Crab Rangoon (Crab Puffs) With Sweet and Sour Sauce Recipe

Crisp and bubbly with a molten center of oozy, tangy cream cheese, scallions and crab.

Golden, fried crab rangoons on a blue ceramic plate which also holds a small glass bowl of sauce, on a pink stone background.

Serious Eats / Qi Ai

Why It Works

  • While actual crab is not the primary focus of crab rangoon, either imitation crab or the real stuff adds necessary flavor.
  • The best shape for crab rangoon is a four-pointed star: It concentrates the filling and maximizes surface area for more crunch.

I asked the folks over on my Facebook Page what their favorite Chinese restaurant appetizer is. I was expecting dumplings, spring rolls, perhaps hot and sour soup. What I got instead was a deluge of crab rangoon, with more than twice as many votes as any other dish.

The people have spoken, so I shall deliver.

Crisp, bubbly wonton wrappers with a molten center of oozy, tangy cream cheese lightly scented with scallions and a vague hint of crab. Who can argue with that?

Collage of real crab meat and artificial crab sticks

Crab vs. Krab

This, of course, raises the question: Do you even need to use crab in there? And what about real crab versus krab, a.k.a surimi the red-dyed sticks of ground and formed fish that resemble crab-flavored string cheese? I fried up a few batches, one made with real crab, one made with fake krab, and one with no crab at all to gauge the difference.

Closeup of crab rangoon with a filling of only cream cheese

Certainly, no crab was not the way to go. I mean, they were tasty and all, but it turns out that crab, even artificial crab, adds an essential flavor to the crispy puffs. A little salty, and a little briny. As far as real vs. fake, it's a toss-up. The real crab had a much more distinctly "fishy" flavor which might turn some people off. The krab was a lot less assertive: One of my party guests is a hardcore no-fish eater, but even he didn't mind the flavor of the fake stuff.

Folded crab rangoon on a wooden cutting board

Shaping Up

The only other question is shape. Simple folded triangles are the easiest to form, but they have a tendency to puff up like a balloon and blow out as they fry, spewing hot crab into the oil and causing it to bubble, pop, and probably burn your arms (or worse, if you, like me, enjoy frying topless). You can also fold and twist them into little tortellini or bunch them up into little purses. But the king of shapes, the crab rangoon ne plus ultra, is the four-pointed star. Not only does it bunch up all the filling into an easily burst-able sphere, it also maximizes surface area on the skin, giving you more crunch per wonton.

April 2011

Recipe Facts

4.7

(3)

Prep: 60 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Active: 60 mins
Total: 80 mins
Serves: 6 to 10 servings
Makes: 40 pieces

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Ingredients

For the Sweet & Sour Dipping Sauce

  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons ketchup

  • 2 teaspoons red chile flakes (more or less to taste, see note)

  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon water

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

  • 1/2 cup fresh pineapple chunks or canned chunks, drained

For the Crab Rangoon

  • 8 ounces softened cream cheese

  • 6 ounces picked crab meat (or surimi, cut into 1/2-inch pieces)

  • 6 scallions, whites only, finely sliced (about 1/2 cup)

  • 1 pack square wonton wrappers (preferably yellow), about 40-50 pieces

  • 2 quarts peanut oil

  • Kosher salt

Directions

  1. Combine vinegar, brown sugar, ketchup, chile flakes, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, whisking to combine until sugar is dissolved. Combine remaining tablespoon water and cornstarch in a small bowl and whisk with a fork to form a slurry. Whisk into sauce and bring to a boil. Allow to cool while you form the crab rangoon.

    Sweet and sour sauce inside of a stainless steel saucepan after it’s stopped boiling, showing it’s glossy and fully cooked. The pan is on a small portable burner on a stone counter.

    Serious Eats / Qi Ai

  2. Combine cream cheese, crab, and scallions in a medium bowl and fold with a spatula. Lay one wonton wrapper out on a cutting board (keep the rest under plastic wrap or a damp towel) and place a small amount of filling in the center (about 1 1/2 teaspoons). Moisten the edges with a wet fingertip, then seal by either folding it in half in a triangular shape, or by pushing the four edges in towards the center to create a four-pointed star. Be careful not to allow any air to remain inside as you seal them. Transfer to a large plate, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and repeat until all of the filling is used.

    A four image collage showing the crab rangoons being assembled. Top left: Cream cheese, crab, and scallions combined inside a medium bowl (after folding). Top right: Small amount of filling (about 1 ½ teaspoons) placed in the center of a wonton wrapper laid out on cutting board. Bottom left: Moistening the edges of a wonton with a dollop of filling on it using a wet fingertip. Bottom right: Pushing the four edges of a filled wonton in towards the center to create a four-pointed star.

    Serious Eats / Qi Ai

  3. To finish the sauce, add pineapple chunks and puree with an immersion blender or by transferring to a standing blender.

    A two-image collage. The top image shows whole pineapple chunks added to sauce, inside of a white ceramic bowl. The bottom shot shows the glossy sauce after the pineapple is pureed into it.

    Serious Eats / Qi Ai

  4. Heat oil in a wok or Dutch oven to 375°F (190°C) as registered on an instant read thermometer. Carefully add 10 to 12 wontons to the oil. Cook, adjusting flame to maintain temperature and agitating and flipping them constantly with a wire mesh spider until crisp and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined bowl to drain, season with salt, and serve immediately with sweet and sour sauce.

    A four image collage showing the crab rangoons being fried. Top left: Carefully adding a wonton to the hot oil in a wok, with other wontons already added in. Top right: Flipping wontons using a wire mesh spider. Bottom left: Wontons cooking and golden inside a wok. Bottom right: Wontons on a ceramic plate also holding a small ceramic bowl of finished sauce.

    Serious Eats / Qi Ai

Notes

Crab rangoons can be frozen after step 2. Space them out on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the freezer until completely frozen, then transfer to a zipper-lock bag. They'll keep for up to three months. The two teaspoons of chile flakes in this sauce will make it moderately spicy. You can adjust the heat level to your taste (or omit it entirely).

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
458 Calories
26g Fat
41g Carbs
14g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 10
Amount per serving
Calories 458
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 26g 34%
Saturated Fat 8g 41%
Cholesterol 75mg 25%
Sodium 737mg 32%
Total Carbohydrate 41g 15%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 18g
Protein 14g
Vitamin C 4mg 21%
Calcium 88mg 7%
Iron 2mg 10%
Potassium 255mg 5%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)