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Steamed Crab Legs (How to Cook Crab Legs) | Family Cuisine

Steaming crab legs are a great way to enjoy delicious seafood without having to do much work.

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Steaming crab legs how to

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Steamed Crab Legs are tender, sweet, and so easy to make! Learn how to boil crab for the best crab legs recipe you can make right on your stove-top in 30 minutes, with garlic butter sauce for dipping on the side.

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Boiled crab legs on a speckled white plate with lemon wedges

Jump to:

  • Steaming Crab Legs
  • Tools
  • How to Season Crab Legs
  • Lemon Garlic Butter Sauce for Crab
  • What are the best crab legs?
  • Can I use frozen crab?
  • How to Cook Crab Legs
  • How Long to Steam Crab Legs vs. Boiling
  • Garlic Butter Sauce for Seafood
  • How to Eat Crab
  • Is crab keto-friendly?
  • Is crab gluten-free?
  • Is it better to steam or boil crab legs?
  • How do you know when your crab legs are done?
  • Should crab legs be thawed before steaming?
  • Side Dishes for Crab
  • 📋 Recipe
  • 💬 Reviews

Steaming Crab Legs

Tender crab meat dipped in garlic butter sauce is an irresistible meal that’s perfect for a family dinner, or entertaining for holidays like Labor Day!

There is nothing my family loves more than sitting around the table and enjoying a big plate of crab legs together – seriously! Seafood dinners are some of our favorites, and what could be better than a crab dinner recipe?

Whether it’s steamed, boiled, or grilled crab, crab legs are one of those dinners that always gets the table excited. I am so thrilled to show you how to boil and steam crab legs!


  • A large stock pot
  • Tongs to remove the crab legs from the pot
  • Optional: crab leg cracker

For as delicious and indulgent as steamed crab recipes are, they are also so easy to make! You hardly need any tools or ingredients to make a delicious seafood dinner with them.

I use a large stock pot to steam crab legs and for boiling crab, too. You want it to be big enough to be able to contain the crab legs, whichever method you use.

A crab leg cracker is totally optional, but it’s a handy tool to have.

It doesn’t take much to make crab recipes as delicious as can be! Let’s move on to the ingredients – you will need just a handful for both steaming crab legs and for making the lemon garlic butter sauce.

How to Season Crab Legs

  • Old Bay seasoning
  • salt
  • fresh or frozen crab legs
  • vegetable oil
  • light beer in a can
  • Optional: corn cob halves

Crab seasoning is a matter of preference. Steaming allows you to infuse the meat with more flavor, so you can use just a bit of seasoning and get the most amazing results!

My personal favorite seasoning for crabs uses a can of light beer and Old Bay. I love the flavor it infuses in the crab legs! But, you can steam them in plain water and enjoy them just as much. Crab meat is so tasty either way!

Lemon Garlic Butter Sauce for Crab

Lemon garlic butter sauce is a super easy seafood dipping sauce to make. You can put it together ahead of time!

It’s a delicious dip you will love to serve not just with crab meat, but with all your favorite seafood recipes.

You can try serving this recipe for boiled crab with our compound garlic butter recipe, too. It uses garlic and parsley for a rich garlic butter sauce that goes well with everything!

What are the best crab legs?

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Cooking crab legs is the same whether you’re using snow crab legs, dungeness crab legs, or king crab legs, so it’s up to your preference which variety you use.

For this recipe, I use king crab legs. They’re nice and long, with plenty of meat inside. King crab leg meat is so sweet and tender.

Cooking king crab is easy, and some come pre-scored so you can easily pry them open with your hands to get the meat out without a hassle.

Can I use frozen crab?

Yes, you can! If you can find fresh crab in your area, consider yourself lucky. We recommend using fresh if available! If not, frozen crab legs are also delicious and perfect for making steamed crab legs.

They are most commonly found and are perfect for this recipe. You don’t even have to defrost them prior to cooking. You can place them right in the water and the steam will cook them perfectly.

Steamed crab legs on a speckled white plate with lemon garlic butter sauce in dishes

How to Cook Crab Legs

Steaming Crab Legs

  1. Fill a large pot a quarter full with water. Leave plenty of room for the crab legs. Bring to a boil.
  2. Add Old Bay seasoning, salt, vegetable oil, and beer.
  3. Place the crab legs in the pot and bring the water back to a boil. Steam the crab legs for 5 minutes.
  4. Carefully remove the legs using tongs and set aside. Cover them to keep warm.

At this point, you can also optionally make it a crab boil. Add frozen corn cobs to the same pot and bring it back to a boil. Remove and serve with lemon garlic butter sauce.

Boiling Crab Legs

  1. Fill a large pot about half full with water. Leave room for the crab legs. Wait for the boiling water to rise.
  2. Add Old Bay seasoning, salt, vegetable oil, and beer.
  3. Place the crab legs in the pot and return to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the legs and set aside.

Grilling Crab Legs

Crab legs on the grill are also amazing. You can follow our step by step guide on how to grill King Crab Legs.

How Long to Steam Crab Legs vs. Boiling

It takes 5 minutes whether you’re boiling crab legs or steaming them. Prepare them whichever way you like the most!

For exact measurements, tips, and more, keep scrolling down to the recipe card!

Pulling crab legs out of a stock pot with tongs

Garlic Butter Sauce for Seafood

  1. Melt butter and add garlic salt, lemon juice, and salt.
  2. Mix together to fully blend.

How to Eat Crab

If your crab legs came pre-scored, you can easily remove the meat from them by prying them open with your hands.

Otherwise, you can carefully crack them by hand or by using a tool such as a crab cracker, lobster cracker, nutcracker, or even a meat tenderizer.

Avoid breaking too much of the shell so you don’t wind up with shell pieces in your crab meat! Once you have the crab legs open, you can easily remove the meat with a small fork or seafood fork.

Cracking crab legs is easy to do once you do it a couple of times. It’s really a lot of fun to be able to pull out a full juicy crab leg and dip it into a bowl of lemon garlic butter sauce. Every time, it feels like you won the jackpot!

Breaking open a steamed crab leg with hands

Is crab keto-friendly?

Yes! With just about 4 carbs, this is a perfect keto-friendly recipe. Especially if you’re dipping the crab meat in our garlic butter sauce. Enjoy!

Is crab gluten-free?

Read more: How To Boil Beef Ribs: 5 Simple Steps

Yes. This crab legs recipe is 100% gluten-free, so you can enjoy it on a gluten-free meal plan!

Is it better to steam or boil crab legs?

This is really up to your preference. I personally prefer to steam my crab legs as I find it gives them more flavor than boiling. However, some people do prefer to boil theirs.

Try steaming them first, and when you’re comfortable with steaming crab legs, try boiling them. See which you prefer!

How do you know when your crab legs are done?

One of the best things about cooking crab legs is that they cook very quickly. They are ready in only 5 minutes whether you’re steaming or boiling them.

However, if you want to double-check, crab legs are done when the crab meat is an opaque white and there is an orange or red coloration to it.

Crab legs are overcooked when they start to turn pink. Don’t cook them for too long or you’ll have rubbery crab legs!

Should crab legs be thawed before steaming?

No – you don’t need to thaw crab legs before steaming them. You can steam or boil them straight from frozen. They cook quickly!

Steamed crab legs on a speckled plate with corn on the cob halves and a small dish of garlic butter sauce

Side Dishes for Crab

A crab leg boil, made by boiling corn right in the same pot as the crab legs, makes for the most delicious crab dinner. It’s a simple seafood boil recipe, but it works perfectly every time.

There is nothing quite like a big, warm, and welcoming platter of steamed crab legs with a vegetable side. Here are a few of my favorite side dishes for crab:

  • Oven Roasted Potato Wedges
  • Asparagus Air Fryer Recipe with Lemon Aioli
  • Broccoli Salad with Apples
  • Tangy Southern Coleslaw
  • Mexican Street Corn Recipe
Air fryer asparagus with lemon aioli drizzle

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Check out our Steamed Crab Legs Web Story!

Steaming crabs is an easy way to have an impressive seafood dinner at home that your family and guests will rave about! There is nothing quite like juicy crab meat with a side of garlic butter.

Did you try this recipe? Let me know what you think in the comments and by leaving a rating! I love to hear from you.

📋 Recipe

Photography by Kristen King.

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