Is Kani Salad Keto Friendly? (Find Out Now!)

Is Kani Salad Keto Friendly

Kani salad is a Japanese version of crab salad that is typically made with thin crab sticks, vegetables such as cucumbers and carrots, and dressed with mayonnaise. Sometimes it’s also topped with panko breadcrumbs for an added crunch. It’s a refreshing and simple dish, but is kani salad compatible with the keto diet?

No, kani salad is not considered keto. Kani salad is highly processed and contains both sugar and starches, making it not keto-friendly. However, you can make keto-friendly kani salad at home using real crab and mayonnaise. Aside from homemade kani salad, the best keto-friendly alternatives to kani salad include Madge’s Food Company Kimchi and Wegmans Rainbow Slaw.

In this article we will look at the nutritional information of traditional kani salad. We’ve also provided you with healthy recipes so you can make kani salad at home and stay on track with your diet and your goals. Let’s dig in!

What Is Kani?

Kani is actually just imitation crabmeat. Imitation crab is made out of pollock or other mild white fish which is processed to form a paste called surimi. It flakes easily, just like crab and tastes almost entirely identical to crab. Kani translates to “crab,” in Japanese. It is typically found in many Japanese dishes like sushi or salads. It is also often known as Kani Kamaboko or just Kamikama.

Kani salad combines shredded crab sticks with a mayo-based dressing made from Japanese mayonnaise also known as (Kewpie). The dressing is spiced with sriracha and the salad is tossed with tobiko and panko bread crumbs for added texture and flavor but they aren’t necessary!

Occasionally you will see kani salad served over lettuce or garnished with sesame seeds, both of which have added nutrients that promote a healthy body. So you can always put your kani salad on top of lettuce if you are looking for more fiber and micronutrients in your dish.

Is Kani Salad Healthy?

Yes, it absolutely can be. Kani salad has protein in it and it is typically mixed with different types of vegetables which have added health benefits. The only thing to be aware of is that it is typically dressed with spicy mayonnaise which can get high in fat content. However, if you are making it on your own, it is easy to limit the amount of mayonnaise that is used. You can also forego the panko bread crumbs on top. If the recipe or brand you buy uses noodles, know that they have added carbs and as a result will not be suitable for the keto diet.

Where Do You Buy Kani Salad?

Kani salad is typically sold at any restaurant that specializes in Japanese-cuisine. It is not typically sold in stores but you can assemble your own ingredients and create an at-home kani salad that suits your dietary needs.

Imitation Crab versus Real Crab

If you’re making the recipe yourself you absolutely can absolutely replace imitation crab with real crab. However, kani salad is not typically made with real crab nor is it served that way at most restaurants. When comparing the two, real crab has far better nutritional value and benefits than imitation crab. As you’ll see below, real crab is higher in omega-3 fatty acids, lower in carbohydrates, lower in added sugar, and higher in protein, making it a great replacement for imitation crab.

Imitation Crab

Nutrition Facts Of Imitation Crab (per 3oz):

  • Total calories: 81
  • Fat: 0.5g
  • Omega-3 fat: 25.5mg
  • Carbohydrates: 12g
  • Protein: 7g
  • Added sugars: 5.3g
  • Cholesterol: 17mg
  • Sodium: 715mg

Alaska King Crab

Nutrition Facts Of Alaska King Crab Legs (per 3oz):

  • Total calories: 82
  • Fat: 1g
  • Omega-3 fat: 389mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Protein: 16g
  • Added sugars: 0mg
  • Cholesterol: 45mg
  • Sodium: 911mg

Though both have similar numbers of calories, most of the calories in imitation crab come from carbs, whereas most of the calories found in Alaska King Crab Legs come from protein. If you are trying to increase your protein intake and reduce your carb intake, like when following the ketogenic diet, real crab would be better first for your goals.

Studies have also shown that those who eat higher protein diets are at lower risk for type 2 diabetes. High protein diets, when paired with fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans, and whole grains have been shown to aid in weight loss.

Nutritional Information Of Kani Salad

Here is the breakdown of the nutrition information of a generic kani salad recipe. The nutritional information will vary depending on the restaurant that you are ordering from.

Nutrition Facts (per ½ cup):

  • Total Calories: 150
  • Total Fat: 5g
  • Carbohydrates: 13g
  • Protein: 2g

Healthy Kani Salad Recipes

Little Sunny Kitchen Kani Salad

Ingredients for the salad:

  • 1 cup of carrots julienned
  • 1 and ½ cups cucumber julienned
  • 1 ripe mango julienned
  • 2 tablespoons panko
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds (optional)

Ingredients for the dressing:

  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha or hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 5oz imitation crab


  1. In a bowl or a jug, whisk all of the dressing ingredients until it’s well combined and creamy.
  2. To a bowl, add the shredded crab sticks, julienned cucumber, carrot, and mangoes.
  3. Add the dressing to the crab and vegetables. Give it a good toss.
  4. Serve in a shallow bowl or serving plate, top with panko and sesame seeds if using, and drizzle with extra dressing.


  • Depending on how spicy you want your salad to be, adjust the amount of sriracha used in the dressing. Also, adjust seasonings to your preference.
  • You can either serve this salad immediately after preparing or keep it in the fridge until you are ready to serve. The author of this recipe found that it tastes even better the next day after the flavor settles. If making ahead of time, do not top with panko before you store it as they will get soggy. Just sprinkle it with panko before serving.
  • Store kani salad in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
    Top with toasted sesame seeds, or black sesame seeds if you’d like.

Wholesome Yum Kani Salad


  • Real Crab Meat
  • Kelp Noodles or swap with zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash
  • Cucumber thinly sliced into matchstick pieces
  • Carrots thinly sliced into matchstick pieces
  • Mayonnaise or swap with avocado oil mayonnaise
  • Lemon juice
  • Toasted sesame oil
  • Sriracha


  1. Make kani salad dressing by whisking together mayonnaise, lemon juice, toasted sesame oil, and sriracha. Chill in the refrigerator. For best flavor, chill dressing a few hours before serving.
  2. Mix salad by tossing together kelp noodles (or replacements), cucumber, carrots, and crab meat with the salad dressing.
  3. Garnish with sesame seeds

Keto Alternatives to Kani Salad

Madge’s Food Company Vegan Kimchi No-Sugar

Madge’s Food Company offers a vegan kimchi which means you get the added health benefits of the plants used. It is also fermented longer for better health and includes probiotics which promote a healthy gut microbiome.

The ingredients in this product are:

  • Napa Cabbage
  • Daikon Radish
  • Green Onions
  • Asian Chives
  • Korean Red Pepper
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Umami Mix
  • Sweet Rice Flour

Nutrition Facts (per 2 tablespoons):

  • Calories: 8
  • Total Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg
  • Sodium: 125mg
  • Total Sugars: 1g
  • Carbohydrates: 2g
  • Protein: 0.5g

Wegmans Rainbow Slaw

Wegmans Rainbow Slaw is made entirely out of vegetables which provide a wonderful source of fiber. Fiber is great for healthy digestion and cultivating a healthy microbiome. Vegetables also have a plethora of nutrients which promote a health immune system.

The ingredients in this product are:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Red Cabbage

Nutrition Facts (per 1 cup / 85g):

  • Calories: 30
  • Total Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg
  • Sodium: 25mg
  • Total Sugars: 2g
  • Carbohydrates: 5g
  • Protein: 2g

Mother In Law’s Kimchi Cabbage, Napa, Table Cut

Mother In Law’s Kimchi is a vegan and gluten free alternative to kani salad. It also has probiotics which help promote a healthy gut.

The ingredients in this product are:

  • Napa Cabbage
  • Red Chili Peppers
  • Onion
  • Chives
  • Garlic
  • Salt
  • Raw Sugar

Nutrition Facts (per 1 oz):

  • Calories: 10
  • Total Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg
  • Sodium: 180mg
  • Total Sugars: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 2g
  • Protein: 1g

Final Thoughts

If you are looking to strictly follow the ketogenic diet, or if you’re looking to eat a more well-balanced diet, we suggest skipping the imitation crab and using real crab in your own homemade kani salad recipe. While you can’t find kani salad at many grocery stores, it is important to know what it is in it when ordering out at restaurants so that you can make a mindful decision about whether it fits your dietary needs.

We believe that you can eat everything in moderation and still reach your goals as long as you are prioritizing healthy foods first! It is important to eat mindfully and do your best to reach your nutritional goals.

As always, we suggest that in order to live a healthy lifestyle you should eat a diet composed mainly of whole foods that are nutrient dense and pair it with daily activity. This has been shown to reduce symptoms of adverse health conditions and lower your risk of developing them.

Related Questions

Is Kani Salad Gluten Free?

Most kani salads found at restaurants are not gluten-free as they are made with imitation crab which is usually not gluten-free. While imitation crab is made from fish it also includes sugar and starches.

Can You Freeze Kani Salad?

We don’t recommend freezing it. While the crab meat can be frozen the rest of the ingredients are not suitable for freezing. When it thaws the salad will end up becoming moist and will ruin the taste and texture of the typically fresh salad.

What Does Kani Salad Taste Like?

Because of the imitation crab, kani salad will have a slightly sweet and mild taste to it. However if you trade the imitation crab for real crab it will have a slightly less sweet flavor. You can also increase the spiciness by adding more sriracha to the mayonnaise dressing if you choose.

Is Kani Safe To Eat When Pregnant?

Both imitation crab meat and real crab meat are safe to eat when pregnant because they are low in mercury and are cooked before they are served. However, it is always important to consult your doctor beforehand to make sure it is safe for you.

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Kristin Marzullo

My name is Kristin and I am an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Specialist. With over 5 years of experience in the fitness industry under my belt, I love helping women achieve their health and nutrition goals through science-based education.

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