Make an Even More Tempting Deviled Crab

Sinful? Heavenly? This gorgeous interpretation of a seafood classic is both

Deviled crab salad inside a crab on a bowl of ice

Photo: Savannah Bockus

Before Scoundrel opened its doors in downtown Greenville, South Carolina, in 2022, chef Joe Cash hunkered down in his home kitchen to perfect French-focused fare such as beef tartare and duck fat frites. But he also let his mind drift to childhood trips to the beach and dockside family dinners that often included deviled crab, a rich Lowcountry treat of crabmeat baked with cracker crumbs, butter and mayo, minced veggies, and spices. The trick would be to elevate it in a way that fit the menu’s subtle sophistication. His initial attempt was a lighter interpretation as a chilled salad without breading.

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“My dad was the first tester, and he lost his mind,” Cash recalls. “He said, ‘Damn, you’ve got to put this one on the menu.’ Getting a new dish right the first time doesn’t happen very often, even for a chef. Now that deviled crab has become a staple at Scoundrel.”

It’s also the sort of showstopper that draws stares when delivered to the table, with its mound of luscious lump blue crab stuffed back into a shell artfully perched atop a bed of ice. “I keep the lumps big and hearty because I want it to be about the crabmeat, but it has complex depths of flavor,” Cash says. “You can put in your spoon to get some of every layer and then eat it on a cracker.”

photo: Savannah Bockus

At Scoundrel, the crab shell is dusted with dehydrated parsley and bay leaf, an ornamental powdering not included in the recipe below. Even so, the overall preparation is not simple, but the crab cream and piperade elements can be made in advance, making it easier to assemble for serving later. Cash’s top tip for home cooks? When sautéing the piperade of onion and peppers, add the ingredients in the exact order as listed.


  • Scoundrel’s Deviled Blue Crab (Yield: 4 servings)

  • For the blue crab cream

    • 4 whole blue crabs, live or thawed from frozen

    • 2 tbsp. canola oil

    • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

    • 3 large shallots, peeled and sliced ¼-inch thick

    • 5 fresh bay leaves, torn in half (or dried leaves if not available)

    • 1 pint heavy cream

  • For the piperade

    • 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

    • ½ cup finely diced Vidalia onion

    • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin

    • ½ cup finely diced small red bell pepper

    • ¼ cup finely diced poblano pepper

    • ¼ cup finely diced okra

    • 2 tsp. fermented crab paste

    • 2 tsp. blackening seasoning (such as Paul Prudhomme Blackened Redfish Magic)

    • 4 scallions, white part only, sliced thin

    • Worcestershire sauce, to taste

    • Tabasco, to taste

    • Salt, to taste

  • For assembling

    • 1 cup picked jumbo lump blue crabmeat (not pasteurized)

    • 1 lemon

    • 4 chive tips

    • Crushed ice (or coarse rock salt)

    • Butter crackers


  1. Make the crab cream: Grasp the top shell (head) of a blue crab at the front and pull it away from the body. Repeat with the remaining three blue crabs and set aside to use as serving vessels. Remove gills from crab bodies and discard. Remove legs. Rinse legs and bodies thoroughly under cold running water, pat dry, and cut into one-inch pieces. 

  2. Heat canola oil in a large pot over high heat until it starts to shimmer. Add the legs and bodies and sauté until they turn light orange, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and shallots and continue to sauté until they start to become translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the bay leaves and allow them to toast for about 15 seconds to bring out the aromatics. Pour the cream into the pot and use a spoon to gently push down crab pieces to mostly cover. Bring to a boil, then immediately turn off heat and cover with a lid. Place the pot in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or better, overnight. 

  3. Meanwhile, clean the top shells by adding to a large pot of boiling water for about 5 minutes or until they turn red. Remove with tongs and rinse under cold water. Use your hands or a cloth to wipe the shells clean of any remaining debris. Keep cleaned shells in the refrigerator until ready to assemble the salad. When ready, remove the pot or cream and shells from the fridge and gently warm over low heat until the mixture just becomes liquid-like again. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a heatproof bowl, using a wooden spoon to press on the shells to release all the juice. Discard the shells and shallot/garlic mixture. Cover the bowl of crab cream with a lid or plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour or until ready to assemble the salad. (It will keep in the refrigerator for up to two days.)

  4. Make the piperade: Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until translucent. Add the peppers and sauté until they begin to soften, being careful not to brown. Add the okra, crab paste, and blackening spices, and sauté until the okra begins to soften. Add the scallions and sauté until incorporated. Spoon the mixture onto a parchment paper–lined sheet pan and pop in the freezer for several minutes to cool. Season with Worcestershire, Tabasco, and salt to taste, then transfer mixture to a covered container and keep in the refrigerator until ready to assemble the salad. (It will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.)

  5. Assemble: Use a whisk or stand mixer to whip crab cream until it reaches soft peaks. In a medium bowl, gently mix the lump crabmeat with ½ cup of the whipped crab cream, or more depending on desired creaminess. Season with salt to taste. With cleaned crab shells cup side up, layer 1 tablespoon of the crab cream into the bottom of each, followed by 1 tablespoon of the piperade each, followed by ¼ cup of the crabmeat each. Zest lemon over the meat and garnish each with a chive tip. Place atop bowls of crushed ice, or beds of coarse rock salt, and serve with butter crackers.