Cornmeal-Crusted Soft-Shell Crab Sandwiches

Slathered with spicy mayo, this decadent sandwich is the best way to celebrate soft-shell crab season.

Southern Living Cornmeal-Crusted Soft-Shell Crab Sandwiches on a plate to serve with potato chips

Victor Protasio, Food Stylist: Ruth Blackburn, Prop Stylist: Julia Bayless

Active Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
30 mins

This decadent sandwich is the best way to celebrate soft-shell crab season. Coated in a buttermilk and hot sauce mixture, before dredged in cornmeal, the crustaceans in this sandwich fry up shatteringly crispy and extra flavorful.

It wouldn’t be a Southern sandwich without mayonnaise, but we don’t just lay it on without a little doctoring. For added tang, we fold in chopped pepperoncini (and a bit of their juice), as well as fresh chives and dill, for a refreshing spread with tartar sauce-like-vibes.

And while you might not fry crabs at home regularly, this recipe will feel familiar as it follows a standard frying procedure. The only (possibly) difficult part is preparing the crabs. Although you can clean live soft-shell crabs yourself, it’s not a job for the faint of heart. We recommend buying them freshly cleaned and cooking them within two hours of purchase.


  • 1 large egg

  • 1 cup whole buttermilk

  • 1 Tbsp. hot sauce

  • 1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, divided 

  • 4 soft-shell crabs (about 3/4 lb. total), cleaned

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

  • 1/4 cup chopped pepperoncini (from 1 [12-oz.] jar), plus 1 Tbsp. pickling liquid from jar

  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives

  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill

  • 1 cup fine yellow cornmeal

  • 1/2 cup (about 2 1/8 oz.) all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup canola oil

  • 4 brioche burger buns, split

  • 1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce

  • 1 medium-size (10 oz.) beefsteak tomato, sliced


  1. Whisk together egg, buttermilk, hot sauce, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt in a large shallow bowl. Add crabs, and turn to coat; let stand in buttermilk mixture until ready to use.

  2. Stir together mayonnaise, pepperoncini and pickling liquid, chives, and dill in a medium bowl; set aside. Stir together cornmeal, flour, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt in a shallow dish until combined; set aside.

  3. Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high until shimmering. Remove 1 crab from buttermilk mixture, letting excess drip off. Transfer to cornmeal mixture; turn to fully coat. Gently place in hot oil. Repeat process with remaining crabs. Cook crabs until golden and crispy, 6 to 8 minutes, turning once halfway through cook time. Transfer crabs to a paper-towel lined baking sheet. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt.

  4. Slather cut sides of buns evenly with mayonnaise mixture; top bottom bun halves evenly with lettuce, tomato, and crabs. Replace top bun halves. Serve immediately.

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