Today there are as many versions of this famous Crab Louie Salad as there are cooks. Along with the tradition of seafood in many households, Crab Louis is among one of the favorite Christmas Eve meals
To people of the west coast, the ingredients to make Crab Louie Salad are very simple and exact: crisp iceberg lettuce, generous serving of fresh Dungeness crabmeat, fresh tomato, and hard-cooked egg wedges with Crab Louie Dressing.
Crab Louie Salad or Crab Louis Salad – Both spellings of the salad are used on restaurant menus, but it is usually pronounced “LOO-ey”. This famous west coast salad is also called “King of Salads,” and is sometimes written as Crab Louis Salad.
Check out more delicious Salads and Salad Dressing Recipes.
History of Crab Louie Salad:
Credit for the origin of Crab Louie Salad depends on who you talk to and which state of the West Coast you are in. Most historians agree that the salad began appearing on menus of finer West Coast establishments between the turn of the 20th century and World War I. Other historians suggest that the salad was named after King Louis XIV who was known for his enormous amounts of food he could eat. After his death, it is said than an autopsy was carried out and it revealed that his stomach was twice the size of that of ordinary men. You be the judge of this!
1904 – Some credit the origin of Crab Louis Salad to the chef at Seattle’s Olympic Club in Washington. In 1904, when the Metropolitan Opera Company played in Seattle, Washington, Enrico Caruso (1873-1921), considered the world’s greatest tenor, kept ordering the salad until none was left in the restaurant’s kitchen.
1910 – It is also said the salad was created in San Francisco by either the chef at Solari’s Restaurant. Helen Evans Brown, in her cookbook West Coast Cook Book, states the following on the history:
Just which Louis invented this West Coast specialty I am not prepared to say, but only because I don’t know. I do know, however, that it was served at Solari’s, in San Francisco, in 1914, for Clarence Edwords gives their recipe for it in his epicure’s guide, Bohemian San Franciso.
1914 – The Davenport Hotel in Spokane, WA claims that the original founder and owner, Louis Davenport, created this dish for the hotel restaurant. The salad is still on their menu today. Lewellyn “Louis” Davenport came to Spokane Falls, Washington Territory, in the Spring of 1889 at the age of 20 from San Francisco, CA.
1917 – James Beard (1903-1985), a native of Portland, Oregon spoke highly of the Crab Louis. Evan Jones, in his book Epicurean Delight: The Life and Times of James Beard says:
Most probably, in those years his mother would take her son to restaurants that served food aimed at pleasing the average Oregon palate. One of these was the Bohemian, a commendable dining place that Beard remembered particularly for a dish called Crab Louis, Writing about this chili-tinged way of serving Dungeness crab, he wanted to believe it had been first served at the Bohemian and later he sparred with his friend, Helen Evans Brown, who credited San Francisco’s Solari Restaurant for its origin.
1919 – Famed chef, Victor Hirtzler, is said to have included a recipe for the salad in The Hotel St. Francis Cookbook, originally published in 1919.
1950s – The Palace Hotel in San Francisco, California is noted as making the salad famous. Dungeness crab is considered the symbol of the San Francisco fishing industry with sidewalk vendors selling fresh-boiled crab during the winter months.
- It is almost impossible to give the exact ingredient amounts for this salad. It is just usually made with the following ingredients to the amounts needed for the number of people you are serving. For most of us, the more Dungeness crabmeat on the salad, the better!
- Iceberg lettuce
- Fresh Dungeness crab meat
- Ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
- Cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
- Eggs, hard-cooked and cut into wedges
- Lemon wedges
- 2 cups mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup chili sauce
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup green bell pepper, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons parsley, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare Crab Louie Dressing; refrigerate until read to serve.
Tear apart the head of lettuce; and and thoroughly dry the leaves. Refrigerate until lettuce is crisp cold.
Make a bed of crisp chopped lettuce leaves on chilled plates. Top with a mound of crab meat. Place tomato wedges, diced cucumbers, and hard-cooked egg wedges around each plate.
Serve with Crab Louie Dressing on the side, lemon wedges, and crusty French Bread or San Francisco-Style Sourdough Bread.
Crab Louie Dressing recipe and photo courtesy of Cathy Farley and her wonderful cooking blog, Wives with Knives. Kathy says that this is her grandmother's recipe.
In a bowl, combine mayonnaise, heavy cream, chili sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.
Stir in green pepper, parsley, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
13 Responses to “Crab Louie Salad History and Recipe”
Good write-up. I’m making it now. BTW, a male singer with a higher voice is called a tenor. A tener (or tenner) is what you give the parking lot attendant. (i.e a ten dollar bill)
Thank you for letting me know of my spelling error. I made the change
I remember this being one of the recipes I tested for you when your cookbook was being developed. Making it tonight as crab is delicious right now. I have learned to substitute avocado in place of mayonnaise for some salad dressings, as a healthier alternative. It is quite tasty.
Thank you Karen.
Reading about the history of the salad is interesting. My grandfather owned a restaurant called Terminal Grotto in San Francisco. It was torn down in the late 1960’s to make way for the Hyatt Regency San Francisco. In addition to the ingredients you suggest, his Louie salads included sliced beets, asparagus, and black olives. My mother still makes her Louie salads this way.
Sounds like an interesting recipe. How about sharing it? – Linda Stradley
I was practically raised at Spengers in Berkeley and I am only hoping for success as I am about to substitute Alaska King crab for the dungeness.
Say a prayer!
I made a salad tonite that inspired a Google search that led me here.
My folks served a Crab Louie at their restaurant “Cork ‘n Embers” in the ‘50s in Grand Junction . For sure it had black olives and asparagus. I’m thinking some semi ripe avacado and pepperoncini slices may be a nice addition. When I return to CO from AZ in the spring, I’ look in Mom’s recipe box. Fairly certain she had a bulk recipe in it that could be broken down. I’ll share it if I find it!
Whats Cooking America
Your parent’s recipe sounds delicious! We would love to try it. 🙂
Did you ever find that recipe for Crab Louie from your folks restaurant Cork N’ Embers??
I’ve searching for recipes and found your site.
I had a delicious Crab Louis Salad at Kaluz in Ft lauderdale a month ago. It was memorable. I plan to make it this weekend. Can I use canned pasteurized crabmeat do you think? It’s shaped in a round form topped with avacado, a bit of tomato salsa and micro greens set upon a bed of Boston bib lettuce, mandarin orange slices and heirloom baby tomatoes. The waiter suggested a delicate lemon vinaigrette with it and I think there’s a little mixed in the crabmeat to hold it all together. It was the most delicious salad I’ve ever eaten. I have some Sicilian lemon balsamic vinegar so I’m going to make my own.
I love Crab Louie. I never looked up a recipe for dressing, but truly I think my dressing is better. I add horseradish, to what is basically thousand island dressing.
1 cup Hellman’s Mayo
1/2 cup Ketchup
2-3 teaspoons of Worchester sauce
1/4 cup of your choice, I prefer sweet. Either sweet or dill relish
1 to 1/12 tbls fresh grated horseradish
juice of whole lemon
1 teaspoon celery salt
white pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients well. The reason I came up with horseradish, was that is what is in cocktail sauce. So I thought hey why not add it Thousand Island dressing. It really works well with the crab and shrimp if you like Shrimp Louie.
“Best Ever” in Monterey / Carmel, served; on the Pier. In a “Sundae” Glass. I thought there was Asparagus and Melon; involved..!!?? i forget know. Monterey; was also the first Capitol of California. But San Francisco has the most “Dungeness”…!!!