What do robber crabs taste like?

Quick Answer

Robber crabs, also known as coconut crabs, have a sweet and delicate flavor that is often compared to lobster or crab. Their meat tastes best when eaten fresh, and locals in areas where robber crabs are found will cook them in a variety of ways, including boiling, frying, baking, or roasting over an open fire. The taste can vary depending on what the crab has been eating, but they generally have a pleasant, mild seafood flavor.

What are robber crabs?

Robber crabs, scientifically known as Birgus latro, are the largest land-living arthropod in the world. They are a type of hermit crab that can grow up to 9 pounds in weight and measure up to 16 inches across. They are found on islands across the Indo-Pacific region, including the Seychelles, Mauritius, Christmas Island, and parts of the Pacific Islands.

Some key facts about robber crabs:

– They are omnivores and will eat just about anything, including fruit, nuts, seeds, insects, dead animals, and decaying matter. They especially love coconuts.

– They got the name “robber crab” because they will steal shiny objects, though it is unclear why they do this.

– Robber crabs are master climbers and will scale trees and cliff faces. Their strong pincers can crack open coconuts.

– They dig burrows for shelter during the day and come out at night to forage. The burrows can be up to 6 feet deep.

– Robber crabs can live over 60 years in the wild. They take 5-8 years to reach maturity.

– They play an important ecological role in dispersing seeds and decomposing organic matter in tropical forests.

– Robber crab populations are under threat due to habitat destruction and hunting for food. They are considered a delicacy in many of the regions where they are found.

What does robber crab meat taste like?

Robber crabs have a sweet, delicate flavor that is often compared to lobster or crab meat. Their texture is light and flaky when cooked properly. The taste can vary slightly depending on what the crab has been eating, as robber crabs are omnivorous scavengers. Here are some more details on their flavor:

– The meat has a mildly sweet, succulent taste described as creamy or nutty.

– The legs and claws are the most tender parts with the sweetest flavor. The body meat tends to be firmer.

– Wild-caught robber crabs have a stronger ocean flavor compared to captive-raised crabs fed a steady diet.

– Older, larger crabs tend to have a more pungent flavor while younger crabs are more delicate.

– Robber crabs that eat more fruit like coconuts and pandanus tend to be sweeter.

– Their taste is similar to other crustaceans like lobster, crab, and some say closer to shrimp or prawns. The flavor is not fishy or overly briny.

– Compared to regular crabs, robber crab meat is considered superior in taste. It does not have the saltiness of blue crab or richness of king crab legs.

– The meat has a pleasant, mildly sweet smell when raw and a more fragrant aroma when cooked.

So in summary, robber crab meat is sweet and mildly flavored with a pleasant, delicate texture. It offers a unique and tasty eating experience for crustacean lovers.

How are robber crabs prepared and served?

Robber crabs are prepared in a variety of ways in the regions where they are native. Here are some popular cooking methods:


Robber crabs are often simply boiled briefly and served with spices, coconut milk, rice, or other island ingredients:

– Dropped alive into a large pot of boiling salted water for about 10-15 minutes until the shell turns red. This preserves the delicate flavor.

– Served whole, such as in Seychellois cuisine, where it is boiled with cinnamon, garlic, allspice berries, and lime juice.

– Cracked open table-side to access the tender meat in the legs, claws, and body cavity.


The crab meat can be fried in oil or butter to crisp up for extra flavor:

– Legs and claws fried as an appetizer or garnish on other seafood dishes.

– Fried in butter with garlic, parsley, lemon juice, and other herbs and spices.

– Battered and fried fritter-style, served with tartar sauce or other dipping sauces.


A simple and healthy cooking method to let the natural sweetness shine:

– Whole robber crabs baked with herbs, lemon, and oil at 350F until the meat is opaque and flaky.

– Baked in their own carapace to retain moisture.

– Baked stuffed with breadcrumbs, onions, peppers and seasonings.


The smoky, savory flavors from grilling complement the crab beautifully:

– Grilled over hot coals or open fire while still alive for 2-3 minutes per side.

– Basted while grilling with garlic butter, lime juice, chili sauce, or other marinades.

– Legs and claws threaded onto skewers and grilled quickly over the fire.

Curries and Stews

The crab meat stands up well to spicy, robust island flavor profiles:

– Added to coconut curries along with vegetables and served over rice.

– Cooked down into a spicy crab and okra stew.

– Featured in seafood soups and broths flavored with ginger, lemongrass, and citrus.


The fresh sweetness can be tasted by eating it raw:

– Legs and claws cracked open and served raw with lime juice and spices as a delicacy.

– Incorporated into ceviches, sashimi, and poke bowls to showcase its pristine flavors.

So in summary, robber crabs are prepared through simple but flavorful cooking methods that highlight their natural sweet taste and tender texture. They pair well with tropical island ingredients and spices.

What does robber crab taste like compared to regular crab?

There are some notable differences between the taste of robber crabs versus common crabs like blue crabs, Dungeness crabs, and king crabs:


Robber crabs have a mildly sweet flavor while most crabs have a briny, salty ocean flavor. The sweetness is compared to shrimp or lobster.


The meat is light, flaky, and buttery, while crabs often have firmer, chunkier flesh. Robber crab legs are the most tender parts.


Robber crab meat has a delicate, subtle richness compared to the often fatty taste of king crab legs. The flavor is cleaner and purer.


Regular crabs can sometimes have a fishy or ammonia-like aroma and flavor. Robber crabs have a pleasant, mildly sweet scent and buttery taste without fishiness.


Robber crabs work better with lighter preparations to highlight their natural flavor rather than being slathered in butter like king crab.


It’s a rare delicacy compared to common crabs that can be found year-round at lower costs in seafood markets.

So while expensive and hard to source outside their native islands, robber crabs provide a uniquely sweet and tender crab experience different from typical crabs. Their delicate, almost fruity flavor transforms crab lovers’ expectations.

What are some flavor substitutes for robber crab?

Since robber crabs are difficult to find outside of the remote islands where they live, the following make solid stand-ins to mimic their taste:

King Crab or Snow Crab Legs

These large crab legs have a similar tender, flaky texture and mild oceanic sweetness when steamed or boiled briefly. Sizeable claw meat works best. Avoid heavily seasoned or richer preparations that will overpower their natural sweetness.

Lobster Tail

Buttery lobster tail has the same creamy, subtly sweet flavor notes that complement many robber crab dishes well, especially if prepared simply by boiling or baking.


Large shrimp like black tiger prawns replicate the tender bite and mildly briny flavor of robber crab, either boiled, grilled, or added to stew recipes.


The supple, almost creamy interior of fresh scallops mirrors the texture and delicacy of robber crab meat. Their sweetness adds similar flavor without overpowering other ingredients.

Crab Cakes

All lump crab meat cakes patty replicate the flaky, silky mouthfeel of robber crabs. Use minimal breadcrumbs to avoid dryness.


Since robber crabs feast on coconuts, splashes of coconut milk and grated coconut flesh add savory sweetness to curries, stews, and boiled preparations.

So while no substitute fully captures the uniqueness of robber crabs, a combination of buttery shellfish, coconut accents, and simple preparations evokes their distinctive sweetness. Their elusive taste lingers as a sublime memory for those lucky to try them.

Nutrition Facts of Robber Crab

Here is an overview of the nutrition profile of robber crab meat:

Nutrient Per 100g
Calories 76
Protein 16 g
Total Fat 1 g
Carbohydrates 2 g
Calcium 75 mg
Iron 2.2 mg
Magnesium 56 mg
Phosphorus 152 mg
Potassium 180 mg
Sodium 201 mg
Zinc 1.3 mg
Vitamin B12 1.9 mcg

Key highlights:

– Robber crab is low in fat and calories. It is a lean source of protein with each 100 g providing 16 g.

– It contains high levels of important minerals like phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium compared to other shellfish.

– It has moderate amounts of potassium, iron, zinc, and B12.

– Since robber crabs are scavengers, they can accumulate pollutants and toxins in areas with contamination. Consuming crab from unmonitored areas is not recommended.

Overall, robber crab is nutrient-dense and provides a healthy protein boost. Its mineral content aids bone, muscle, heart, and nerve health. When sourced safely, it delivers excellent nutritional value.

Where to Try Robber Crab

Due to overhunting and habitat loss, robber crabs are considered vulnerable and populations are declining. However, they are still legal to catch and eat in limited quantities in their native ranges. Here are some places where you may be able to sample robber crab:


Robber crab is a national delicacy, enjoyed particularly around the island of Praslin. Look for crab curries, stews, and boiled crab served whole.

Christmas Island, Australia

This remote territory hosts an annual robber crab cooking competition. Residents create innovative dishes, though boiled is also available.

Okinawa, Japan

Some specialty restaurants in Okinawa serve fresh robber crab brought from nearby islands. It is prepared fried, boiled, raw, and more.

Hawaii, USA

Illegal but occasional black market availability in Hawaii. Traditional preparation is to cook the crab whole over an open fire while still alive.


Look for robber crab in markets, restaurants, and beach cookouts sporadically across central Indonesia where populations still exist.


Local fishermen may catch robber crabs by hand at night to sell to upscale resort restaurants catering to tourists.

Unfortunately, due to unsustainable fishing, climate change, and invasive species damaging their habitat, robber crabs may become even harder to find on menus in the future outside of limited coastal communities. Getting to enjoy their unique taste is a rare privilege.


Robber crabs offer a singular eating experience with their delicate, mildly sweet taste compared to regular crabs and shellfish. Their texture and flavor stand out as a memorable delicacy among knowledgeable food lovers. While often challenging to source outside their remote island homes, seeking out robber crab is worthwhile for curious palates eager to taste this sustainable, stripped-down expression of oceanic sweetness. With their populations under pressure, tasting robber crab allows one to experience a rare flavor that may soon vanish completely. Those lucky enough to savor its succulent meat will gain a new appreciation for sustainable seafood.

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