Uncanny Kani

It’s no secret that “crab” (AKA “kani“) in your California sushi roll is anything but. Surimi has been the go-to crustacean imitation treasured by restaurateurs for its low cost, and touted by nutritionists as being higher in protein than the real deal. While that may be true, let’s not forget what surimi really is: cheap, highly processed white fish (typically pollock) with added sugar, color, preservatives, and fillers. If you’re looking for a healthier or more ethical choice, that really doesn’t fit the bill.

You know what always gets high marks for nutrition, sustainability, and versatility? Tofu! It’s the other, other white meat that is the chameleon of the plant-based protein world. Most people think of it as a meat substitute, but let’s not forget that it works just as well to curb seafood cravings of all sorts. In this case, super firm tofu is strong enough to withstand a fine julienne cut, reminiscent of the shredded, stringy texture of torn surimi.

What’s the best tofu to use in kani salad?

Super firm tofu is my top pick, since it’s ready to use right out of the package, no draining needed. If you can’t find this, extra firm is also great after pressing for 10 – 15 minutes. This helps remove a bit more of the water and create a more compact texture. My favorite brands include:

Tofu alone isn’t enough to complete the illusion, of course. Super chewy sweet potato glass noodles, better known for their role in Korean cuisine to make the most toothsome jap chae, adds the perfect bouncy bite. Nori, everyone’s favorite toasted seaweed sheets, incorporate a subtle oceanic note. It’s not hard to replicate the flavor since surimi is relatively bland to begin with.

How can you serve kani salad?

Kani salad is an excellent starter for any meal. Since it’s very high in protein, you could also make it the main course and serve it as an entree salad. If you wanted to dress it up more, you could add it to:

Tossed with crisp fresh vegetables and coated in creamy mayo dressing, this kani salad might look a bit different than the one served at your local Japanese restaurants, but the eating experience is sure to satisfy.

Yield: Makes 4 - 6 Servings

Vegan Kani Salad

Vegan Kani Salad

Don't be crabby about fake surimi salads. Make your own plant-based kani salad instead! This version is higher in protein and fiber, comes together in minutes, and is full of flavor.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes


  • 1/2 English Cucumber, Julienned
  • 1 Medium Carrot, Julienned
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 (3.5-Ounce) Package Sweet Potato Glass Noodles
  • 10-Ounces Super Firm Tofu, Julienned
  • 1 Sheet Toasted Nori, Shredded and Divided
  • 2 Scallion, Thinly Sliced and Divided
  • 1/3 Cup Vegan Mayonnaise
  • 2 Teaspoons Rice Vinegar
  • 1 Teaspoon Soy Sauce
  • 2 Teaspoons Toasted Black and/or White Sesame Seeds


  1. Place the cut cucumbers and carrots in a large bowl and toss with the salt. Set for about 10 minutes to soften.
  2. Meanwhile, break the glass noodles in half and place them in a heat-safe bowl. Pour boiling water on top to cover. Let stand until rehydrated; about 7 minutes. Drain thoroughly and rinse in cold water before adding to the bowl of vegetables.
  3. Add the tofu, nori, and scallions to the bowl and very gently toss to combine.
  4. Separately, whisk together the mayo, vinegar, and soy sauce until smooth. Pour the dressing over the salad and fold carefully with a wide spatula to incorporate.
  5. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with sesame seeds. Serve right away, or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Recommended Products

Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. I have experience with all of these companies and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 158Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 195mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 7g

All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.

3 thoughts on “Uncanny Kani

Leave a Reply