Mouth-watering Devil Crab Rolls Recipe from Tampa

As we say in Tampa, “if you haven’t tried Devil Crabs, you haven’t tasted the real Tampa cuisine.” The devilishly delicious crab rolls are the pride of our city and have been a part of our culinary tradition for decades. The dish is believed to have originated from Ybor City, Tampa’s historic district, where street food vendors would sell these scrumptious rolls in their devilish avatar.

The history of Devil Crabs is as fascinating as its taste. In 1905, Casimiro Hernandez Sr., an immigrant from Spain, opened a small cafe in Ybor City called La Ideal. Dishes like Cuban sandwich and stuffed crab shells soon became popular, but it was the stuffed Crab Shells that evolved into the famous Devil Crabs. After many experiments, Hernandez Sr. created the perfect blend of spices and seasonings to make crab meat into a flavorful filling mixture which he then breaded and fried to create Tampa’s style deviled crabs. Decades later, Columbia Restaurant and the legendary Seabreeze Restaurant started serving Devil Crabs as one of their signature dishes.

The recipe below provides a step-by-step guide to making Devil Ed Crab Rolls – an adaptation of the traditional Devil Crabs with some modifications – which can be made at home with ease. So put on your chef’s hat and let’s get rolling!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Devil(Ed) Crab Rolls from Tampa
Devil(Ed) Crab Rolls from Tampa

This devil(ed) crab rolls recipe from Tampa is a real feast for seafood lovers. With the fresh crabmeat, flaky bread crumbs, and the juicy onions and peppers sautéed in olive oil, this recipe is as Tampa-style as it gets. But what really sets it apart is the special deviled crab filling that’s prepared with a perfect blend of garlic cloves, tomato paste, and hot peppers.

The unique combination of ingredients creates an explosion of flavors in every bite that’ll transport you to the streets of Ybor City or to some of Tampa Bay’s legendary seafood restaurants like Columbia or Seabreeze. Whether you want to impress your guests with a Tampa favorite or just indulge yourself with some mouth-watering street food, this devil(ed) crab rolls recipe is an absolute must-try.

Moreover, since the dish can be finished in just 15 minutes, it’s a quick recipe for those who are pressed for time but still want to relish some seafood goodness. You can also prepare the crab filling and store it in the fridge overnight to save even more time.

Finally, serving these crab rolls with your favorite beverage such as a cold beer, white wine or rum-based cocktails can make for a complete culinary experience. It pairs extraordinarily well with sandwiches or traditional Cuban dishes like carmine or stuffed crab shells. Trust us; this delectable seafood treat will leave you yearning for more!

Ingredient List

 These devil(ed) crab rolls are devilishly delicious! ????????
These devil(ed) crab rolls are devilishly delicious! ????????

Below are the ingredients you will need to prepare Devil(Ed) Crab Rolls. Don’t worry, these ingredients are easy to find and won’t break the bank. Make sure to use fresh crabmeat for the best flavor.


  • 1 lb fresh crabmeat
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 green pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Olive oil for sautéing
  • Bread crumbs, as needed
  • White bread (crumbled), about 1 or 2 slices

The Recipe How-To

 Bring a taste of Tampa to your next party with these crab rolls.
Bring a taste of Tampa to your next party with these crab rolls.

Now that you have gathered all the necessary ingredients, let’s dive into making these Devil Ed Crab Rolls.

Prep the Crab Filling

  1. To start, preheat your oven to 375°F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together:
    • 1lb of fresh crabmeat
    • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
    • 1 teaspoon of salt
    • 1 teaspoon of paprika
    • 1 diced green pepper
    • ½ diced onion
    • 2 minced garlic cloves
    • ¼ teaspoon of hot pepper (optional)
    • Place all the ingredients in the large bowl and mix till it’s properly combined.
  3. Take a baking dish and grease it with some olive oil. Add the crab filling into the dish and sprinkle some breadcrumbs on top.

Roll the Crab Filling into Bread

  1. Slice off the crusts from 6-8 slices of white bread to make a uniform square shape.
  2. Use a rolling pin to flatten each piece of bread.
  3. Spoon some of the crab filling onto each flattened bread slice and roll them up tightly.
  4. Brush each roll with some melted butter or olive oil and place them on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

Bake and Serve

  1. Bake for about 15-20 minutes in the preheated oven until they are golden brown and crispy.
  2. Let them cool for about 5 minutes before slicing.
  3. Serve immediately with your favorite dipping sauce.

Enjoy your delicious homemade Devil Ed Crab Rolls!

Substitutions and Variations

 You won't be able to resist these crispy, spicy rolls filled with succulent crab meat.
You won’t be able to resist these crispy, spicy rolls filled with succulent crab meat.

Now, let’s get creative with these devil crab rolls! Here are a few versatile ingredient substitutions and variations to try out:

– Spicy kick: If you enjoy an extra fiery flavor, swap out the green pepper for a hot pepper like habanero or scotch bonnet. Be sure to use gloves while handling these peppers and adjust the amount to your desired heat level.

– Crab cakes: Instead of creating rolls, turn this recipe into classic crab cakes! Simply form the crab meat mixture into patties and pan-fry them until golden-brown on each side.

– Stuffed crab shells: For an elegant presentation, consider stuffing crab shells with the devil crab mixture before baking them in the oven. Top each shell with breadcrumbs and butter for some extra crunch.

– Vegetarian option: If you don’t consume seafood, try substituting the crabmeat with cooked lentils or mashed chickpeas. You can also add some diced vegetables like zucchini or eggplant for a heartier texture.

– Gluten-free: To make this recipe gluten-free, replace the breadcrumbs with cornmeal or crushed tortilla chips. You can also use gluten-free bread for the filling mixture.

Remember that these substitutes will alter the taste and texture of the original recipe, so be prepared for an exciting twist on Tampa’s favorite street food.

Serving and Pairing

 The combination of buttery rolls and kick of cayenne pepper is a match made in heaven.
The combination of buttery rolls and kick of cayenne pepper is a match made in heaven.

When it comes to serving your Devil(Ed) Crab Rolls, there are some tips to keep in mind to ensure a satisfying and delicious meal. The rolls are perfect for party hors d’oeuvres or as a main dish.

To add an extra kick of flavor, you may want to serve them with a side of hot pepper sauce. The sauce not only enhances the flavor of the crab meat but also complements the spicy and tangy flavors of the dish. You can also add a dollop of sour cream or aioli on top of each roll for an additional freshness.

As for pairing, these rolls go well with crisp and refreshing white wines such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. If you prefer red wine, then a fruity Pinot Noir is worth considering. Beer drinkers might enjoy a crisp lager or a blonde ale that compliments the rolls’ flavor profile.

If you want to take the Tampa-style experience further, serve your Devil(Ed) Crab Rolls with classic sides like coleslaw, baked beans, or corn on the cob. These dishes provide the perfect balance between lightness and heartiness, bringing out the rolls’ richness while providing a diverse culinary experience.

Whether you’re serving them as part of appetizer platters at a party, or arranging them neatly on individual plates as an entree, Devil(Ed) Crab Rolls will be sure to impress your guests with its distinctive and flavorful taste.

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 One bite and you'll be hooked on these addictively tasty appetizers.
One bite and you’ll be hooked on these addictively tasty appetizers.

Now, when it comes to make-ahead, storing, and reheating, there are a few things to keep in mind. First off, if you’ve made the crab filling ahead of time and need to store it for a short while, make sure it’s completely cooled off before placing it in an airtight container in the fridge. It should last for up to three days.

When it comes to reheating the devil(ed) crab rolls, there are a number of ways you can do this – but my personal favorite is by using the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F and place the rolls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You don’t need to thaw them out beforehand; simply pop them in the oven for about 15 minutes until they’re heated through.

Another great way to reheat your devil(ed) crab rolls is by using an air fryer if you have one. Simply preheat your air fryer to 350°F and add the rolls (frozen or thawed) in a single layer in the basket. Cook for about 6-7 minutes or until it’s heated through.

And that’s all there is to know when it comes to make-ahead, storing, and reheating these delicious Tampa-style deviled crab rolls! Just be sure not to overdo things – as nothing beats fresh seafood – but this fool-proof method definitely makes things easy for you.

Tips for Perfect Results

 These rolls are easy to make but will impress all your guests with their flavor and presentation.
These rolls are easy to make but will impress all your guests with their flavor and presentation.

To ensure that your Devil(Ed) Crab Rolls come out perfectly, here are some tips to keep in mind while following the recipe.

Firstly, make sure to use fresh crab meat. It truly makes all the difference in this dish. I highly recommend purchasing it from a seafood market if available or using high-quality canned crab meat if fresh is not an option.

Secondly, when forming the crab filling mixture, be gentle with the ingredients and do not over-mix. You want chunks of crab meat to remain intact rather than turning into a paste-like consistency.

Thirdly, the bread crumbs used in this recipe serve as a binder for the crab mixture. However, do not use too much bread, as it can overpower the flavor of the crab.

Next, when frying the rolls, make sure to use a heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven for even heat distribution. The oil should also be heated to around 375 degrees Fahrenheit before adding the rolls to ensure they cook evenly and become crispy on the outside.

Additionally, don’t overcrowd your pan while frying. Fry in batches of three or four rolls at a time so that each has enough room to cook and fry evenly.

Finally, while the recipe calls for serving these rolls immediately after cooking, you can store them briefly in a low-heat oven (around 200 degrees Fahrenheit) for up to 30 minutes without them becoming soggy or losing their crispiness.

By following these simple tips, you’ll be able to make perfectly delicious Devil(Ed) Crab Rolls every time.


As I anticipate that you may have some questions as you prepare this recipe or want to make some changes, I have compiled some frequently asked questions and their detailed answers. By going through these FAQs, you’ll find solutions to the most common obstacles, making your cooking experience more straightforward and enjoyable. Let’s dive in!

What is the difference between deviled crab and crab cakes?

Deviled crabs and Maryland crab cakes have similarities, but deviled crabs differ in shape, seasoning, and method of eating. Deviled crabs are intended to be eaten by hand, so they are packed tightly to avoid falling apart.

Why is it called deviled crab?

In the world of home cooking, there’s a dish called devil crabs or deviled crabs, which are known for their spicy flavor. This delectable dish is made from crab meat, fried green peppers, onion, garlic (which is referred to as sofrito), tomato sauce (similar to the Cuban enchilau), red pepper flakes, and a blend of other spices. This recipe is perfect for those who love to give their taste buds a fiery kick.

How do you eat deviled crab?

When it comes to deviled crab, the usual way of cooking it involves adding buttered breadcrumbs on top of the mixture and baking it inside a crab shell. However, if you don’t have any crab shells, using ramekins works too. Deviled crab can be served as an appetizer for your party, or it can be a star in its own right when paired with a refreshing salad or green side dish.

How long is deviled crab good for in the fridge?

When it comes to leftovers, it’s important to store them properly to maintain their freshness. If you have any leftover crab cakes, cover them tightly and store them in the refrigerator for a maximum of two to three days. Fresh crab meat can quickly spoil, so it’s best to consume it within this time frame to ensure its quality. To reheat, I personally prefer using the microwave for a quick fix. Alternatively, you can use the oven to heat the crab cakes until the filling is hot and delicious.

Bottom Line

There is no denying that Devil(Ed) Crab Rolls from Tampa is a classic dish that has stood the test of time. It is a testament to the rich culinary tradition of Florida and the Gulf Coast. I guarantee that this recipe will not disappoint you or your guests at your next gathering or party.

So, what are you waiting for? Gather up all the ingredients, follow my step-by-step instructions, and get cooking. Don’t forget to pair it with some refreshing drinks and sides to make your guests’ mouths water.

Once you have tried this recipe, I am sure you will agree with me that there is nothing like a hot batch of devil crabs to keep your taste buds craving for more. So, be bold, adventurous and give this recipe a try! Trust me; you won’t regret it!

Devil(Ed) Crab Rolls from Tampa

Devil(Ed) Crab Rolls from Tampa Recipe

From Taste of Cuba, thank you Sonia Martinez.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 3 hrs
Cook Time 20 mins
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Calories 443.2 kcal



  • 3 loaves stale bread, no crust
  • 1 loaf stale Cuban bread, ground very fine and sifted
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  • 5 tablespoons oil
  • 3 onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 red peppers or 1/2 green pepper, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, mashed
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red hot pepper (Italian style)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 lb fresh crabmeat, shredded


  • Dough:
  • Soak American bread in water 15 minutes. Remove, squeeze until almost dry. Add Cuban bread gradually until dough is formed. Add paprika, salt. Mix well. Make ball from dough. Place in fridge about 3 hours.
  • Crab Mix:
  • Fry onion, pepper(s), garlic, hot pepper in oil for 15 minutes (Very slowly) add bay leaves, sugar, salt, tomato paste. Stir. Cover and cook 15 minutes on low heat. Add crabmeat. Cook 10 minutes and then uncover. Keep in fridge 2 hours.
  • Take about 3 tablespoons dough. Press in the palm of your hand. Add 1 tbsp crab mix. Seal like croquette with 2 pointed ends. (Think footballs).
  • Dip into following mixture:
  • 2 eggs well beaten with ½ cup milk, salt, dash black pepper. Mix 1cup cracker meal and ½ cup flour. Roll croquettes first in cracker/flour, then in egg mix, then in cracker/flour again. Refrigerate 2 hours (Never get the idea this is not something you dash off at the last minute!). Fry in deep fat until brown.
  • Prep time is the longest part of this, once they are made cooking is a snap.

Your Own Notes


Serving: 109gCalories: 443.2kcalCarbohydrates: 70gProtein: 17.2gFat: 10.3gSaturated Fat: 1.7gCholesterol: 22.3mgSodium: 1252.5mgFiber: 4.4gSugar: 8.8g
Keyword < 4 Hours, Crab, Lunch
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