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Crab Imperial with Crostini - A delicious and special dish that is perfect for a family holiday gathering!

Holiday gatherings with family and friends call for a special menu and our recipe for Crab Imperial with Crostini is a delicious dish that is sure to impress your guests!

Crab Imperial is a classic American recipe first served at a Baltimore-area restaurant called Thompson’s Sea Girt House in the late 19th century, and the dish was long considered a regional delicacy served at quality dining establishments along the east coast of the United States.  This delicious dish is less commonly found on restaurant menus today – but it’s often served as a special Christmas Eve dinner.

Crab Imperial with Crostini - A delicious and special dish that is perfect for a family holiday gathering!

Blue crab meat is combined in a rich and creamy sauce flavored with sherry, lemon juice, red bell pepper, onions and other seasonings, then baked with a light topping of buttery, seasoned bread crumbs.  While the traditional Crab Imperial recipe includes mayonnaise in the sauce, this version (adapted from this recipe originally published in Saveur) uses cream for a less-tangy sauce that allows the flavors of the fresh blue crab to really shine!

Many restaurants serve Crab Imperial baked in large scallop or crab shells and it’s also sometimes used as stuffing in lobster or shrimp for an even more decadently delicious presentation!   We prepared our Crab Imperial in individual-sized baking dishes and served with toasted crostini.  Enjoy!

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Crab Imperial with Crostini - A Family Feast

Crab Imperial with Crostini

  • Author: A Family Feast
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings
  • Category: appetizer
  • Method: baking
  • Cuisine: American


  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 pound drained crab meat
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs
  • ½ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • ¼ cup finely chopped sweet onion such as Vadalia
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley divided
  • 2 tablespoons sherry
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Few grinds black pepper
  • 1 demi-ciabatta or baguette, sliced on the bias
  • Extra virgin olive oil, to brush on sliced bread

For the Topping

  • 3 tablespoons butter melted
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs
  • ½ teaspoon paprika


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a medium to large pot over medium heat, melt butter and add flour. Cook for two minutes and add cream. Stir often for about 7-10 minutes until thick. Remove from heat.
  3. Add crab meat, bread crumbs, red pepper, onion, half the parsley (other half gets sprinkled on after it comes out of the oven), sherry, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, dry mustard, cayenne, salt and pepper. Mix to combine and divide evenly between six shallow 6-ounce ramekins. Place on a baking sheet.
  4. To prepare the topping: In a small bowl, combine butter, bread crumbs and paprika and divide evenly by sprinkling over each ramekin.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes until hot and bubbly.
  6. While crab is cooking, brush sliced bread with oil and bake on sheet pan for about five minutes. Try to time it so both come out at the same time. Sprinkle remaining parsley over the top of each ramekin.
  7. Serve crostini with the hot crab Imperial.

Keywords: crab imperial

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  • Meet The Author: Martha

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  • Kathy wrote:

    I had never eaten Crab Imperial before but I will definitely make this recipe again.

    • Martha wrote:

      Glad you enjoyed the recipe Kathy!

  • Janet Bradley wrote:

    I know this says Cram Imperial Dip, but can it be eaten as Crab Imperial that one would have
    for dinner?

    • Martha wrote:

      Absolutely Janet! It would be equally delicious as an entree!

  • Susan wrote:

    This is delicious! 2nd time making in 3 days! Do you think it would freeze well? I have extra crab meat and don’t want it to go to waste. Awesome recipe! We use crackers instead of bread so we don’t get super full from it a we could definitely eat this as our dinner! Thanks for the new recipe.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Susan! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! I’d suggest freezing the crab meat on its own rather than mixed up in the Imperial. I think it will freeze better that way!

  • Deborah Kind wrote:

    I LOVE the crab imperial dip.. this time when I made it, I have some left over (because I put too many other appetizers out)…I know I can use this as a lunch either on salad or crackers etc. Can I freeze this?

    thanks for all your recipes I look forward to each and every one:)

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Deborah – We haven’t tried freezing it ourselves but I think it will be OK if you don’t want it to go to waste! The buttery crumb topping might not be quite the same frozen and reheated – but I think overall it will still be good! Please let us know how it comes out if you try freezing it – I’d love to know how it works out!

  • janice revet wrote:

    I am so happy for your site-being a retired sous chef, this is right up my alley! Thanks for the recipe–it was YUMMMMM!

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Janice!!

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