These crab rangoons are a Chinese American speciality that are filled with cream cheese, crab meat, and scallions.
I went to college at Michigan State University, which, if you didn’t know, is a school known for its baller cafeterias. The food at MSU was always so delicious, and there were like 12 different dining halls for me to choose from at all times. And they were all actually yummy!
My freshman year of college, I shared my room with another girl. She and I spent so much of our time together, studying, socializing, and, of course, eating our meals together. One day we discovered that the dining hall in our dorm building served crab rangoons.
Neither her nor I had ever really had crab rangoons before, but we quickly fell into an obsession with them. Each dining hall would post their menus every day, and each morning my friend and I would look to see if crab rangoons were being served anywhere on campus. If they were, even if that dining hall was 40 minutes away, we would make the trek.
No crab rangoons existed on campus untouched by us.
So when it was time to make recipes for China, I decided that the recipe I most wanted to make were crab rangoons. I’ll be honest, China is not known for its crab rangoons. So today, instead of a traditional Chinese meal, we’ll be exploring the beauty of this Chinese American wonder. Oh dear, you are in for a treat <3
Chinese American Food History in the United States
In 1882, President Chester A. Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act, limiting the amount of Chinese immigrants allowed into the United States. For a long time, the only Chinese allowed to immigrate to the US were merchants.
In the early 20th century, the definition of merchants expanded to include those that owned and operated restaurants. Suddenly, every hopeful Chinese immigrant became a restauranteur, and the number of Chinese restaurants in the United States quadrupled in ten years.
Racism against the Chinese was running high, though, and in order to make a living, the Chinese restaurants had to appeal to white people as well.
Thus, Chinese American food was born. Almond boneless chicken and fortune cookies are special in their own way, but they did not come from Chinese origin. Instead, they are in a category all on their own: food made my Chinese immigrants to please Americans. I think we’ll throw crab rangoons into that category as well 😉
What is the History of Crab Rangoons?
Given that the main ingredient of crab rangoons is cream cheese, it’s pretty easy to assume that the dish is not of Chinese origin. As the myth has it, crab rangoons originated in San Francisco, at a tiki bar called Trader Vic’s in the 1950s or 1960s.
Crab rangoons have since grown very popular, and are certainly a favorite amongst Americans ordering Chinese carry-out (just ask my ultra-legit instagram poll that showed the majority of my followers requesting crab rangoons over any other “Chinese” food).
But just because the dish doesn’t come from China, does that mean it is not Chinese? Do Chinese American dishes count as their own form of Chinese cuisine? I think it does. Perhaps not traditional, but no less real. Let me know what you think in the comments below!
What Ingredients are In Crab Rangoons?
Oil for frying
They are delicious when eaten with Sweet and Sour Sauce!
What Kind of Crab Meat Do You Use?
This is up to you! Of course, it’s a lot cheaper to buy imitation crab meat than it is to buy real crab meat. I’m sure that a lot of restaurants and school cafeterias even use the imitation kind as a cheaper option.
I have never been a fan of choosing imitation crab meat and avoid it whenever I have the chance. Eating one meat disguised as another has always freaked me out.
That being said, you can make this recipe just as easily with imitation crab, and I guarantee you it will be a lot cheaper!
For real crab meat, I use Private Selection Wild Caught Crab Meat. It’s absolutely delicious, and it makes me feel better that I’m eating true crab.
Can you Bake Crab Rangoons?
Of course you can! And I’m all for making a recipe healthier. If you’d like to bake your crab rangoons instead of fry them, you can bake them at about 425 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.
Frying the crab rangoons makes them crispier and crunchier. If you choose to fry your crab rangoons, you’ll love the way that they crisp up.
Frying Your Crab Rangoons
Frying your crab rangoons is really easy! When you seal your rangoons, make sure that you seal them tightly. As the rangoons heat up, they can leak filling into the oil. This fries the cream cheese/crab and creates a big mess in the bottom of your wok.
Once you make sure that your rangoons are sealed tightly, it’s time to heat up the oil. I chose to fry my rangoons in my wok, but you can use whatever pot you prefer. I used sunflower oil as my frying oil of choice, because it’s very low maintenance to fry with.
Typically, I use one rangoon as a tester with my oil. The oil should start to bubble around the rangoon as soon as it hits the oil. Then it should fry for about 2-3 minutes on each side. If your oil doesn’t start to bubble the minute your wonton hits the surface, it’s not hot enough.
Can You Reheat Crab Rangoons?
Absolutely. If you want to reheat them, I would recommend baking them. Simply microwaving them will make the wonton a little soggy, which takes away from the beautiful texture of this dish.
Baking the rangoons means that they will crisp up again!
Can you Freeze Crab Rangoons?
If you want to make your crab rangoons ahead of time, I would recommend making the filling and assembling the rangoons and then freezing them before you fry them. Then, when it comes time to eat the dish, you’ll need to remove them from the freezer, thaw them, and then fry them.
Once the wontons are cooked and crisped, you’ll want to eat them right away as that is when they are most delicious. Freezing the finished product would unnecessarily detract from the deliciousness of the final dish, as they wouldn’t be as crispy once thawed.
Freezing the dish before frying is definitely the way to go.
Thanks for reading my post on the history of Chinese American food and crab rangoons. If you liked this recipe, make sure to check out my other recipes for:
- Boolawnee (Leek dumplings)
- Chinese Steamed Pork Buns
- Chinese Egg Roll
- Chinese Sweet and Sour Sauce
- Instant Pot Chicken Fried Rice
Crab Rangoons Recipe
- Medium Bowl
- Rubber Spatula or Spoon
- Medium Frying Pan
- 16 oz cream cheese, softened
- 8 oz crab meat
- 4 scallions, chopped
- 2/3 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 egg
- 1 package of wonton wrappers, thawed
- Vegetable Oil for frying
- In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to mix your 16 oz cream cheese until it can be easily stirred. Then pour in the 8 oz crab meat, 4 scallions, 2/3 teaspoon salt, 1/3 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/4 teaspoon onion powder. Use a spoon to mix until combined.
- Crack an egg in a small bowl, and use a fork to whisk it.
- Place a wonton wrapper in front of you, with one corner pointed away from you and one pointed towards you. Fill the middle of the wonton wrapped with about 1 tsp cream cheese filling.
- Dip your finger in the whisked egg and brush the edges of the wonton with an egg wash.
- Fold the bottom corner of the wonton up to meet the top corner, folding your wonton into the triangle. Then fold in the two bottom corners of the triangle to attach at the back of the wonton. Use egg wash to hold each folded corner in place.
- Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan, deep enough where the wontons will not touch the bottom. Once the oil has heated up to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, fry the rangoons for about 3 minutes on each side or until they are browned on both sides.
- Remove the rangoons from the oil and place on a paper towel-lined plate to remove any excess oil. Enjoy!
- Cream Cheese: Full fat, softened to room temperature
- Crab Meat: I use a package of claw crabmeat. You can use imitation crab meat if you prefer.
- Wonton Wrappers: These are different than egg roll or spring roll wrappers.
- Oil: For frying. I like using vegetable oil.
- Crab Rangoons are delicious when served with Sweet and Sour Sauce. Make sure to have some on hand!
- Make sure that the wonton wrappers are sealed well. Any cream cheese leaking into the oil can cause dangerous splattering.
- Look for wonton wrappers in the fridge or freezer section of your grocery store. I normally go to my local Asian grocery store to buy them.
- Some wonton wrapper brands fry/brown a lot faster than other brands. Make sure to keep an eye on your wrappers to make sure they brown but do not burn.