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Alaskan Snow Crab Tortilla Soup

February 11, 2020

snow crab

Amazing Snow Crab Tortilla Soup Recipe

Get ready to be transported to the heart of Mexico with this delicious tortilla soup recipe. A little creamy, a little spicy, and all-around satisfying--this dish is guaranteed to warm you right up this winter while still being healthier and less expensive than restaurant takeout. Enjoy!

Well, I’ve been back in Ketchikan for a couple of months now and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t already miss the sunshine and warm, sandy beaches of Mexico. This vacation was amazing with wonderful people, plenty of drinks, and so much delicious food I’d be surprised if I didn’t gain 20 pounds!


While I was there, I found this little restaurant in particular that became my go-to for dinner almost every single day. It was down a small side-street in an older part of town that I was wandering through on my second day. To call it a hole-in-the-wall would be an understatement, (and I’m still not sure it wasn’t just somebody’s house) but this sweet abuelita pulled me inside and she gave me the best tortilla soup I’ve ever had in my life.


I was so enthralled with this soup that I went around the nearby markets buying all of the ingredients and spices that I could to try to recreate it at home. I figured that having ingredients from Mexico would help give it that authentic, soul-warming flavor that you just can’t get from a restaurant (especially in Alaska). After an admittedly teary-eyed goodbye to the abuelita on my last day, she gave me a handwritten recipe for the tortilla soup I had so fallen in love with.

When I got home (and with my authentic ingredients in my arms) I tried to recreate my new soup recipe over and over again, but no matter what I did it just wouldn’t turn out right. I started to think that maybe tortilla soup just doesn’t taste the same unless you’re in an abuelita’s kitchen in the heart of Mexico City…but then inspiration struck! If I couldn’t recreate this Mexican soup perfectly, maybe I should just embrace it and make it my own with an Alaskan twist!

Obviously, being in Ketchikan does come with the ability to get shellfish pretty easily, so I decided to try adding crab to my version of the tortilla soup recipe. I tried weighing the pros and cons of king crab legs vs snow crab legs before eventually deciding that the sweetness of the snow crab would contrast well with the spicy soup. Luckily, there’s a small fish peddler that sells seasonal snow crab claws near me which made it easy to pick up some cheap snow crab legs and claws for my soup.

Get ready to judge a little bit, but even though I live in the perfect place for crab I rarely cook it myself. To be honest, I usually just go out and get it at restaurants since I have no clue how to tell if snow crab legs are bad or what to look for when shopping on my own. (I wouldn’t even know how to tell what reasonable snow crab prices are.)

However, I was determined to master this snow crab legs soup recipe! So, after plenty of bribes with homemade cookies, my friend who owns one of the local seafood restaurants in town offered to go with me to help make sure I was getting the best deal on my snow crab legs price per pound. She showed me how to estimate how many ounces of meat in a pound of snow crab legs so that I wouldn’t be wasting money on shell weight--which is incredibly important when shopping for any kind of crab. She also explained the difference between Dungeness Crab and Snow Crab, so I knew I was getting exactly what I wanted for my recipe.

After a full crash course in seafood and 1 pound of snow crab legs to show for it, I was ready to get started. I had my snow crab meat, but I had to figure out how best to incorporate it into my new recipe. This meant I had to do a little bit of digging, which led to me pouring over way too many recipes trying to figure out how to cook snow crab legs without ruining the beautiful flavor of the meat. I found that boiling them for just a couple of minutes helps bring out the flavor the best without ruining the sweetness of the crab meat.

(Note: I found that some chefs will tell you that you should always steam your crab instead of boiling it, to help the meat retain more of its flavor. Personally, I think both methods have their own uses and I happen to like that the tortilla soup broth takes on some of the crabby deliciousness. However, if you prefer steamed crab then that begs the question, “How long do you steam snow crab legs for a recipe like this?” I’d say about 5-6 minutes in a steam basket should work fine as long as you stir them into the broth right before serving. Just make sure you factor in the heat of the soup too so that you don’t overcook them.)

Some trial and error (and some tweaking of my original soup recipe) and I finally figured out how to make snow crab for the soup without covering up the delicate crab meat with all those spices. Even after using up all of the spices and ingredients I brought from Mexico, I’ve found that this recipe still works beautifully with the local ingredients I can find here in Alaska.

It’s since become my go-to recipe whenever it’s a little too wintery out there and I need a soul-warming reminder of my time in Mexico. It also works in larger batches for parties or family meals! (This tortilla soup has been a hit at potlucks!) I’ve even had more than a few people hounding me for the recipe, with my friend serving it proudly at her seafood restaurant so the whole neighborhood can enjoy!

Snow Crab Legs Nutrition Facts

Now before you jump into making this recipe, I’d like to take a minute to talk about snow crab meat nutrition. Health is always very important to me when I’m crafting new recipes, and I strongly believe that just because something is a comfort food doesn’t mean it needs to be junk food. So, are snow crab legs healthy?

Well, the number of calories in snow crab legs with shell is actually only approximately 162 calories per 16 legs. This makes snow crab an excellent way to add protein to a dish without adding an unnecessary amount of fat. Depending on the recipe for snow crab legs that you’re following (crab and melted butter is of course a match made in heaven, but it should be obvious why it is not the healthiest option…) and how much snow crab legs per person that you’re serving, it can be an easy substitute for almost any protein dish that you already make regularly.

In order to begin incorporating crab into your favorite recipes, just make sure you do some research on cooking methods. You want to know how long to cook snow crab legs so that you don’t overcook them to the point that they get a fishy odor. Keep in mind that you are going to have to double your snow crab legs cook time if you plan on boiling frozen snow crab legs instead of fresh.


I’m so excited for you all to try out this recipe! Please leave a comment telling me what you think and enjoy your own little trip to Mexico with a hot bowl of abuelita-approved tortilla soup!


Alaska Snow Crab:

  • 2 lbs. Alaska Snow Crab (I used Opilio snow crab but Bairdi will work too)
  • 2 Tbsp. canola or olive oil
  • 8 oz. onion, chopped
  • 1 whole jalapeño, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10 oz. red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 8 oz. tomato, chopped
  • 12 oz. corn, cooked
  • 8 cups water or low salt chicken broth
  • 7 oz. green chiles, diced
  • 2 Tbsp. chile powder, dried
  • 1 Tbsp. oregano
  • 1 Tbsp. salt

Corn Tortillas:

  • 2 corn tortillas, cut in ¼ inch strips
  • Canola or olive oil spray, as needed
  • 1 tsp. oregano


  • ½ cup lime juice, fresh
  • 1 avocado, cut into ¾ inch cubes



  • Heat oil in 6-quart saucepan until it shimmers.
  • Add onions, jalapeño, garlic, bell pepper, tomato and corn.
  • Sauté veggies until softened, about 5-8 minutes.
  • Add water, diced chiles, chile powder, oregano and salt, then simmer for about 30 minutes.

Corn Tortillas:

  • Place corn tortilla strips on baking sheet making sure that they are evenly spaced.
  • Spray lightly with an oil spray and sprinkle with oregano.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes at 350° until crisp.


  • Stir freshly squeezed lime juice into soup.
  • Place crab pieces in the hot soup and simmer for 1-2 minutes.
  • Place in serving bowls and make that snow crab picture perfect with a garnish of avocado cubes and tortilla strips.

NOTE: You can adjust the spiciness with addition of more chile powder or a spicier chile powder—Ancho chile powder for example—or tone it down by seeding the jalapeño before sautéing.

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