Skip to Content

Claw Crab Meat vs Lump Crab Meat: An Overview of Both, The Differences In Taste & Texture, and Substitute Options

Claw Crab Meat vs Lump Crab Meat: An Overview of Both, The Differences In Taste & Texture, and Substitute Options

Crab meat is famous all over the world. People love it for its delicate sweet taste, but also for its versatility. From salads to soups to all kinds of pasta, crab meat can elevate any number of dishes. 

What kind of crab meat should be used though? In this guide, we will be looking at claw crab meat vs lump crab meat. What is lump crab meat and what is claw crab meat? Is there a taste difference? What is better for crab cakes?

By the end of this article, you will be able to decide whether you need claw crab meat or lump crab meat for your planned meal!

We cover the following items in this post:

Claw Crab Meat vs Lump Crab Meat: The Basics

What Is Lump Crab Meat?

Lump crab meat comes from the body and legs of the crab. It is generally considered higher quality than claw crab meat. It has a nice texture that many people like in their dishes. The lump meat is made up of jumbo lump and backfin. It’s a common choice for meat when making crab cakes!

What Is Jumbo Lump? 

Jumbo lump is the crabmeat that is considered the largest and most expensive. It comes from the two large muscles connected to the swimming legs.

Because of the size of the jumbo lump (hence the name) and its nice meaty texture, this kind of crabmeat is often found on cocktail platters or in sautés.

What Is Backfin? 

Backfin is the smaller pieces of crab meat that “flake.” It has a more delicate texture than jumbo lump crab meat and is perfect for a variety of dishes.

Backfin crab meat is very commonly used in crab cakes made in the Chesapeake Bay, MD area. (Which is what I grew up on.) I highly recommend them, and my family always loved G&M crab cakes specifically!

What Does Lump Crab Meat Look Like? 

Lump crab meat. Claw crab meat vs lump crab meat

Lump crab meat is defined by its pure white color. As the name suggests, it looks like “lumps” of meat, so the consumer gets a nice hunk of crab rather than little pieces.

The pieces are usually about the size of a large garlic clove and will stay together rather than fall apart, which is something that often happens with meat from other parts of the crab. 

What Is Claw Crab Meat?

Speaking of, what is claw crab meat? This meat is not considered as high quality as lump crab meat but is still very delicious in its own way. It comes from the fins and claws of the crab that are used for swimming, so they are very active muscles.

Claw crab meat is:

  • Usually pink or light brown in color
  • High in fat
  • Has a very strong crab flavor
  • Has a “flakier” texture
  • Is more course
  • Offers smaller and oilier pieces of crab meat

Claw crab meat is best used in soups (like gumbo) or bisques. But it’s also great to pull from a crab leg and eat it after dipping in some vinegar, warm butter, or even some Old Bay seasoning. My personal favorite is vinegar.

Is Claw Crab Meat Good? 

Claw crab meat. Claw crab meat vs lump crab meat

Claw crab meat preference is ultimately up to the individual. While the general consensus is that lump crab meat is the better of the two, some people might like claw crab meat better. I personally love it.

The meat from the claw has a stronger crab taste, so if that’s something you prefer, then you will probably think that claw crab meat is good. If you do not like a strong crab flavor, then you’d probably say that claw crab meat is not as good as lump crab meat.

Claw crab meat is still good to eat though. It won’t make you sick and it ultimately comes down to personal preference when choosing between the meat from the claw or the meat from the body. 

The Taste Test: Lump vs Claw Crab Meat

In general, crab meat has a slightly sweet, slightly salty, delicate flavor that lends itself to countless herbs and seasonings. 

When it comes down to the taste, more people tend to prefer lump crab meat.

  • Lump crab meat tastes sweeter and has a very mild crab taste.
  • Claw crab meat, on the other hand, has a very strong crab flavor. 

Depending on the specific dish or personal taste preferences, lump or claw meat could work for you.

Claw meat is better for when it will be competing with other strong flavors (e.g., spicy) whereas lump meat pairs nicely with dishes that have little to no other flavor (e.g., salads or as toppings for pasta).  

Which Crab Meat Is Best? 

The “best” crab meat is a bit subjective. Depending on the dish you’re making or your taste palette, lump meat might be a better fit, or claw meat might be the way to go. 

What Are You Planning to Cook or Make? 

As mentioned before, lump crab meat has a sweet, milder taste whereas claw meat has a strong crab flavor.

Most people use claw crab meat when they want the crab flavor to stand out; if you don’t want much of a crab flavor, it’s better to go with lump meat. For example, stews need a strong crab flavor so the crab meat can stand out against the rest of the spices. 

Taste And Texture

Lump meat is also larger and has a smoother texture than claw meat, which can flake and come apart easily. 

What Is The Best Crab Meat To Use For Crab Cakes?

Crab cake. Claw crab meat vs lump crab meat

Is claw or lump crab meat better for crab cakes?

Lump crab meat, specifically the backfin, is the better meat for crab cakes, hands down.

It is made up of broken chunks of meat, which are ideal for creating crab cakes that hold together well. The flavor of lump crab meat is subtle, which works well with crab cakes because there are usually no competing flavors to overwhelm the crab flavor. 

Just make sure there isn’t too much filler. Some restaurants add a ton of filler, in what I believe is an attempt to save money on the crab meat, and it just tastes worse. So, regardless of what meat is used, an excess of filler can diminish the dish.

What Can I Substitute for Lump Crab Meat? 

You are ready to prepare some crab for a meal and realize you don’t have any lump crab meat. What can you do? 

Try Pollock

Pollock, a type of fish that is used to make surimi, or imitation crab, makes for a good substitute for lump crab meat. It has a good flavor, although it’s usually harder to get “lumps” out of imitation crab. 

Try Lobster

A lobster on ice. Claw crab meat vs lump crab meat

Crabs and lobsters seem related (they are both red-colored crustaceans with claws), and they can be used as substitutes for each other.

While it won’t be a perfect replacement, it can work in a pinch. Lobster tends to be less sweet, but it holds together well since it’s not as flaky. 

Final Thoughts: Crab Claw Meat vs Lump Crab Meat

Crab claw meat and lump crab meat are both excellent options for meals involving crab.

  • Lump crab meat is considered the higher quality meat and has a sweeter taste.
  • Crab claw meat is a strong crab flavor and tends to fall apart. 

Lump crab meat has a subtler flavor, so it does well in dishes that do not have a lot of competing flavors or spices. This includes salads and crab cakes.

Crab claw meat can hold its own against other strong flavors, so something like a hearty stew could really take advantage of the strong crab flavor. 

You really can’t go wrong with either option!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Is Special Crab Meat?

Special crab meat is a kind of lump meat that comes specifically from the crab’s body cavity.

It is comprised of smallish white flakes, looks visually appealing, and is the most versatile of all the crab meats. Like other lump crab meats, the special crab meat has a delicate flavor. It is often used for dips, omelets, wraps, quesadillas, and salads. 

Is Lump Crab the Same as Crab Meat? 

Lump crab is a kind of crab meat. In other words, all lump crab is crab meat, but not all crab meat is lump crab.

When you hear someone say, “lump crab,” they are referring to the meat that is found in the body and legs of the crab. It is highly sought after and means that the eater will likely get a nice mild, yet sweet flavor. 

If someone mentions crab meat, they are likely referring to the meat of a crab in general. Assuming that someone means lump crab can lead to confusion, especially if you find that the crab meat is from the claws. Claw crab meat differs in many ways, including flavor, texture, and color. 

What Other Parts of The Crab Are Edible? 

The body, legs, and claws all contain edible meat, which is what we call lump meat and claw meat.

The only thing to be wary of is the internal organs, which can contain domoic acid, a naturally occurring toxin. 

Which Species Of Crab Has The Best Meat?

Some of the most sought-after species of crab are Maryland blue crabs, Dungeness crabs, and soft-shell crabs.

Is Canned Crab Meat As Good As Fresh Crab Meat? 

If you can’t get fresh crab, canned crab meat can work too. You can purchase both lump meat and claw meat in canned form.

The benefit of canned crab is that it lasts longer than if you bought it fresh. Unfortunately, canned crab won’t have the same taste quality as fresh crab.