Kani Salad is a sweet and savoury summer salad featuring julienned cucumber and carrot, shredded crab sticks, and juicy mango in a creamy mayonnaise dressing. The combination of tangy mango with sweet crab brings a whole new dimension to this umami rich Japanese crab salad.
Love seafood? There’s something so special about the fish and shellfish from the ocean. From the satisfying crunch of a crispy fried Coconut Panko Fried Shrimp to the incomparable flavour of perfectly seared Cast Iron Salmon, there are plenty of seafood recipes for you to explore here on the blog.
Kani Salad with Mango
If you love classic California sushi rolls, this easy Kani Salad recipe is for you. The flavour of imitation crab meat mixed the creamy mayonnaise soy dressing creates an umami-rich combination that is difficult to resist. The thing about umami is that your mouth always wants MORE.
Julienned vegetables give this salad a wonderful crunchy texture, while thin strips of mango add a mouth-watering sweet and sour fruit flavour. This unique salad recipe contains an exciting blend of flavours and textures that will have you immediately wishing you made a double batch.
Serve mango crab salad as a light dinner salad for two, or a hearty side salad for four. It’s delicious alongside barbecue chicken or pork, with tacos, with pan seared fish or as a filling for salad rolls.
What is Kani Salad?
Kani Salad is a home-style Japanese crab salad made with shredded vegetable also found in American Japanese steakhouses or sushi restaurants. The ingredients, flavour, and preparation of this salad reflect a more informal side of Japanese cuisine. Kani salad rose to popularity following the invention of kanikama in the 1970’s.
One of the hallmarks of this salad are the shredded crab and vegetables. It gives the salad a unique texture, like a bowl of noodles. In fact, some recipes feature either kelp or glass noodles to bulk up this light salad.
The other hallmark of a classic Japanese Kani Salad is the creamy soy and Kewpie mayonnaise dressing. Feeling spicy? Add some red chili flakes or sriracha sauce to make an easy spicy Kani salad.
Ingredients for Kani Salad
This is a simple, yet versatile crab salad made with imitation crab sticks, vegetables, and a mayonnaise dressing. I love the taste of fresh mango with crab but you can leave it out, if you prefer.
- Imitation Crab Sticks
- Kewpie Mayonnaise
- Rice Wine Vinegar
- Soy Sauce
- Black Sesame Seeds
- Red Chili Flakes
If you have the budget, I recommend using fresh crab meat to make this creamy salad. Otherwise, shredded crab sticks (also called kanikama or surimi) the most common (and affordable) main ingredient. This Kani salad is delicious, either way!
What are Imitation Crab Sticks?
Imitation crab sticks are made from neutral flavoured fish, usually Alaskan pollock. The pollock is ground into a paste then mixed with crab flavouring and binders before being shaped into either flakes or cylinders. The final touch is a small amount of red dye to mimic the colour of real crab meat.
Pro tip: The larger the carrot is, the easier it is to julienne, or matchstick. I always find carrots this size at my local International or Asian market. If you are going to a market to buy Kewpie Mayonnaise, pick up a large carrot at the same time.
Cucumber varieties with very few seeds are the best varieties to julienne. English, Persian or seedless Japanese cucumbers (kyuri) work best in this recipe.
The key to finding the perfect mango for this recipe is buying one that is fragrant and only just ripe. If it is too soft, it won’t slice into perfectly thin strips. If you don’t want thin strips, simply slice the mango and enjoy it along with the salad.
What is Kewpie Mayonnaise?
Kewpie Mayonnaise is the most well-known brand of Japanese mayonnaise. It is made with a unique blend of egg yolks and vinegars for a smooth and creamy texture filled with umami. If you can’t find Kewpie mayo, use Hellman’s mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip) for this recipe.
The amounts of mayo, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and fresh lemon juice (or yuzu!) are merely suggestions. Play with the ratio according to your own flavour preferences. Keep in mind that the dressing should not be too watery, or it will not coat the salad ingredients.
Finally, garnish this Kani Salad however you like. I love the contrast of black sesame seeds but furikake, sliced scallions, and tobiko also make great garnishes.
How to Make Kani Salad
Preparing the Vegetables
Be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to put your knife skills into practice. It takes a while to learn how to perfectly matchstick vegetables, but the effort is what makes this salad extra special. For this recipe, I have cut the cucumber and carrot into 1/8 inch matchsticks that are exactly 3 inches long. The mango is slightly larger at 1/4 inch and the crab sticks are shredded randomly. You do you.
Pro tip: A sharp knife will make all the difference when you are doing focused knife work.
To begin, wash the carrot and cucumber. Use a sharp knife to slice the carrot crosswise into 2 three-inch cylindrical segments (save the remaining portion for another use). Trim each cylinder into a long cuboid by slicing off four rounded sides.
Slice the three-inch segments lengthwise into 1/8 inch slices, then julienne those slices into 1/8 inch matchsticks or allumettes. You should have a pile of 1/8 inch carrot matchsticks.
Use the same technique with the cucumber.
Slice the mango into two halves, then remove the pit and skin. Cut the ends of the mango halves off so that they are both 3 inches long, then cut them into 1/4 inch slices. Set aside 1/4 of the mango slices for garnishing the salad. Then turn the slices flat side down and julienne.
Place prepared carrot and cucumber in a medium mixing bowl.
For the Kani Salad Dressing
The dreamy mayonnaise dressing is so simple and contains surprisingly few ingredients, yet it tastes like a million dollars. I’ve included the option to make a spicy mayonnaise dressing using red chili flakes (or sriracha sauce).
To make the dressing, simply whisk 1/3 cup Japanese mayonnaise (or Hellman’s) with 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar, lemon juice from half a lemon, and 1 tablespoon soy sauce together in a small bowl. For spicy mayo dressing add 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes or sriracha sauce. Adjust flavour balance according to taste and set aside.
I’ve saved the best for last because it’s time to shred the crab sticks. Begin by holding one crab stick by the top end. Use two fingers to pinch a small portion, then pull downward. The crab stick should shred like string cheese. Shred the remaining crab sticks and place the shredded crab in the bowl with the vegetables.
Finally, drizzle the salad dressing over the prepared vegetables and crab. Mix well. Gently mix the mango in, then arrange the salad on a platter or in a bowl. Garnish with black sesame seeds, etc.
Kani Salad Recipe Variations
This is a one of those versatile salad recipes you can change every time you make it. Try it mixing it up by adding thinly sliced red bell peppers, fresh corn kernels, julienned daikon radish, avocado, or pineapple in place of (or in addition to) the vegetables in this recipe.
Or include fun additions such as tobiko (fish eggs), kelp or glass noodles. Make it spicy, or not. You do you.
Finally, choosing garnishes for your Kani Salad is as important as the ingredients. Sliced mangoes or avocado, scallions, or furikake seasoning supply extra flavour, while tobiko, panko bread crumbs, and black sesame seeds provide textural pop or crunch.
Make Ahead and Leftovers
This vegetable and crab salad is best when eaten on the same day it was made. The cucumber and mango will begin to release moisture into the salad bowl making the dressing watery and less flavourful.
To decrease moisture from the cucumbers, julienne them as directed then add a pinch or two of salt and allow them to sit while you prepare the carrots and mango. The salt will draw out some (but not all) of the moisture from the cucumbers, allowing the salad to last just a little bit longer. Remember to adjust the amount of soy sauce in the dressing if you add salt.
Prepare and store each component of the salad separately up to two days in advance, then mix it together when you are ready to eat.
Refrigerate and consume leftovers within one day.
Hi! I’m Bernice Hill and I’ve been the sole recipe developer, photographer, and writer at Dish ‘n’ the Kitchen for the past eleven years. It is my pleasure to share easy to follow recipes that are delicious, nutritious, and approachable for the whole family.
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- 8 Imitation Crab Sticks
- 1 Mango (ripe but still firm)
- 1 medium English Cucumber
- 2/3 large Carrot
- 1 Tablespoon Rice Wine Vinegar
- 1/3 cup Kewpie Mayonnaise
- 1/2 Lemon; juiced
- 1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
- 1 Tablespoon black Sesame Seeds
- red Chili Flakes (optional)
- Wash and peel the carrot. Slice it into 2 three-inch segments crosswise and save the remaining portion for another use. Slice the three inch segments lengthwise into 1/8 inch slices, then julienne those slices into 1/8 inch matchsticks or allumettes. You should have a pile of 1/8 inch carrot matchsticks.
- Use the same technique with the cucumber but do not peel it first.
- Slice the mango into two halves, remove the pit and skin. Cut the ends of the mango halves off so that they are both 3 inches long, then cut them into 1/4 inch slices. Set aside 1/4 of the mango slices for garnishing the salad. Then turn the slices flat side down and julienne.
- Place prepared carrot and cucumber in a medium mixing bowl.
- Whisk the Kewpie mayonnaise, lemon juice, and soy sauce together in a small bowl (add 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes if using). Set aside.
- Hold one crab stick by the top end. Using two fingers, pinch and pull downward starting from the top end. It should shred similar to string cheese. Repeat shredding the remaining crab sticks. Place the shredded crab in the bowl with the vegetables.
- Pour the dressing mixture over the prepared crab and vegetables. Mix well. Gently mix the mango in, then arrange the salad on a platter or in a bowl. Garnish with black sesame seeds, etc. and serve immediately.
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 362Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 42mgSodium: 1240mgCarbohydrates: 42gFiber: 3gSugar: 24gProtein: 15g
Nutritional calculation was provided by Nutritionix and is an estimation only. For special diets or medical issues please use your preferred calculator.