Top pairings | The best wines to pair with crab

Top pairings

The best wines to pair with crab

Crab is one of the most delicious kinds of shellfish and the perfect foil for a crisp white wine. But there are other crab dishes that pair better with a fuller-bodied white or even a red.

Top wine pairings with crab

Dressed crab

You want to be able to taste the delicate meat so I’d suggest a classic Chablis or fine white burgundy such as Puligny-Montrachet. (The same would apply to fresh crab sandwiches or a simple crab salad though I might well pick a Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé for the latter, especially if it included asparagus. See also this match with 17 year old Muscadet!)

Linguine with crab

Quite a spicy recipe that usually includes garlic and red chilli and occasionally lemon. You could drink a citrussy (rather than a herbaceous) Sauvignon Blanc or a dry Kabinett Riesling with it but I’d go for a good quality Pinot Grigio, Soave or Albariño.

Crab bisque

Rich and luxurious this recipe normally contains cream and cognac as well as having a dominant flavour of brown crab meat - a good opportunity to crack open a seriously good barrel-fermented Chardonnay with a couple of years’ bottle age. White Rhône and Languedoc blends of Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier work well too.

Thai crab cakes

My choice would depend on whether I was having these as a snack on their own or as part of a Thai meal. If it was the former I’d go for a dry Riesling or a Loire Sauvignon Blanc. With the latter I’d look for a wine with slightly more sweetness such as a Pinot Gris or a spätlese Riesling. Witbier is the other great pick as you’ll see from this Match of the Week.

Maryland crab cakes

The classic American crab cake, much richer than the Thai ones, but with a spicy kick. Unoaked or lightly oaked Chardonnay would be the safe choice but I’m not sure I wouldn’t reach for an Albariño.

Crab, saffron and leek quiche

Saffron is the key in this Rick Stein recipe. I love Viognier and Viognier blends with saffron-infused dishes so I’d go for that.

Deep-fried soft shell crabs

Sometimes these are served with a strong punchy dressing but I think, if you want to appreciate the delicate flavour of the crab, it’s better to serve them relatively simply. As with other deep-fried foods they go fantastically well with champagne and other sparkling wines.

Crab in black bean sauce

Always a tricky one as black bean sauce is so pungent but I came across a brilliant match at the Four Seasons hotel in Park Lane where chef Tak of Lung King Heen, the Cantonese restaurant at the Four Seasons Hong Kong was cooking for a week to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

His version was the best crab in black bean sauce I’ve ever eaten - deep and aromatic in flavour, sweet but not cloying. It was matched with a decent but not exceptional Mud House Pinot Noir from New Zealand and the pairing was spot on. I suspect you’d need a fuller, richer Pinot with most commercial black bean sauces.

Image by Larisa Blinova at

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Comments: 5 (Add)

Craig Metcalfe on June 7 2022 at 00:19

May I suggest pairing an aged dry Australian Riesling with Mud Crab or Moreton Bay Bug. With Thai Fish Cakes, I recently tried an Australian Delatite Dead Man's Hill Gewurztraminer and really enjoyed a wine I hadn't tasted in about 10 years.

Nick Brett on June 5 2019 at 18:17

Are we allowed to ditch the crab entirely and just go for the Sancerre?

kay r on June 24 2015 at 14:05

Yes hunter valley semillon is massively underrated and is a nice change from the nz sauvignon overload.

Fiona Beckett on June 24 2015 at 13:23

I stand corrected, David. You will see there is now a Hunter Valley semillon suggestion ;-) You may also enjoy the pairings in this separate semillon post

David Porter on May 8 2013 at 04:42

Fiona I am beginning to believe that you have never taken the time to explore the wonerful world of seafood and Hunter semillon. This is shame for such an influential food/wine matching author. Given the wonderful metamorphosis that young zesty citrus semillons undertake to mature as wonderful mouth filling smooth honey citrus wines I can't believe you can't find a place for them in yor pantheon of food matchings. Oh and don't forget the semillon stickies.

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