three chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped, and a squeeze of lime – mix and taste.  
Make these crab fritters and your guests will leave with their tongues wagging and their taste buds buzzing about your great party!

Zucchini Crab Fritters with Grapefruit Aioli 
Recipe courtesy Tyler Florence 

2 zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise on a mandolin
1 lb fresh lump crab meat
1 egg white
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups panko bread crumbs
Vegetable oil for deep frying

Grapefruit Aioli:
1/2 cup mayonnaise 
1/2 cup sour cream
1 grapefruit 

Begin by slicing the zucchini on a mandolin so you have long thin strips.  Lay out in a single layer on a tray lined with a kitchen towel.  Sprinkle salt on the strips and set aside to allow the moisture to be drawn out and make the strips pliable.
Prepare the crab.   Drain the crab of any excess moisture then combine with egg white in a mixing bowl.  Season with salt and pepper and stir.   Take the strips of zucchini and place a spoonful of mixture on top.  Roll it up and place seam side down so it sticks and continue until you have used up all the crab.  Set up a breading station and coat the fritters in seasoned flour, then egg and finally seasoned panko.  Set aside in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to let the coating set.  Fry in 350 degree F oil until golden and crispy.  Drain on paper towels and
Prepare grapefruit aioli.  Add grapefruit juice and 1 teaspoon of grapefruit zest to a small saucepan and simmer until reduced by half.  Shut off heat and cool.  In a blender, combine mayonnaise, sour cream and grapefruit reduction.  Serve with warm fritters.


  1. This recipe sounds and looks fantastic! I was wondering how I might be able to adapt it if I have a guest who cannot eat shellfish. Any ideas PBJ Mavens??

  2. How funny - when I was little, my granny told me that fresh salmon was 'fine some of the time' but that only the tinned stuff was 'posh'. I love this post...
    Charlie x

  3. Thanks for the comments, Charlie and Aphreditee. I think you might get away with imitation crab, which is usually made out of fish. Or, you could make a nice ricotta and parmesan filling.

  4. Love the humour!!

  5. Well, i have made it andjust love it. i am a big sucker for crabs and just adore this recipe. will do it again.x

  6. Valentina, so glad you enjoyed the recipe. We will be posting our crab cake recipe very soon, so keep checking. How is the English blog coming along? Please let us know when you are up and running so we can visit often! xxx

  7. My husband's family just sent us a HUGE container of fresh crab meat (and conch, which I'll make a ceviche with) from Puerto Rico... I'm going to give this a try... looks great! okay, here's goes...

  8. What a hit!! They were delicious!!! SO simple to make with very few ingredients -- my kind of recipe :-) Thank you! Will definitely make these again and again... ps. great blog and beautiful photos!!

  9. So glad you liked them, Susan! Now, can we be part of your family? We love the packages you get in the mail!


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