Singapore Black Pepper Crab Recipe

This well-kept Singaporean secret makes an outstanding dining adventure.

After living in Singapore for a year and a half, I've come to believe that the humble black pepper has been vastly under-rated vs. sexier peppers such as Habanero, Ghost, and Poblano. I had never had a dish with heavy black pepper until this one, and it is truly unique (and delicious).

In Singapore, there are Black Pepper Crab fans and then there are Chili Pepper Crab fans. It's kind of like the Cubs vs. the White Sox - a friendly rivalry. I haven't been there for many years, but you used to be able to get both at the East Coast seafood restaurants by the water.  The experience included selecting your live Sri-Lankan crab for cooking, and always ended in a delicious mess. After the first time, we quickly learned to wear dark shirts in order to hide the chili spatters.

My family was unanimous in preferring Black Pepper Crab, so we eventually had to find a good recipe. We tried a number of different recipes before finding one in an obscure cookbook that had the authentic taste of the East Coast restaurants. This one, adapted from The Food Of Singapore cookbook, had the authentic taste we were looking for. This recipe works equally well with any type of crab, crayfish, shrimp or lobster.

I suggest making it a whole Singaporean experience - see the Tips section below.

Note: This dish is pretty spicy!!


  • Prep:      40 min
  • Cook:     20

YIELD:    6 servings

LEVEL:  Hard





Thaw the crab, then cut it into manageable pieces. We usually separate the shoulder piece, then cut the remaining leg at the joint.

Slice crab shells open lengthwise to allow the sauce to enter during cooking, and make them easier to eat. A sharp knife, or scissors, will work. 

Prepare all ingredients. I suggest putting them all in small dishes, ready to go into the wok.

Heat the cooking oil in a wok at medium to medium-high heat until hot.

Stir fry the crab until hot. Set aside. Drain any juices from the pan - often the cooked crab will release water. Note: Most commercially available crab in the U.S. is already cooked. If somehow you have found uncooked crab, you will need to deep fry the crab until the shell changes color.

At medium heat, melt the butter in the wok, then add the chili peppers, garlic and ginger. Stir fry for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

Reduce heat to low, and add the oyster sauce and soy sauces. Simmer over low heat for 30 seconds, then add the black pepper. Keep cooking until the sauce thickens.

Increase heat to high and add the crab. Stir fry for several minutes until the crab is covered in sauce, and very hot.


  • 3 lbs king crab (cooked)
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 3 tablespoons coarse ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 7 dried chili peppers, finely chopped and seeded
  • 7 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 inch ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Cooking oil


  • For a more authentic Singaporean experience, serve with fried rice, green vegetables (e.g. broccoli) sauteed in oyster sauce, and Tiger or Singha beer.
  • King Crab is expensive. Check for sales at your grocery store. Costco is not always the least cost alternative.
  • You can use less expensive crab, such as Snow Crab, to save money. Typically they require a lot more work to get at the meat.
  • You can also use this recipe with shrimp or lobster.
  • Asian markets are a great place to get good/inexpensive wok pans, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and chili peppers. While you're there, look for Tiger or Singha beer! Just search "Asian market" in Google Maps.

More Photos

We've tried this with several types of crab, but king crab is our favorite.

Get your ingredients ready before starting the stir-fry!

The crab is typically bought cooked, but frozen. After thawing, heat it up with oil in the wok, then set aside. This photo shows a different type of crab, but the results are the same.

Begin the sauce . . . 

Add the black pepper.

Add the crab to the black pepper sauce. Toss it constantly for several minutes to ensure it is covered in sauce and heated throughout.

My brother-in-law got a little carried away with the "tossing" part of it one time. Not recommended:)  Just use a couple of spatulas or wooden spoons.

The finished product is unlike anything you've eaten before: spicy, delicious, messy!  wear dark clothing!!