This kani salad recipe is creamy, slightly spicy, and comes together in less than five minutes! It’s so easy to prep and tastes like something you’d find at a Japanese restaurant.
The Best Kani Salad
We regularly go to Japanese restaurants and judge them all based on their kani salad!
We love this dish so much, we’ve made a homemade version of it.
This kani salad recipe tastes exactly like the kind I order when I’m out and is so easy to make at home.
It literally takes five minutes to make and is easy to customize, depending on what I have in the fridge.
This is the dish I can throw together and eat on its own, or serve it with some yakitori for an easy weeknight dinner.
What is kani?
Kani salad is a Japanese crab salad that is a staple in any Japanese steakhouse or sushi restaurant. It’s made up of crab meat and julienne vegetables, all doused in a sweet, spicy, and creamy dressing.
It reminds me of the filling in a California roll, minus the rice.
What is kani salad made of?
So, to make this recipe, you only need 5 main ingredients. They can easily be found at mainstream grocery stores in the Asian section or in Japanese grocery stores. Here are the ingredients needed:
For the salad.
- Crab meat– Either imitation crab meat (also known as surimi) or actual crab meat.
- Kelp noodles OR rice noodles– Bulks up the salad and meshes well with the crab meat.
- Cucumber and carrot- Must-have vegetables in any good spicy kani salad. These should be julienne and/or sliced into very thin strips.
For the kani salad dressing.
- Mayonnaise– For a more authentic flavor, you can use Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise, which is a little sweeter than traditional mayonnaise.
- Sriracha– Adds a spicy kick without being overpowering. If you really cannot tolerate any heat, you can use sweet chili sauce.
- Sugar or alternative– To balance out the spice and the tang. White sugar, brown sugar, or sugar free alternatives (like keto powdered sugar) can all be used.
- Green onions– Thinly sliced.
- Sesame seeds– A mix of black and white seeds.
- Panko bread crumbs– Optional, but some recipes call for it.
How to make kani salad?
This salad literally comes together in five minutes and follows a simple 3-step process. While unnecessary, I love the addition of garnishing it with some crunch!
Step 1- Make the salad
Start by making the salad. In a mixing bowl, mix the crabmeat, noodles, and vegetables. Next, whisk together the dressing ingredients in a separate bowl.
Step 2- Add the dressing
Now, stir through the dressing into the salad, followed by half the green onion and sesame seeds.
Step 3- Garnish and serve
Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with more green onions, sesame seeds, and panko bread crumbs.
Spicy Kani Salad
A popular twist to this salad is adding plenty of heat and giving it a spicy kick.
You can simply stir through some hot sauce or chilli sauce to the dressing or do it the more authentic way by adding togarashi.
Togarahi is a Japanese chili powder that adds some smoked paprika and pepper in it that gives it a fabulous umami flavor.
Tips to make the best recipe
- Try to julienne or chop your vegetables into equal sized strips. This helps keep the salad uniform and mixes easily.
- If you use the imitation crab meat, use your hands to pull apart and shred them.
- Do not mix the panko bread crumbs into the salad, or else you risk them becoming soggy.
Dietary and flavor variations
The beauty of this salad is just how easy it is to customize to various other diets or using different ingredients. Here are some of our favorite ways to change it up:
- Make it keto friendly. Use real crab meat (imitation crab/surimi has some carbs) and season the salad with keto bread crumbs.
- Make it vegan friendly. Use sliced tofu instead of crab meat and use vegan mayonnaise instead of the traditional kind.
- Switch up the vegetables. Add julienne zucchini,
- Give it a sweet kick. A fun way to jazz up the salad is to add some grated apples.
Wondering what is the best way to store kani salad? Here are best practices for salad storage:
- To store: Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. Try to keep the dressing separate from the salad, so that it remains crunchy and fresh.
- To freeze: As this dish is primarily salad based, we do not recommend freezing it.
- To serve: I enjoy serving this salad with simple entrees, like crack chicken, salmon, or a baked chicken thigh.
More Japanese recipes to try
Frequently Asked Questions
There is crab or imitation crabmeat in this salad. If you have an allergy or are vegetarian/vegan, you can substitute this for firm tofu.
The best way to shred kani is using two forks to break them apart. As imitation crab is fragile, it will be easy to do.
Imitation crab meat is not as healthy as actual crab meat, but the nutritional stats aren’t bad. They contain protein and have no saturated fats.
Kani Salad | Easy Authentic Recipe
For the salad
- 2.5 oz crab meat or imitation crab meat
- 1 cup kelp noodles chopped * See notes
- 1/2 large carrot julienned
- 1 large cucumber julienned
For the kani salad dressing
- 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
- 1 stalk green onion thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs or keto bread crumbs
- In a bowl, add the crab meat, kelp noodles, julienned cucumber and carrot.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sriracha, and sweetener.
- Combine the dressing over the salad and mix until well combined. Add in the green onion and sesame seeds.
- Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with more sesame seeds and panko bread crumbs.