Are Coconut Crabs Edible? Facts and Recipes You Should Know

are coconut crabs edible

Ever since their discovery in 1580, coconut crabs have been one of the most fascinating yet frightening species of crab. On the one hand, their unique appearance makes them stand out from any other arthropod. On the other hand, their sheer size makes most people cower in fear upon meeting them.

However, over the years, people have become less frightened and more intrigued by coconut crabs. And while most people are just taking photos, others are interested in cooking and eating them. Naturally, that begs the question: are coconut crabs edible? Let’s find out!

What Are Coconut Crabs?

Coconut Crabs

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Coconut crabs are a species of terrestrial hermit crabs, native to the Indian Ocean and parts of the Pacific. While they are related to other land crabs, coconut crabs are truly unique in the animal kingdom. They are the largest terrestrial arthropods in the world, usually having a body length of up to 16 inches.

Besides its impressive size, the coconut crab is famous for its ability to break coconuts using its claws. It’s also worth noting that some coconut crabs tend to steal shiny items, like silverware, from local houses and tents. In fact, that’s why coconut crabs are also known as palm thieves or robber crabs among the locals.

What’s interesting yet scary about coconut crabs is their diet. More specifically, while their diet mainly consists of fruit, coconut crabs will eat nearly anything organic. That includes leaves, tortoise eggs, rotten fruits, and dead animals. Not only that, but coconut crabs also eat live animals, like rats, baby sea turtles, and even birds. So, it’s safe to say that coconut crabs don’t have a hard time getting food, especially since they are not picky eaters.

Are Coconut Crabs Edible?

Edible or not

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It may come as a surprise, but coconut crabs are considered to be a tasty freshwater and sea delicacy. As a matter of fact, millions of tourists and locals alike eat this impressive creature. Why? Because, due to their diverse diet, coconut crabs are rich in nutrients and vitamins, making them a healthy addition to anyone’s menu.

However, unlike other animals, coconut crabs can’t be raised in captivity, so you won’t see crab farms anytime soon. In other words, every cooked crab has been taken from its natural habitat. As a result, the coconut crab population has been in decline, as they are now an endangered species. And while there are many efforts to save them from extinction, the high demand for this exotic creature will likely only continue to grow.

Are Coconut Crabs Poisonous?

Poisonous or not

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Generally speaking, coconut crabs are not poisonous, so eating them shouldn’t cause any health problems. That being said, there were a few reports of people who had been poisoned after eating a coconut crab meal. But the explanation is simple and has to do with the crab’s diverse diet.

To put it simply, since crabs eat almost anything, they might eat some dangerous chemicals or additives. And, while cooking should get rid of any poisonous substances, some might still end up in the final dish. Therefore, proper cleaning and cooking are essential when preparing a coconut crab dish.

How to Cook Coconut Crabs

Cook Coconut Crabs

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As previously mentioned, you can’t simply pick up the crab and have a go at it. Instead, you need to know how to cook in order to avoid getting poisoned by anything inside the crab’s body. The process is pretty simple and is identical regardless of what type of recipe you are going for.

Firstly, heat up a pan of water that has salt in it. Most chefs recommend that you use a mix of fresh water and seawater to get the best results. Then, place the live coconut crab in the pan and cover it with a lid. Let the water heat up and simmer for about 15 minutes and then check the crab. If it has turned a red color, then it is ready for eating.

Keep in mind that the simmer time varies depending on the size of the crab. Additionally, avoid overheating as you could puncture the abdomen and spill the contents into the water, making them inedible.

Next, you need to pull the legs and claws off the body, as those are the areas with the most meat. There is also some meat near the area where the legs meet the body, so you can scoop that out too. And, if you want to try a local delicacy, you can squeeze the crab’s abdomen after making a hole in it.

The brown paste that comes out can be spread on a piece of bread and eaten as it is. In fact, the local Polynesians call it Fois Gras, and it is an extremely popular meal among them.

Coconut Crab Recipes

By now, you are most likely intrigued and curious about coconut crabs and their culinary appeal. If that’s the case, then the following recipes are some of the best ways to enjoy this delicious exotic creature. Just remember that you should first cook the crab before attempting any of them.

Coconut Crab Curry

Coconut Crab Curry

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Coconut crab curry is one of the most popular dishes that involves coconut crab. As a matter of fact, you can use multiple types of crab meat when making this dish. Before you start cooking, make sure you have all the following ingredients:

• Coconut crab meat
• Curry powder
• Hot pepper
• Cumin
• Garam Masala
• Chopped garlic
• Chopped thyme
• Salt
• Coconut milk
• Scallion
• Medium onion
• Oil

Ready to cook? Then start off by making a curry paste using the curry powder, cumin, thyme, garlic, and water in a small bowl. Place another large pot with some oil over high heat, and add the curry paste as soon as the oil is hot. Lower the heat to medium and cook for about 8 minutes, until the mixture darkens. Next, add the onion and stir until it softens, at which point you can add pepper, water, salt, and coconut milk.

Afterward, you can add the crab meat and cook it until the sauce thickens. Then you can turn off the stove and stir in some scallions. And voilà, you have learned how to make a delicious coconut crab curry. Just try not to eat it all at once!

Coconut Crab Seafood Platter

Coconut Crab Seafood Platter

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More often than not, local restaurants will serve coconut crab seafood platters that contain an assortment of fresh seafood. But you don’t have to travel to try it, instead, you can make it yourself. First, you need to check out the ingredients list to see if you are ready to cook:

• Coconut milk
• Coconut crab
• Limes
• Salt
• Green chilies
• Red chilies
• Parrotfish or other reef fish
• Sea snails
• Land crabs

Start by making the sauce using limes, seawater, and chilies. You can also add coconut milk if you want a sweeter and more exotic taste. Then, place the coconut crab together with salt, coconut milk, chilies, and lime in a large saucepan and cook it over high heat until the mixture starts to boil.

After 10 minutes or so, remove the coconut crab with tongs and set it aside. Add the parrotfish and let it simmer over medium heat for 12 minutes. At the same time, drop the other land crabs in a large pot of boiling salted water that sits over high heat. Let it cook for 6 minutes and then drain the water. Meanwhile, cook the sea snails on a rack over an open fire for 4 minutes.

Once everything is cooked, you need to break the coconut crab into pieces as discussed earlier. Arrange the seafood on a platter as you see fit, add the sauce on the side, and that’s it. Now, you and your friends can enjoy an assortment of delicious seafood and coconut crab meat. And, if you want to go the extra mile, you can add a second sauce made using coconut milk, sunflower oil, scallions, garlic, and cilantro.

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Sandra Holbrook

Sandra Holbrook

Sandra is an elementary school teacher turned columnist. Backed by many years of experience with social interactions under challenging circumstances, her work focuses on the importance of conversational wellbeing.

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