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Garlic and Chile Roasted Dungeness Crabs

February 26, 2020

Garlic and Chile Roasted Dungeness Crabs

Roasted Dungeness Crab

Crabbing for blue crab on the east coast was a yearly tradition for my husband and me when we lived there. Every September, we would pick a weekend and wake up before the sun came up to make it out during slack tide to catch the blue crab while they are walking around the sandy bottoms foraging for food. Some years we came home with a cooler full of crab, and some years we came back with only a couple for show. 


We often brought our dog with us who loved splashing around in the muddy shores of the inlets. Since moving to the landlocked Midwest, we've missed our yearly tradition of crabbing. When planning our most recent trip to the west coast, after realizing how famous Dungeness crab was, we wanted to make sure we fit in a crabbing excursion while on vacation.

We were taking a family vacation, and we were not going to miss this opportunity to share our love of crabbing with our kids. 


We were planning to visit my husband's best friend and his two kids. Together we all planned a mini getaway to San Juan Island to take the kids crabbing. We rented an Air BnB in Friday Harbor, so we hoped to catch enough crab to have our own little Dungeness crab dinner party. 

What is Dungeness Crab?

Dungeness crab is native to the waters off of the coast of the northwestern United States. The Dungeness Spit is an area in Washington State that hosts the largest native population of Dungeness crab. The crab is named after this area of Washington state.  

Dungeness crab is larger than eastern blue crab, and Dungeness crab meat hosts a firmer texture. Dungeness crab tastes sweeter than blue crab meat. If you were to see a picture of Dungeness crab, they would look like a purplish-brown crab with white-tipped claws. Dungeness crab shells average about 6-7 inches across, but they can get as large as 10 inches. 


Recreational Dungeness crab fishing in Washington state is allowed during two seasons, summer and winter. During crabbing seasons, the times, days, and amounts of crab you can catch are regulated by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

Crabbing for live Dungeness crab is an exciting experience. When we were planning a summer vacation to visit family friends in Washington state, we made sure to include an excursion to the San Juan Islands off of Washington State to take our kids fishing for live Dungeness crab

We took our kids Dungeness crab fishing off of San Juan Island. The San Juan Islands are located in Puget Sound off of the coast of North West Washington State. The largest of the Islands, San Juan, even has a hospital and a school district. As someone who grew up on Cape Cod and frequently traveled to the Islands off of Cape Cod. I was excited to see what life was like on the San Juan Islands. All of the kids were excited to take the Ferry to the Island. I was excited to stay in Friday Harbor. 

My husband and I both got licensed for recreational crabbing, so we were allowed to take home five Dungeness crab each as long as they were males and at least six inches across. 

As luck would have it, we caught our crab totals and were able to plan a Dungeness Crab dinner when we returned to our Air Bnb that evening! Our kids had a blast splashing around and helping us to pull up our crabbing nets. We weren't traveling in October, so we weren't going to make it for the annual Dungeness Crab Festival, so we decided to have our own Dungeness Crab Festival. 

Roasted Dungeness Crabs


How to Cook Dungeness Crab: 

This vacation was the second time we had been back to Washington state. After the first time, we went home and immediately ordered Dungeness crab. The Dungeness crab we ordered was whole Dungeness crab, so most of my recipes were whole Dungeness crab recipes

Cooking whole Dungeness crab is not difficult. Frozen Dungeness crab ships to you on dry ice, so it remains frozen. The crab has been pre-cooked before frozen to preserve the flavor and texture of the crab meat. Cooking frozen Dungeness crab is easy. You steam or boil the crab for 5-7 minutes in a pot of boiling water. Boiling Dungeness crab is probably one of the easiest ways to cook Dungeness crab, but it's not the only cooking method. After crabbing, this was the first time I was going to cook live Dungeness crab. 

How do you cook Dungeness crab?

  • Boiled Dungeness crab
  • Steamed Dungeness crab
  • Roasted Dungeness crab
  • Grilled Dungeness crab
  • Dungeness crab cakes
  • Dungeness crab legs with dipping sauces  

Buying Dungeness Crab:

We loved the opportunity to fish for Dungeness crab while on a family vacation, but most often, we buy our crab online. It's almost impossible to find Dungeness crab for sale near us, but we can order high-quality Dungeness crab online. 

When you order crab online, you have a few different options: 

All of these will arrive frozen over dry ice to ensure the best flavor and texture. Pop the frozen crab right into your freezer or defrost in the refrigerator to use for dinner that same day. 

The Dungeness crab price per pound will vary depending on what type you order. Frozen Whole Dungeness crab will average around $15.00 per pound. During crab season on the west coast, you might be able to find live Dungeness crab for as low as $8.99 per pound. 

Roasted Dungeness Crab Recipe

After we went crabbing with our kids while on vacation in Washington state, we brought our catch to our Air Bnb, and I taught our friends how to make roasted garlic Dungeness crab. I decided on this recipe since our family friends are from the west coast. They eat Dungeness crab year-round. From crab cakes to steams crab legs, they've had it all. I thought this recipe was unique enough that it might be a new and exciting way for us all to enjoy Dungeness crab. 

Garlic and Chile Roasted Dungeness Crab

This recipe is easy to prepare with a few simple ingredients. Fresh or dried chilis and garlic compliment the sweetness of the crab meat to create a recipe that any seafood eater will love. You can throttle the spiciness for your tastes by adding more or less dried or fresh chilis. 

The combination of lemon, garlic, and chili creates a delicious marinade for the crab during roasting. When done cooking, the lemon and garlic marinade can be reserved as a dipping sauce for the meal. 

Ingredients for Garlic and Chili Roasted Dungeness Crab: 

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more for cooking the crabs
  • 1 Lemon sliced
  • 1 head of garlic, minced. Reserve the garlic peels for later use. 
  • 1 Medium onion, minced. 
  • 4 whole Dungeness crabs. 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds each. 
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 1 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper. *You can substitute 3-6 fresh red chilis. Just remove the seeds and mince the fresh chilis. 
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro. 

Steps to Garlic and Chili Roasted Dungeness Crabs: 

  • Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Fill a large stockpot 2/3 full of water. 
  • Add half of the lemon slices and the garlic and onion peels to the water. *The peels infuse a lovely garlic and onion flavor into the crab meat while the crabs are boiling. *
  • Bring the water to a rolling boil. 
  • Place the Dungeness crab into the boiling water. You may need to cook the crab in batches depending on the size of your stockpot. 
  • Boil the Dungeness crabs for 7 minutes. 
  • Remove the crabs from the stockpot and set aside. 
  • When the crabs are cool enough to handle, remove the top shell by firmly gripping the shell and pulling it off quickly. 
  • Remove the triangular-shaped apron on the underside of the crab. 
  • Remove the gills. *These are spongy and don't taste great. * 
  • Scrape out any fat and innards from the crab using your knife. 
  • Rinse the crab under cold water. 
  • Holding the crab firmly in one hand, cut the crab in half using a sharp knife. 
  • Mix 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, garlic, onions, butter, olive oil, crushed red pepper, and black pepper in a large roasting pan. 
  • Place the pan in the preheated oven.
  • Bake the mixture in the oven for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Be sure not to let the garlic burn. 
  • Remove the pan from the oven and add the crab. 
  • Mix to coat the grab in the garlic-butter sauce. 
  • Return the pan to the oven and bake the crabs until cooked through. About 13-15 minutes. Be sure to stir halfway through. *The garlic mixture will bake onto the crab shells* 
  • Remove from the oven and garnish with fresh chopped parsley or cilantro. 
  • Serve immediately. 

With this recipe, cooking Dungeness crab is easy. This recipe serves four people with one crab each. Since we had ten Dungeness crabs, we simply doubled the recipe. We served the roasted grab with garlic and oil angel hair pasta. The garlic butter from the pasta complemented the Dungeness crab beautifully. This recipe would also pair nicely with a crusty sourdough bread boule to dip in the garlic butter sauce. 

When ordering Dungeness crab online, you can feel confident that your crabs will arrive at your door still frozen. They are shipped over dry-ice to ensure they remain frozen during shipping. Dungeness crab is cooked before freezing to provide the highest quality flavor and texture. 

Live Dungeness crab is usually only available during commercial Dungeness crab season, which begins at the end of November or early December. Frozen Dungeness crab will keep in your freezer for several months. 

How do you like to enjoy crab?