Mud crab is an iconic Northern Territory delicacy. The body and claws are full of moist meat and they’re sweeter in flavour than ocean crabs. Green when caught, once cooked their shells transform to an eye-catching orange-red.






Skill level

Average: 4.7 (26 votes)


  • 1 live mud crab, about 800 g (see Note)
  • Coriander leaves, to serve


Citrus butter sauce 

  • 250 g butter
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, white part only, thinly sliced
  • 1 long red chilli, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped coriander roots
  • 2 tbsp finely diced red onion
  • 6 segments lemon, halved
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 6 segments lime, halved
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 6 segments orange, halved
  • 4 makrut limes leaves, thinly sliced

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


1. Place your thumb under the back of the mud crab carapace and pull it off. Rinse the crab and the carapace in cold water and set the carapace aside.

2. Using a large sharp knife or cleaver, cut the crab into quarters by cutting it in half vertically down the centre, then dividing each half so you have one claw and two legs for the front portion and two legs and a flipper for the back portion. Lightly tap the back of the claws with the back of a knife to crack the shell. This allows the steam to enter during cooking.

3. Pour 185 ml (¾ cup) cold water into a wok with a rack sitting above the water line. Place the crab onto the rack ensuring the crab doesn’t touch the water. Place the carapace over the crab quarters. Turn on high heat, cover and steam for 9 -12 minutes. Once cooked, the crab should have turned a brilliant orange. Remove the crab from the wok and place the body onto your serving bowl to rest while you make the sauce.

4. For the citrus butter sauce, place a deep frying pan over low heat and melt the butter slowly for 1-2 minutes or until it is fully melted but not split (you don’t want the butter fats and oils separating). Add the remaining sauce ingredients and cook for 4-5 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Pour the butter sauce over the crab, scatter with coriander leaves and place the carapace on top. Serve immediately.


•To dispatch the mud crab humanely, place into a large bowl of iced water for 35 minutes before preparing.


Explore a Taste of the Territory with Jimmy Shu on SBS Food and On Demand.