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The differences between snow crab and king crab


Crabs are known for their juicy meat packed with an unmistakable umami taste full of sweetness, sea salty notes and a touch of shellfish bitterness – in terms of culinary experiences, crab meat is on another level and two species in particular stand out: Snow crab and king crab.

But what exactly are the differences between snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) and king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus)? For when you take aside the obvious facts that king crab is double the price of snow crab and that snow crab is half the size of king crab, what are the qualities and characteristics that differentiate the two?

We have made this short guide to these two amazing and tasty crabs to help you navigate:


Size and appearance

Size is the more obvious difference between these two species, with king crab being the larger specimen with an average of 4,5-7 kg for a full-grown adult. Snow crab weighs in at around 1-1,8 kg on average. Live king crab are a deep burgundy color where snow crab have more of a burnt orange color. Both species turn bright red when cooked.

Red king crab occurs from British Columbia to Japan north to the Bering Sea with Bristol Bay and the Kodiak Archipelago being the centers of its abundance in Alaska.

King crab is known for their spiky, tough shell that requires some sort of cracking tools to open in order to reach the delicate meat.

Did you know? There are 3 different species of King crab: Red king crab (known as the true king crab), blue king crab (because of its blue shell before cooking) and Golden king crab (also known as brown king crab).

The snow crab is named after the climate where it lives: the coldest parts of the North Atlantic Sea and the Northern Pacific Ocean, where the water temperature is always below 4°C.

Compared to king crab, snow crab has a much more smooth surface which is still quite textured and bumpy. The shell is more brittle and can be opened by using your hands.

Royal Greenland's snow crabs are caught either in Greenland or Canada, where they are processed locally and dispatched across the world to our customers. Our direct access to the produce guarantees full traceability throughout the entire value chain.

Taste and texture

King crab is perhaps the more well-known option of the two with its firm, but very juicy meat with a slightly more coarse structure than the more delicate and fragile snow crab meat. The snow crab holds more sweetness than the king crab, which is a tad more sea salty.

In terms of appearance of the meat, both crabs offer a bright orange surface with a snow-white center, where the main difference is the size in the leg meat. Nutrition-wise there is hardly any difference between the two; the snow crab holds 0,5 more fat pr. 100g and the king crab holds double the amount of Sodium with roughly 200% more than the snow crab.


Serving suggestions

Most snow crab and king crab are sold in frozen clusters, so be prepared to work a bit to retrieve these amazingly tasty treats. To get the most out of the crabs and get the full flavour experience, we recommend serving them cold or gently heated in boiling water. Try adding a dressing for a rich, creamy supplement and a wedge of lemon to really play up those natural flavours of the crab. If you want to serve them hot, be sure to heat the crab legs gently and briefly in the oven or on a grill.

Whole snow crab clusters can be served in the shell, if you are up to the challenge of removing it. It is a truly luxurious and authentic experience to eat snow crab directly from the shell! King crab will require to be served with tools or must be cut in pieces before serving. If you are not up for the challenge of removing the shell yourself, our snow crab is also available as legmeat pieces, ready to be enjoyed.


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