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At the Bayside Cafe in Morro Bay, California, this classic West Coast salad is made with Dungeness crab caught in the coastal waters. Lump crabmeat is a good substitute.

EatingWell Magazine, June 2021; updated October 2022


Credit: Eric Wolfinger

Recipe Summary

45 mins
45 mins

What Is Crab Louie Salad?

Crab Louie salad originated on the West Coast in the early 1900s. Also called "the king of salads," crab Louie was a popular item on restaurant and hotel menus in the San Fransisco Bay area and beyond during that time. Traditionally crab Louie salad features crabmeat, hard-boiled egg, tomato, asparagus and crisp lettuce (usually iceberg) with a creamy, Thousand-Island-like dressing.

What Kind of Crabmeat Should I Use for Crab Louie Salad?

Dungeness crab, which is fresh and readily available on the West Coast from November through June is the most traditional, but more accessible types of crabmeat can stand in as good substitutes. Fresh crabmeat is sold cooked and has a short shelf life, usually three to five days. Because of this, fresh crabmeat can be hard to come by (and expensive!) for landlocked folks. Luckily, pasteurized crabmeat is a good alternative to fresh. It's also sold cooked and ready to go, and can last on the shelf much longer—around 6 to 12 months if it's kept refrigerated. Crabmeat is graded based on where the meat is taken from the crab. Colossal lump and jumbo lump are the most expensive, with the meat coming in larger, whole pieces, followed by lump, backfin, special and claw. For a composed salad like crab Louie, lump crabmeat or any grade above would be a good choice as the pieces tend to be larger and less flaky. Imitation crabmeat, which as the name suggests isn't crabmeat, but instead mild white fish processed to look like crab, can also work as a substitute for real crabmeat.

Can I Make Crab Louie Salad Ahead?

You can boil the eggs and steam the asparagus up to one day ahead. The dressing and its leftovers can be refrigerated for up to four days.

Additional reporting by Hilary Meyer 




Instructions Checklist
  • To prepare dressing: Whisk ketchup, mayonnaise, yellow onion, garlic, relish, dill, horseradish and lemon juice in a medium bowl.

  • To prepare salad: Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a large pot fitted with a steamer basket. Place a bowl of ice water near the stove. Add asparagus to the pot, cover and steam until tender-crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to the ice bath. Drain and pat dry.

  • Place lettuce on a serving platter. Arrange the asparagus, tomatoes, eggs, celery, avocado, cucumber, scallions, olives and red onion on top. Top with crabmeat and dollop with half the dressing (reserve the remaining dressing for another use). Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

Nutrition Facts

2 3/4 cups salad & 2 Tbsp. dressing
325 calories; fat 23g; cholesterol 140mg; sodium 603mg; carbohydrates 19g; dietary fiber 7g; protein 15g; sugars 8g; niacin equivalents 4mg; saturated fat 4g; vitamin a iu 7919IU; potassium 953mg.