Ready in only 20 minutes, this creamy Japanese kani salad is loaded with shredded crab, veggies, and a crispy panko topping. It’s the easiest, chilled Asian-style salad you’ve had in a while.
Easy Japanese Crab Kani Salad
Tossed in a creamy Asian-style dressing, this easy Japanese kani salad takes weekday side dishes to a whole other level. Topped with crispy garlic panko, it’ll be on your table within an impressive 20 minutes.
Packed with shredded crab, corn, carrots, and cucumbers, this crab salad has just the right amount of sweetness and crunch. Don’t forget the quick sauce full of your favorite Asian ingredients like soy sauce, sesame oil, and Japanese chili powder for tang, heat, and richness.
Even if you choose to spice it up with edamame or tempura shrimp, it’s still an incredibly effortless recipe that’ll have everyone pushing their main dishes aside for another helping of this refreshing crab salad.
What Is Kani Salad?
Kani salad is a chilled Japanese salad made of shredded crab sticks and thinly sliced veggies like cucumber and carrots. It’s tossed in mayonnaise seasoned with several sauces like soy sauce and mirin. Spicier versions can contain Sriracha, chili oil, or Japanese chili powder.
It’s a common side dish for weekday meals because it’s quick, easy, and doesn’t need to be reheated for serving.
Time to use up all the Asian sauces in your pantry! Check the recipe card at the bottom for full ingredient amounts for this Japanese kani salad.
- Persian cucumber
- Sweet corn – You can use canned, fresh, or frozen. Make sure they’re thawed if you’re using frozen.
- Crab sticks
- Japanese Mayonnaise
- Ponzu – You can leave it out if you want, but it adds nice citrusy notes.
- Mirin – Rice wine vinegar or cooking sake is a good substitute.
- Soy sauce – Regular or low-sodium will work.
- Sesame oil – Peanut oil is okay too.
- Cooking sake
- Black sesame seeds
- White sesame seeds
- Shichimi togarashi – Korean gochugaru chili powder is a great alternative, but add it to taste because it’s spicier.
- Plain panko – You can also use regular breadcrumbs.
- Garlic powder
- Green onions – Chopped scallions will also work.
- Toasted sesame seeds – You can toast your own by placing 1 to 3 tablespoons of black or white sesame seeds in a pan over low heat. Shake the pan continuously and let them toast for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Remove them from the pan immediately and set them aside.
Easy Variation Ideas
This Japanese kani salad is easily spiced up with Sriracha, edamame, lemon juice, or tempura shrimp.
- Make it spicier. Drizzle it with Sriracha for an extra spicy kani salad.
- Add edamame. Prepare the edamame according to package instructions and toss them into the salad.
- Make it tangy. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to the salad and mix well.
- Add tempura shrimp. Top the salad with crispy tempura shrimp for crunch and protein.
How to Make Japanese Kani Salad
Making Japanese kani salad is easier than it seems, especially if you prep the veggies a day in advance.
- Prepare the veggies. Peel the carrot and slice it into thin matchsticks using a sharp knife. Place it in a medium-sized bowl. Slice the cucumber into thin matchsticks and add them in. Add the sweet corn.
- Shred the crab. Use your hands or use two forks to shred the crab thinly. Shredding it thinly makes a more delicate salad, but you can shred it as thin or thick as you like. Mix it with the veggies until well combined.
- Make the dressing. Add the Japanese mayo, ponzu, mirin, soy sauce, sesame oil, sake, black and white sesame seeds, and shichimi togarashi in a bowl. Mix well to combine.
- Toss it. Pour the dressing over the veggie-crab mixture and toss it until completely combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Make the crispy panko. Add the panko and garlic powder to a pan over medium-low heat. Spread it out evenly and stir continuously so that it doesn’t burn. Let it cook for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a plate and set it aside to cool for 5 minutes.
- Serve. Add kani salad to taste into serving bowls and top with the toasted sesame seeds, green onions, and crispy panko. Don’t add the crispy panko before serving or it will soften.
Tips for Success
These tips will save you lots of time when you’re in a hurry. Don’t skip them!
- Use full-fat mayo. If you can’t find Japanese mayo, substitute it for full-fat mayo.
- Prep ahead. Make the salad a day in advance for the flavors to come together.
- Make it chunky. Chop the crab sticks into 1/2″ pieces so that you don’t have to worry about shredding them.
- Skip the panko. Although it gives the salad a nice crunch, you can skip the panko if you’re in a hurry.
What To Serve With Crab Salad
Kani Salad is best with Asian-style dishes like my Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Bang Bang Shrimp, and Pepper Steak Stir Fry. It’s also great with Instant Pot Jasmine Rice and pork or chicken katsu for a more Japanese vibe.
How Long Will This Last In The Fridge?
- This salad needs to be refrigerated in an airtight container. It will last up to 2 days but is best eaten the day it is made. Don’t store it any longer than this because it increases the risk of food poisoning. Make sure not to leave it at room temperature for more than 30 minutes.
More Side Salads
Japanese Kani Salad
- 1 small carrot
- 1 Persian cucumber
- ¼ cup sweet corn kernels
- 4 large crab sticks, or imitation crab meat
- 2 tablespoons Japanese mayonnaise
- 3 ½ teaspoons ponzu
- ½ teaspoon mirin
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon cooking sake
- ½ tablespoon black sesame seeds
- ½ tablespoon white sesame seeds
- 1 ¼ teaspoons shichimi togarashi seasoning
- ½ cup plain panko crumbs
- ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
- green onions, for garnish
- toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
- Peel the carrot and then slice it into thin matchsticks using a sharp knife. Place it in a medium-sized bowl.
- Slice the cucumber in half longwise, cut it into thin matchsticks, and place them in the bowl. Add in the sweet corn.
- Use your hands or two forks to thinly shred the crab. Add it to the bowl with the carrots and cucumbers.
- Use your hands or salad tongs to mix the veggies and crab in the bowl. Set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, ponzu, mirin, soy sauce, sesame oil, sake, and sesame seeds. Add to the salad and toss well until combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Meanwhile, add the panko crumbs and garlic powder to a pan set over medium-low heat. Spread it out in one layer and stir continuously so that it doesn't burn. Let it cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a plate and set it aside to cool for 5 minutes.
- Remove the salad from the refrigerator. Serve kani salad in serving bowls and top with the toasted sesame seeds, green onions, and crispy panko.
- Crab Sticks: Crab sticks, krab sticks, imitation crab (meat), or seafood sticks are a type of seafood and can be found in the refrigerated section at any well-stocked grocery store.
- Japanese Mayonnaise: This mayonnaise incorporates yolks, resulting in a custardy texture and a richer flavor.
- Shichimi Togarashi Seasoning: This is a Japanese spice blend with chili flakes, seaweed, and sesame seeds, amongst other things, and adds an umami flavor to dishes. Korean gochugaru chili powder is a good alternative, but add it to taste because it’s spicier.
- For a complete meal, top the salad with tempura shrimp and add a side of fried rice.
Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.