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Dungeness Crab vs. Snow Crab: Taste and Cooking Differences

gorgeous seafood platter with white wine image

Dungeness Crab vs. Snow Crab: Taste and Cooking Differences

Is Dungeness Crab better than Snow Crab? Or vice versa? Is there a difference between the two kinds of crab? Snow crab and Dungeness crab have distinct differences, even though people commonly prepare and serve them in a similar style.

Both have a sweet taste, but Dungeness crab has a more intense sweetness, while snow crab has a slight sweetness and more fat. Which is better depends on your personal preferences. If you love crab legs, you will prefer the snow crab because it has more abundant meat on its legs. However, if you love the sweetness of crab meat, you might prefer the Dungeness crab for its particularly delicious sweetness.

In this guide, let's take a more in-depth look at both kinds of crab and examine what makes them unique. What nutritional value do they each have, what are the best ways to cook crab meat, and what are the health benefits of each?

Dungeness Crab vs. Snow Crab: An Overview

Initially discovered in Washington State, Dungeness crabs live along the west coast of North America, with large concentrations in Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and parts of Canada. Dungeness crabs are bottom-dwellers with distinct reddish-brown shells. They usually weigh between one and two pounds and can grow ten inches wide. Dungeness crabs have very thick shells that require tools to break them open.

Snow crabs inhabit the northwestern Atlantic Ocean and certain areas of the Pacific Northwest. Harvested from cold waters, snow crabs are famous for their long, elongated legs where most of their delectable meat is located. Their name stems from the fine white hairs that cover their slightly pink or reddish bodies, which give them a snowy appearance. Snow crabs typically weigh between one and two pounds but can weigh as much as four pounds. Unlike the Dungeness crab, snow crabs have very brittle shells, making removing the meat from their long legs easy.

Dungeness Crab vs. Snow Crab: What is the difference?

Let's take a deeper dive into the differences between these two types of crab meat and see what makes each a unique food choice by examining their nutritional value, flavor, cost, cooking time, and shelf life.


Both crabs are healthy seafood choices because they are high in protein and low in fat. Both are rich in vitamins, particularly vitamin B12 and selenium (a mineral that plays an important role in metabolism). However, Dungeness crab meat has a higher cholesterol content than snow crab meat, while snow crab meat has more sodium than Dungeness crab meat. So, those with cholesterol concerns may prefer snow crab while those concerned about sodium intake might prefer Dungeness crab. As with many other foods, it is advisable to consume both in moderation.

Flavor and Texture

Dungeness crab meat has a sweetness that tastes like a mix between lobster and crab. Its natural sweetness means the meat requires less seasoning. Dungeness crab meat has a flaky texture. When cooked properly, the meat is moist and lends itself to dishes like crab cakes or crab salads. It is also delicious when consumed alone with a small amount of butter.

People who prefer a more subtle flavor will appreciate the meat of the snow crab. Snow crab is a versatile choice in cooking because its mild flavor pairs well with a variety of seasonings and sauces. The flesh of this crab is firmer than that of a Dungeness crab. Many people describe it as meatier or chunkier. If your recipe calls for a lot of crab meat, snow crab (especially the legs) can be substantial enough to serve as the main course.

snow Crab legs served with melted butter, garlic cloves, lemon slices, grilled corn in cobs and fresh parsley on wooden cutting boards, horizontal view from above, close-up
Snow crab meat is chunkier and ideal for recipes that call for a lot of crab meat.

©from my point of view/Shutterstock.com

Dungeness Crab vs. Snow Crab: Cooking Times

Overcooking crab meat can give it a rubbery texture and make it tough to eat. These guidelines are for thawed crabs, so you will need to add cooking time if cooking frozen crabs.

Dungeness Crab

  • When boiling, the general guideline is ten minutes per pound. (Example: A two-pound crab would require twenty minutes in the pot.)
  • Thawing the crab before cooking is the recommended method.
  • Some chefs prefer steaming because it retains more of the crab meat's natural flavor.
  • If steaming Dungeness crab, the general guideline is eight to ten minutes per pound.

Snow Crab

  • If boiling snow crab legs, it takes about five minutes to cook them in a pot.
  • For steaming snow crab, the cooking time is approximately five to seven minutes.
  • Some prefer to broil snow crab; in which case you will place the crab about five inches away from the broiler and bake for three to four minutes on each side.
  • Did you know that snow crabs can also be grilled? Simply place them on the grill grates for about three to four minutes and enjoy!

Thawed crab meat can sometimes be watery, but you can squeeze some of the moisture out before cooking. Both kinds of crab meat tend to pair well with cilantro, lemon, butter, bacon, and onions. Snow crab meat is a popular ingredient in various dishes such as sandwiches, salads, sushi, crab cakes, and sauces. You can also use it in casseroles and dips.

Snow crab leg Hot pot
Boil, steam, or grill snow crab. It's incredibly versatile.


Dungeness Crab vs. Snow Crab: Shelf Life and Cost

The cost of fresh Dungeness crab depends on the season's catch and the demand for the crab meat. Typically, prices range from $24 to $40 per crab. One crab usually weighs between one to two pounds. Cook live crabs within twenty-four hours of purchase. Frozen Dungeness crab can range from twenty-three to forty-five dollars per pound and can last in the freezer for four to six months. Consume crab meat within three to four days after cooking it.

Snow crab prices also fluctuate based on the season's catch and customer demand but are typically a little cheaper than Dungeness meat. Snow crab prices range from ten to twenty-five dollars per pound. Guidelines for shelf life depend on whether the meat is fresh, frozen, or cooked. Consume fresh or live snow crab immediately. Preserve frozen snow crabs for six months to a year. Refrigerate cooked snow crab for three or four days before it spoils.

With both types of crab, it's important to follow safe handling and cooking guidelines. To avoid food poisoning, discard the meat if there is any doubt about its quality or freshness.

Final Thoughts

Dungeness crab and snow crab are two distinct and popular types of crab meat that cater to different preferences among seafood enthusiasts. The Dungeness crab attracts those who prefer their crab meat with a richer taste and more pronounced sweetness. Its flaky meat and exquisite and subtle taste make it a popular choice in dishes like crab cakes, bisques, and salads.

Snow crab meat is extremely versatile because of its meaty texture, abundant leg meat, and slightly sweet taste. Food enthusiasts who love crab legs will prefer the snow crab because its brittle shell is easy to crack and there is abundant leg meat in the snow crab's long legs. It is much more abundant than Dungeness crab meat. Its versatility makes it sought after in a variety of dishes including crab cakes and sushi rolls.

Both types of crab are solid choices. Ultimately, choosing between Dungeness and snow crab will depend on what you're planning to cook and personal taste preferences.

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