What Is Kani?

What Is Kani?

You may have heard of kani as an ingredient, but you might not know what it actually is, and how it is used, so we have put this guide together to give you all the information you need to know about kani so you are well informed about what you are eating.

What Is Kani?

For a quick answer, kani is the word that is often used to describe what is essentially imitation crab.

If you have never tried imitation crab, it is actually a common staple in a lot of authentic Japanese cuisine, especially sushi, and it is actually well suited to a western palette as well!

You will often find the imitation crab (see also: Best 10 Crab Recipes That Will Make Your Mouth Water)meat being referred to as surimi in Japanese, and this phrase actually just means ground meat.

Kani itself is usually prepared by using white fish that is pressed into stick shapes so it is easy to use for Japanese recipes and Japanese style cooking!

We love how easy it is to work with kani since it is super easy to shred giving it a great unique texture, and it has a texture that is incredibly similar to real crab meat! If you want to learn more about kani, and how it is used, keep reading!

More On Kani

The word kani was originally used to actually describe crab sticks, and crab sticks were imitation crab that was made from the aforementioned ground meat called surimi.

If you are familiar with Japanese food, you are likely aware of how crab is a staple in the cuisine, and it has been for at least 50 years, but since regular crab is not always accessible, using kani imitation crab meat is often a lot more accessible, and even preferable when it comes to some dishes.

So, do not be afraid to experiment with kani!

Kani is a type of kamaboko, which is a word for a popular processed type of seafood that is popular in Japan, and it is made using ground white fish.

This fish is then cured to give it the signature appearance that is designed to make it resemble the leg meat from a snow crab specifically.

So, while kani is the most common word to describe this popular imitation crab meat, you can also find it being called kamaboko, however, this is used less often since it does not actually contain any crab.

Because the fish that are used in kani are all white, a red coloring agent is utilized which alters the outer appearance, this was used to make it appear to be a more expensive product, but now it is more of a tradition.

You can also use this color as an indicator for whether you are having authentic crab or an imitation crab. The flavor of kani is also well known for being very close to real crab since it is sweet and mild with a similar texture!

When it comes to working with Kani, it is also worth noting that it is actually incredibly low in fat, as well as cholesterol, and has a low calorie content as well, this all contributes to kani being both a delicious and healthy fish alternative.

Because kani is also rich in Omega 3 with its fatty acids, it provides a lot of health benefits with the reduction of the chance of heart disease being a top one. 

Kani Sushi

What Is Kani?

One of the most common ways to enjoy kani is in kani sushi, and while a lot of people assume that kani sushi is made with real crab, it is usually made with an imitation crab like kani. One of the most popular types of sushi that is made with kani is a kani maki roll.

A kani maki roll is cooked crab meat that is covered in rice and then wrapped with seaweed. You can also serve a kani shredded, or in sticks like it is usually presented.

As well as the maki roll we just mentioned, kani is served in a variety of different ways when it comes to sushi, so there are plenty of different approaches you can take if you want to know how to prepare it!

For example, you can serve kani nigiri, nigiri translates to two fingers, and it will be thinly sliced fish on top of a cluster of rice. You could also have temaki which is similar to maki, only it is in the form of a cone which is stuffed with ingredients!

History Of Kani

The first time a mention of kani sushi was officially recognized is from Japan in the late Edo period. It featured in a cookbook called Sukiyabashi Juho which was published all the way back in 1820.

This dish specifically became popular in Osaka, however, it eventually spread to other parts of Japan. It spread so far that it is now one of the most popular types of sushi that is not just available all over Japan, but now all around the world!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Kani Is Made From?

Kani is made from white ground fish and is designed to resemble the leg meat from a snow crab.

Is Kani Crab?

Kani is not made from crab usually as it is an imitation crab meat that, while designed to resemble crab meat, does not actually contain any crab.

Is Kani Vegan Friendly?

While kani rarely contains any actual crab, it does contain fish, so this means it is not suitable for vegans or vegetarians, however, there is a good chance that you can find a similar plant based product!


Hopefully this guide has given you all the information you need on kani and has let you know how you would want to cook with it.

We love how much versatility there is with this ingredient, but for something to try with it first, we recommend trying to make some kani sushi (see also: What Is Maki?)like a kani maki.

There is no need to worry about the nutritional value of kani with how many useful vitamins and fatty acids it contains either!

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