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Food & Recipes

Crab Fries Are The Spicy, Cheesy Twist On Regular Fries That You’ll Wonder How You Lived Without — Easy Air Fryer Recipe

They're seasoned just right with Old Bay — and delicious with or without real crab on top!

French fries, with all their salty, crispy goodness, are one snack we can’t get enough of — which is why our taste buds rejoiced when we learned about crab fries! This loaded fry dish combines spicy Old Bay seasoning with sharp cheese sauce and sometimes sweet crab meat to create a filling appetizer that borders on a full meal. While crab fries are a menu staple at Philadelphia’s famous Chickie’s and Pete’s restaurants, it’s easy to whip them up at home — they’re perfect for game day, a movie night in or really anytime you want to treat yourself. Even better, you can make them in an air fryer for effortlessly crispy fries without tons of oil or dodging grease splatters. Here’s how to re-create crab fries at home so you can indulge your savory snack cravings!

What are crab fries?

Crab fries are typically made by tossing crispy French fries in seafood seasoning such as Old Bay, then a warm cheese sauce is drizzled on top or served on the side for dipping. For an extra-decadent, the fries can also be topped with crab meat. This unique combination of ingredients creates fries that are saucy, crunchy, salty and tangy all at once.

When were crab fries invented?

Pete Ciarrocchi, owner of Chickie’s and Pete’s, is credited with inventing this dish in 1977 as a way to use up leftover crab seasoning. “It was already September and crabs were going to stop in October, and we had all this seasoning and my father was like ‘What are we going to do with all this?‘,” he says. Ciarrocchi began experimenting with sprinkling the seasoning on fries and serving them to customers with a side of cheese sauce. Once he perfected the recipe, crab fries were added to the menu and it didn’t take long for them to become the restaurant chain’s signature dish. Although these traditional crab fries are a must-try when visiting the restaurant, it’s simple to make them yourself. Plus, topping the fries with actual crab meat gives them a sweet and slightly briny flavor — and means they’ll truly live up to their name!

Chickie's and Pete's Crab Fries
The original Chickie’s and Pete’s crab fries with cheese sauceChickie’s and Pete’s

3 secrets for the most delicious crab fries

In her recipe for Homemade Crab Fries, recipe pro Amna Muqeem, co-founder and editor-in-chief at Specially Fried, uses these three tips to ensure the tastiest batch of fries.

1. Toss the fries in cornstarch

For extra crunchy fries, coat the cut potato pieces in a small amount of cornstarch. The baking staple contains amylose (a component of starch), which forms a solid layer on the fries’ surface that crisps when heated. Try using 1 tablespoon of cornstarch for every 2 medium-sized potatoes that will be cut into fries.

2. Use this type of crab meat

If you’re indulging in crab, lump crab meat is the ideal choice for crab fries as the chunks are smaller and more manageable to pick up with a fork than jumbo lump. It’s also a less expensive option as lump crab meat can be sold for around $27 per pound, while jumbo lump crab meat may cost $37 per pound or more at the seafood counter. And for a more budget-friendly option, you can also check the canned fish aisle of your grocery store for lump crab.

3. Add a dash of mustard powder to the cheese sauce

Mixing in around ½ teaspoon of mustard powder into the cheese sauce will enhance its sharpness. Also, it adds a slight yellow hue to the sauce that makes for an appetizing batch of crab fries.

How to make crab fries

Muqeem’s recipe uses the air fryer to make a less greasy yet equally crunchy version of crab fries! The crab topping is optional but does make them extra-irresistible. (If you’re hungry for more seafood delights, click through for how to reheat crab legs and how to reheat shrimp.)

Crab Fries

Crab fries served in a bowl



  • 2 medium russet potatoes, cut into ½”-thick sticks
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Crab topping:

  • 1 (8 oz.) tub lump crab meat, any lingering shell pieces removed and drained
  • 2 Tbs. melted salted or unsalted butter, still warm
  • 1 Tbs. chopped parsley (for garnish)
  • Small pinch of salt and pepper

Cheese sauce:

  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ tsp. mustard powder
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 1 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Yield: 4 servings

  1. Preheat air fryer to 400°F.
  2. For fries: Make sure fries are completely dry before tossing in oil, salt, pepper, paprika, cornstarch and Old Bay. Once fully coated, arrange in single layer on air fryer basket. Cook fries about 15 minutes or until golden brown and tender, flipping halfway through. Remove fries from air fryer and cool while preparing remaining ingredients.
  3. For crab topping: Mix crab meat with butter. Add salt and pepper; set aside.
  4. For cheese sauce: Melt butter in sauce pan over medium heat. Once melted, add flour and whisk vigorously to create roux. Cook roux 1 minute then gradually whisk in milk to prevent lumps from forming.
  5. Add salt, pepper and mustard powder to sauce before simmering until thickened, around 3 to 5 minutes. When sauce is thick, reduce heat to low and add cheddar cheese. Continue cooking on gentle heat 3 minutes or until cheese is fully melted.
  6. To serve: When ready to enjoy, place fries on individual plates, add crab topping and drizzle over cheese sauce or serve on side. Garnish with parsley.

3 ways to customize your crab fries

For ideas on making crab fries suit your taste buds, try these three yummy suggestions.

1. Use a different type of French fry.

Instead of cutting the potatoes straight-cut fries, use a specialty slicer to make crinkle-cut, curly or waffle fries. These ridged and spiral-shaped fry patterns allow the fries to develop an even crispier texture once cooked. Plus, cheese sauce clings inside those nooks and crannies for an extra-delicious bite.

2. Add beer to the cheese sauce.

Mixing in a splash of light beer as the sauce thickens gives it a slightly sweet and malty taste that complements the tangy cheddar. (Click through for a tasty pretzel dip that also infuses a creamy cheese sauce with beer.)

3. Serve with seasoned mayonnaise.

Adding fresh garlic, hot sauce or chives to plain mayo transforms it into another delicious dipping sauce for the fries. Yum!

For more snack-inspired recipes, check out the stories below:

Air-Fryer Meatballs Are the Perfect Party Appetizer — Easy Recipe Ready in 12 Minutes

12 State Fair Food Recipes That Are So Easy to Make at Home — Plus Tricks to Fry Like a Pro

Pizza Fries Are the Perfect Cheesy Snack Loaded With Flavor — and So Easy to Make!

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