Food

What is imitation crab meat actually made of?

What is imitation crab meat actually made of?

With the word imitation in front of it, it's definitely no secret that imitation crab is far from the real thing. That tightly packed red and white imposter you'll find displayed in the seafood section of the grocery store may resemble crab, but it's not really made of crab at all. So, what exactly is in imitation crab?

While you won't find any crab meat in the imitation crab, you will find seafood — imitation crab is made up of a paste called surimi, which is basically processed, mashed-up fish. It's usually a combination of fish such as Alaskan pollock or Pacific whiting fish that have been put through a complicated manufacturing process and turned into a gel-like substance (via Thrillist). In order to create the right taste and texture that you'll find in your California roll, manufacturers add in starches, sugars, artificial flavorings, and sometimes MSG (via SF Gate). All of these additives significantly decrease the nutritional value of imitation crab and become a menu item that those who are gluten-free should stay far away from.

Why imitation crab is so popular

What is imitation crab meat actually made of?

It's hard to believe that a highly processed food has been considered a delicacy for over 900 years. Surimi was first created by Japanese chefs who were looking for a way to use leftover fish. That creation eventually became the foundation of imitation crab, but what is it about imitation crab that makes it so popular? It's no surprise that restaurants love it. Imitation crab serves as a low-cost alternative to the real thing. Minus the nutritional value, imitation crab's versatility can easily be added to dishes to spice things up a bit.

No one is going to tell you not to enjoy your sushi or seafood salad. As long as you're okay with the fact that you're probably not consuming any crab at all, go for it. We can't argue with saving a few bucks for what may taste almost like the real thing, but if you can't fake it and are looking for crab that's real and authentic, know that the only crab you should be ordering is the one that comes straight from the sea, not spit out of a grinder at a manufacturing plant.