I’m someone who loves eating seafood. Unfortunately, I live nowhere near an ocean or any other body of water where crabs reside. And sometimes, I don’t have the room in my budget to go splurging on seafood at a fancy restaurant. So, for me, I don’t get a lot of fresh seafood.

While I’m not a huge fan of it now, there was a time when I enjoyed eating imitation crab meat.

I’m all about enjoying crab sticks or a good crab leg. But you’re not here to learn about my favorite foods. You want the answer to the question: Is imitation crab keto? I have the answer, let’s get to it!

What is Imitation Crab Meat?

imitation crab sticks

I’m about to teach you something that absolutely blew my mind when I first heard about it. You might even know this, but I was stunned when I found this out: imitation crab doesn’t contain any actual crab.

Read that last sentence one more if you wouldn’t mind. Thanks!

Yes, fake crab meat is actually made from fish. Imitation crab can come from a wide range of fish, including pallock, surimi, cod, or mackerel. It all depends on what company you’re buying your imitation crab from.

To turn surimi or a similar type of common fish into imitation crab meat, workers must remove the bones, skin, and other fish body parts. Next, they work on grinding fish flesh and adding color to form this food into imitation crab.

See why some people call imitation crab the hot dog of seafood?

Imitation Crab Vs Fresh Crab

fresh crab

If you’re taking part in a keto diet, it’s important to learn how imitation crab differs from the real deal.


While fake crab meat comes from a range of fish, so does original crab. There are several popular types of crabs, including snow crab, blue crab, and Alaskan crab.

Fortunately, you should be able to learn where your crab (imitation or not) comes from by checking the packaging from where you get this food. If you get crab from a butcher, they should be able to give you the information you need.

How It’s Made

The next difference has to do with how each food is made. Fresh crab should go straight from the source to the customer.

That’s not the case with fake crab, which is a highly processed food that receives sweet flavor and other additives before it’s on store shelves. These additives include artificial flavors and sweeteners. Unfortunately, it’s this process that makes imitation crab not suitable for a ketogenic diet.


If you’re wondering: “Is imitation crab keto?” Then, taking a look at this food’s ingredients is a great way to answer this question. It’s also important to compare the ingredients between imitation and real crab. With real crab, the meat itself should be the only ingredient.

Imitation crab meat contains other ingredients, which typically include:

Is the ground fish meat known as imitation crab good for you? I mean, it’s not the worst thing you can eat by any means. Depending on the fish source used for your imitation crab, you could be getting health benefits like omega 3 fatty acids and healthy fats. Since this food comes from fish, it’s also a relatively high source of protein (which is great if you’re trying to bulk up).


Since it’s a processed and not fresh food, imitation crab has a longer shelf life than fresh crab meat. You can enhance shelf life of real crab by freezing it for longer storage.

Is Imitation Crab Keto-Friendly?

On the surface, imitation crab might sound like a keto-friendly food. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Yes, it’s true: imitation crab meat is NOT keto-friendly. But why? Let’s take a look at the reasons below.

Too High in Carbs

One reason you should avoid imitation crab on keto is because of this food’s relatively high amount of net carbs per serving. With about 15 grams of net carbs per serving, imitation crab isn’t great for low-carb diets.

As you know, foods with lots of net carbs should be avoided while you’re on a keto diet. However, there is some good news. Real crab meat, on the other hand, is virtually carb-free. But imitation crab meat will kick your body out of ketosis.

Contains Sugar

bowls of sugar

Another difference between real crab and imitation crab is that the latter contains sugar. If anything makes a food not keto-friendly, it’s sugar. If you eat imitation crab, it’s going to add sugar to your diet. Consuming too much sugar also isn’t great for a low-carb diet, which is a major aspect of the keto lifestyle.

While a single serving of imitation crab contains a fairly low amount of sugar when compared to other foods. It’s, unfortunately, sill enough to be something you want to avoid if you’re on a strict keto diet.

Is It Healthy to Eat Imitation Crab?

You now know that imitation crab isn’t keto-friendly. But is imitation crab healthy? Yes and no. Yes, imitation crab is a lot healthier than many highly processed foods. Unfortunately, imitation crab is made with a lot of unhealthy ingredients (many of which aren’t in real crab meat).

I used to be a big fan of imitation crab. In fact, I still indulge in an occasional craving for this food by itself or inside of delicious crab cakes. Unfortunately, imitation crab is not keto-friendly. It’s actually pulverized fish with added sugar. Imitation crab isn’t bad for you in moderation, but it’s not a keto-friendly seafood.