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A retro classic, this seafood salad recipe has been a staple in delis and on salad bars for decades! The cold crab salad comes together in about 10 minutes for an inexpensive, easy lunch or dinner to prep ahead. Serve it with crackers for scooping, on croissants or crusty bread for sandwiches, or on a bed of leafy greens. It’s light, fresh, and flavorful!

Close overhead shot of a plate of the best homemade seafood salad recipe

Seafood Salad Recipe

I’ve loved this vintage Seafood Salad recipe since I was a child! The classic dish is made with imitation crab, which I’ve shown here, but you can also prepare the dish with shrimp, lobster or real crabmeat to make it your own. The cold crab salad is just a perfect light lunch or dinner when the weather is warm and you don’t want a heavy, hot meal. Best of all, it comes together in just 10 minutes and can be prepared in advance. So convenient!

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a classic seafood salad. As always, specific measurements and step-by-step instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Imitation crab: the base of this cold crab salad, “imitation crab” is actually fish!
  • Mayonnaise: the dressing for the salad. We prefer Duke’s brand mayonnaise for the best flavor and texture.
  • Celery and red onion: for fresh, flavorful crunch.
  • Fresh dill: adds bright flavor to the salad and pairs nicely with the seafood.
  • Old Bay seasoning, salt, and pepper: to season the salad. Old Bay is a classic seafood seasoning that includes a blend of herbs and spices like celery salt, red pepper, and paprika.
Process shot showing how to make seafood salad

What is imitation crab?

I use imitation crab in this cold crab salad recipe, since that’s what a classic seafood salad is typically made with. If you prefer other seafood in your salad, I’ve included notes below for possible additions.

Imitation crab meat is also known as “crab sticks,” “krab sticks,” “imitation krab,” and “krab meat.” Most imitation crab today is actually made from Alaska pollock, with crab flavoring added. You can find out more about imitation crab in this Huffington Post article; and while it’s not necessarily the healthiest form of seafood out there, it’s a nice “treat” when you’re craving this classic dish!

Adding mayonnaise to a bowl

How to Make Seafood Salad

Seafood salad is a combination of crab meat, celery, red onion, and dill, all tossed in a salad dressing that’s made with mayonnaise and Old Bay seasoning. While mayo and seafood might sound like an odd pairing, it’s actually a lot like a classic tuna salad. Some combinations just work!

  1. Chop or flake the Imitation Crab. You can use any variety of imitation crab, including “chunk” or “flake.” Simply break the crab into bite-size pieces or run a knife through it before adding it to a large bowl.
  2. Add the Remaining Ingredients. Place the mayonnaise, celery, red onion, dill, and Old Bay seasoning in the bowl with the crabmeat.
  3. Stir to Combine. Stir everything together, season with salt and pepper, and you’re done! Garnish with additional chopped fresh herbs or sliced lemons, if desired.
The best seafood salad recipe on a blue and white plate with parsley and lemon wedges for garnish

Serving Suggestions

There are so many different ways to serve this dish! Here are a few ideas:

The best seafood salad recipe served on a croissant

What Goes with Seafood Salad

Here are a few veggies and sides that go well with the seafood salad:

Preparation and Storage Tips

  • Prep ahead: Assemble the seafood salad recipe in advance, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until you’re ready to enjoy.
  • Seafood salad will last in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
  • I do not recommend freezing this salad. Since the dish includes mayonnaise, it will have an undesirable texture when thawed, and the vegetables will be mushy and watery.
Overhead shot of a platter of seafood salad

Recipe Variations

  • Mixed Seafood Salad Recipe: You can use just about any seafood that you prefer in this dish. Swap out the imitation crab and replace it with shrimp, real crabmeat, or lobster meat. You can also use a combination of seafood — for instance crabmeat and shrimp. Just make sure that you have a total of 1 pound of seafood for the recipe.
  • Frozen, thawed peas would be a nice addition to the salad.
  • Stir in some drained capers for a briny, acidic component.
  • Seafood Pasta Salad: Cook, drain and cool 1 pound of pasta. Double all of the ingredients except for the crab meat. Combine the cooked, cooled pasta, the crab, and the rest of the (doubled) ingredients for a delicious seafood pasta salad recipe!
Seafood salad sandwich on a croissant

Tips for the Best Seafood Salad Recipe

  • Mince your red onion into very fine pieces so that you don’t bite into a large chunk of onion in the salad.
  • Use a full-fat, high-quality mayo for the best flavor and texture. We prefer Duke’s mayonnaise.
  • Garnish the salad with additional chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley or dill), or with fresh lemon wedges. A squeeze of lemon juice is also a nice finishing touch.
Overhead shot of hands holding a platter of seafood salad with bread on the side

More Seafood Salad Recipes to Try

Close overhead shot of a plate of the best homemade seafood salad recipe

Seafood Salad

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 0 minutes
Total: 10 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 309.4 kcal
A retro classic, this old-fashioned seafood salad recipe comes together in just 10 minutes!

Ingredients
  

  • 16 ounces imitation crab
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • ½ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  • Break the imitation crab into bite-size chunks or chop with a knife; place in a large bowl.
  • Add the remaining ingredients and gently toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Notes

  • Mixed Seafood Salad Recipe: You can use just about any seafood that you prefer in this dish. Swap out the imitation crab and replace it with shrimp, real crabmeat, or lobster meat. You can also use a combination of seafood — for instance crabmeat and shrimp. Just make sure that you have a total of 1 pound of seafood for the recipe.
  • Frozen, thawed peas would be a nice addition to the salad.
  • Stir in some drained capers for a briny, acidic component.
  • Seafood Pasta Salad: Cook, drain and cool 1 pound of pasta. Double all of the ingredients except for the crab meat. Combine the cooked, cooled pasta, the crab, and the rest of the (doubled) ingredients for a delicious seafood pasta salad recipe!
  • Mince your red onion into very fine pieces so that you don’t bite into a large chunk of onion in the salad.
  • Use a full-fat, high-quality mayo for the best flavor and texture. We prefer Duke’s mayonnaise.
  • Garnish the salad with additional chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley or dill), or with fresh lemon wedges. A squeeze of lemon juice is also a nice finishing touch.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 309.4kcalCarbohydrates: 16gProtein: 12.2gFat: 24gSaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 35mgSodium: 873.9mgPotassium: 45.9mgFiber: 0.4gSugar: 6.2g
Keyword: Cold Crab Salad, Seafood Salad, seafood salad recipe, Seafood Salad with crab
Course: Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan

This recipe was originally published in June, 2020. The photos were updated in April, 2022.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Hi Blair. I was elated when I found your site! Your story touched me and seemed to mirror my own story. At 64 years old,Sicilian woman who became a Dr.in the early 70’s that in itself was a challenge. I then had 6 beautiful bambinos in 10 years. Looking back I can’t believe I didn’t lose my mind! Even having my medical practice,my family came first. All meals were fresh and organic,mostly due to our loving on my familia’s olive farm,outside of Palermo. No grocery stories. It would have been a Godsend to of course to have had the internet back then but to have had your blog to help would have been priceless. My 3 daughters,the youngest is 38 all are professional woman in medicine with bambinos. From the moment I found you,I let them know about you. They’re so busy that since I’m retired now but still doing volunteer work,I go throw your recipes and break them done for them. Between us we’ve easily enjoyed hundreds of your recipes now. Never been disappointed once. And,we are a pretty picky bunch. After seeing this recipe today,I immediately went out and bought fresh shrimp. Impossible to get fresh crab. It reminded me of the salad my Nona made for us when I was growing up. Dukes Mayo. tastes exactly like homemade,which is imperative in a simple salad. I just felt like it was time to acknowledge how wonderful we think you are. Such a blessing. So many grazies Blair for making life so much easier for us all. Take care and please be safe,Robin and familia.❤

    1. Robin! Thank you! You totally made my day. I need to save this note for one of those rough days when I could use a pep talk. Thank you for sharing your story, for trying my recipes, and for sharing them with your family as well. You are a blessing to me, and the reason that I write this blog. ❤️

  2. Blair- Sorry for the spelling mistakes! I couldn’t find my glasses. Part of getting older! Grazie again. Robin.