Wondering what the differences between Dungeness crab and snow crab are while searching for a seafood dish?
The primary differences between these two crab species are their leg size, taste, and price.
These two types of crab are often prepared and served similarly, but the snow crab is the more well-known of the two species. Both of these crabs can create a delicious seafood dish.
- For those who enjoy eating crab legs, snow crab is a perfect choice.
- If you love the sweet taste of crab meat, you should choose the Dungeness crab.
Read on to find out how snow crabs and Dungeness crabs differ.
What is Dungeness Crab?
Dungeness Crab is a crab species found primarily off the coast of Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and the western coast of Canada.
The crab’s name comes from Dungeness Bay, where the species was first identified.
The Dungeness crab  weighs 2 to 3 pounds, and the body measures 8 to 10 inches (not including legs.) The shell of this species has a purple tone, and the crabs are typically found deep in the water.
Dungeness Crab has a subtly sweet, decadent flavor that has helped make it a popular and sought-after crab species.
What is Snow Crab?
Snow crab is a crab species in the North Pacific and the northwest Atlantic Ocean.
The common name “snow crab” refers to its preference for cold temperatures, but it is also known as Chionoecetes Opilio. There are seven species in the Chionoecetes genus identified under the name “snow crab.”
The snow crab  weighs 3 to 4 pounds, and the body measures 6 to 8 inches (not including legs.) The shell of this species is light brown with an orange or red tint.
Snow crab has a somewhat mild, sweet flavor.
Differences in Dungeness Crab vs Snow Crab
Here are the main differences between Dungeness crab and snow crab.
Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Canada
North Pacific and the northwest Atlantic Ocean
4 short legs and 2 moderately sized claws
4 long legs and 2 small claws
Amount of Meat
Less than snow crab
More intense and sweeter
A bit fat, light sweetness
Very thick shell
A muted orange or red
What is the difference between Dungeness crab legs vs snow crab legs?
Snow crabs have four long legs and two small claws, and Dungeness crabs have four short legs and two moderately sized claws.
The leg size is often one of the most vital distinctions when finding a crab for a dish or recipe. This factor is important because the meat in the legs is often more flavorful than that found in the body. Crab leg meat is eaten as a delicacy.
About the amount of meat,
- Snow crabs provide more meat than Dungeness crabs, though much of that is leg meat.
- Dungeness crabs have much larger bodies than snow crabs, it provide more meat from the body than snow crabs.
Both of these crab species offer a subtly sweet flavor, though the flavor is more intense and sweeter in the Dungeness crab.
The flavor of snow crab meat is best compared to the taste of sweet butter, with a slightly indulgent, fatty texture.
Dungeness crab is generally cheaper than snow crab.
On average, Dungeness crab sells for around $30/lb, and snow crab sells for $33/lb. For seafood enthusiasts or restaurants, the cost can add up quickly.
Visually, these two crabs are different in their shell and size.
The Dungeness crab has a large body and short legs, and the snow crab has a petite body and long legs. These two species appear to be the inverse of each other.
The Dungeness crab has a very thick shell, one that requires special tools to be able to crack open. Snow crabs have thinner shells that may be able to be opened by hand.
Snow crabs are a muted orange or red, and Dungeness crabs are a light brown color, typically with purple tones.
FAQs About Dungeness Crab and Snow Crab
Here are some common questions about the similarities and differences between Dungeness crab and snow crab.
Which is better, snow crab or Dungeness crab?
The answer to this question depends on your preferences. Here is a chart to help you decide which is best for you.
More leg meat
More body meat
Easy to crack
Difficult to crack
Both of these crab species are delicious, so depending on your situation, you can choose between the two. For example,
- if you want to enjoy eating lots of crab legs, you should go with the snow crab.
- If you want a sweeter, more decadent flavor, choose Dungeness crab.
Snow crab vs king crab vs Dungeness: what’s the main difference?
Snow crab is often mistaken for the more expensive king crab, so the differences are less obvious than with Dungeness crab.
Here is a chart that can help you tell these three crab species apart.
2 to 3 lbs
3 to 4 lbs
6 to 10 lbs
8 to 10 inches
6 to 8 inches
6 to 9 inches
Light brown with purple tones
Orange or red, long legs
Bright red, long legs
Decadent, sweet flavor
Buttery, sweet flavor similar to lobster
Is snow crab or Dungeness crab cheaper?
Dungeness crab is cheaper than snow crab. Dungeness crab sells for $30/lb, and snow crab sells for $33/lb.
The reason for the price difference is that snow crab is caught in a limited season, but Dungeness crab can be caught year-round.
Are female or male crabs better to eat?
As far as taste, there is very little difference in taste between male and female crabs of the same species.
Males in the species typically grow larger and thus have more meat, making them more desirable. Even in areas where it is not illegal to harvest female crabs, the preference is often towards the male crabs because they offer more meat.
Due to fishing sustainability practices, it is often illegal now to harvest female crabs. The rules typically state that any crabs under a certain length and females must return to the water.
These practices help prevent overfishing and allow species to repopulate consistently.
Dungeness crab vs snow crab is a debate among crab lovers. Both species show the diversity of size and flavor that crabs offer.
No matter which you select, you are sure to end up with a great seafood dish!