Imitation crab meat, often found in California rolls at sushi restaurants, is not vegan. It is also not safe for vegetarians as it usually contains some form of ground up fish. That being said, there are plenty of alternative options to mainstream imitation crab that are cruelty-free and produced sustainably without the use of any real seafood.
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Although there are plenty of different variations of imitation or synthetic crab, they usually have a somewhat similar formula. The main ingredient is some sort of mild tasting white fish with coloring, seasonings, and flavorings added. For the sake of example, we will take a popular imitation crab product and look at its ingredient statement:
"Alaska Pollock, water, wheat starch, sugar, contains 2% or less of: snow crab meat, sorbitol, natural and artificial crab flavoring (swimming crab extract, snow crab extract, water, hydrolyzed soy protein, ethyl alcohol, salt, glycerine, maltodextrin, sugar, disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate, propylene glycol), mirin wine (sake, sugar, salt, water, yeast extract), potassium chloride, salt, sodium tripolyphosphate, pollock oil, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, color added, egg whites, sodium citrate, modified corn starch, lycopene, soy lecithin, paprika leoresin."
Although it's a long ingredient statement, there are many ingredients in there that go against the principles of vegan and vegetarianism. These ingredients include:
Luckily for vegans,there are plenty of alternatives for imitation crab. Although it might seem strange at first, using the right vegetables along with flavors of the sea such, as seaweed and Old Bay, can result in a delicious mock crab. The following substitutes are perfect for crab cakes, California rolls, and even vegan seafood salad!
You'll never miss fake (or real) crab again.
Jackfruit is most commonly known for making vegan pulled pork, but its flaky texture is also ideal for making fake vegan crab. They work especially well in crab cakes.
These recipes below are sure to change your mind:
With veganism on the rise, you've probably seen several mock meat options on the grocery store shelves. Although alternatives to items like chicken and beef are far more common, fish (and crab) options do exist once you know where to look. Here are some products worth checking out:
Gardein is perhaps one of the most popular protein alternative brands out there, and they just happen to make Mini Crabless Cakes!
Gardein is very widely distributed. So much so, that you're likely to find them at your local Walmart.
People have been living a meat free life in Asia far longer than they have in the West. They've also been perfecting their cuisine for far longer. That being said, it should come as no surprise that there are a plethora of vegan fish and crab options in the Asian supermarket that you've never heard of.
Their Instagram photo above is a soup made with a wide variety of MayWah's mock vegan seafood, including their crab.
Sophie's Kitchen is another brand that makes vegan crab cakes along with several other plant-based seafood options. You can use the store locator on their website to check if they are available near you.
If they aren't, be sure to submit a request to let them know!
Finally, MATCH Meets is a smaller plant based protein brand which has a crab product in its line. Unfortunately, it's only available in St. Louis. We've heard its quite delicious if you can manage to find it!
We haven't been able to locate it near us, but it sure looks delicious!
Hearts of palm, usually found in the canned foods section right next to the artichokes, just happen to make a delicious crab substitute.
Sure you can also make crab cakes, but we think you'll love this Vegan Hearts of Palm Crab Salad.
The flaky texture of artichokes makes it an excellent substitute for crab in a variety of applications. You can use them just like you would any of the other ingredients in dips, crab cakes, and sushi.
Here's how some of our favorite vegan recipe creators use artichoke hearts in place of seafood and crab:
Being as versatile as it is, tofu makes an excellent medium for making mock crab. When cut correctly, its probably the most ideal for making Vegan California Rolls.
Check out these recipes for some inspiration to make your own:
By this time, you've probably realized that vegans have endless options when it comes to crab and other seafood.
Now get out there and try them for yourself!
Cooking healthy, delicious, plant-based meals has been Joey’s true passion since he went vegan in 2015. He has a masters in Nutrition and Food Science and is committed to making the internet a place of education and knowledge rather than misinformation and clickbait. He currently lives in Delaware with his wife.