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Dungeness Crab vs. Snow Crab: Key Differences to Know

Wondering what the differences between Dungeness crab and snow crab are while searching for a seafood dish?

10-Second Summary

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

Habitat

Dungeness Crab is a crab species found primarily off the coast of Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and the western coast of Canada.

Name

The crab’s name comes from Dungeness Bay, where the species was first identified.

Appearance

The Dungeness crab [1] 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.

Taste

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

Habitat

Snow crab is a crab species in the North Pacific and the northwest Atlantic Ocean.

Name

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.”

Appearance

The snow crab [2] 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.

Taste

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.

Dungeness Crab

Snow Crab

Habitat

Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Canada

North Pacific and the northwest Atlantic Ocean

Leg Size

4 short legs and 2 moderately sized claws

4 long legs and 2 small claws

Amount of Meat

Less than snow crab

More meat

Taste

More intense and sweeter

A bit fat, light sweetness

Price

$30/lb

$33/lb

Shell

Very thick shell

Thinner shell

Color

Light brown

A muted orange or red

Size

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.

Taste

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.

Price

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.

Appearance

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.

Snow Crab

Dungeness Crab

More leg meat

More body meat

Less sweet

Sweeter

More expensive

Cheaper

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.

Species

Dungeness Crab

Snow Crab

King Crab

Weight

2 to 3 lbs

3 to 4 lbs

6 to 10 lbs

Length

8 to 10 inches

6 to 8 inches

6 to 9 inches

Appearance

Light brown with purple tones

Orange or red, long legs

Bright red, long legs

Taste

Decadent, sweet flavor

Mild sweetness

Buttery, sweet flavor similar to lobster

Texture

Firm

Firm

Delicate

Price

$30/lb

$33/lb

$45/lb

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.

Conclusion

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!

I’m Jennifer Schlette, a Registered Dietitian and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. I love cooking, reading, and my kids! Here you’ll find the healthiest recipes & substitutions for your cooking. Enjoy, and be well, friends!

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