Kani Salad

5 from 3 votes

This kani salad recipe is creamy, slightly spicy, and comes together in less than five minutes! Better than any Japanese restaurant, it’s like a California roll, minus the carbs!

kani salad

I know I shouldn’t play favorites, but my all time favorite food would have to be sushi.

Growing up, whenever it was my turn to pick what dinner we’d be having, I’d always pick a Japanese restaurant. I’m pretty sure I have a second stomach for sushi, and I am yet to meet a roll that I have not liked.

Since starting a keto diet, I’ve had to avoid eating sushi at restaurants. As rice is primarily carbs, one roll can kick me out of ketosis. When I’m at home, I can make my own keto sushi but when I’m out, my options are more limited. Because my favorite sushi roll is the California hand roll, I’ve started ordering their kani salad instead. 

What is a kani salad?

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 and carbs!

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 grilled chicken for an easy weeknight dinner. 

What is kani salad made of?

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. 

To garnish

  • 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?

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. 

Now, stir through the dressing into the salad, followed by half the green onion and sesame seeds. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with more green onions, sesame seeds, and panko bread crumbs. 

how to make a kani salad

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

  • Add some heat. For a spicy kani salad, double the sriracha hot sauce and add some red pepper flakes or togarashi (Japanese chili powder). 
  • 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. 

Storing and serving instructions

  • 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 keto salad recipes to try

spicy kani salad

Frequently Asked Questions

Is kani salad bad for you?

Kani salad is one of the healthier salads you can choose, as the dressing is minimal, and it can be made with no added sugar. If you make this recipe, you skip the sugar completely.

Is there crab in kani?

There is crab or imitation crab meat in a kani salad. If you have an allergy or are vegetarian/vegan, you can substitute this for firm tofu.

Is imitation crab good for you?

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 recipe

Kani Salad (Low carb!)

This kani salad recipe is creamy, slightly spicy, and comes together in less than five minutes! Better than any Japanese restaurant, it's like a California roll, minus the carbs!
5 from 3 votes
Print Rate
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American, Japanese
Prep Time: 1 minute
Cook Time: 2 minutes
Total Time: 3 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 215kcal
Author: Arman


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

  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar or sugar substitute

To garnish

  • 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. 


* You can also use rice noodles.
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. 


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 215kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 5g | Sodium: 379mg | Potassium: 193mg | Fiber: 3g | Vitamin A: 1604IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 132mg | Iron: 1mg | NET CARBS: 5g
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    2 thoughts on “Kani Salad

    1. This looks great….never cooked with kelp noodles before. Do you have to cook them first before you put them in the salad? Thank you for all your great recipes! My family is THRILLED when they hear it’s a Big Man’s World recipe we are trying (which is often!!).

    2. Hi JoAnna, I don’t think you cook the kelp noodles. You do have to rinse them out follow the package instructions. I looked up other recipes for this salad and none mentioned cooking them. The other thing I am going to try is zucchini noodles instead of the kelp to see how that goes. 🙂

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