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Jamaican Crab
A Street Food Favourite

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Jamaican Crab Cooking On An Open FireJamaican Crab Cooking On An Open Fire

by Venesha Johnson | Associate Writer

Street food varies everywhere in the world, for some places street food could be a loaded hotdog, in others, it's delicious tacos. In Jamaica, we have many street foods, hotdogs, jerked chicken neck and chicken back or spicy peppered shrimp. The street food we are going to talk about is the infamous Jamaican Crab.

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Can You Eat Jamaican Land Crabs?

Yes! Jamaicans mostly use land crabs when preparing curried crab, which is a bit harder and takes a bit more time to prepare, however, we also use sea crabs.

How Do Jamaicans Prepare Crab?

Across the world, when you think of curried foods, one of the first places to come to mind would be India, the home of curry. But curry is commonly used across the world, especially in the Caribbean of which Jamaica is a part. In Jamaica, it is frequently used in many of our popular dishes for example curried goat, curried chicken or even curried shrimp.

One of the most popular ways to prepare Jamaican crab is by currying it. It is very common to see persons on the corners of the street selling spicy curried crabs from huge white buckets that have been stained yellow or orange from the curry.

They are sold whole, fully in their shell in small white plastic bags. While its strong aromatic smell is not favoured by some, its taste is loved by many who must simply stop each day on their way home from work or school to grab a bag of curried crab.

Jamaican crab is so loved that some communities have crab and beer parties. The members of the community get together to play music and enjoy preparing and eating huge pots of curried crab made over a wood fire. And yes, besides a nice cold red stripe beer, curried crab is the only thing on the menu.

As a matter of fact, the festivities start from much earlier, as it creates great excitement for the boys and men to get up at the break of dawn to go gather crabs for the event later that evening.

Cooking curried crab may not be quite so easy for everyone. This is mostly because to prepare Jamaican Curried crab the right way, your crabs have to be alive. Handling live crab is not something that many people would gladly do. Once you are able to get over your fear of live crabs, you will be in for quite a treat at the end.

Jamaican Curried Crab Recipe


  • Crabs 
  • Onion, garlic, pimento, scallion and thyme
  • Scotch bonnet peppers
  • Curry powder
  • Coconut milk
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt
  • Large pot
  • Water


  1. Clean your crabs. Using vinegar or lime juice and some water, grab your crabs, dip them and scrub them clean with a brush. Wear something to protect your hands, remember this must be done while the crabs are still alive.

  2. In a large pot, add some vegetable oil and allow it to heat up. While your oil is heating up, quickly chop all your seasonings finely, that is the garlic, onion, scotch bonnet peppers, and scallion. Add them to the oil along with pimento seeds, some fresh thyme and a generous amount of curry powder. Stir them together until the curry has become a dark orange or light brown colour.

  3. The next thing to do is to add in your coconut milk and water. Bring them to a level that will be enough to cover the crabs. Additionally, while this is not something that most Jamaican would do since we mostly eat curried crab as a snack, if you wish you could also at this point add carrots, Irish potatoes and slices of corn. Bring to a rolling boil.

  4. At this point carefully submerge your crabs into the boiling pot of liquid. Also, if you did decide to add carrots, potatoes and corn, ensure that they are fully cooked before adding your crabs.

  5. Adding your crabs to the pot will significantly lower the temperature and stop it from boiling. If you are using small crabs it may take around 10 to 15 minutes to be ready but larger crabs may take around 20 to 25 minutes. So depending on the size of your crab and the size of your pot, by the time your pot is back to a heavy boil, your crabs just might be ready.

Once your crabs are ready, the only thing left to do is serve, crack them open and enjoy with a cold beer

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References & Sources For Jamaican Crab

  1. Senior, Olive, Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage, 2003
  2. Wallace & Robinson, Creating Jamaica, Our Early Years, Carlong Publishers
  3. Black, Clinton V. History Of Jamaica, 2005
  4. Simpson, Joanne, M. Why Heritage, "A Guide To The Importance Of Our Jamaican Story"
  5. Sherlock, Phillip & Bennett, Hazel, "The Story Of The Jamaican People" (independence)
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