Can You Have Imitation Crab On Keto Diet?

Imitation crab is a popular seafood product that people consume with many different dishes and in many different ways. If you have been to a fish restaurant or a sushi restaurant- there is a high chance that you have had it. One of the reasons why this seafood is so popular both in restaurants and homes is because it is one of the cheapest seafood available. 

The other reason is that it imitates the taste of sweet and creamy crab meat. When combined, the cost and the taste- it makes up a product that easily becomes a favorite among many people all over the world. 

However, when you are on the keto diet you need to check the carb content on everything you consume. So, can you have imitation crab on the keto diet? Keep reading this article to find out!

What is Imitation Crab?

Imitation crab, or as people also call it Imitation Krab, imitation crab meat, seafood sticks, Crab sticks, or Krab sticks- it is exactly what the name suggests. It is an imitation of real crab meat, but it does not contain any real crab meat. Crabmeat has a tender, soft and sweet taste with a slight saltiness, and imitation crab meat is made to replicate that taste using artificial or natural crab flavorings.

This seafood product was first made in Japan in 1974, but today it is used all over the Globe. They usually make it from the finely shredded flesh of fish which they blend with some type of starch, egg, as well as some other binging ingredients. Because it is not crab, because of legal reasons, most restaurants spell the word as “Krab” meat to indicate that it is not real crab. 

The most common fish used to make this seafood product is pollock because it has a mild taste and color. People use it in salads, sushi, poke bowls, or as a snack. 

How is it made?

The imitation krab meat or krab sticks are made from a paste called Kani surimi. Kani surimi is made by grinding fish flesh into a gel-like substance. Then most manufacturers add additives and flavoring enhancers, starches, and food coloring to bring the taste closer to the taste of real crab meat. They mostly try to resemble the flavor of the leg meat of snow crab or the Japanese spider crab. 

Some of the ingredients that manufacturers add are water- it is added to better the texture. They also add it to increase the quantity of the paste. That is one of the tactics to control costs. Another important ingredient is starch. It is added to the Kani surimi pastes to thicken it and make it more gel-like (most of the starch comes from wheat, corn, potato, or tapioca).

They also add protein. The main protein in this seafood is egg white. They add it to make the end product glossy. Then they also add sorbitol, and sugar is used to enhance shelf life and also to give it the sweet flavor that crab meat naturally has. Manufacturers also add vegetable oil to enhance flavor, texture, and shelf life. And, they also add salt to give it the nice salty tweak that most crab meat has. 

Most brands also add other additives, food coloring, and preservatives. After mixing all the ingredients, the mixture is cooked and pressed into numerous shapes. Then it is vacuum-sealed and pasteurized to make sure there are no harmful bacteria. That is why people commonly compare this seafood product to hotdogs. 

Imitation Crab Nutritional Facts

Below, you can see the nutritional information of 100 grams of imitation crab. Keep in mind that this is the information provided by the USDA Food Data Central, therefore the nutritional information may vary depending on the manufacturer. Always make sure you read the labels on the products you buy for the correct nutritional information. (*)

Calories95 kcal
Protein6.62 grams
Fat0.46 grams
Total Carbs15 grams
Fiber0.5 grams
Net Carbs14.5 grams 

Imitation crab vs Real crab

As we have mentioned before, manufacturers make imitation crab to resemble the taste of real crab. In fact, it does not contain any crab meat. The only “real” crab ingredient in this seafood product may be crab extract, which some manufacturers add in the surimi paste. However, most commonly, brands do not add crab extract. But, they do add artificial flavorings to get the right flavor. 

Still, how different are they nutritionally? Well, the answer is- they are a lot different. The calories per 100 grams do not differ much, however, the macronutrients do differ. For example, real crab meat has about 18 grams of protein, which means most of its calories are from protein. While the imitation krab has about 8 grams of protein, the rest of its calories come mostly from its carb content. Even though real crab meat has sweet notes in its flavor, it does not contain any carbs. (*), (*)

Another difference is in the micronutrients. For example, both crab meat and krab sticks have omega-3-fatty acids, however, crab meat has more of them. Additionally, most of the vitamins and minerals in krab sticks are destroyed in the processing. Crabmeat is rich in several minerals such as iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, and zinc.

Is Imitation Crab healthy?

People often refer to this seafood product as “the hot dog of the sea”. And, there are a few reasons why. First, just like hot dogs, it is made from lower-quality raw meat. That helps keep the price lower. Then, it is highly processed, filled with additives, preservatives, and artificial colorings. 

Scientists have concluded that consuming highly processed foods has a negative effect on human health. For example, MSG (monosodium glutamate) is an additive that manufacturers commonly add to surimi. Researchers have shown that MSG has some harmful effects. It can cause a number of health issues, including neurotoxic effects, obesity, metabolic disorders, and detrimental effects on the reproductive tract. (*)

Other commonly used additives in surimi paste are phosphate-based. Research has shown that phosphate-based additives may cause kidney damage by causing vascular damage, e.g endothelial dysfunction, and vascular calcification. 

Can You Eat Imitation Crab On Keto Diet?

This seafood product has 7 grams of protein, 15 grams of total carbs, 0.5 grams of fiber, 14.5 grams of net carbs per 100 grams. Just by looking at the nutritional facts, you can see that it is high in carbs. In just 100 grams it contains ¾ of the daily carb allowance of a strict keto dieter. 

Additionally, this seafood product is highly processed and is typically made with fish of lower quality. It contains additives such as MSG, artificial colors, and preservatives. All of those things are not allowed on a strict keto diet. 

So, let’s answer the question! Can you have imitation crab on the keto diet? The answer is NO. This food is not STRICTLY ketogenic and will kick you out of ketosis. If you are not on a strict keto diet or if you are on a low-carb diet, you can have a little bit if you want. Just make sure that you keep track of the net carbs you are consuming. 

How many net carbs does imitation crab have?

Per 100 grams of this seafood product there are 14.5 grams of net carbs. 

Is imitation crab keto-friendly?

No, it is not keto-friendly.


Imitation crab is a seafood product made of fish paste- surimi. It is made to resemble the taste of the crab legs of Japanese spider crabs. It was invented in Japan in 1974, but today it is commonly used all across the Globe. 

Usually, manufacturers make it with pollock because of its mild flavor and light color. Then they add water, eggs, vegetable oil, salt, other flavorings, preservatives, additives, and artificial coloring. Some brands add real crab extract, but many add artificial flavors to achieve the flavor of crab legs.

Regarding the keto or a low-carb diet, this food is not something we recommend. It contains about 15 grams of net carbs per 100 grams, and it is full of preservatives, artificial coloring, and additives. All of that makes it a non-ketogenic food, and if you are on a keto or low-carb diet you should avoid it. If you are not on a strict keto diet, and you still want to consume this seafood, you can. However, we recommend that you keep a close eye on the net carbs. 

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*image by AndreySt/depositphotos

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