Kanikama (imitation crab sticks)

Kanikama, the Japanese word for imitation crab, is a popular alternative to seafood. With its distinctive flavor and texture, it’s no wonder this affordable and versatile fish treat has found its way into many sushi styles and the hearts of foodies.

Kanikama is the main ingredient in Spicy Krab Roll, Kani Salad, and many sushi recipes including this Sushi Casserole. Check out 20+ Imitation Crab Recipes.

What is Kanikama

Kanikama is a processed seafood product made from surimi, a fish paste typically made of white fish such as pollock or whiting. The paste is flavored, colored, and shaped to resemble crab meat, making it an affordable alternative to real crab meat.

other names

Kanikama has many different names including

  • cani
  • Imitation Crab (Imitation Crab)
  • Crab Sticks (Crab Sticks)
  • ocean sticks

Kani salad in a white bowl to support the Kanikama item.


Kanikama originated in Japan in the 1970s and quickly gained popularity in Asia, Europe and the United States. Its low cost, versatility, and ability to be used in a variety of dishes have made it a popular choice among seafood lovers.

Does it contain real crabs?

Despite its name, kanikama does not contain actual crab meat. Instead, it’s usually made from a mixture of white fish meat, such as pollock or hake, along with starch, sugar, protein, and other additives to create the shrimp-like texture and flavor.

Is it raw or cooked

Kanikama is steamed and pasteurized before packaging so that it is fully cooked. So when you prepare a hot dish, it just needs to be reheated.

Unopened packs can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. Once opened, use within 3 days.

Kanikama sushi rolls on a brown plate.

Kanikama Recipes

Kanikama is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. Its mild, slightly sweet flavor and firm texture make it a popular choice for sushi rolls and other seafood dishes, including:

Varieties of Imitation Crab

There are 3 different shapes that you can snag at the grocery store:

  • Floor – Crab sticks are the most common form and are often used in sushi rolls and sandwiches.
  • flakes or chunks – Flakes, the second most common form, are often used in soups, seafood rolls, pasta, salads, and more.
  • Shredded – Crab shreds, the least popular shape, are used in hot crab dip, crab cakes, and even seafood enchiladas and tacos.

Photo of a crab imitation to show what kani is.


Kanikama is loaded with artificial ingredients, making real crab like these baked crab legs a healthier choice. Additionally, kanikama calories come from carbohydrates while real crab comes from proteins.

More resources

what is kani
Sushi vs Sashimi
Recipes for sushi sauce
Best wine with sushi

Sushi Bake with cucumber and avocados in a white casserole dish.

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