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Chilli crab butter

Updated: Tue, 5 July, 2022

Crab butter with chilli and Thai basil flavour is a cross between a pâté and a spread, and wonderful on toasted sourdough.

chilli crab butter

Don’t spread it on a brioche

I call it butter. You may call it pâté, but either way don’t serve it with a thin, see-through slice of burnt brioche.

I don’t know what the deal is with brioche. I have nothing against it: buttered and jammed, served to me for breakfast alongside croissants and pain au chocolat.

But these days it is being dished out with foie gras, all kinds of pâté, potted salmon, pork rillettes, smoked mackerel and above all with a burger inside.

Look, I get it: it is apparently more exciting than a water biscuit underneath a slab of pâté, or a sad floppy sesame bun with burger. But the problem is the bandwagon syndrome: once a trend like that starts, it has no boundaries.

I have nothing against a marriage of sweet and savoury either – see my figs with blue cheese, pork with blueberries, salty peach crumble.  I’m a veritable matchmaker in that union.

But the brioche becoming a go-to bread roll is a bit too much. And it doesn’t even toast well.

crab spread with chillies and thai basil

So how to serve crab butter?

This crab butter suits fresh or toasted, thickly sliced sourdough best. Or else sliced baguette, or thinly cut rye bread. Not brioche.

But you could also spoon it onto a baked potato or stir it into pasta, thus making a full main course out of it. And just imagine how lovely the melting butter will dress the dish.

Whole crab vs. dressed crab

The alpha crabber approach, of course, is to procure the whole (boiled, that’s allowed) beast. And it will serve you well – you’ll get much more meat for the money. I don’t know for sure if dressed crabs are picked by hand but if so, the pickers must be very well fed indeed.

However, the whole giant monster is daunting, to be sure. I do tackle it with alacrity, even though the one I was recently served in Salcombe’s Crab Shed was fit to compete with his Pacific brothers in size.

salcombe crab shed crab

But at home you need appropriate tools and afterwards to clean the awful mess.

In the absence of a professional crab tool set, the most useful will be a wooden mallet, classic nut crackers and a crochet hook.

And you’d better watch a demonstration video or two beforehand if it’s the first time you’ve ever attempted to tackle a whole Karkinus!

crab butter

How to make crab butter

So whichever shape and form your crustacean starts off at, you’ll hopefully end up with a bowlful of cleanly picked crab meat.

The flavours here are so good and simple it really doesn’t matter whether you use just white crab meat or mix the brown in. I marginally prefer the white but I abhor waste so I’ll frugally scoop the brown meat out of the shell and add it in.

And to be fair, brown meat is where the most concentrated flavour is.

Once you’ve finely chopped the herbs and aromatics, you could just beat them with the (very, very soft) butter into crab meat, for a rustic, coarse spread.

But I think it’s worth digging up your stick blender to give everything a good whiz and obtain a smoother texture.

Chillies, lemon juice and Thai basil work extremely well with it, but make sure you use Thai basil not the Italian specimen; the flavour is distinctly different. If you can’t get hold of it, use coriander rather than substitute sweet basil.

Salt, pepper and lemon juice have to be added to taste, thus allowing you to sample the crab butter and adjust the seasoning. And sample and adjust. And sample…

smooth crab pate

More crab recipes

Crab and avocado salad, with spring onions and radishes. This is a good starter and a tasty sandwich filling.

Another salad, crab two ways: white crab meat and sweetcorn are layered with creamy brown crab meat salad base. Use fresh dressed crab meat and fresh corn on the cob for the best results.

More dip and spread recipes

Muhammara is a roasted red pepper and walnut dip, flavoured with pomegranate molasses and Aleppo pepper flakes. Absolutely divine.

Tomato butter, a creamy spread with incredible flavour, is super easy to make. You can use it as a condiment, a dip or just slather it on everything.

Whipped feta and hazelnut dip is heavenly spooned on cherry tomato halves. Snacking does not get much healthier than this!

how to make chilli crab butter

Chilli crab butter

Servings: 4-6Time: 30 minutes


  • 1 large whole or dressed crab
  • 2 small Thai chilies
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • ½ bunch Thai basil, leaves stripped
  • salt and black pepper
  • 50g (3 tbsp.) unsalted butter, softened
  • lemon juice, to taste


1. If you’re dressing the crab yourself, first break off legs and claws, open the main shell and scoop out the brown meat with a spoon. If you want to use just the white meat, go ahead with the claws straight away.

2. Crack the claws with crab crackers or a wooden mallet and scrape out all the white meat; scoop out the meat from arm segments and collect in a large bowl; take care to remove all the shell fragments.

3. De-seed and finely chop the chilies. Peel and chop the garlic clove. Shred the Thai basil leaves finely.

4. Add it all to the bowl with the crab meat with a generous seasoning of salt and pepper and the butter. Give it a squeeze of lemon.

5. Whiz the mixture with a stick blender or in the food processor until smooth. Taste and adjust salt, pepper and lemon juice amounts.

6. Scrape it into a container and chill. Serve on toast or bread, on baked potato or stirred through pasta.

Originally published: Mon, 12 November, 2018

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Your comments

Anna @ CuisineFiend
Hi Kerensa - I'm sure you can.
4 years ago
Can you freeze this?
4 years ago

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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