Spicy Kani Salad Recipe

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A friend introduced me to kani salad at a Japanese restaurant many years ago. My choices there 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?) Anyway, the salad was amazing, but unfortunately, I later found out that the imitation crab sticks used in almost every spicy kani salad recipe is not gluten-free and has added sugar. So, I created this homemade version using real crab meat — and it tastes so much better!

What Is Kani Salad?

Kani salad, sometimes called kanikama salad, is a Japanese crab salad that is a delicious mix of crab meat (often imitation crab meat), crunchy cucumber and carrots, and a spicy mayonnaise dressing.

Is Kani Salad Healthy?

Yes, this salad is healthy — especially this one, with no added sugar. Wondering about kani salad calories? Each serving has 169 calories. The full nutrition facts can be found below, on the recipe card.

Why You’ll Love This Spicy Kani Salad Recipe

  • Spicy, creamy flavor
  • All the textures — tender crab, crunch from the veggies
  • Easy to make
  • Just 8 simple ingredients
  • Ready in 15 minutes
  • Delicious, healthy Japanese side dish
Tossed kani salad in glass bowl with serving spoon.

Kani Salad Ingredients & Substitutions

This section explains how to choose the best ingredients for an easy kani salad, what each one does in the recipe, and substitution options. For measurements, see the recipe card below.

For The Salad:

  • Crab Meat – Traditional Japanese kani salad is made with imitation crab sticks (kanikama), which are made out of starch and pulverized cheap white fish, typically pollock. (This is called surimi.) Kanikama is often used in sushi as well. You can still use imitation crab meat (cut into thin strips) if you want to, but I think lump crab meat like this tastes so much better, is healthier, and makes the best kani salad recipe. You can use any crab meat, really, but lump crab is the highest quality.
  • Kelp Noodles – Traditional kani crab 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.
  • Cucumbers & Carrots – Thinly slice the cucumber and carrots into matchstick pieces.

For The Japanese Mayonnaise Dressing:

This dressing is a variation of sriracha mayo, with sesame oil and lemon juice added for flavor and to give it more of a dressing consistency:

  • Mayonnaise – This makes the dressing super creamy. You can make your own homemade mayo, or otherwise this is my favorite clean-ingredient store-bought version. For a more traditional option, you can substitute kewpie, which is a Japanese mayonnaise made with just oil, egg yolks, and vinegar.
  • Lemon Juice – Adds tang and zing. You could also use lime juice, or simply rice vinegar.
  • Toasted Sesame Oil – This gives the salad traditional Japanese flavor.
  • Sriracha – A must for the kani salad dressing recipe. If you don’t like spice, add just a touch for flavor.
Main kani salad ingredients in a bowl.

How To Make A Kani Salad

This section shows how to make spicy kani salad, with step-by-step photos and details about the technique. For full instructions, see the recipe card below.

  1. Make dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, toasted sesame oil, and sriracha. Chill in the refrigerator.
TIP: Chilling the dressing helps the flavors develop.

TIP: Chilling the dressing helps the flavors develop.

If you have time, you can chill for an hour or two, or even make it a few days ahead.

  1. Mix salad. In a large bowl, toss together kelp noodles, cucumber, carrots, and crab meat with the salad dressing. If needed, you can season with sea salt and black pepper to taste.
Japanese mayonnaise dressing with whisk.
Mixed Japanese crab salad in a bowl.
  1. Garnish. Top Japanese crab salad with sesame seeds, fish roe (tobiko is most common for kani salad recipes), and/or green onions if desired.
Spicy kani salad with garnishes.


There are a couple of main ways you can customize this salad:

Substitute The Noodles

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

Add Mango

Mango is a popular addition for these salads. Just cut one ripe mango into thin strips and mix with the rest of the kani salad ingredients.

Storage Instructions

This salad is best made fresh, but you can definitely make the dressing ahead (it’s even better if you do!) and prep the vegetables and kelp noodles. When you’re ready to serve, just toss everything together. Freezing is not recommended.

More Healthy Crab Recipes

If you’re like me and think kani salad recipes with real crab are the best kind, you’ll probably also like my other popular crab recipes:

Reader Favorite Recipes

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Recipe Video

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Tap 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. If needed, season with salt and pepper to taste.

  3. Garnish with sesame seeds or fish roe (optional).

Recipe Notes

Serving size: 1/4 of entire recipe

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

Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy. Have questions about calculations or why you got a different result? Please see our nutrition policy.

© Copyright Maya Krampf for Wholesome Yum. Please DO NOT SCREENSHOT OR COPY/PASTE recipes to social media or websites. We’d LOVE for you to share a link with photo instead. 🙂

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