Maryland “Crab” Soup

This morning I was thinking about what I could do with the extra can of jackfruit I had leftover from making jackfruit tacos, when it dawned on me that the texture of cooked jackfruit would cause it to stand in very well for crab, and I suddenly decided I wanted to make crab soup. I remembered I had two crab soup recipes from my mom’s recipe box, but when I looked them over, neither seemed particularly appealing. One of them included all sorts of things I can’t even identify like “ham hock” and weird parts of cow. (I think that recipe was really “Old Bay soup” and not “crab soup”, though it also had crab in it. I don’t think most Maryland crab soup has heaps of weird meat in it.) The other was more my speed but called for a lot of frozen vegetables, where I’d rather use fresh. So I simply set out on my own.

The first thing I did was soak some dried lima beans. Now, I haven’t been entirely truthful with you. I’ve made it sound as if the only vegan food I don’t like is mushrooms. But the fact of the matter is, I also dislike baby lima beans. I’ve always hated them. At least, I think I still dislike them. I should probably try them again and make sure, but one just sort of rarely comes across lima beans in one’s daily travels, so I never even think of them. It’s kind of a pain to be vegan and hate mushrooms because people always want to feed mushrooms to vegetarians, often as a meat substitute. But no one cares if you hate lima beans because everyone else hates lima beans too. Or at least rarely eats them. The good news is, however, that I like LARGE lima beans, and I keep dried ones on hand for the infrequent times I realize I want them. So I measured 1 cup of dried large limas into a pot, covered with water, brought to a boil, boiled for two minutes, then turned off the heat and let them soak for an hour (actually, it was much longer, but do it for at least an hour.)

When the soaking water the lima beans are in is cool enough, pop each bean out of its “jacket”. Now, I hate hulling soybeans in this fashion and refuse to do it (I crack them while they are dry, then rinse the hulls off), but it’s actually kind of satisfying to hull large limas: they pop right out. It’s almost like popping bubble wrap. Return each hulled lima to the water to continue soaking.

Next I made the “crabmeat”:

Mock Crabmeat

1 large can young green jackfruit, packed in water (make sure it is “young green” jackfruit and that it’s not in syrup)
4 cups water
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp dry mustard
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
all the seaweed you can find in your house, totaling about 1/4 – 1/2 cup depending on the type. I used kombu, dulse, hiziki, and arame.

Place the water in a pot and add the rest of the ingredients except the jackfruit. Bring to a boil.

Drain the jackfruit and rinse.

Add the jackfruit to the pot …

… reduce heat, cover, and simmer for a half an hour or until jackfruit is tender …

… then drain, allowing the seaweed to cling to the jackfruit.

Now you can assemble the soup. That is, if you have Old Bay on hand, you may assemble the soup. If you don’t, you’re going to have to get some. I’m sorry if that upsets you. Ordinarily I consider all of my recipes sort of suggestions or starting points and assume that if anyone makes them, they’ll make substitutions and changes as they see fit, because that’s how I approach all recipes that I read. In this case, however, I really must insist you use Old Bay. Maryland Crab Soup contains Old Bay: end of story. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, crabs ARE Old Bay. I don’t know that there are many traits that I have that mark me as a native Marylander, but if I have one, it’s that I know that crabs in any form require Old Bay. I think a lot of large grocery stores in the United States – even those that are not on the East Coast – carry Old Bay, but you can get it online. Heck, if you ask me to, I will MAIL you some Old Bay. I really will!

Maryland “Crab” Soup

1 recipe mock crabmeat (recipe above)
1 cup dried lima beans, soaked
1 large onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 small head garlic (about 6 cloves), minced or pressed
1 red chili pepper, minced (can substitute hot sauce or dried chili flakes, or omit if you are a sissy)
4 carrots, chopped
2 medium potatoes, diced
2 cups green beans, trimmed and chopped or french-cut
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 can diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)
1 small can tomato sauce
3 cups vegan “beef” stock
3-4 Tbsp Old Bay seasoning
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

You’ll want to cook the lima beans separately. If you have a pressure cooker, you can do this quickly: pressure cook for about 5-7 minutes, until they are soft, then drain. Otherwise, boil the limas in water for 2-4 hours or until soft. They won’t cook in the soup because the acidity of the tomatoes interferes.

Chop the onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes. Mince or press the garlic. Mince the hot pepper. Chop or french cut the green beans.

In a large soup pot or a Dutch Oven, heat some oil, then add the onions and fry over medium heat for 3 minutes.

Add the celery, garlic, and hot pepper; fry for 2 minutes.

Add the carrots and fry for 1-2 minutes.

Add the diced tomatoes and the tomato sauce.

Add the “beef” stock, potatoes, and any seaweed leftover from the jackfruit cooking.

Shred the jackfruit using your fingers. It should fall apart easily.

Add the green beans, jackfruit, corn, cooked limas, Old Bay, and Worcestershire sauce to the soup.

I chopped the carrot greens up and added them to the soup as well. You could also use parsley. Or you can skip it.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for an hour.

Serve with saltines or a crusty bread. Goes well with beer.

Is it really spring?! I noticed this one random, lonely flower in the middle of our yard today.

Happy Spring!


  1. Mom Said,

    March 22, 2009 @ 8:21 am

    In my mother’s Crab Soup recipe, the ham bone, beef bone, and bone marrow are in there to make the stock base for the crab soup. Her recipe doesn’t even mention putting Old Bay in it. The other recipe is mine, and it is very good.

  2. Courtney Said,

    March 22, 2009 @ 3:53 pm

    Wow–this looks great! The only jackfruit I have been able to find is in syrup, but I will keep looking…I am determined to make this soup!


  3. Laura Said,

    March 23, 2009 @ 9:58 am

    that looks wonderful! i still haven’t tried jackfruit yet!! i must be the worst vegan ever! 🙂 i love soaking things with seaweed to give them a bit of an ocean-y flavor….thanks for the yummy recipe!

  4. poopiebitch Said,

    March 23, 2009 @ 10:03 am

    Oh man, that looks so good! And I have a tin of jackfruit kicking around the cupboards right now, waiting to be utilized.

    If I leave out the celery, my husband *may* try this, since there’s only a small tin of tomato sauce… Yay!

  5. Alexis Said,

    March 23, 2009 @ 10:26 pm

    Do you have vegetarian Worcestershire sauce? What kind do you use?

  6. renae Said,

    March 24, 2009 @ 8:59 am

    Alexis, that’s a good question – sometimes I’m so used to using vegan versions of things, I forget to point out they are usually not vegan! I use Annie’s Worcestershire sauce. It’s the only one without anchovies I think I’ve come across.

  7. Pam Said,

    April 26, 2009 @ 2:51 pm

    You crack me up! You can make crab soup without crab but not without Old Bay?

    Come to think of it…you’re RIGHT.

    I’m not vegan but you’ve inspired me. Crab soup it is!

    (please don’t be offended…I loved reading your recipe! I’m just sarcastic by nature.)

  8. renae Said,

    April 27, 2009 @ 2:47 pm

    Pam, I’m not offended if my post caused you to eat crab soup. Omnivores are just as welcome here as vegans and I’m just glad my posts don’t turn people away from food!

  9. Charlotte Said,

    April 30, 2009 @ 6:49 pm

    This looks great! I’m a vegan Marylander as well and I agree, crab is Old Bay. Plain and simple. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 9, and the summer before I became vegan ( at 15) I decided to “eat fish” just so I could try crab legs at the beach one time in my life. Hah.

  10. Kim Said,

    June 12, 2009 @ 1:27 pm

    Holy crap! I am Filipino and grew up eating the ripe jackfruit in syrup. I would have never thought to use green jackfruit (never had it) in a savory soup!

  11. Nicole Said,

    June 21, 2009 @ 7:26 pm

    Hello Renae,

    I just wanted to tell you “Thank you so much!” for this recipe. I am a Vegan born and raised in Baltimore, MD (now in LA), and and have made plenty of Maryland Crab Soup in my day, and this vegan version really matches up. Before stumbling upon this page, I had never even heard of jackfruit, and yesterday was missing my MD food and wondered what a good crab substitute could be. I called about 8 different asian food markets before finding a place that had it, but eventually I did, and went and got it. Made the soup last night, with a few modifications as per my taste (added corn, peas, left out potatoes) and am eating it right now. Fantastic! It too impressed my non-vegan, non-vegetarian partner and friend (both from MD). Thanks again!!! I look forward to tracking your recipes.

  12. renae Said,

    June 28, 2009 @ 11:19 pm

    Kim, I’ve never had ripe jackfruit in syrup, so I guess we’re even! Do you eat it in desserts? Green jackfruit is an interesting meat substitute: like tofu, it’s sort of tasteless, but it has an interesting texture.

    Nicole, I’m glad you enjoyed the soup! I never ate that much seafood growing up, but being from Baltimore as well, I do miss crabs from time to time. When that happens I generally just douse whatever I’m eating in Old Bay!

  13. Stacey Said,

    September 13, 2009 @ 8:17 am

    I am a vegetarian (b&r in maryland, now living in pa) and found this to be very interesting! I’ve never heard of jackfruit.. will have to do a little research on that. I used to eat crabs (sadly) but even then I was very cautious about which parts I ate however I don’t think I ever had crab soup – which is good in a way. Thank you for sharing this!

  14. Carolyn Blakeney Said,

    October 8, 2009 @ 8:12 pm

    Will look into jackfruit as a veggie crabcake variation. Had not investigated jackfruit until your post, so I would like to try it as a sea veggie patty. My other veggie crabcake recipes have been zucchini based, and have worked very well.

RSS feed for comments on this post

Leave a Comment