I’m a Maryland girl, born and bred. And in Maryland, we know one or two things about cooking crab. But this Maryland girl knows one or two things about veganizing classic recipes, too.
For the full recipe and nutritional facts, click here or keep reading!
I’m not a vegan who is always happy to eat just whole foods. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve definitely come to appreciate grains, fruits, and vegetables since becoming vegan, but I still like the taste of meat and dairy. And that includes crabmeat. I love the soft texture and sweet taste of crab that reminds me of summers at the beach. One of my favorite crab dishes is cream of crab soup, so that’s what we’ll be making today.
The first thing we need is a crab-like base. I’m using Gardein crabless cakes because, out of all of the crab substitutes I’ve tried (mind you, there aren’t that many to choose from), they by far have the most authentic taste and texture. You must defrost them and break them up by hand because I’ve found that that, if you just put them in your soup frozen, they won’t break up. Like, at all. Just go ahead and defrost them and break them up into small pieces. I just use one bag because I personally don’t feel the need for a TON of crab, but if you’re into a heartier soup, use two (or half as much of the rest of the ingredients for a half batch). Another option is to use a can of young green jackfruit in brine that you’ve drained and broken up into small, crabmeat-like pieces. It’s a great and generally cheaper option, though some might find it hard to find. Then again, Gardein might be hard to find where you live. A third option is to break up any Maryland-Style crabcakes you might have left over from trying that recipe, though it’s pretty unlikely you’ll have any leftovers!
The next ingredient that is essential is Old Bay Seasoning. IT MUST BE OLD BAY. Anyone who tells you we use any other kind of crab seasoning in Maryland is lying to you. Sure, there are other ones for sale. No one buys them. I literally don’t know why they exist. I like to use the low sodium version because I like to use a lot of it but don’t necessarily want to be sweating from all of the salt. If you can’t find the low sodium one, use less of the regular, BUT USE IT.
Another crucial ingredient is sherry. Some cream of crab recipes say sherry is optional; others omit it altogether. Don’t trust those people. They’re not your friends. It really doesn’t have to be anything special. I bought the cheapest one I could find (Harveys Bristol Cream), though dry would be preferable.
I’m using soymilk as my soup base. I’ve also used unsweetened coconut milk before (the thin stuff in the carton, not the can) because that doesn’t really taste coconutty to me, but as I’ve mentioned, I make my own soymilk now, so that’s what I used here. Most traditional recipes use cream in place of some or all of the milk for a thicker, richer consistency, but we don’t really have that option. You could use coconut cream (which would naturally give a coconut flavor to the soup) or soy yogurt (for a tangy taste), but I kept it simple. If using storebought soymilk, you may wish to reduce a half-gallon to a quart for double the richness (this is reflected in the nutritional information).
Start by making a roux with the thickener of your choice and a bit of vegan butter, as well as the Old Bay and onion powder to toast them slightly over medium-high heat. Cornstarch, tapioca starch, or arrowroot powder or all excellent choices, but I’m using Wondra flour. I like it in roux because when it starts to show the faintest trace of color, I know it’s ready. Once that happens, slowly whisk in your soymilk. Make sure there are absolutely no lumps.
I also like to add it a bit of this Braggs sea kelp seasoning for a bit more “oceany” flavor. Another thing I’ve done is add a sheet of nori in while the milk is heating, then fish it out (ha, fish!) before adding the rest of the ingredients (or you could grind a sheet in a spice grinder, then add a teaspoon or so). Neither is really necessary, but it definitely helps. Now over medium-low heat, stir the soup until the milk comes to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and add the “crab”, sherry, parsley, and corn.
“Corn? There’s no corn in cream of crab soup! That’s CHOWDER!”
I know. But what can I say? I’m a vegan; I have to stick vegetables in where they don’t belong. Seriously though, if you want a more authentic Maryland cream of crab soup, omit the corn and use two bags of the crabless cakes. Just promise me you won’t report me to the Maryland Crab Pickers Authority, OK? I’m already on thin ice with those guys.
Now it’s just a case of leaving that for a few minutes to heat through, and you’re done! Serve with some nice crusty sourdough and perhaps garnish with some more Old Bay and a sprinkle of parsley on top.
It might seem weird for some people to think of a thick, hot soup as being synonymous with summer, but anyone from Delmarva knows and appreciates the splendor of starting a meal with cream of crab soup. I hope you’ll give it a try!
July and August’s recipes will also be “crab”-based, and next week is a special BONUS recipe!
Cream of Crab Soup |Printable Version
Makes 6 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
1 bag Gardein Crabless Cakes
8 cups unsweetened non-dairy milk
2 T vegan butter
1 T Old Bay seasoning
1 t onion powder
2 ½ T Wondra flour or cornstarch
1 t ground sea kelp or nori seasoning (optional)
¼ c sherry, preferably dry
1 c whole kernel corn
1 t dried or 1 T fresh parsley
Old Bay and parsley, to garnish
- Defrost crabless cakes and break into small almond-sized pieces.
- Over medium-high heat, reduce milk to 4 cups.
- In a separate pot over medium heat, melt butter and mix in Old Bay and onion powder. Whisk in Wondra or cornstarch until smooth.
- Slowly whisk in milk until completely smooth. Add kelp seasoning. Continue to whisk until milk begins to steam and is slightly thickened.
- Add in remaining ingredients and heat on low until heated through. Serve with additional Old Bay and parsley.
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