Indian Crab Curry Recipe

Steps by steps making South Indian–Style Crab Masala

South Indian-Style Crab Masala is a delectable seafood dish that showcases the rich culinary traditions of South India, a region with a vast coastline providing an abundance of fresh seafood. This aromatic and spicy masala dish features crabs cooked in a blend of roasted aromatic spices, fresh herbs, and a tomato-based sauce that exudes the warmth of traditional South Indian spices.

‘Masala’ refers to a mixture of spices, and in this context, it includes a variety of ingredients like cumin, coriander, fennel seeds, and the quintessential curry leaves, which are staples in South Indian cooking. The use of fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, and asafoetida also contributes to the unique flavor profile characteristic of regional cuisine.

The crabs are usually cleaned and cracked, allowing the bold masala flavors to seep into the succulent crab meat during cooking. Aromatic elements such as ginger, garlic, onions, and green chilies form the base of the dish, creating a rich and tantalizing gravy that is often finished off with a splash of coconut milk or grated coconut, adding a layer of creaminess typical of South Indian curries.

South Indian–Style Crab Masala Recipe

Indian Crab Curry Recipe

South Indian–Style Crab Masala

Crab masala is a popular takeout order because cleaning crab can be time consuming. This homemade version is so easy to make that it is worth all the time it takes to clean the crabs. Serve it with rice and with tiffin recipes like Idli, Dosai, Appam, and idiyappam.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4 people
Calories 1588 kcal


  • 1 large skillet


  • 4 small Dungeness crabs halved lengthwise
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 cup shredded fresh coconut or frozen, thawed to room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or corn oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 curry leaf sprig
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 green chile minced
  • 2 tomatoes chopped
  • 2 teaspoons red chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  • Clean the crabs well (see Cooking tip) and set aside.
  • In a large skillet over medium heat, combine the coriander seeds, peppercorns, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, and coconut. Dry-roast for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until fragrant. Transfer the spices and coconut to a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder and grind into a fine powder. Set aside.
  • Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add the oil. When the oil is heated, add the mustard seeds. Cook until the seeds begin to sputter, about 1 minute.
  • Add the onion and curry leaves and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until the onion is transluscent.
  • Add the garlic, ginger, and green chile and cook for 30 seconds.
  • Add the tomatoes and cook until they begin to soften. Transfer the mixer to a blender and purée until smooth and combined. Return the mixture to the skillet and place it over medium-low heat.
  • Stir in the coconut-spice mixture and chile powder. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until the oil begins to separate and float on top.
  • Place the crabs on top of the masala and season with salt. Cover the skillet and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and spoon some of the sauce over the crabs. Re-cover the skillet and cook for about 10 minutes more, periodically spooning some sauce over the crabs. Serve hot.


Be sure to clean the crabs well by washing each several times in cool water.
Remove the gills and all the intestinal parts once you cut the crabs in half. Anything that is not pure white is not meat, and can be removed.
Keyword coriander seeds, Dungeness crabs

Cooking tips about South Indian–Style Crab Masala

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  • Quality of Crabs: Always select fresh crabs for the best taste and texture. Fresh crabs will yield a sweet flavor that marries well with the spices used in the masala.
  • Preparation of Crabs: Depending on your preference, you can use whole crabs, crab legs, or just the crabmeat. Make sure to clean the crabs thoroughly, removing the gills and internal organs if using whole crabs.
  • Roasting Spices: Dry roast the whole spices like cumin, coriander, fennel seeds, and curry leaves before grinding them. This roasting enhances their flavors and aroma, which are integral to the masala.
  • Grinding the Masala: For an authentic flavor, freshly grind the spices instead of using store-bought powders. A stone grinder is traditionally used, but a modern mixer-grinder will work as well.
  • Sautéing Onions and Tomatoes: Cook the onions until they’re golden brown, as this adds a sweetness to the dish, and cook the tomatoes until they break down, forming a rich, thick sauce for the base of the masala.
  • Simmering the Gravy: Let the gravy simmer on a low flame after adding the roasted spice mix. This allows the oil to separate, indicating that the masala is cooked properly.
  • Adding Crabs: Add the cleaned crabs to the simmering gravy, ensuring that they are covered in the masala. The crabs should cook in the gravy so they can absorb its flavors. Be mindful not to overcook, as crab meat becomes tough when overdone.
  • Coconut Milk: If your recipe calls for coconut milk, add it towards the end of cooking. Allow it to heat through but do not let it boil vigorously to prevent curdling.
  • Adjusting Consistency: The consistency of the gravy can be adjusted with water. Some prefer a thicker masala that clings to the crabs, while others might like a bit more sauce to accompany rice or bread.
  • Taste and Seasoning: Taste the gravy and adjust the salt and acidity as needed. Sometimes a dash of tamarind juice or a bit of lemon juice at the end can balance the flavors beautifully.

Serving suggestions about South Indian–Style Crab Masala

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  • Rice: Basmati rice or any fragrant long-grain rice steamed to fluffy perfection would be an excellent base for the spicy and aromatic crab masala.
  • Parotta: Try this flaky, layered flatbread which is a common street food in South India and pairs wonderfully with the rich gravy.
  • Dosa: A crispy dosa can act as a scoop or be torn into bite-sized pieces for soaking up the delicious masala sauce.
  • Idli: These soft and spongy rice cakes may seem plain on their own but are perfect for absorbing the flavors of Crab Masala.
  • Mango Pickle: A small serving of spicy mango pickle could be an ideal condiment for its tang and ability to enhance the flavors of the crab.
  • Cucumber Raita: The cool and creamy cucumber raita works excellently to balance the heat of the spices in the Crab Masala.
  • Lemon Wedges: Serving lemon wedges allows guests to add a touch of acidity to their portion, which can brighten the overall flavor profile.
  • Garnishes: Sprinkle fresh coriander leaves or finely sliced green chilies (for extra heat) as garnish just before serving.
  • Beverages: Pair it with a chilled drink like buttermilk or a simple lassi to cool down the spiciness of the curry.

Top 5 FAQs about South Indian–Style Crab Masala

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  • What is South Indian–Style Crab Masala? South Indian-Style Crab Masala is a spicy and aromatic seafood dish from South India featuring crabs cooked in a blend of roasted spices, fresh herbs, and a tomato-based sauce. It’s characterized by traditional South Indian flavors including curry leaves, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, and asafoetida.
  • What kind of crabs should I use for this dish? For the best flavor and texture, it is recommended to use fresh crabs. According to the context, the quality of the crabs is pivotal and fresher crabs will yield a sweeter flavor that blends well with the masala spices.
  • Can I use coconut milk in Crab Masala, and if so, how should it be incorporated? Yes, you can add coconut milk towards the end of cooking for a hint of creaminess. Just be sure to avoid boiling vigorously after adding coconut milk to prevent it from curdling.
  • What are some suitable accompaniments for South Indian–Style Crab Masala? This dish is traditionally served with rice, which complements the rich gravy, or with regional bread such as dosa or appam. Other suggestions include flavored rice like lemon rice, cool cucumber raita to balance the heat, and tangy mango pickle to enhance the flavors.
  • How can I adjust the consistency of the gravy when making Crab Masala? The consistency of the gravy can be adjusted with water to your liking. Some prefer a thicker masala that adheres to the crab while others might enjoy a saucier version to accompany rice or bread. Always taste and adjust the seasoning as needed, possibly adding a dash of tamarind or lemon juice to balance the flavors.

In conclusion, South Indian–Style Crab Masala is a vibrant and spicy dish that epitomizes the rich tapestry of flavors found in South Indian cuisine. This dish is not just a feast for the palate but also an expression of the cultural and geographic diversity of the region, where the bounty of the sea meets the zest of the land through an array of local spices and cooking techniques.


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