Soft-Shell Crabs with Lemon Aioli and Sweet Onion

"Soft-shell crabs were one of the first things I tasted as a young cook that completely flipped me out," says Paul Kahan. "I couldn't get enough of them." He confesses to going through a phase of stealing one claw from every order of three crabs that he cooked.

Slideshow: More Seafood Recipes

  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 8
  • Time(Other): plus 1 hr marinating

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  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 1/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small Vidalia or other sweet onion, cut into thin rings
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups rice flour (see Note)
  • 8 soft-shell crabs

How to make this recipe

  1. In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar with the shallot and 1/2 cup of the olive oil. Add the onion rings, season with salt and pepper and refrigerate for 1 hour.

  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the lemon zest and juice. Gradually whisk in 1/4 cup of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate the aioli until chilled.

  3. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil until shimmering. Spread the rice flour in a shallow bowl. Lightly dust the soft-shell crabs with rice flour and fry over high heat, turning once, until browned and crisp, 6 to 7 minutes. Drain the fried crabs on paper towels and season with salt and pepper.

  4. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the marinated onion rings to a serving platter. Top with the fried soft-shell crabs and serve with the lemon aioli.

Make Ahead

The lemon aioli can be refrigerated overnight.


Rice flour is available at most supermarkets and at specialty and health food stores.

Suggested Pairing

Serve these sautéed soft shells with glasses of a medium-bodied English pale ale like Boddingtons Pub Ale, which has lightly hoppy aromas and a creamy head.

Contributed By Published June 2006

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