Kani means “Crab” in Japanese. This Kani Salad is a simple imitation crab salad loaded with fresh cucumbers and a Spicy mayonnaise and sriracha dressing! This is not a spicy Kani Salad and you will be surprised how easy it is to make!

image of Kani Salad made of imitation crab sticks, cucumbers, and spicy mayo dressing.
Image: Alyona Demy

This Kani Salad recipe is the perfect seafood recipe to try this upcoming summer for potlucks and gatherings! If you need more easy and refreshing side dish ideas then try this Creamy Crab and Rice Salad using imitation crab or make this Shrimp Dip Appetizer that will surely be a hit for any event! This Japanese-style salad goes with just about anything!

What Is Kani Salad?

Kani Salad is a simple Japanese crab salad made of julienned cucumbers and shredded imitation crab meat. The spicy mayonnaise salad dressing is what tops everything off! Simple no-fuss ingredients can make an incredibly delicious salad that you can sprinkle with Japanese tempura flakes (Tenkasu) or Panko crumbs for added crunch!

This crab stick (Kani Kama) salad can be spotted on some Japanese Steakhouse menus in the appetizer section and is sometimes served with a sweet vinaigrette (as seen in Kani House) or dressed in spicy mayo. I discovered this Kani salad at a large catering event and the chef shared her recipe! You’ll love this!

 

What Is Masago?

Masago is the fish roe (fish eggs) of capelin fish. Capelin fish is a small fish from the smelt family found in the North Atlantic, North Pacific, and Arctic oceans. Capelin roe is recognized as Japanese sushi caviar and is very fine and sometimes confused with Ebiko, flying fish roe, or Tobiko. This mass of tiny eggs is edible and typically seen in Sushi foods, which you can eat raw or cooked. It sometimes goes by Masago Capelin roe.

I usually have a big box of Masago (capelin fish eggs) sitting in our freezer for this salad, Kani Sushi, or Spicy Tuna Rolls. Masago is completely edible and not overpowering by any means. Being the not-so caviar person that I am, I can easily enjoy this with Sushi Rice or over a Philadelphia Roll, it’s really that mild! That being said, you can totally omit the fish roe, however, orange Masago does make the Kani salad better in appearance and fills in the julienned ingredients nicely.

Picking The Right Cucumbers:

Slicing cucumbers (also known as fresh cucumbers) are long and dark-green skinned cucumbers that contain fewer seeds and more flesh. You can easily scoop out the seeds with this cucumber using a spoon and still have enough room to julienne or slice due to their large size. You can also use English cucumbers or mini cucumbers (Persian cucumbers) for this salad, however, de-seeding the cukes can make slicing easier and keep your salad fresh longer.

Fresh cucumbers (slicing cucumbers) can be found in most grocery stores and are typically the cucumbers you can pick and bag, they are not pre-packed like some pickling cucumbers.

Which Crab Meat Should I Use?

Leg-style imitation crab meat is affordable and easy to prep. You can find chunk-style or flake-style variations at the grocery store however, those can be harder to shred for Kani Salad. Imitation crab meat is usually sold in the seafood section of most grocery stores and sometimes found in the freezer section next to the shrimp.

You can also buy wild-caught lump crab meat however, those can be pricey and differ in flavor as imitation crab is flavored with concentrate.

How To Julienne Crab Sticks:

I like to run a fork down the imitation crab sticks for easy julienned crab meat, however, some leg-style crab meat can take a few tries to make really shredded strands. This is one of the easiest ways to easily shred crab sticks and is what the catering chef did to serve a crowd! You can also use a sharp knife and thinly slice the crab sticks (lengthwise.)

Ingredients for Kani Salad:

If you are wondering what is Kani, the Kani salad ingredients are super simple! Kani salad is made of crab meat, fresh cucumbers, Fish roe, and a mayonnaise and sriracha salad dressing.

  • Kani (crab)- crab sticks are easy to julienne and it can be done with the tip of a fork!
  • Cucumbers- cucumbers can be julienned with a Japanese Mandoline or a sharp knife.
  • Masago- this seafood delicacy can be found in the freezer section of Asian supermarkets or Restaurant supply stores. Masago is a very small fish roe that is bright orange in color and typically seen in Sushi foods.
  • Salad Dressing- spicy mayo is a creamy dressing made with sriracha sauce and creamy mayonnaise. I like Hellman’s or Duke’s brand.

How To Make Kani Salad:

A Kani Salad is one of the recipes you’ll fall in love with! It’s so easy to make and requires only a handful of ingredients to start. It’s a no-cook salad recipe that is 15-minutes or less to prepare which makes it perfect for potlucks or as an easy side dish!

  1. Julienne the crab sticks by running a fork down the crab meat to shred it.
  2. Using a Mandoline slicer with the coarse attachment, julienne the English cucumber.
  3. Place all into a mixing bowl and add the mayonnaise and sriracha sauce.
  4. Toss to combine and serve immediately.

Variations To Kani Salad:

All of these ingredients make great add-ins to a Kani salad!

  • Carrots- grate or julienne 1 carrot to the mix.
  • Panko Bread Crumbs- sprinkle 1/4 cup of tempura flakes or Panko crumbs over the salad for extra crunch.
  • Corn- add 1/2 cup of frozen or canned corn that has been drained.
  • Ripe Mango- cut 1 ripe mango into 3-inch strips or make spicy mango Kani salad by adding 1 additional Tbsp of sriracha.
  • Eel sauce- eel sauce is so good with sushi or seafood drizzle some right over your salad for an extra sweet flavor.

What To Serve Kani Salad With?

This imitation crab salad goes with just about any main dish! Soup is also a fantastic way to serve a Kani salad and homemade crusty bread. We love it with a side of potatoes and a Main Course meal like this Baked Salmon. This would also make great sushi filling or serve as a side to a crunchy Kani Tempura roll!

 

kani salad
Image: Alyona Demy

Q&A

What Is Kani?

Kani means “Crab” in Japanese. A Kani salad is a simple Japanese crab salad made of julienned cucumbers and shredded imitation crab meat. The spicy mayonnaise salad dressing is what tops everything off! Simple no-fuss ingredients can make an incredibly delicious salad that you can sprinkle with Japanese tempura flakes (Tenkasu) or Panko crumbs for added crunch!

Kani Salad Calories?

This Kani salad recipe has 164 calories. You can find this information in the nutrition facts section of the recipe card.

What Is Imitation Crab?

Imitation crab (Kani Kama) is made of fish that has been skinned, boned, and rinsed to remove any strong fish odor. It is then ground into a smooth fine paste (surimi) and seasoned with flavor concentrate made of real shellfish. After that, it is cooked and cut into different seafood shapes as we know as leg-style crab sticks, flake-style, or chunk-style.

How To Store Kani Salad?

Storing: Kani salad is best served immediately. The cucumbers tend to get runny the day after, however, it is still very flavorful, just drain any excess liquid. Leftovers can keep refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Can I Make Ahead?

Kani Japanese salad can be made ahead of time if it is stored separately from the dressing. You could store the julienned crab meat and cucumbers together however, cucumbers tend to release liquid so I’d keep them both separate until serving. Prepped Kani salad can keep up to 3 days.

To Make Ahead: Place julienned cucumbers into a food container. Shred the crab sticks (Kani Kama) into another large bowl or food container. Make the dressing and store in another container until serving. Toss everything together right before serving.

Is This a Spicy Kani Salad?

This is not a Spicy Kani Salad. The crab meat ratio is much more than the dressing which balances everything out perfectly. There is a distinct sriracha profile flavor but it’s not at all overpowering or hot.

Equipment Needed:

For prepping the salad you will need a knife or mandoline slicer. I like the Mandoline slicer for even strips of cucumbers however, a sharp knife will get all the julienning done too. Another handy utensil is a fork for shredding all those crab sticks (you probably didn’t know that kitchen hack if you did comment below, I’d love to hear from you:)

 

Tips

  1. You can add this Kani salad as a Sushi Roll filling (aka Kani Salad Roll.)
  2. Run a fork through your crab stick for easy julienning.
  3. Drizzle extra Spicy Mayo over your salad and garnish with extra caviar for a pretty presentation!
  4. To make spicy Kani salad add an extra tablespoon of sriracha sauce!
  5. Don’t have Sriracha sauce? You can buy bottled sriracha and mayo sauce already prepared and ready to use for dressings or dips.
  6. Need Serving Ideas? Place this salad into a large white serving dish paired with kitchen tongs from both sides, so your guests can pick some on either side of the buffet line.
  7. Julienning the ingredients similarly makes a uniform salad perfect for entertaining!
  8. Top Kani salad with Shrimp tempura for extra protein and a pretty presentation!
  9. Topping Kani Salad with Panko breadcrumbs or Shrimp tempura flakes gives this salad some extra crunch, however, it’s best to serve it on the side so leftovers don’t turn soggy.

More Imitation Crab Recipes:

The next time you look at a Japanese menu, remember Kani Kama (is imitation crab!)

More Cucumber Salad Recipes To Try:

How To Make Kani Salad:

Kani Salad

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 12 servings
Kani Salad is a Japanese crab salad made from spicy mayo, cucumbers and Asian caviar (capelin roe). Spicy mayo is all you need to season a Kani salad and the cucumbers and caviar take it up a notch! Find it at Sushi Restaurants and are you in for a tasty salad!

Equipment

  • 1 mixing bowl

Ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 500 grams Imitation crab (30 leg-style crab sticks)
  • 1/2 cup Masago (Capelin fish roe)
  • 1/2 English cucumber (julienned)

Salad Dressing:

Instructions

Instructions:

  • Run a fork through each crab stick and transfer them into a large bowl.
  • Add the remaining salad ingredients; julienned cucumbers, mayonnaise, and sriracha sauce. Toss to coat and serve immediately.

Notes

  • To Make-Ahead: store the julienned cucumbers and salad dressing separately until serving. Toss everything together right before serving. 
  • Masago (capelin fish roe) can be omited. 

Nutrition per serving

Serving: 1servingCalories: 164kcalCarbohydrates: 8gProtein: 5gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 7gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 68mgSodium: 498mgPotassium: 40mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 113IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 30mgIron: 1mg

 

 

kani salad with spicy mayo japanese style
image: Alyona Demy

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10 comments

    • Felicia

    Can you tell me which brand of imitation crab you buy? Not all brands shred like this!

      • Alyona’s Cooking

      Hi Felicia, the ones photographed were likely from Restaurant depo (freezer section.)

    • Elena

    Did you grate the cucumber on the grater?

      • Alyona’s Cooking

      Hi Elena, I own a Japanese mandoline that comes in three different attachments for grating. That’s what I used for the kani salad.

    • Jennifer

    My 10 year old daughter made this, we all loved it. Will definitely make again.

      • Alyona’s Cooking

      Oh great, Jennifer! My 10 year old loves this salad too, tell her 👍

    • Veronica

    Very good recipe! Thank you!

      • Alyona’s Cooking

      You were quick! Thanks for the feedback, Veronica!

    • Ewa

    Dear Alyona, thank you so much for the delicious recipes I’m your big fan, BE WELL!

      • Alyona’s Cooking

      Thank you Ewa! I’m glad to hear that!

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