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Kanikama (Imitation Crab Sticks)

Kanikama (Imitation Crab Sticks)

Kanikama, the Japanese word for imitation crab, is a popular seafood alternative. With its distinctive taste and texture, it’s no wonder this affordable and versatile seafood delight has made its way into many types of sushi and the hearts of food lovers. 

Kanikama is the main ingredient in Spicy Krab Roll, Kani Salad and many sushi recipes, including this sushi bake. Check out over 20 Imitation Crab Recipes.

What is Kanikama

Kanikama is a processed seafood product made from surimi, a fish paste that typically consists of white fish, such as pollock or whiting. The paste is flavored, colored, and shaped to resemble crab meat, making it an affordable alternative to authentic crab meat.

Other Names

Kanikama goes by quite a few different names, including

  • Kani
  • Imitation Crab (Imitation Krab)
  • Crab Stick (Krab Stick)
  • Ocean Sticks

Kani Salad in a white bowl to support Kanikama article.


Kanikama originated in Japan in the 1970s and quickly gained popularity in Asia, Europe, and the United States. Its low cost, versatility, and ability to be used in a variety of dishes have made it a popular choice among seafood enthusiasts.

Does It Contain Real Crab

Despite its name, kanikama does not contain any actual crab meat. Instead, it’s typically made from a mixture of white fish meat, such as pollock or hake, along with starch, sugar, egg white, and other additives to create the crab-like texture and flavor.

Is It Raw or Cooked

Kanikama is steamed and pasteurized before packaging so it’s fully cooked. As such, if making a hot dish, it just needs to be re-heated.

Unopened packages can last in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. Upon opening, it’s best to utilize within 3 days.

Kanikama sushi rolls on a brown plate.

Kanikama Recipes

Kanikama is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. Its mild, slightly sweet flavor and firm texture make it a popular choice for sushi rolls and other seafood dishes, including:

Varieties of Imitation Crab

There are 3 different shapes you can snag at the grocery store:

  • Stick – crab stick is the most common shape and is often used in sushi rolls and sandwiches.
  • Flakes or Chunks – the second most common form, flakes are often used in soups, seafood rolls, pasta, salads and more.
  • Shredded – the least popular shape, shredded krab is used in hot crab dip, crab cakes and even seafood enchiladas and tacos.

Photo of imitation crab to show what is Kani.


Kanikama is loaded with artificial ingredients, making real crab, such as these Baked Crab Legs, a healthier choice. In addition, Kanikama calories come from carbs whereas real crab is from protein.

More Resources

What is Kani
Sushi vs. Sashimi
Sushi Sauce Recipes
Best Wine With Sushi

Sushi Bake topped with cucumber and avocados in a white casserole dish.