Any good Mexican restaurant will have a robust selection of seafood options and one of the most delicious menu items around is jaiba.
Jaiba, also known as crab ceviche or “ceviche de jaiba”, is a delightfully refreshing citrusy crab salad served on tostadas or with fresh tortilla chips.
As with any ceviche, the fresher the crab and produce, the better it tastes and the safer it is to consume, which makes it difficult to store for later use or order as a takeaway.
Luckily, with only a few ingredients it is incredibly easy and fun to prepare and serve at home!
How to make Jaiba Crab Ceviche
The key to a great jaiba is using the freshest ingredients available and serving the finished dish as soon as possible; preferably within one hour of making.
It is traditionally made with Atlantic blue crab (also known as Chesapeake Bay crab) but any well-sourced, high-quality crab will do. Preferably bought from a local fishmonger to ensure freshness.
If you’re using fresh crab, prioritize using leg or body (lump crab) meat as claw meat shreds easier and has a more intense flavor. Sturdy pieces of crab meat that aren’t overpowering are the ideal choice.
The crab is mixed together with a blend of freshly squeezed lime and lemon juice, Roma tomatoes, cucumber, serrano pepper, fresh cilantro, and red onion. Avocado is frequently added to the mix but is optional.
There are two ways to go about making jaiba, either with high-quality raw crab meat or with prepared crab – either fresh steamed and chilled or canned crab meat. Imitation crab meat can also be used if needed.
For this recipe, we’ll be using prepared crab, but if you prefer to use raw crab the method is roughly the same. You’ll just need to marinate the crab for a minimum of 30 minutes before consuming it.
Don’t be alarmed by the idea of using raw crab meat! The acid in the lime and lemon juice will “cook” the crab as it marinates. It is the traditional technique for ceviche and granted your crab is extremely fresh, it is safe to eat.
Make sure to serve with freshly opened tostadas or hearty tortilla chips. You could even serve it like a taco!
- 1 lb of high quality canned or prepared crab meat, drained
- ½ cup fresh squeezed lime juice
- ¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 3-4 Roma tomatoes, diced
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 1 small cucumber, peeled and diced
- 1-2 serrano peppers, diced
- 1 bunch of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- 1 tsp of kosher salt
- Black pepper to taste
- Tostadas or tortilla chips for servings
- 1 avocado, diced (optional)
When chopping the vegetables, try to chop them as uniformly as possible. Use a very sharp knife when dicing the tomatoes to prevent them from releasing too many juices.
If you’re using raw crab meat, follow the instructions below but allow the crab to marinate in the citrus juice for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour. Use fresh lime and lemon juice for best results.
Drain the crab meat of as much liquid as possible. If the pieces aren’t uniform or you prefer smaller chunks, cut them to the preferred size. Set aside in the fridge until ready to use.
In a large mixing bowl (preferably glass or ceramic), gently mix together tomatoes, serrano peppers (use more or less depending on preferred spice levels – if you want minimal spice, de-seed before dicing), red onion, cilantro, lemon, and lime juices. Stir until well combined.
Add crab meat into the mixing bowl and season everything with salt and pepper. Gently mix until the contents are well combined and the crab is evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
Cover tightly with plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge. Let the mixture marinate for 20-30 minutes. You can let it rest for up to an hour if you want a more intense citrus flavor.
*If you’re using raw crab meat, marinate for at least 30 minutes, but preferably for an hour.
When it’s done resting, taste the jaiba and adjust for salt and pepper if needed. Stir in cucumber and avocado if using.
Spoon onto tostadas or serve with tortilla chips. Enjoy immediately!
As with any ceviche recipe, the only required ingredient aside from the seafood is the citrus juice, otherwise, there is plenty of room for experimentation!
It is definitely recommended that any product used is extremely fresh and light to keep with the theme of the dish. Otherwise, the world is your oyster!
Here are some swaps that would work well with la jaiba.
The subtle heat of this dish is part of what makes it so compelling, however, serrano is on the spicier side in comparison to other green peppers.
If you don’t want to omit the flavor component given off by peppers but aren’t a spice fanatic, jalapeños are an excellent swap.
Not only are they milder, but given their width, they are easier to de-seed so you can tame any extraneous spice. They are definitely a great sub for this recipe if you want something less spicy!
2. Cherry Tomatoes
We love tomatoes in all forms, but not every tomato works in this recipe. However, if you can’t find Roma tomatoes or simply don’t like them, cherry tomatoes are a great alternative.
Reach for cherry tomatoes that are firm, and don’t give too much when you gently squeeze them. The goal is to reduce any unnecessary tomato juice so it doesn’t saturate the crab and make it soggy.
If you’re using cherry tomatoes in place of Roma, cut them in half lengthwise and use the pieces that don’t bleed when you cut into them. And as always, use a very sharp knife when cutting tomatoes!
It may seem counterintuitive to use any seafood other than crab in this dish, however, crab isn’t for everyone and the flavors in this dish go wonderfully with shrimp!
Shrimp is used in many ceviche dishes and will work in this one as well. Reach for larger shrimp and cut them into uniform pieces. If you’re using raw shrimp, make sure to peel and devein them before using them.
What to serve with Jaiba Crab Ceviche
Jaiba is light and refreshing, and as such, it is recommended to serve it with other light and refreshing food items.
Here are some of our favorite jaiba pairings.
Cilantro rice is an excellent pair with this dish. It’s light, fluffy, and similarly flavored with jaiba so they complement each other beautifully. You could even cool down the rice and mix the two together for a refreshing, chilled seafood rice pilaf.
While the mixture is resting in the fridge, finely chop your choice of herbs – we like mint, parsley, and more cilantro – add some finely diced red onion, a hint of olive oil, a squeeze of lime or lemon juice, and a generous pinch of salt.
The herb salad can be eaten as a side dish, or you can use it as a base for the tostada!
White fish loves a great topping and using jaiba in place of a sauce or a citrus salad is a fantastic combo!
How to store Jaiba Crab Ceviche
It’s notoriously difficult to store prepared seafood. It is highly perishable and can turn bad in a matter of hours. However, if you have some leftover jaiba it can be stored, but trust your nose: if it smells off, don’t eat it.
Store in the fridge
To store in the fridge, transfer to an airtight container and store covered in the coldest part of the fridge for up to 2 days.
If there is any excess liquid at the bottom of the bowl, pour it off and discard it before storing it. If you’re planning on saving your leftovers, transfer them to the fridge as soon as possible.
Do not freeze.
Jaiba Crab Ceviche Recipe
- mixing bowl
- citrus squeezer
- 1 lb high quality canned or prepared crab meat drained
- ½ cup fresh squeezed lime juice
- ¼ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- 3-4 Roma tomatoes diced
- 1 small red onion diced
- 1 small cucumber peeled and diced
- 1-2 serrano peppers diced
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro finely chopped
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- TT black pepper
- tostadas or tortilla chips for servings
- 1 diced avocando (optional)
- Drain the crab meat of as much liquid as possible. If the pieces aren’t uniform or you prefer smaller chunks, cut to preferred size. Set aside in the fridge until ready to use.
- In a large mixing bowl (preferably glass or ceramic), gently mix together tomatoes, serrano peppers (use more or less depending on preferred spice levels - if you want minimal spice, de-seed before dicing), red onion, cilantro, lemon, and lime juices. Stir until well combined.
- Add crab meat into the mixing bowl and season everything with salt and pepper. Gently mix until the contents are well combined and the crab is evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
- Cover tightly with plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge. Let the mixture marinate for 20-30 minutes. You can let it rest for up to an hour if you want a more intense citrus flavor. *If you’re using raw crab meat, marinate for at least 30 minutes, but preferably for an hour.
- When it’s done resting, taste the jaiba and adjust for salt and pepper if needed. Stir in cucumber and avocado if using.
- Spoon onto tostadas or serve with tortilla chips. Enjoy immediately!