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This spicy kani salad recipe has ALL of the flavors and textures going on. It’s one of the reasons why it tastes SO good! Japanese crab salad has a dressing that’s both creamy and a bit spicy, tender lump crab meat, and crunchy cucumber and carrots.

A friend introduced me to kani salad at a Japanese restaurant. My choices at Japanese restaurants are usually limited, since I avoid rice for multiple reasons and don’t care for the typical semi-wilted Japanese salad usually offered. (Maybe I just haven’t had luck with getting fresh salads at these places?) Finding an alternative starter to my usual hibachi or sashimi put a smile on my face!

Unfortunately, I later found out that the imitation crab meat used in almost every kani salad recipe is not gluten-free and often has added sugar. Imitation crab meat is actually made out of fish (typically pollock). I honestly don’t understand why adding starch and sugar is necessary. If you’re trying to reduce sugar or gluten, it turns out that a kani salad isn’t such a great option when going out, after all.

The great news is, making your own homemade kani salad is incredibly easy! And, there really isn’t any good reason to use imitation crab meat.

Using real lump crab meat makes this the best kani salad recipe in my book, and it’s so much healthier than the processed imitation stuff. You can use any crab meat, really, but I find that lump crab works best in a salad like this. The crab is the star here!

If you’re a fan of real crab like me, try this cold crab dip with cream cheese or gluten-free crab cakes, they are sure to be new favorites as well.

This spicy kani salad recipe was originally published on June 7, 2017, and the post was republished in March 2021 to add updated pictures, useful tips, and some improvements to this Japanese style salad. Here is one of the original photos, if you’re curious:

This Japanese kani salad recipe with real crab meat takes just 10 minutes to whip up. Healthy, creamy, and delicious! Low carb, paleo, and gluten-free, too. Detail: kani-salad-recipe-japanese-salad-img_3574

What Is Kani Salad?

Kani salad is a delicious mix of crab meat, crunchy cucumber and carrots, and a spicy mayonnaise-based dressing.

Spicy Kani Salad Ingredients

This simple salad features just 8 ingredients, and you probably have many of them already!

  • Crab meat – While traditional Japanese kani salad is made with imitation crab, once I learned that it’s made with sugar and starch, I stopped eating it! Plus, lump crab meat just tastes way better.
  • Kelp noodles – See below for alternatives.
  • Cucumber and carrots – Thinly slice the cucumber and carrots into matchstick pieces.
  • Mayonnaise – This makes the dressing super creamy. Make your own, or buy avocado oil mayonnaise.
  • Lemon juice – Adds fresh citrus zing. You could also use lime juice.
  • Toasted sesame oil – This gives the salad traditional Japanese flavor, use toasted for best quality.
  • Sriracha – A must for the kani salad dressing recipe. If you don’t like spice, add just a touch for flavor.

Traditional kani salad doesn’t use kelp noodles, but I thought they were a perfect fit for it. After all, kelp noodles are Japanese! And, they make this entire salad both filling and light at the same time.

If you don’t have or like kelp noodles, you can also try these noodle subs:

Kani salad ingredients without dressing in a glass bowl

How To Make Kani Salad

You need just 8 ingredients to make this spicy kani salad recipe and it’s ready in 10 minutes. Here’s how to make it:

TIP: For best flavor, chill dressing for a few hours before serving.

kani salad dressing with whisk in glass bowl

kani salad ingredients with dressing poured on top

  • Garnish. Top Japanese crab salad with sesame seeds or fish roe if desired.

Kani salad tossed with garnishes on a plate

Japanese Salad FAQs

Is kani salad gluten-free?

Most kani salads found at restaurants are not gluten-free, as they are made with imitation crab, which is not gluten-free. While imitation crab is made from fish, it often also includes sugar and starches.

Is kani salad healthy?

Yes, this salad is healthy! Wondering about kani salad calories? Each serving has 169 calories. The full nutrition stats can be found below.

Is kani salad keto?

Most kani salads found in restaurants will not be keto due to the imitation crab meat – that has sugar and starches in it. There is also sometimes sugar added to the dressing.

This spicy kani salad made with real crab has just 3 grams net carbs per serving.

Tossed kani salad in glass bowl with serving spoon

Kani Crab Salad Storage Instructions

Can you make it ahead?

This salad is best made fresh, but you can definitely make the dressing ahead and prep the vegetables and kelp noodles.

When you’re ready to serve, just toss everything together.

Can you freeze it?

I would not recommend freezing Japanese spicy kani salad. While crab meat can be frozen, the rest of the ingredients are not suitable for freezing.

Plated kani salad next to bowl of salad

More Healthy Salad Recipes

If you like this easy kani salad recipe, you’ll want to try some of my other healthy salad recipes:

  • Creamy Cucumber Salad – This creamy salad is creamy and crunchy at the same time. Made with simple ingredients and stores well.
  • Israeli Salad – Made with basic ingredients, this refreshing salad goes with just about anything.
  • Greek Salad – Made with just 5 simple ingredients, this delicious salad takes just 10 minutes to make.
  • Oriental Cabbage Salad – Another take on an easy Asian salad. You’ll love it.

Reader Favorite Recipes

The recipe card is below! Readers also made these similar recipes after making this one.


Plated kani salad with fork

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Spicy Kani Salad Recipe

An easy, spicy kani salad recipe with real crab meat! This Japanese crab salad is healthy, creamy, and takes just 10 minutes to whip up.

Prep Time 10 minutes

Total Time 10 minutes

Recipe Video

Click or tap on the image below to play the video. It’s the easiest way to learn how to make this recipe!


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Get RECIPE TIPS in the post above, nutrition info + recipe notes below!

Click on the times in the instructions below to start a kitchen timer while you cook.

  1. Whisk together all the dressing ingredients. (For better flavor development, do this in advance and refrigerate until right before serving.)

  2. Toss together the kelp noodles, cucumber, carrots, and crab meat. Mix in the dressing. Garnish with sesame seeds or fish roe (optional).

Recipe Notes

Serving size: 1/4 of entire recipe

Video Showing How To Make Kani Salad:

Don’t miss the VIDEO above – it’s the easiest way to learn how to make Kani Salad!

Nutrition Information Per Serving

Nutrition Facts

Amount per serving. Serving size in recipe notes above.

Calories 169

Fat 12g

Protein 12g

Total Carbs 4g

Net Carbs 3g

Fiber 1g

Sugar 1g

Where does nutrition info come from? Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy, sourced from the USDA Food Database. You can find individual ingredient carb counts we use in the Low Carb & Keto Food List. Net carb count excludes fiber, erythritol, and allulose, because these do not affect blood sugar in most people. (Learn about net carbs here.) We try to be accurate, but feel free to make your own calculations.

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