4 ways to get your soft-shell crab fix in North Carolina


Hurry! Soft-shell crab season doesn't last long if you want them fresh. You have from early April to June to get the ultimate blue crab treat in North Carolina.

Soft-shell crabs are blue crabs that have shed their hard, outer shells so that the crab can grow bigger. This only happens in spring, and the season is always a celebration. Restaurants and seafood stands feature the favorite soft-shell crab sandwich, which is a whole crab tucked between bread. The classic is a pan-fried crab with mayonnasie on white bread, but every cook has a recipe for which bread, the most tasty condiments and whether the crab should be fried or grilled.

If you're cooking fresh soft-shell crabs yourself, look for medium crabs, which are 3½ to 4 inches wide between the pointy top-shell tips. Primes are more than 5½ inches wide. Frozen soft-shell crabs are tasty too. No matter which you choose, ask your market or favorite restaurant from soft-shell crabs from North Carolina.

1. Do Soft Shell Crab Week Outer Banks

Yes, it's true, that 29 Outer Banks restaurants feature soft-shell crab specials for an entire week in mid-May, usually starting around the second Monday of the month. Think soft-shell lettuce wraps, soft-shell tacos, tempura-fried over coconut rice, classic fried soft-shells with jalapeno remoulade, soft-shell and fried green tomato BLTs, soft-shell eggs benedict and a "country crab sandwich" with shaved country ham and baby greens.

Soft Shell Taco Bonzer Shack Obx

Bonzer Shack's soft-crab taco, Kill Devil Hills.

2. James Beard chef dishes

James Beard Awards 2024 finalist Jamie Davis at The Hackney in Washington, N.C. is always up to something interesting during soft-shell season. He's been know to toss them in N.C. rice flour, pop them in the fryer and then serve them over kale salad with pecans and coconut lime vinaigrette.

Soft Shell Jamie Davis Hackney 2023 

Soft-shell crab over kale salad at The Hackney.

3. Fry your own

Soft-shell crabs are so easy to pan-fry. This recipe has crabs on your plate in 15 minutes or less.

Deep Fried Soft Crabs 2048x1365 

Soft-shell crabs are easy to pan-fry at home.

4. Try new recipes, like stuffed soft-shell crabs

Commercial fishing families tested many of the recipes at Mariner's Menu. This cheat sheet with recipes has everything you need to know about cooking soft-shell crabs.

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