🦀 What Exactly is Crab Mustard?

Whether you consider yourself a gourmet or a gourmand or something in between, chances are you have delved at least a little bit into the world of seafood and tried out some world-renowned delicacies. To some people, cuisine from underwater is to die for. Whilst many may not agree with that, it is definitely a fact that there is a vast variety of seafood dishes. One of the most popular items on any seafood menu is the crab. Most people who are truly into seafood, can’t imagine their life without this wonderous treat.

Crab can be transformed into a plethora of dishes. Bisque is a creamy and smooth soup of French origin which is made from crab. You can also make dishes like chili crab (a seafood dish that’s popular in Singapore), Kakuluwo curry, Gejang etc. One specific part of the crab that many people consider quite tantalizing, is the yellow substance inside the crab also known as crab “mustard”. However, this description isn’t quite accurate. What exactly is crab mustard? Is it safe? How often should it be consumed? All your burning questions are about to be answered.

What exactly is crab mustard?

Some people are satisfied with thinking of this yellow substance as the fat stored inside the crab. What it truly is though, is the crab’s hepatopancreas. That’s quite a mouthful, yes (much like the crab can be if you’re really hungry), but it’s certainly worth it to know more about it and its advantages and disadvantages.

The hepatopancreas filters impurities from the crab’s blood and creates digestive enzymes and is also called Tomalley. While the hepatopancreas is an organ that acts much like the pancreas of a human being, tomalley is what the hepatopancreas in a crustacean is called after it has been cooked. It isn’t wrong, however, to directly call the hepatopancreas the tomalley.

When you are about to begin eating a crab, it’s carapace will have to be opened, after which you’ll be introduced to the crab’s guts and its lungs. Getting rid of these body parts leaves you with the hepatopancreas. People consider this part of the crab to be an exquisite treat, with some people finding its taste to be akin to the likes of sea urchin, caviar and the crab meat itself. However, a question arises, that since the function of the hepatopancreas is to clean out the toxins inside the crab, is it truly safe to eat?

Is it safe to Eat?

Well, yes – and no. Like with anything else, the crab mustard needs to be eaten in moderation because an excess of it can have some undesirable effects. For some individuals, crab mustard should not be eaten at all.

Whether or not the hepatopancreas of the crab is safe to eat largely depends on what kind of environment the crab is from. If the crab comes from highly polluted waters or just polluted waters in general, it can be quite unwise to eat the crab mustard. This is because the hepatopancreas of a crab from polluted waters will contain toxins and cancer-causing substances.

The hepatopancreas may contain an accumulation of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), mercury, and other toxic substances. For children who are under the age of five and for women at an age where they become pregnant, the crab mustard should not be consumed at all as it can be quite harmful.

Crab Dishes to Use the Mustard With

There are lots of different dishes that you can make with the crab. These dishes originate from various parts of the world from South Korea to Sri Lanka to Malaysia. The crab mustard can definitely add another layer of flavour in these dishes and make them stand out. Some example of crab dishes that would go great with crab mustard are as follows

Crab Cakes

Super popular in the United States, crab cakes are considered almost a staple. You can fry them, bake them, and add your own twist to them. Some crab mustard to accompany the cakes can be a delightful experience.

Devilled Crab

If you and your friends are gathering to watch some football, devilled crabs might just be the perfect dish to make. The crab meat is shaped into almost a football-like shape and if served along with some crab mustard, it can be otherworldly experience.


This is another dish that pairs well with crab’s hepatopancreas and it comes from Philippines. For this dish, the crabs are cooked in salt water with spices.


While being a foodie can be something that we consider an integral part of ourselves, we have to know where to simply not eat. Crab mustard isn’t a bad thing, especially once you consider the fact that you’re most likely not going to be eating crab that often anyway. However, the situation may be different for different people and while eating the crab mustard might be okay for one person, it does not necessarily mean that it is okay for another.

Enjoy the foods that the world has to offer and eat crab mustard if you want to. Before doing so however, keep a few questions in mind. Those who are about to consume the crab mustard should be above the age of five and not trying to get pregnant. If you aren’t either of these things and do not consume crabs on a daily basis, you’re good to eat the hepatopancreas and live life to the fullest.

One very important thing to consider, even if you aren’t under the age of five or a woman at a child-bearing age, is where the crab has come from. Do not eat crabs that are from polluted water under any circumstances. Also make sure that you do not buy crabs from a store that doesn’t have a great reputation and certainly don’t eat crabs that have not been cooked properly and thoroughly.