Deviled Crab

James Beard

Author and Educator

“I have maintained all my life that this is the best cooked crab I have ever known.” —James Beard


  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup fish stock, chicken broth, or clam broth
  • 4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1 pound crabmeat
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 3/4 cup plain breadcrumbs


Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of butter and sauté the onions until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and whisk until it is completely absorbed and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the dry mustard, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon salt, and black pepper. Stir in the stock in small increments, mixing well between additions to prevent clumping. Bring the mixture to a simmer and continue stirring until thickened, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat.

In a medium bowl, temper the egg yolks by adding small spoonfuls of the sauce while continuously stirring. Continue to do so until all of the sauce has been mixed in. Fold in the crabmeat and parsley.

Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a small pan and add the breadcrumbs, stirring until lightly toasted. Spoon the crab mixture into individual baking dishes or one large baking dish and top with the toasted breadcrumbs. Bake until the crab mixture is warmed through and the breadcrumbs are golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Serve immediately.


Adapted from James Beard's original recipe. Recipe photo and food styling by Judy Kim.


4 servings