Crab Beignets

Image of crab and lobster pots

There’s something about a Cromer crab that transports me straight back to childhood holidays, flying kites on the Norfolk cliff tops, running up and down the wooden steps to the beach and especially eating freshly cooked seafood. The crabs are in season now and though they’re perfect simply dressed and served with a salad, or tossed though pasta with a little lemon zest and chilli, this recipe is a bit special.

It’s adapted from one by Ben Handley of the award-winning Duck Inn in Stanhoe, near Kings Lynn in Norfolk, and published in Norfolk Table. I’ve tried making these little fritters like Catalan bunyols de bacalla (salt cod mixed with a potato batter) but I think the delicate crab meat responds better to the French treatment.

For any crustacean lovers living locally or planning a trip to Norfolk soon, there’s a Crab and Lobster Festival in Cromer and Sheringham next month. Crab sandwiches, cookery demos, an end of the pier show, shanty singers, crab pot making and the World Pier Crabbing Championships … it looks like a packed programme.

Crab Beignets

  • Servings: 4 as a starter
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Image of crab beignets


75 ml milk

40g butter

60g plain flour

1 large egg, beaten

1 dressed crab, white and brown meat, about 140g

Zest of 1 lemon

2 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander

Salt and pepper

Oil, for frying

Lemon wedges, to serve

Image of dressed crab with lemon zest


Heat the milk and butter to a rolling bowl in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and beat in the flour with a wooden spoon.

Allow to cool for five minutes then add the beaten egg, little by little, beating with each addition until you have a smooth, glossy mix.

Image of egg beaten into roux

Stir in the crab meat, lemon zest and coriander until evenly incorporated, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Scoop into a bowl, cover and refrigerate until completely cold.

Using two dessert spoons, shape the mix into quenelles and place on a sheet of silicone paper. Chill again for five minutes.

Image of quenelles of crab mix

Heat a couple of inches of sunflower oil (or another fairly neutral oil) to 180C in a deep frying pan, or use a deep fat fryer. Cook for four or five minutes, turning if necessary, until golden brown.

Image of crab beignets frying

Drain on kitchen paper and serve straight away with lots of lemon to squeeze over and a few lightly dressed salad leaves. A few slices of country bread don’t go amiss either, if you’re having the beignets as a main course rather than a starter. 

10 thoughts on “Crab Beignets

  1. ooh they’re so lovely! I have made crab beignets, but they’re quite different to yours. I adore crab meat – one of my most favourite ingredients. Difficult to get in land apart from out of a tin, so it’s a raare treat for me now. I spent every easter and summer holiday and most weekends as a child in the family caravan (not on my own, clearly) on the North Norfolk coast so it really reminds me of the area too. We used to catch and cook our own or buy them straight off one of Frary’s boats in Wells. (Wistfully reminisces). I’ve eaten in the Duck Inn: fab place. You already know about Cookie’s shack at Stanhoe too? Nom nom

    • Thanks, Lynn. I don’t often get to north Norfolk as it’s a bit of hike from us but I think some sort of fishy pilgrimage may be in order. We used to go to the Sheringham area when I was a kid. Lovely holidays. Lx

      • Yes, north Norfolk is more of a weekend trip than an away-day! Thanks, yes, anything with crab pretty much works for me. 🙂

  2. Gorgeous looking recipe!
    We too used to holiday in North Norfolk when I was a child (Sheringham and Cromer). I remember it as always being hot and sunny – and that the fish and chips tasted fabulous.

  3. Beignets – Yes indeed a very nice word for fritter. People who only know reconstituted / frozen crab (the majority) have no idea how wonderful they really taste. I am off to Caherciveen in Kerry on Wednesday to meet with a fish producer and crab processor. I will come away with a couple of passengers, I hope…

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