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One of the best ways to enjoy Dungeness Crab Legs is to steam them in aromatics and serve them with melted garlic herb butter. This recipe is perfect for seafood lovers because the delicate flavor of the flaky white meat is the star.
If you’re new to cooking crab and have questions, I have a ton of helpful information below in the FAQ section.
Admittedly, my favorite way to eat Dungeness crab is cold with some cocktail sauce. It’s what I order alongside a bowl of fresh clam chowder every time I visit the Oregon Coast. But any time I want to enjoy fresh crab for a fancy dinner at home, I steam using this recipe.
Why I love this recipe
- Succulent taste with powerful flavor
- West Coast favorite – we Oregonians love supporting our local fishermen
- One of my favorite seafood recipes because they are so quick and easy to make!
For the garlic butter sauce, you will need unsalted butter, fresh parsley, minced garlic, Old Bay Seasoning, and kosher salt.
To steam the Dungeness crab clusters, you will need water, dry white wine, sliced lemon, and fresh herbs. For the herbs, I used parsley, thyme, and rosemary.
How to make steamed crab with garlic butter
Make the garlic butter
- Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic butter sauce ingredients and frequently stir or swirl the pan. The heat should be low enough so that the garlic never goes beyond a golden brown color.
- The longer the mixture cooks, the more the garlic will infuse the butter. Keep the mixture warm until the crab is ready to serve.
Steam the crab
- Using a crab cracker tool or a meat mallet, gently crush the shell in various locations to expose the meat. This will make it easier to eat once it’s hot but it will also allow the crab meat to absorb the flavors while they steam.
- Add the wine, water, lemon slices, and herbs to a large pot. Place a steamer basket or a rack on top. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.
- Once boiling, place the crab clusters in the basket or on the rack, cover them with a lid to seal the pot, and heat for about 4 minutes.
The meat is already cooked, so you are only heating them. When done, the crab clusters should be giving off their own steam.
The best way to save on cost is to buy whole Dungeness crabs and clean them yourself.
You can use your bare hands with the help of a sharp tool (I used the pick that came with my nutcracker).
The top shell is easily lifted off. Then, you use your fingers to remove the gills and wash out the guts under cold running water.
There’s one piece on the bottom that you pry off. Then, the crab is easily split in two to create separate clusters.
Are Dungeness crabs expensive?
If you live locally as I do, when Dungeness crabs are in season, you can find:
- Whole Dungeness crabs for $5/lb.
- Dungeness clusters for $12/lb
- Just the flaky meat (no shell) for $30/lb
If you don’t live locally, the price of Dungeness crab is MUCH higher since they must be flash frozen and shipped, usually with next-day delivery, on dry ice. You can expect to pay about $30/lb for the clusters.
Dungeness Crab FAQs
The same process can be used to make many other varieties of crab species, so if another variety is more local and available, no recipe changes are needed.
Alaskan King Crab and Blue Crabs are two other common types of crab that taste great with melted butter and a squeeze of lemon juice.
If you’re looking for a recipe to cook King Crab legs or Snow Crab legs, you can use this one.
If you live on the Pacific coast, fresh Dungeness crab can be found at major grocery stores and Costco during the months of December through August. This is when crab season is open.
If you live elsewhere, there are a variety of ways to order Dungeness crab leg clusters online. There are various companies that will ship frozen packages of Dungeness clusters.
They have a ton of body meat relative to other species of crab. You can get the leg meat, the large chunks found in the claw, and the shoulder meat.
What is special about Dungeness Crab?
They are known for their distinct flavor and high meat-to-shell ratio.
Dungeness crab is harvested in the pacific ocean.
They can be found in the frigid waters of the pacific northwest. From the coast of northern California to the cold waters of Alaska, fishermen use crab pots to harvest these succulent crabs.
Crab recipes you might like
If you’ve made this or any other recipe on my site, let me know in the comment section how it turned out. I love hearing from my readers!
Steamed Dungeness Crab Legs with Garlic Butter
Garlic butter sauce:
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley minced
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic 3-4 cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
To steam the crab:
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup water
- 1 lemon sliced
- 1/4 cup fresh herbs parsley, thyme, rosemary, etc.
- 4 clusters cooked Dungeness crab legs includes shoulder meat
Make the garlic butter:
- Heat a small saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic butter sauce ingredients and frequently stir or swirl the pan. The heat should be low enough so that the garlic never goes beyond a golden brown color. The longer the mixture cooks, the more the garlic will infuse the butter. Keep the mixture warm until the crab is ready to serve.
Steam the crab:
- Using a crab cracker tool or a meat mallet, gently crush the shell in various locations to expose the meat. This will make it easier to eat once it's hot but it will also allow the meat to absorb the flavors while it steams.
- Add the wine, water, lemon slices, and herbs to a large pot. Place a steamer basket or a rack on top. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, place the crab clusters in the basket or on the rack, cover them with a lid to seal the pot, and heat for about 4 minutes. The meat is already cooked, so you are only heating them. When done, the crab clusters should be giving off their own steam.
- Place garlic butter into a shallow dish for dipping and serve warm crab with additional lemon wedges.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.