Creamy Cilantro Crab Dip – what more can I say? This appetizer brings crab to cracker with a soft spread of avocado and a touch of lime to put the “elegant” in “everyday” and leave your guests toasting your awesomeness. Don’t forget the Prosecco!
Sometimes I get asked about my favorite foods, and it always seems like such an unfair question. There’s really no narrowing down all the wonderful flavors and textures and dishes into any kind of manageable list. Heck, even Julie Andrews had to sing an entire song to talk about her favorite things! Definitely somewhere on that impossible list, though, is the alligator pear, better known as the avocado (“alligator pear” sounds more exotic, though, don’t you think?).
It’s really such a beautiful thing, cutting through the dark, bumpy, leathery skin to reveal the perfect delicate shade of green, so perfect it even inspired a generation of appliances back in the 70s (though we’re all glad that historical hiccup has passed). The slightly firm bits of avocado soften instantly when you bite into them, creating a heavenly treat either served au naturale or drizzled with a little lime and sprinkling of salt. It’s such a rich and luscious fruit (yep, not a vegetable) that avocados even find their way into smoothies and ice cream, and it’s this velvety fruit full of good-for-you fats that inspired my Creamy Cilantro Crab Dip.
Our access to avocados in the U.S. has grown exponentially over the last decade and inspired many recipes – from sushi rolls and avocado toast (another one of my favorite things) to a deep-fried and stuffed option and some pretty amazing ice cream and frozen yogurt. The accessibility of seafood too used to be limited to the coast or restaurant patrons who would pay a premium for flying in fresh fish and shellfish; however, even our land-locked states can find grocery stores and markets with fresh options now and bring a bit of the coast home with them. Marrying fresh seafood, in this case crab, with my precious avocados was a no-brainer and a unique alternative to more traditional crab dips.
Unlike the cheesy, warm crab dips you might be used to, mine is served cold. Without the cream cheese and other dairy to carry the dish, the crab can really shine through here, leaving big chunks of lump crab meat visible and calling your name. I use lime juice and lime zest, so the citrus hits your whole palette. Cumin is the surprise ingredient in this recipe, adding a subtle smoky quality and the slightest bit of heat, which somehow makes the crab seem even richer. The avocado complements the crab with that beautiful shade of green and serves as a creamy conduit, along with just a few tablespoons of mayonnaise, for holding it all together while it waits for your favorite cracker or crostini. Green onions and cilantro finish it off, well, perfectly.
Let’s talk about cilantro. If you’re not familiar with this herb, it’s the leaves that sprout from a coriander plant and they have a lemony flavor. You typically find it used in Asian or Latin American cuisine, and it definitely has both “love it” and “hate it” camps. I really think it’s a critical part of this dish to round out the Mexican theme with the cumin and lime, add an extra citrus component, and to supply that special quality that only fresh herbs can. If you really have an aversion to it, I’d suggest adding just a couple of tablespoons to this recipe rather than eliminating it completely. I’m determined to win you over!
For serving, I recommend crisp, sturdy flour or corn tortilla chips (have I mentioned I’m a fan of Mexican food? J) or crostini. I also suggest keeping eating utensils out of reach unless you want your guests digging into the Creamy Cilantro Crab Dip directly!
Crab: This recipe calls for lump crab meat – large, tender, slightly sweet, white pieces from the main body of the crab. At the market, you’re likely to also find claw meat, which is blueish in color and generally less expensive, or a combination of the two. I definitely think splurging on the lump crab meat is worth it for this recipe because the big chunks will keep the focus on the crab. Claw meat is slightly sweeter and in smaller pieces, but it would still be a good substitute, and you can even use canned crab if that’s what you have available.
Avocados: Need to speed up the ripening process on those avocados for this dish? Try using flour. You can put the avocados in a paper bag with an apple or banana to add extra ethylene gas (necessary for the ripening process); however, just nestling the avocado into the bag with a few inches of flour will concentrate the avocados’ own ethylene gas plus keep excess moisture away. A day or two later you’ll have avocado perfection. While you want to use really soft avocados for dishes like guacamole, you want them to be a little firmer for this recipe. That will help the pieces hold their shape a little better when you toss the ingredients together.
Serving Substitutes: If you’re looking for a low-carb option here, try serving this with sliced cucumbers or jicama. These two options will add a freshness to the dish but won’t compete with the crab. Another suggestion is to serve a big scoop of this dip on a bed of salad greens with some cherry tomatoes and a light drizzle of a simple vinaigrette.
Cilantro: I just want to add one more plug for cilantro and really hope you’ll give it a try. If you really REALLY don’t want to do that, though, you might try this variation: Omit the cumin, use lemon juice/zest instead of the lime, and add 2 – 3 tablespoons of fresh chopped tarragon instead of the cilantro.
So where’s the recipe? It’s just a click away! Head over to Oh Sweet Basil, a beautiful blog with delicious recipes, to check out my guest post and get the recipe for my Creamy Cilantro Crab Dip.