Crab Imperial

This incredibly rich dish has roots in Maryland, where crab is king. A cocktail party favorite, crab imperial is like a cross between a hot dip and a casserole. While lump crabmeat is the star of the dish (make sure to use the freshest crab you can find), the creamy, slightly tangy sauce really makes it over the top. Made with milk, butter, mayonnaise, and flavored with Worcestershire sauce, dry sherry, and fresh lemon juice, the sauce enhances the taste of the crab without overpowering it. The dish is topped with Parmesan cheese and paprika and baked in the oven until hot and bubbly. You can use a baking dish, small ramekins, or if you're feeling fancy, natural baking shells. Serve crab imperial as an appetizer with buttery crackers, celery sticks, or toasted baguette slices, or make it a meal by adding a side salad. Either way, you'll want plenty of white wine to pair with it.

Crab Imperial
Photo: Southern Living
Hands On Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
30 mins
4 servings


  • 4 natural baking shells or individual ramekins

  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided

  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup milk

  • 1 teaspoon dried minced onion

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

  • 1 pound fresh lump crabmeat, drained

  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 450º. Lightly grease 4 natural baking shells or individual ramekins.

  2. Melt 1 Tbsp. butter in a small heavy saucepan over low heat; add flour, whisking until smooth.Cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually add milk and onion; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until thickened and bubbly. Remove sauce from heat.

  3. Stir in Worcestershire sauce and sherry. Stir in mayonnaise and next 3 ingredients.

  4. Melt remaining 4 Tbsp. butter in a medium-size heavy skillet over medium heat. Add crabmeat, and sauté 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in sauce.

  5. Spoon mixture into prepared baking shells (about 3/4 cup each). Sprinkle with cheese, and, if desired, paprika.

  6. Bake at 450º for 10 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Serve immediately.

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