Is Imitation Crab Vegan?

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As the name suggests, imitation crab doesn’t really contain any crab but does it contain any other animal products?

There are a range of animal crab brands, and usually they don’t contain just plant-based ingredients. We find out more what’s inside imitation crab and we also take a look at some imitation crab alternatives.

We find out more what’s inside imitation crab and we also take a look at some imitation crab alternatives.

Imitation crab may not contain real crab meat but it contains fish. This means that imitation crab is not vegan.

Is Imitation Crab Meat Vegan-Friendly?

No, imitation crab is not vegan because it still contains fish which isn’t suitable for a plant-based diet. While imitation crab doesn’t contain any real crab, it still includes animal-based ingredients, such as fish.

If you want to try out some plant-based seafood alternatives, then there are a few options, including tofu and jackfruit.

What Is Imitation Crab?

Imitation crab is a very common seafood around the US and beyond. You can find it in California roll and even crab cakes.

When you put real crab meat and imitation crab meat next to each other, you may not immediately spot the difference in color.

Both are bright red but imitation crab isn’t actually crab meat. It’s a fake crab meat called kanikama. This crab substitute was originally produced in Japan, and then gained greater popularity in America. Kanikama is artificial crab meat which has been flavored to taste like real crab. It is made from minced white fish.

There are various fish species used to make kanikama, including bream, pollock and whiting. This fake crab meat is so popular because it’s widely available and lower in price.

Ingredients Of Imitation Crab

The key ingredient of fake crab meat is a gel-like component called kani surimi. This is ground fish paste made from various types of white fish.

Producers also add fillers, food coloring, artificial flavorings and starch to the imitation crab meat to copy the real look, texture and flavor of crab.

Most imitation crab manufacturers use pollock as the main ingredient for the fish paste because it has a mild flavor and it’s widely available. However, some producers also make imitation crab with mackerel, cod or barracuda.

Nutritional Value Of Imitation Crab

Another reason why surimi crab isn’t suitable for vegans and vegetarians is because it is highly processed. It contains a large amount of artificial ingredients which means there isn’t a lot of nutritional value in imitation crab.

Some artificial crab brands even add some sugar to give the meat more flavor. Saying this, imitation crab still contains almost 10% of our daily dose of magnesium and it also has a few grams of lean protein.

What makes imitation crab so appealing is that it’s cheap and widely available. As it tastes very similar to real crab, artificial crab meat has seen a big rise in popularity.

Imitation Crab Alternatives

While real imitation crab contains fish which isn’t suitable for a vegan or vegetarian diet, you don’t have to live without the delicious taste.

Artichoke Hearts

Artichoke hearts are high in fiber and extremely juicy. They are believed to be a healthy alternative to seafood supporting the digestive system.

You can find the soft artichoke hearts in a range of different formats, including fresh, canned or even marinated with some additional flavorings.

Artichoke is ideal when you want to make soups, seafood tarts, no-crab crab cakes or crab dips. You can just cut them into pieces and add them to your food or sprinkle them over salad.


Jackfruit is seeing a rise in popularity in the vegan community as it is used for many vegan pulled pork recipes. Its texture and consistency make it ideal as a substitute for imitation crab as well as real crab.

Jackfruit is very mild and it has very little flavor on its own. You can find it canned or fresh. This tasty fruit is rich in magnesium, vitamin C, potassium and manganese.

This means that it even has a lot more nutritional value than imitation crab. You can use jackfruit in a crab dip, crab meat salad or your favorite crabless crab cakes.

Hearts Of Palm

Hearts of palm have a nice crunch and with their mild flavor, they are ideal for cooking your favorite imitation crab meal. These vegetables are similar to artichoke hearts in flake which means they taste lightly acidic but sweet.

Hearts of palm are high in fiber but low in calories. Plus, they contain a lot of important minerals, such as manganese and iron. You can add hearts of palm to all of your crabless dishes, including chowders, stews and salads.

Lion’s Mane Mushrooms

Mushrooms are generally a common vegan meat alternative thanks to their texture. Mushrooms do not just have a lot of nutritional value but they are also said to have medicinal uses.

Particularly Lion’s Mane is believed to be supportive for the heart, brain, liver as well as the nervous system. You can use Lion’s Mane mushrooms in all imitation crab-based dishes. Simply steam or sauté them for your vegan seafood pasta and crab less cakes.

Store-Bought Crab Alternatives

There are a wide range of crab alternatives available at plant-based grocery stores and health food shops. It’s worth trying a few different vegan options to find out what is right for your crabless recipes.


When it comes to more unusual crab alternatives, then tofu is an easy option. However, it’s not suitable in all crabless dishes. You can use tofu for plant-based sushi or vegan California rolls.

While tofu is often believed to be bland, it can absorb almost any taste. Just marinate a tofu block for a couple of hours, then cut it into thinly-sliced cubes and fry it.

You can then wrap it in nori seaweed paper with some tasty sushi rice. It may not look exactly the same as crab but the taste comes close.


Imitation crab may not contain real crab but it is made with fish which means that this artificial crab meat is not suitable for vegans.

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