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Affordable King Crab Quesadilla Recipe

You guys are in for SUCH a treat today!  It may surprise you to find a recipe for King Crab on a blog all about cheap cooking, but it is possible to enjoy such a decadent ingredient on a tight budget.  I’ve mentioned several times that one of my favorite tips to save money on food is stretching your more expensive ingredients like meat and seafood.  If you buy just one or two King Crab legs, you can stretch them with other more affordable ingredients to make an incredible dish that’s perfect for a special occasion.

Foodbuzz offered its featured publishers an opportunity to create a spectacular meal using  Alaska seafood and the Cook it Frozen techniques.  I’ve been wanting to cook with King Crab for a while now (I’d previously only had it in restaurants when someone else was treating!) and was excited to present them with this proposal of what I would do with my own share of King Crab legs…

“I love Alaskan King Crab, but neither I nor my readers feel like we can really afford it when we see it in the stores. I teach free cooking classes to low income families and one thing I always tell them is that you can create a fantastic meal by stretching your more expensive but high quality ingredients. I would love to prove you can do this with Alaskan King Crab by creating a simple quesadilla appetizer with the King Crab as the star.

Once the crab is cooked (I’m so excited to try cooking it frozen!), I’ll carefully dig out every last bit of crab meat (keeping it in nice bite sized chunks) and toss it with a fresh salsa of mango with red bell pepper, lime juice, cilantro, onion and cumin. Then comes a creamy chopped avocado. Next I’ll top a tortilla with the crab and mango salsa with a sprinkling of queso blanco to hold it all together.

After folding the tortilla in half I’ll melt a little butter (because what’s crab without butter?!) in a skillet and cook the quesadilla until the cheese is just melted and the tortilla is nice and crispy on the outside to contrast the smooth creamy filling. Finally I’ll cut each quesadilla into triangles and top the individual pieces with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkling of chopped cilantro.

I can’t wait to taste this dish because I know the sweetness of the Alaskan King Crab will prove that it really is the King, while the bright citrus of the mango and lime juice with the buttery avocado will only help to bring out the sweet crab and compliment it in every bite. I also know this recipe will be a big hit in my classes because it will stretch to feed several people, in this economy we need all the help we can get!”

As you can see, my proposal was accepted, and I was insanely happy to find a box with a big mama jama bag full of crab setting on my doorstep.  I felt like a kid at Christmas!!! Thanks Alaska Seafood for the free crab to create this post!

Our cat Cappucino was almost as excited as I was.  Watching him stalk around the box reminded me of the Heathcliff cartoon, that cat LOVED his seafood!

I’ll share some tips and my thoughts about the meal in a moment but first, I had so much fun making these quesadillas that I filmed a quick step by step, how to video that shows how easy it is.

How to Make King Crab Quesadilla from Diana Johnson on Vimeo.

As you can see it’s really a simple recipe, and one the easiest parts of it is not having to thaw the crab legs.  Almost everywhere I looked on the web for how to cook King Crab Legs says you MUST thaw them before cooking.  But reading the Cook it Frozen site was really encouraging to realize that you don’t necessarily HAVE to thaw your seafood out before cooking it.

I have a bad habit of putting something in the fridge to thaw thinking we’ll cook it the next day, then getting busy and eating on the run.  Next thing you know there’s stinky seafood of death in the refrigerator and I’m full of guilt!  I love that with this technique I can just have last minute guests over and say “Let me just whip up something with crab for dinner!”  I will so win the hostess with the mostess award!

I stuck to the ingredients and details of my proposal, but I did make a couple of tweaks after testing the recipe in the kitchen and on my (very willing) test subjects.  First of all, I decided not to mix the crab into the mango salsa before putting it in the quesadilla.  Look how much you get from just ONE chopped mango!  (If you’re new to cooking with mangoes, check out how to cut a mango)

Once I made the salsa I realized that there was going to be more than enough for the number of quesadillas I planned to make.  I wanted to make sure that every serving had plenty of crab, so sprinkled it by hand into the quesadilla.  It ended up working out that the mango salsa with some tortilla chips was a perfect appetizer, and we had the King Crab quesadilla as our main dish.

It was so filling that we each only needed two triangles to feel completely satisfied.  On another occasion, I learned that just one triangle is a great appetizer followed by a nice fresh salad.  That made the cost per serving even cheaper!

The other change I made was moving the skillet from the stove into the oven.  You can definitely still cook it on the stove, but starting it on the stove and moving it into the oven cut the cooking time IN HALF.  The whole meal only took me about 20 minutes of prep and cooking time.  You can also just butter the outside of the tortillas and prepare multiple quesadillas on a large cookie sheet (skipping the skillet) if you want to cook several at once.

So bottom line, even if you’re on a tight budget, a luxury ingredient like King Crab is not out of the realm of possibilities.  Whether it’s for a fancy romantic dinner for two and paired with a nice white wine, or for a fiesta with friends, you CAN afford this tasty treat!

King Crab Quesadillas

serves 6 as main dish or 12 as an appetizer


2 frozen King Crab legs
1 mango peeled, pitted and chopped
1/2 a red bell pepper seeded and chopped
1/2 a jalapeno seeded and chopped
1/4 a red onion finely chopped
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 TBS chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp cumin
1 TBS butter
4 flour tortillas
1 cup crumbled queso fresco
1 avocado cut into large chunks
sour cream, tapatio and chopped cilantro to garnish


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Place a steamer basket into a pot with an inch of water.  Bring the water to a low boil.  Rinse the crab legs briefly under cold running water to remove any ice glaze.  Break the legs at the joints and place into the steamer basket.  Cover the pot and steam for 8 minutes.

While the crab is cooking mix the mango, red bell pepper, jalapeno, red onion, lime juice, cilantro and cumin in a bowl.  Let the salsa sit for the flavors to mix while you prepare the crab.

Using tongs, remove the crab legs from the pot.  Use a pair of scissors to carefully cut the crab meat out of its shell then tear it apart with your fingers.

If cooking the quesadillas one at a time, butter a large skillet and line it with a tortilla.  Sprinkle half the tortilla with a little queso fresco, then the meat of 1/2 a crab leg.  Next add a few spoonfulls of mango salsa, some chunks of avocado and a little more queso fresco.  Fold the tortilla in half and place in the oven for 7-10 minutes, until the tortilla is crispy and cheese is creamy and gooey (it won’t melt completely).

If you want to cook them all at once, just butter one side of each tortilla and place butter side down on cookie sheets.  Top half the tortillas with the ingredients as listed above and fold in half.  You may need to cook the quesadillas a couple minutes longer to get the tortillas nice and crispy.

Cut each quesadilla into three triangles and top each one with a dollop of sour cream, a couple drops of tapatio and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro.  Serve 1 per person as an appetizer or two per person as a main dish.

Approximate cost/serving: The $16 per lb at our local grocery store seems unimaginable.  But that can get you three crab legs.  If you just ask for two that’s even cheaper, plus sometimes they’re on sale which brings the price down even more.  If I had made these with crab from our local grocer it would have cost under $3 per person as a main dish, and around $1.40 per person as an appetizer.  Way cheaper than eating out!

Gluten Free: Feel free to use corn tortillas to make this gluten free, just read the package to make sure they’re really just made with corn.

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Nutritional and cost information is for estimating purposes only, and subject to variations due to region, seasonality, and product availability.

4 thoughts on “Affordable King Crab Quesadilla Recipe”

  1. Glad to hear you got picked, I did as well. I’m hoping we both win so we can meet up at Foodbuzz together. 🙂 How fun would that be. More wine glass smuggling.

    As a sidebar, I’m a finalist in another recipe contest! I’d love your support if you have a moment. To vote, see my video here: http://bit.ly/bXKr5j and then click that you “like it.” (Note that you will have to log into your youtube account to vote and if you don’t have one, you’ll have to create one. I promise it only takes a minute!…) If nothing else you …get to see me look awkward on video. :- And thanks for all the support so far. Much appreciated.


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