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The Difference Between Red and Golden King Crab

The Difference Between Red and Golden King Crab

When it comes to Alaskan King Crab, there’s one thing you can count on, regardless of the color—it’s going to be delicious. However, while the shade of the shell doesn’t change the mouthwatering factor, there are some crucial distinctions between red and golden king crab that are helpful to know when planning your next crab feast.

Let’s take a closer look at these two varieties to fully understand what sets them apart—aside from just their color.

Red King Crab

When you picture a bushel of king crabs, you’re probably picturing red king crabs. That’s because these popular beauties are the most well-known and widely eaten of the king crab varieties. While alive, their shells are a rich burgundy color, but when cooked, they take on the bright red hue we most commonly associate with crabs.


Most commonly sourced in shallow, warmer waters, red king crabs are abundant in Bristol Bay and the Norton Sound. They tend to be larger than golden king crabs and pack more meat into their famous legs. Their flavor is also often described as the richest of all the king crab varieties.

Golden King Crab

Not to be forgotten, golden king crabs are generally smaller than their red counterparts and can be found all throughout the Pacific Ocean. While they may not have as much filling as red king crabs, golden king crab legs are still a feast in their own right. Plus, since they’re more widely available and milder in flavor, golden king crab legs tend to be slightly lower in price, so they’re perfect for the budget-conscious crab lover.

Cooking Alaskan King Crab Legs

The bottom line? You really can’t go wrong with either variety. While there are slight differences in color, size and flavor, you’re bound to be impressed by the hefty size and sweet flavor of both deep-sea kings.

But once you have your king crab in hand, what’s the best way to prepare your feast? Luckily, with such dynamic flavor on its own, a simple preparation does the trick. Here are few options to choose from:

  • On the grill: The ideal low-fuss cooking method, grilling king crab legs is great for flavor and even better for whomever is on dish duty. Simply brush the crab legs with oil and place them on a hot grill for about five minutes, turning once at the halfway mark. Serve with melted butter and lots of napkins.
  • In the oven: While not as cleanup friendly, your king crab legs can also be nicely prepared in your oven. This is the best option for adding extra flavor during the baking process. Place the legs in an even layer on a foil-lined baking sheet, then squeeze a lemon and grate fresh garlic over top. Bake at 400 degrees for 5-7 minutes. Serve with more lemon wedges and melted butter.
  • Steamed: A classic choice, steaming will bring out the natural flavor of the crab legs. Simply place your crab legs in a steamer basket and fill the bottom of your pot with water. Bring to a boil and cover, letting the crab legs cook for 5-6 minutes. And again, don’t forget the melted butter.
    Hungry yet? Stock up for your next crab feast!