Difference Between Snow Crab And Opilio Crab

snow crab vs opilio crab

Ancient humans have been hooked with seafood as the early civilization has been established near the seashores. From fish, oysters to crabs, they can definitely survive by consuming seafood. People would agree that only a few things are better than fresh crabs, especially those that love seafood. 

When it comes to the crab varieties, king crab and snow crab would be the two of the most popular options. They’re usually served at all of the best seafood spots and expensive restaurants. King crabs are more expensive than snow crabs and they are also much larger species. That is why king crab is preferred by most to be the superior choice. Being smaller and more affordable, snow crabs are also excellent for eating.

Snow crab vs Opilio crab 

What Are Snow Crabs?

Snow crab is a type of crab that lives in the coldest parts of the North Atlantic Sea and the Northern Pacific Ocean. The name “snow crab” is taken from the climates of these locations where the water temperature is always below 4°C. This type of crab takes form with a small body that has long, thin legs and has an orange, light-brown or red-colored shell.

What Is Opilio Crab?

Opilio crab is a specie of snow crab also known as chionoecetes opilio or opies. These species are often caught with traps or by trawling and they are predominantly epifaunal crustacean native to shelf depths in the northwest Atlantic Ocean and north Pacific Ocean. 

Opilio crab is commonly used in different dishes such as  chowders, omelets, crepes, casseroles and quiches. The split legs are usually served cold as appetizers or are broiled and served warm with drawn butter. Whereas the whole legs  and clusters can be steamed.

Snow Crab vs. Opilio Crab

Though opilio crabs are species under the snow crab family, they also have their fair share of differences. Their distinguishing factor when it comes to the appearance is that the snow crab has brown or red shells and its underside is  shaded with yellow or white. On the other hand, opilio crabs have different shades of brown and red on the top shells and white on the bottom or underside. The opilio crab also possesses white on the sides of its feet and appears almost iridescent.

Frequently Asked Questions/FAQs

What Are The Other Species of Snow Crabs

There are few other species of snow crab, but the well-known aside from the Opilio crab is the Bairdi crab. Bairdi crabs are bigger than Opilio and are also more scarce to find. Since Bairdi crabs are bigger, that means they also have high meat content. Bairdi crab is also known as tanner crab and scientifically called as Chionoecetes Bairdi. 

When it comes to the appearance, Bairdi crab is very different as it has short tails. Though they are under the same family, Bairdi crab meat tends to have a subtle sweet flavor while Opilio crab does not have that sweet taste. 

While an Opilio crab can be caught using trawling methods, Bairdi crab is mainly caught using crab pots or by using Crab traps. But both of them are found in  the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the Bering sea. Opilio crab and a Bairdi snow crab are the two crabs under the snow crab family that most people consume.

What Is The Best Tasting Crab?

A lot of crab varieties are being distributed worldwide for human consumption due to their excellent taste and flavor. However, the meat of the blue crab is considered by many to be the sweetest and best tasting of all crabs. The best crab would be the soft-shell crabs, which are  blue crabs that have shed their old shell to form a new one. 

When it comes to the meatiest, the Colossal Red King Crab, also called as Kamchatka or Alaskan king crab, would reign supreme. This red king crab meat would reach the highest meat-to-shell ratio as a pound of king crab legs contains 60% to 75% of pure crab meat. Red king crabs also have thicker legs than the blue king crabs, making them more ideal for eating.

Are There Other Edible Crabs?

Whether it’s a seafood buffet or a simple family gathering, you might want to know if there are other varieties of crabs that are safe for human consumption. Actually, there are multiple species of crabs that are edible, aside from the well-known varieties that include Bairdi crab or Opilio crabs.

Dungeness crabs are one of the largest edible crabs that could weigh in between two and four pounds. These crabs are found most commonly in the waters off of Alaska and Mexico, but they have a wide-ranging habitat. Dungeness crabs are usually characterized by brownish purple color. For them to be harvested, they must reach the ideal size of at least six and a quarter inches long.

A species of king crabs, the blue king crab is another enormous edible crab that has a large right claw used to hunt their prey. When it comes to the taste, it is comparable to the red king crab, but the blue king crab is slightly sweeter. 

Stone crabs are also edible, but only their claws should be eaten. They are native to Florida and are harvested between October and May. The claws are twisted off the crab and then throw it back to the water where new claws should regrow within eighteen months. To remove any unpleasant taste in the claws, it must be boiled or frozen within a few minutes of being harvested, so they are usually pre-cooked crab. Its claw meat  has a sweet flavor, which is often cracked open and served with a cold dipping sauce. 

The peekytoe crab was once called a Maine rock or sand crab that typically grows to be about five inches across. These crabs are characterized by a red or orange on top with a white belly. This crab is one of the most popular crab options in restaurants and commonly used in salads, dips, and crab cakes. It has a very sweet meat and pink flesh that is perfect for cooking various dishes. 


There are different species of crabs that can be found around the world. Two species of snow crab are well-known, and those are opilio crabs and bairdi crabs. Their main difference would be their size. Bairdi crabs are bigger than the opies. Though both of them are hard to find, Bairdi crab is more scarce than the Opilio. 

When it comes to taste, a snow crab has a sweet, slightly briny flavor and a firm texture. It is also a more affordable option than the king crab. Snow crab is named after the climate where it is commonly found and lives –  the coldest parts of the North Atlantic Sea and the Northern Pacific Ocean. 

Aside from its sweet, mild and delicate flavor, snow crab crab legs are easier to handle than king crab legs. King crab, on the other hand, provides abundant meat to the consumers. There are three species of king crabs that are well-known, which are Red King Crab, Blue King Crab, and the Golden King Crab. 

When it comes to choosing between male crab and female crab, you can tell the difference by looking at the bottom of the crab. The obvious difference is that male crabs have a pointy abdomen while female crabs have a round abdomen. Though it will depend on your preference, many people believe that females are more delicious than males as they have more gooey roe that is considered as a delicacy. 

In general, crabs have a life expectancy between 3 to 5 years, while there are some species that could live up to 30 years. A snow crab may live for up to 20 years, and opilio crabs have an average lifespan of 14 to 16 years. Bairdi crabs can also live over a decade.

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