Pea Crab Oysters with Spinach and Brown Butter

pea crab oysters

Several times each year, Oyster Obsession Facebook group members discuss pea crabs and their edibility. We’ve learned that George Washington loved to eat the little crabs and many consider it good luck to find them. While researching her article, All About Oyster Pea Crabs, Julie Gartman found this wonderful recipe that specifically calls for the pea crabs. These oysters get broiled with garlic, spinach, spicy brown butter and a pea crab.

Many years ago Manteo, North Carolina native, Frank White, visited Joe Allen restaurant in New York City and much to his surprise found “Crab Slough Oysters” on the menu. White was familiar with the Crab Slough location, in Pamlico Sound at the southern end of Roanoke Island. Crab Slough is prime oyster harvesting area and pea crabs are commonly found in the oysters. Mr. White modified the chef’s Crab Slough Oysters recipe as follows.

Pea Crab Oysters with Spinach and Brown Butter (Makes 36)


  • 3 dozen Mid-Atlantic oysters (preferably from Crab Slough), in their shells
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb fresh spinach
  • 1 ½  sticks butter
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ tsp hot sauce


  1. Shuck the oysters saving the crabs and the larger, flat shells. Place the flat shells on a baking sheet.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir for about one minute. Add the spinach and sauté until wilted. Drain in a colander.
  3. Divide the spinach evenly between the oyster shells and top each with one oyster and one crab.
  4. Melt the butter in a large skillet and add the Worcestershire and hot sauce.  Cook slowly until butter is nut brown.
  5. Preheat oven to broil.
  6. Drizzle each prepared oyster with the butter mixture and place under the broiler for two to five minutes.  Serve immediately.

Find scores of hot, bubbly, buttery, cheesy, broiled and baked oyster recipes from your favorite magazines, cookbooks, blogs and chefs.

Learn “All About Oyster Pea Crabs” in Julie Gartman’s feature!

oyster pea crabs
Pea crabs (Photo courtesy of Shannon Milby)