Salvadoran Crabs in Pepita Sauce

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Salvadoran Crabs in Pepita Sauce is a national favorite dish in that country. It is also one of the more popular dishes among tourists who visit the country. Pepitos translates in English to “pumpkin seeds” – and it is the pumpkin seed sauce flavor that really distinguishes Salvadoran Crabs in Pepita Sauce as a remarkably tasty and unique culinary experience.

Salvadoran Crabs in Pepita Sauce

(Photo Attributed to Author: M Toegiono from Tokyo, Japan)

Salvadoran Crabs in Pepita Sauce Recipe-


(2 large servings)

  • 8 medium sized blue crabs
  • 1-1/2 oz. butter
  • 4 small tomatoes, cored and rough chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and rough chopped
  • 2-4 Chinese or Thai red chili peppers, chopped fine, plus extra for serving
  • 1 cup dry-roasted pepitas
  • 4 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine
  • 2 sprigs fresh cilantro leaves only, with stems reserved
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • hearty bread, to serve as accompaniment
  1. Prepare the crabs; break off the tail flaps on the underside and discard. Slice the crab in half lengthwise, and then carefully pull off the back shells and reserve. Discard the soft gills and then rinse and discard stomach sac.
  2. In a large skillet over medium–high heat, melt the butter.
  3. Add the  crabs and reserved shells into the skillet, and fry, turning now and then, for 5-6 minutes, or until the shells take on an orange color.
  4. While the crabs are cooking, place the bell pepper, tomatoes, pepitas, chilis, garlic and cilantro stems in a blender, 1 cup water, and blend into a purée.
  5. Add the blended pepita mixture into the skillet with the crabs, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10-12 minutes, or until the crabs are thoroughly cooked through.
  6. Transfer the crabs to a large bowl and cover it to keep them warm.
  7. Turn the skillet heat back up to medium–high, and cook the pepita sauce for another 4 minutes or so, long enough  to be reduced by half. Season your sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. To serve your Salvadoran Crabs in Pepita Sauce, place four crabs on each serving plate, ladle some pepita sauce over them, and lastly garnish with a generous sprinkling of fresh cilantro. Serve a good bread on the side, to sop up the extra delicious sauce.

Note: This recipe is taken from our Central American Cuisine pages.

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10 thoughts on “Salvadoran Crabs in Pepita Sauce

  1. A pumpkin seed sauce, eh? I think that sounds like a tasty idea – and those seeds are supposed to be healthy, too. Add in the crab….my fave seafood, and this is one recipe I really have to try.

  2. Much as I love crab, and much as I love spicy, unusual sauces to try …. this dish is going on the dinner table soon!

  3. Wow, this sounds delicious!
    And pumpkin seeds have health benefits as well….

    I grew up in a family where we did not eat such meats, and I was well over 20 before I began to try some of the more exotic seafoods….

    What appeals to me, is that they are so much like wine is in the world of drinks pleasure- they are meats that can be enjoyed most in a slow, savoring way….

    Thanks for your wonderful site!

    • Theresa, thanks so much for the visit and comment. I agree, seafoods, especially the more exotic ones, like crabs, octopus, squid, etc., require an “acquired taste” for many people who do not grow up accustomed to eating them. But well worth the getting used to!

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