Can you eat crab shells?

In this short article, we will provide an answer to the question, “Can you eat crab shells?” with an in-depth analysis of crab shells, the nutritional components and the health benefits of eating crab shells, and some recipes to cook crab shells. 

Can you eat crab shells?

Yes, you can eat crab shells. A crab shell is the hard bony exoskeleton of the crab. It is mainly composed of chitin. 

The crab exoskeletons contain minerals in the form of amorphous calcium carbonate (CaCO3), that is deposited inside the chitin-protein matrix. The amount of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) particles define the hardness of the exoskeleton, which varies within one crab shell and according to the species

Nutritional components of crab shells

Crab shells are composed of various nutritional and valuable elements, such as proteins, calcium, and chitins. These ingredients have been recycled and valued as nutraceutical chitin, animal foods, and also as natural pigments.

The crab shell is also composed of lipid pigments such as lutein, β-carotene and carotenoids (for instance, astatine, astaxanthin, and canthaxanthin)

Health benefits of eating crab shells

Crab shells may have anti-inflammatory properties

Crab shells contain chitin that is composed of anti-inflammatory properties. Due to this characteristic crab shells can be utilized for the development of therapeutic strategies for individuals who are diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other diseases. Chitin is also used to treat certain allergic conditions in humans.

Chitin is a harmless and biodegradable compound. It also does not cause allergic reactions and is consequently safe for oral consumption as a dietary food supplement. 

Scientists have now believed that many chronic diseases such as IBD, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and asthma originate from chronic inflammation.

It has been found out that oral ingestion of chitin microparticles lessens disease symptoms of allergic asthma, food allergies, colitis and foodborne infections in humans.

Furthermore, chitin has been associated with the growth inhibition of disease-causing bacterial species, for instance, Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumonia and Proteus Vulgaris.

Antioxidant properties

Crab shells contain selenium that has antioxidant properties. It protects cells from damage. Evidence that selenium consumption has been linked to the reduction of symptoms associated with prostate cancer.

It has also been recognized for the treatment of other conditions including asthma, arthritis, dandruff and infertility.

How to cook stock with crab shells

To make stock with crab shells, follow the instructions below:

  1. Place the crab bodies with shells in a 6- to 8-quart container and add water that should be enough to cover the crab completely with water. 
  2. Allow it to boil. Then remove the white foam from the top of the stock. Moving a spoon in a circular motion, push the foam from the middle to the outside of the container, where it is easy to remove.
  3. Decrease the flame so the stock boils at a fast, even simmer.
  4. Then add the onions, celery, tomatoes, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, and thyme. 
  5. Allow the stock to simmer and cook for around one hour. The water should completely cover the crab shells while the stock cooks; if it does not, just add more water.
  6. Add a pinch of salt. Taste to check the flavour; if it seems less, simmer more for another 20 minutes.
  7. Filter the stock through a fine-mesh colander. 
  8. If you do not have to use it within an hour, allow it to chill as quickly as possible. 
  9. Cover the stock after it has completely cooled and keep it refrigerated for almost three days, or freeze for up to two months.

How to make stuffed crab

To make stuffed crab, you will need:

  • 2 lb fresh crabmeat
  • 4 sticks of butter
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup celery finely chopped 
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper finely chopped 
  • Creole seasoning to taste
  • 1/4 cup parsley flakes

Follow the instructions below:

  1. Sauté onions in butter for about five minutes.
  2. Add crab meat and cook for an extra five minutes.
  3. Then, add parsley, celery, bell pepper and creole seasoning. Cook for five minutes over medium flame.
  4. Add eggs, and bread crumbs and cook for about one minute. Remove from the flame.
  5. Add mixture into crab shells and then sprinkle the remaining bread crumbs on the top. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit in an oven for about 30 minutes, or deep fry until they become golden brown.
  6. Serve and enjoy.

This recipe serves about 2 dozen people. It takes 30 minutes to prepare and approximately 45 min to cook.

Conclusion

In this short article, we have provided an answer to the question, “Can you eat crab shells?” with an in-depth analysis of crab shells, the nutritional components and the health benefits of eating crab shells, and some recipes to cook crab shells. 

References

https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/740044
https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/crab-stock-105265

Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.