Malagueta Crab Cocktail

Malagueta Crab Cocktail
Malagueta Crab Cocktail

When you want a spicy and refreshing appetizer, look no further than our Malagueta Pepper and Crab Cocktail. This brisk, crunchy crab cocktail puts Brazil’s beloved Malagueta Chile to work. Delivering a fiery heat and rich fruit flavor, this little pepper, no more than two inches long, brings a lot to the table in a small package. To let the Malagueta shine we stayed away from the idea of a “traditional” crab cocktail, clustered around a dipping bowl filled with a heavy cocktail sauce or butter, which could dampen the flavor of the peppers. Instead we played with the idea of ceviche, full of citrus and fresh vegetables, to give the Malagueta a platform that would allow it to shine.

The hardest thing about this recipe is the first step, where you rehydrate the chiles. It’s not that it’s hard, but this recipe is almost entirely an exercise in stirring-and-leaving. By default, boiling water to rehydrate peppers is the most challenging move. While you can leave the seeds in the peppers and chop the whole thing to bits, we do recommend removing the seeds. They can be bitter, and do hold a lot of heat. These peppers are already spicy without extra help; four small peppers, de-seeded, give this dish a medium-level heat. Unless you’re a major fan of spice, remove the seeds. If you want even more of a kick of heat without bitterness, add another rehydrated, de-seeded pepper or two.

Then you’ll puree, and chop, and mix, and wait. There’s no additional cooking. All you need to do is wait for flavors to mingle and create piquant magic inside your fridge.

When choosing crab meat, we think that jumbo lump crab is the way to go. This is the meat from the muscles that connect a crab’s two long swimming legs. These muscles are the largest pieces of meat you can get out of a crab other than from the claw, and they are white and delicately flavored. Lump crab meat is the next best choice; that is simply jumbo lump meat that’s broken apart in some way. Pick the best crab you can afford, and treat it gently. We also don’t advise adding the meat to the puree-and-vegetable mix until you’re ready to serve it. Crab meat is delicate, and can be readily overwhelmed by garlic and onions. It can also start to get mushy if left in acidic lime and lemon juice for too long a period of time. It will last up to two days once it’s all mixed together, but it is hands-down better when it’s fresh fresh fresh.

Top with additional cilantro if you have it, and finish with salt to taste. Serve this on a small plate if you’re taking it easy, or in a fancy glass if you’re feeling posh. Enjoy it on a crispy water cracker or tortilla chip for an extra layer of texture, or embrace a moment of old-school crab cocktailing and serve with toast points. This serves 8 if you dish it out as intended, or 4 if you're like us and can’t stop eating it right out of the bowl.

 Print Recipe

  • 4 Malagueta Chiles, rehydrated
  • 3/4 cup diced, seeded English cucumber, divided
  • Juice of 2 medium-sized limes
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 diced red or yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1 pound jumbo lump or lump crab meat

1. Rehydrate Malagueta Chiles by covering with hot water and soaking for half an hour. Drain, then de-seed the peppers and roughly chop. 

2. In a food processor combine Malagueta Chiles, ½ cup cucumber, lemon and lime juice, cilantro, garlic, honey, olive oil, and salt. Puree until smooth.

3. Combine remaining ¼ cup cucumber, bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, and red onion, then stir in the cilantro and Malagueta pepper puree. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours up to 4 hours.

4. Gently stir in crab meat, season with salt to taste and serve.