Appetizers,  Recipes

Marinated and Chilled, Cracked Dungeness Crab Legs

Marinated Dungeness Crab

Does your family have one of those stories which has been told and re-told so many times that it has taken on a life of its own? Does the story goes beyond gossip to become gospel?

What happens when you find out the story is not true?

If you’re me, you share it anyway, because it’s a good story.

This, my friends, is the tale of my uncle and the crab…

When I was little, and even back to my mother’s childhood, my grandparents would hold an open house party on Christmas Eve for their friends and family. They would put out a big spread of food which usually included a couple of homemade pizzas and, given that they lived in the San Francisco Bay area, seafood straight from the wharf. One of the most popular items was a cracked and marinated dungeness crab which was a perfect component of the traditional Italian “Feast of the Seven Fishes” served for Christmas.

For most of my life, my mother would also make this crab at Christmas time, always telling the story about how my uncle liked the crab so much that one year, when he was a teenager, he stole the big bowl of marinated crab legs and took it into the bathroom and locked the door. Wherein he proceeded to eat the crab. All of it. My grandfather got more and more angry, banging on the door and yelling at him to open up. Finally, my grandfather took the door off the hinges. By that time it was too late and the crab had been eaten.

I’d never thought to question the story until I decided to share the recipe here. Then I asked my uncle about it and he said had no memory of it! Sure, that crab is still one of his favorites, but all my grandfather would have had to do was to say his name (in that tone) and he would have come out of the bathroom upon fear of death. That kind of takes the air out of the tires, doesn’t it?

The story may not be true, but it’s still a good one and so is the recipe. Once you taste it you’ll see why it was believable all these years that my uncle would risk life and limb to have it all to himself.

This is part 4 in an ongoing series about crab which includes How to Cook and Clean a Dungeness CrabCrab 101 (all you ever wanted to know about Crabs) and Stone Crab with Traditional Mustard Sauce. More to come…

Marinated and Chilled Cracked Dungeness Crab Legs

Marinated and Chilled Cracked Dungeness Crab Legs
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time4 hours
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Dungeness Crab, Marinated
Servings: 4 people


  • 2 each Dungeness Crabs cooked, chilled, and cleaned
  • 3 each lemons juice and rinds
  • 2 floz olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano
  • pinch of salt and pepper


  • If you need instructions on how to cook and clean a Dungeness crab, please see this post
  • Cut and crack the legs of the cooked and chilled Dungeness crabs.
  • Wash the lemons. Cut them in half and squeeze out the juice (strain out the seeds)
  • Cut each half of the remaining lemon rinds into thirds.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, oregano and salt and pepper. Add in the lemon rinds and the crab legs. Using your hands, gently combine the legs with the marinade .
  • Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours or overnight. If possible toss every two to four hours.
  • Serve chilled with lots of napkins.



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