Kani salad is a classic Japanese restaurant dish. You can make it at home in 10 to 15 minutes with easy-to-find supermarket ingredients. This spicy kani salad with mango recipe is simple to make and filled with flavor thanks to the crunchy cucumber and carrots and a spicy creamy dressing.
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You may have seen kani salads on the menu at your favorite local Japanese steakhouse or sushi restaurants. But did you know it is incredibly easy to make at home?
What is Kani?
Kani means crab in Japanese but in the US it refers to a type of imitation crab meat that is often used in salads, sushi rolls, and other dishes. In Japan, imitation crab meat is called surimi.
Kani looks like long pieces of crab legs but is actually made from a variety of white fish. It is processed into a paste with binders and seasoning to create a crab flavor.
A note on binders. There is a lot of confusion on whether or not imitation crab is gluten-free. The answer is it depends, check out my full article on gluten-free imitation crab options.
In order to make my crab salad gluten-free I used Trans Ocean imitation crab.
Why This Recipe Works
This recipe is restaurant quality but the most newbie chef can easily make it at home. We are providing several variations so you can customize this recipe to make your own unique versions.
And while you can hit your local specialty supermarket for all the authentic ingredients, I promise I have tested this recipe. And this recipe is easily made with basic ingredients found at any of your local grocery stores, without sacrificing flavor.
Plus we love its bright colors (just like our BBQ jackfruit salad)!.
This recipe calls for imitation crab sticks, and while you can use real crab meat, I don't recommend it for any type of kani salad. Part due to cost but also because the flavors of the salad overwhelm the delicate crab.
This recipe uses crunchy vegetables including carrots, cucumbers, and mango. You can also add green onions, sweet bell peppers, or avocado. Some recipes call for corn kernels, personally not a fan of that but you do you!
For the salad dressing, traditional kani salad calls for a specific brand of Japanese mayonnaise, called Kewpie, to make the spicy mayo.
Kewpie is a type of mayo that contains just egg yolks, not the whole egg. I have tried both ways. We use regular mayonnaise and add a tad bit of sugar to emulate the sweetness of the extra yolk.
While the spicy mayo may have enough heat for some people, I love a finely diced serrano pepper for extra heat. This ingredient is optional based on your personal preferences.
Out of OJ? Check out favorite substitutions for orange juice. But lemon juice (or even grapefruit) would work.
Additional toppings could include sesame seeds, peanuts, jalapenos, gluten-free panko breadcrumbs, tempura flakes, or fish roe.
See the recipe card for exact quantities.
⏲️How to Make Spicy Kani Salad?
This recipe has no real cooking involved. Although I do prefer to toast the sesame seeds. Promise it is worth a dirty pan! Let's get started!
Step 1: Shred the Kani
Before getting started we need to prep the main ingredient. Holding one end of the crab stick, use a fork or your hands to shred. Pull it lengthwise into small strips. Alternatively, you can thinly slice it with a knife.
Step 2: Salad
All the vegetables should be sliced into small matchstick-sized pieces. All the veggies should be of a similar size. Place the julienned cucumber, carrots, and mango in a large bowl with the kani and gently toss to combine.
Step 3: Dressing
In a mixing bowl combine the mayonnaise, sriracha sauce, orange juice, rice wine vinegar, tamari, and sugar. Stir until smooth. Pour the spicy mayonnaise dressing over the salad and mix until everything is coated.
Step 4: Garnish
Top the salad with your sesame seed and other garnishes. You can also serve the salad over shredded romaine lettuce.
👩🏻🍳 Expert Tips
- If you are not a fan of spice, reduce the sriracha in the dressing by half.
- You can also make your own mayonnaise if you are feeling fancy.
- For a fun twist, try this kani salad with mango salsa instead of the traditional dressing.
🌡️Make Ahead and Storing Leftovers
Store the kani salad in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days. We love this recipe as a make-ahead lunch. The dressing gets better as it sits and the flavors meld together.
If making ahead, do not top with any tempura flakes until ready to store.
💬Frequently Asked Questions
Holding one end, use your fingers to loosen the other end and then pull it apart. You can also use a fork for this.
Rice wine vinegar and rice vinegar are actually the same product but should not be confused with rice wine. If you don't have rice vinegar try substituting white wine vinegar instead.
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Spicy Kani Salad with Mango
- 12 ounces imitation crab meat gluten free
- 2 small carrots peeled and julienned
- 1 English cucumber julienned
- 1 mango peeled and julienned
- 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds toasted
Kani Salad Dressing
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon sriracha
- 1 tablespoon orange juice
- 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon tamari gluten free soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ½ serrano pepper seeded and minced (optional)
- Gently shred the crab meat, pulling it lengthwise into long strips. Combine with carrots, cucumber, and mango into a bowl.12 ounces imitation crab meat, 1 English cucumber, 1 mango, 2 small carrots
- In a small mixing bowl combine the mayonnaise, sriracha, orange juice, rice wine vinegar, tamari, sugar, and serrano pepper. Season to taste, adding more sriracha and serrano if you prefer it spicier.½ cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon sriracha, 1 tablespoon orange juice, 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon tamari gluten free soy sauce, ½ teaspoon sugar, ½ serrano pepper
- Pour dressing over the salad and gently toss to coat. Top with the sesame seeds.1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
- Cut all your vegetables into thin long pieces of equal size.
- If you can't find an English or Persian cucumber, be sure to remove the seeds before cutting.
- To toast sesame seeds, place in a dry saute pan over medium heat for 1 minute.