Crab salad in a bowl

Today, we’re diving into how to make Crab pasta salad. Succulent crab meat with perfectly cooked pasta, all tossed together in a tangy dressing with fresh herbs to create a perfect mix of flavors and textures.

As the temperatures rise and Easter festivities approach, whether you’re planning a casual get-together with friends, a family gathering to celebrate Easter, or simply craving a taste of summer on your plate, our crab pasta salad has got you covered. With its easy-to-follow recipe and customizable ingredients, it’s the ultimate sidekick for all your summertime adventures and Easter feasts.

tangy crab shells pasta salad

Why Crab Pasta Salad?

Crab pasta salad is a dish that’s versatile, easy to make, and bursting with vibrant flavors. Whether you’re hosting a small gathering, packing a picnic, or simply craving a light yet satisfying meal, this salad has got you covered.  Plus, it’s a fantastic way to incorporate seafood into your diet, reaping all those omega-3 fatty acids and protein-packed goodness.

Choosing the Right Seafood

When it comes to selecting seafood for your crab pasta salad, freshness is key. Opt for high-quality crab meat – whether it’s lump crab, claw meat, or even imitation crab for a budget-friendly option. You can also mix in other seafood like shrimp, lobster, or even scallops for an extra indulgent twist. Just make sure to cook them properly and let them cool before adding them to your salad. 

overhead shot of ingredients for a crab pasta salad

Which pasta to use

Now, let’s talk pasta. The beauty of crab pasta salad lies in its versatility, so feel free to get creative with your pasta choice. From classic elbow macaroni to shells, fusilli, penne, or even bowties – the possibilities are endless. Just remember to cook your pasta al dente to ensure it retains its shape and texture when tossed with the other ingredients. And don’t forget to generously season your pasta water with salt for that extra flavor boost!

crab salad dressing

Let’s talk dressing

The dressing is where you can really elevate your crab pasta salad to the next level. This simple mayonnaise-based dressing works wonders.  The combination of mayo, lemon juice, pickle juice with fresh herbs and old bay or creole seasoning kicks it up a knotch.  But don’t be afraid to experiment with different flavors and ingredients.

For a zesty kick, try adding lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and fresh herbs like parsley or dill. Or, if you prefer a creamy consistency, mix in some Greek yogurt or sour cream for a tangy twist. The key is to strike the perfect balance of acidity, creaminess, and seasoning to complement the sweetness of the crab meat.

crab, red onion, celery and pasta shell in a bowl

Adding Crunch and Color

No salad is complete without a bit of crunch and color. Celery and red onions give this crab pasta salad a much needed freshness and texture.  Consider tossing in some fresh vegetables like crunchy cucumbers, sweet bell peppers, or juicy cherry tomatoes for added freshness and vibrancy. You can also throw in some avocado for extra texture and flavor complexity. And don’t forget the herbs – a sprinkle of chopped chives or basil can take your salad from good to gourmet in an instant.

up close shot of crab salad with flecks of crab

Assembly and Presentation

When it comes to assembling your crab pasta salad, start with a base of cooked pasta, then add your crab meat and any additional seafood you’re using. Drizzle generously with your chosen dressing, then gently toss everything together until evenly coated. Finally, garnish with fresh that final flourish of flavor.  Refrigerate for at least an hour so that the flavors can blend.

Tips for Success

  • Always opt for fresh, high-quality ingredients for the best flavor and texture.
  • Don’t overcook your pasta or seafood – al dente is the way to go.
  • Adjust the seasoning and dressing to suit your personal taste preferences.
  • Chill your salad for at least an hour before serving to allow the flavors to meld together.
  • Don’t be afraid to get creative and add your own unique twist to the recipe!
up close image of pasta salad with crab, herbs and onions on a spoon.

Variations to Explore

  • Substitute crab meat with cooked shrimp, lobster, or even flaked salmon for a different flavor profile.
  • Experiment with different pasta shapes and varieties to keep things interesting.
  • Try different dressings such as a vinaigrette, aioli, or Asian-inspired sesame ginger dressing for a fusion twist.
  • Add in extras like olives, capers, or roasted red peppers for an extra burst of flavor.

Salads to try

up close shot of crab salad with flecks of crab

Get the Recipe Crab Pasta Salad

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 6


  • 2 cups pasta shells
  • 8 oz cooked lump crab meat
  • 1/3 cup finely diced celery
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 1 tsp old bay or creole seasoning
  • 2 tbsp pickle juice
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped dill


  • Cook Pasta: Begin by cooking 2 cups of pasta shells according to the package directions. Aim for al dente, as overcooked pasta can become mushy in the salad. Once cooked, drain the pasta and set it aside to cool.
  • Prepare Ingredients: While the pasta is cooking, prepare the other ingredients. Finely chop 1/3 cup of celery, 1 tablespoon dill, and 1/4 cup of red onion. Drain the crab meat if necessary and set it aside.
  • Make Dressing: In a small bowl, combine 1 cup of mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon of Old Bay or Creole seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, a pinch of black pepper, the juice of half a lemon, and 2 tablespoons of pickle juice. Whisk the ingredients together until smooth and well combined. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  • Combine Ingredients: In a large mixing bowl, add the cooked and cooled pasta shells, chopped celery, dill, purple onion, and crab meat.
  • Add Dressing: Pour the prepared dressing over the pasta and crab mixture. Using a spatula or large spoon, gently toss everything together until the ingredients are evenly coated with the dressing. Be careful not to break up the crab meat too much.
  • Chill and Serve:  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid and refrigerate the crab pasta salad for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to meld together and the salad to chill. This also helps the pasta to absorb some of the dressing for maximum flavor.
  • Serve: Once chilled, give the salad a final toss to redistribute the dressing. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Garnish with additional dill or a slice of lemon if desired. Serve chilled and enjoy your delicious crab pasta salad!
Cuisine: American
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Author: Jehan Powell