Soft-Shell Crab Tempura

Forget burgers and dogs: This is the real food of the summer
41 Ratings
100% would make again
Best Soft-Shell Crab Recipe
Photo: Sunday In Brooklyn

Forget burgers and hot dogs: When summer rolls around, the only thing on our minds is how much soft-shell crab we can physically consume before the season is over. It's an all-to-easy feat, especially when we have this tempura crab recipe from chef Jaime Young of NYC's popular all-day restaurant Sunday in Brooklyn.

Young, who's an alum of Eleven Madison Park and Atera, brushes the crispy shellfish in a sticky black garlic glaze before rolling it in toasted pumpkin seeds and serving it with a mussel jus. There's a lot of components to this recipe, so for a simpler version, start off using Young's excellent tempura batter and serving the crab on its own before adding more of the dish's components as you see fit.  

Don't know how to eat soft-shell crab? Read our guide to get started.

Soft-Shell Crab Tempura

Recipe adapted from Jaime Young, Sunday in Brooklyn, New York, NY

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes


For the Sweet-and-Sour Black Garlic:

¾ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup water

1 cup sherry vinegar

¼ cup peeled black garlic cloves

1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper

Kosher salt, to taste

For the Saffron Mussel Jus:

1½ tablespoons olive oil

1 half of a split garlic bulb

Pinch of saffron

5 pounds PEI mussels, purged and beards removed

1½ cups (½ a 750-milliliter bottle) dry white wine

½ stick butter 

For the Tempura Batter:

½ cup rice flour

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1¼ cups water

To serve:

4 soft-shell crabs

2 cups toasted pumpkin seeds


1. Make the sweet-and-sour black garlic: In a saucepan, cook the sugar over medium heat until it forms a dark caramel, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the water and vinegar. Add the black garlic and Aleppo pepper, and purée with a hand blender until smooth. Season with salt.

2. Make the saffron mussel jus: In a large pan over medium heat, add the olive oil, the garlic half and saffron, and gently sweat for about 4 minutes. Add the mussels and wine, cover, and increase the heat to high. Cook for about 4 to 5 minutes, or until all the mussels are open.

3. Strain the mussels, reserving 1 cup of the liquid. Add it to a saucepan with the butter, and using a hand blender, evenly mix all the ingredients. Set aside in a warm place until ready to use. (The mussels and remaining liquid can be served alongside the crabs.)

4. Make the tempura batter: Combine all the tempura ingredients and keep cold until needed. (If you have an iSi canister, transfer the batter, charge twice and keep cold for a lighter texture.)

5. Prepare the soft-shell crabs: Preheat either a deep fryer or a pot of oil to 350°. Clean the crabs by using scissors to cut the faces, gills and tail plates off. Lightly coat the crabs in the batter and fry until crispy, 3 to 4 minutes.

6. With a pastry brush, liberally brush the black garlic mixture on top of each crab. Roll each crab in toasted pumpkin seeds to completely cover. 

7. Lastly, lightly froth the mussel jus with a hand blender and liberally spoon it around each crab and serve.

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