Deviled crab

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Deviled crab from historic Ybor City, Tampa

Deviled crab (croqueta de jaiba in Spanish) is a crab meat croquette. The crab meat is slowly sauteed with seasonings, breaded (traditionally with stale Cuban bread), rolled into the approximate shape of a rugby football or a small potato, and deep fried.[1]

Deviled crab was originated in Tampa, Florida where it was established by the Spanish, Cuban and Italian immigrant community of Ybor City. The dish is traditionally made with blue crab. The seasoning uses a unique Cuban-style enchilada / sofrito sauce (locally known as "chilau")[2] whose spiciness lends the "devil'" moniker to the dish's English name. Deviled crab is meant to be eaten with one hand. It was developed during a cigar workers strike in the 1920s and is still popular in the Tampa area.

Deviled crabs are somewhat similar to boardwalk-style Maryland crab cakes. Differences include the oblong shape, the seasonings used, and the preferred method of eating (by hand). Since deviled crabs were designed to be held in one hand when eaten, they are packed together more densely than a crab cake so as to not come apart when bitten.[2]


Deviled crabs originated in the Spanish/Cuban/Italian immigrant community of Ybor City, Tampa, Florida during a late-1920s strike in the area's cigar factories.[3] Since blue crabs were plentiful in the nearby waters of Tampa Bay and Cuban bread was cheap, these staples became important food sources for the striking workers. Local entrepreneurs combined these ingredients and began selling the instantly popular croquetas from pushcarts and bicycles along Tampa sidewalks.[4][5]

Some claim that early deviled crab recipes contained more chili pepper, making them much spicier than the modern variety.[2] As the croqueta's spiciness was toned down to account for a wider range of tastes, various pepper sauces became a common condiment utilized by those who liked their deviled crabs hot.[6]

Deviled crabs are still popular in the Tampa Bay area, especially in lunch cafes and restaurants that serve Cuban and/or Spanish cuisine in Ybor City and West Tampa.[5][7]

Other versions[edit]

Deviled crab served on halved shells at Mocambo Calcutta, India

Up the U.S. Atlantic coast from Georgia to the Chesapeake Bay region, "deviled crab" refers to a different dish entirely. In this version, crab meat (usually blue crab) is taken out of the shell, mixed and cooked with bread crumbs and spices with a consistency similar to loose crab cake, and then returned to a halved crab shell to be served.[8]

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