Crab Pasta Salad

This Crab Pasta Salad is a family recipe, one of my favorites!  Packed with veggies and delicious flavor, it’s a staple at summer BBQs!

This Crab Pasta Salad is a family recipe, one of my favorites! Packed with veggies and delicious flavor, it's a staple at summer BBQs!


Today my mom would have been 69 years old.  And I’m sure that she would have loved me sharing that with the internets.

Or maybe at this point in her life, she would have been completely cool with it.  She might have even worn it as a badge of honor.

My mom was diagnosed with fourth stage metastatic breast cancer when she was 57 years old.  I was just shy of my 21st birthday.  I remember vividly taking a walk with her in the brisk cold April Wisconsin weather just after she was diagnosed.  I can remember the exact coat and hat she was wearing.  Her doctors had told her to just go home and enjoy the last month of her life with her family.  She was talking about fighting.  She was talking in terms of years.  And she was saying if she could just have two more years.  She and I agreed that that would be amazing.

And then two years flew by.

I graduated college, started graduate school, bought a house, got engaged.

Two years wasn’t nearly enough.  There was no time that would have been enough.

This Crab Pasta Salad is a family recipe, one of my favorites! Packed with veggies and delicious flavor, it's a staple at summer BBQs!

After I became pregnant with Gavin my mom told me all confession style that she had really wanted to live just to see me get pregnant.  And then Gavin was here, and just hours later she made her exit.  Like once she knew he and I were safe she could succumb and give her body some peace.

This Crab Pasta Salad is a family recipe, one of my favorites! Packed with veggies and delicious flavor, it's a staple at summer BBQs!

Regularly I think to myself, “Okay, now I really need my mom.”  As if all the challenges that came before were just a rehearsal compared to this current challenge.  I mean, I’m totally kidding myself.  There was nothing about Elliot that was a dress rehearsal.  It’s just that when you are in the current challenge, and the past is the past . . .  you get it.

I’ve been having those moments recently.  The “Okay, now I really need my mom,” moments.  And I just keep thinking that if I can’t have her here, the least I can do for myself is try to be the kid that she would have been proud to have raised.  Scratch that.  My mom would never have wanted to take credit for my poise, strength, patience with my screaming kids, etc. . . . I want to be the kid that I feel like lives up to the amazing mom that Betty was.

This Crab Pasta Salad is a family recipe, one of my favorites! Packed with veggies and delicious flavor, it's a staple at summer BBQs!

So that was kind of intense for a Friday morning, huh?

Let’s have some Crab Pasta Salad, shall we?

This was one of my mom’s recipes and I LOVE it.  It was one of those recipes that meant summer to me.  One of those recipes that I would just stand in the door of the fridge and eat out of the container with a fork when I was a teenager, until my mom would walk in and say, “Lisa.  Just put some in a bowl for yourself.”  Sooooooooo good!

One of the things you are going to love about this recipe is that it is super forgiving.  My mom didn’t even use a recipe.  The recipe I have from her is like, “a generous squirt of mustard.”  So if you don’t really like that much dressing on your pasta salads, just cut back on the yogurt.  Don’t like olives?  Leave ’em out.  No celery?  Add some frozen peas instead.  You get it.

Make it for your summer picnics and love it year after year!


Crab Pasta Salad


  • 1 lb medium pasta shells
  • 1 pound package imitation crab meat, cut bite size
  • 1 can medium black olives, sliced
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 or 4 green onions, sliced thin about two inches into the green
  • 3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups plain non fat yogurt (see note)
  • 1/4 cup fat free mayonnaise
  • 1/2 TBSP Spike (found in the spice aisle)
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • 1 TBSP yellow mustard
  • 1/2 TBSP soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup Italian vinaigrette salad dressing (see note)


  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  2. In a very large bowl, mix the pasta, crab, olives, red peppers, green onions, and celery.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, mayo, Spike, celery salt, yellow mustard, soy sauce, and salad dressing.
  4. Pour the dressing over the pasta and veggies and stir to combine. Refrigerate at least two hours before serving.


Do NOT use Greek yogurt for this recipe. It is way too thick and doesn't give the dressing the right consistency or flavor.

My mom always used Seven Seas Viva Italian salad dressing for this recipe. I used Wishbone because it's what Nathan picked up at the store. Again, this recipe is forgiving, so just use what you find.

Comments From Social Media:

“Lisa, I tripled your recipe and was very pleased with the outcome. At the gathering I took it to, the people raved. Thank you. The only change I made was to use Old Bay Seasoning instead of Spike.”

This Crab Pasta Salad is a family recipe, one of my favorites! Packed with veggies and delicious flavor, it's a staple at summer BBQs!


  1. Ruthie says

    This dear Lisa is exactly what I needed to read a day after Betty’s birthday. I’m gardening like crazy this morning, begging the kids to help, trying to pacify a cranky spouse who doesn’t understand why we are cleaning the porch just to watch it get dirty in seconds. All the stuff that beginning summer is made of and your post has totally centered me. Brought me back to my dear friend Betty. I miss her more than I ever imagined and think of her often. Her spirit is a fierce one. She is present in the red geraniums, the roses, the cool mornings when I weed my garden and now in a pasta salad that I have long forgotten. And she is in your dear friend, in your children and in your relationships. Hang in this week, I’m guessing it will be an interesting one.

    • says

      Ruth, this was such a sweet comment. Thank you for taking the time to leave it. Also, “trying to pacify a cranky spouse” <----- laughed so hard I cried. I really often forget, and need to be reminded, that I'm not alone in my missing of Betty. Man. She wasn't perfect, but she was pretty awesome. I think in our next lives I'd like to trade the roles of mother and daughter for BFFs.

  2. says

    Lisa, this is a very sweet post. I had no idea about your Mom! I know she would be so proud of you right now. I’m so glad she got to stay long enough to be there for some of the most important moments of your life!
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      • NANCY says

        So how much yogurt do you use? I saw a post that asked about the 1 1/2 cups and you said you’d go back and change that. I’m sorry but I don’t see the change. Thank you! It looks absolutely delicious!

        • says

          It’s 1 1/2 cups. The recipe has been updated since that original comment. I believe before that it had just said “1 1/2” without the “cups” because I’m a sleep deprived mom. 😉

  3. Monda says

    Dear Lisa,
    You are never ready for your mom to leave you. It hurts….bad! Mine has been gone for 14 years and I still find myself saying, “Oh! I’ve got to tell Mom! She is going to LOVE this!” The preciousness that they left in our lives can sometimes be the thing that gives us enough umph to make it through the day!

    May I say bless your sweet heart!? What a wonderful mom and person she must have been to have raised such a sharing and precious daughter. I follow your blog and am constantly finding myself blessed with your goodness.

    Prayers and God’s Peace are being sent your way!

    • says

      Monda, thank you so much for this amazingly sweet message. I just got done answering a lot of comments, many of them full of complaints. And then I came across this. As a matter of fact, I’m going to stop working now, because this is the perfect note to end my day on. Thank you so much for your kindness.

  4. Beth Ann says

    Hello there! Really excited to try this recipe today! Can you tell me how many servings this recipe makes??
    Thank you!

    • says

      Hi Beth Ann, I have a feeling I’m too late in answering this, but for anyone else who wants to know, this would be a good side dish portion for about a dozen people.

  5. Carolyn Robirds says

    Lisa I am so sorry to hear about your mother! I too lost my mom when I was only 23. She had Leukemia and 4 yrs before that,she had Lymphoma. I was pregnant with my 3rd child(which I found out later,was a boy. I had two girls. I then lost my father exactly three months to the day, later! After I had my son and he was about 8 months old,my husband left me. It was the most difficult time of my life! I later married again and I had three more sons. I know my parents wouldve loved my four sons as much as they did my two daughters. I too find myself wishing I had my mom around to give me guidance. She was my best friend! This recipe looks DELICIOUS,I can’t wait to try it! I just stumbled upon your site today. I’m so glad I did! Thank you and God Bless!

    • says

      Oh Carolyn!! I can totally appreciate your story. After losing my mom, I lost my second child. A little boy. I’m sure during your divorce all you wanted was your mom. I’m so sorry you belong to the no moms club, but it is always helpful hearing from someone who gets it.

  6. Joyce Stephenson says

    Just now did a brief scroll-through of your web site. Delightful, so user friendly, beautiful photos, wonderful recipes, and more. I’ll take more time during the day this coming week to sort through and save ideas/recipes I want to explore further. Such talent drips from your pages!! And, I lost my mom 58 years ago to ovarian cancer when I was nineteen. Met my husband in 1960, married in 1961, and keep looking for recipes/crafting ideas and wonderful web sites with life, love and happiness to share. I know your great ideas will become commonplace with me. Thanks and best wishes for many years of a great life. I’m trying the taco pasta salad first!!

    • says

      The only thing I can think of that might work would be sour cream, but I haven’t tried that so I’m not sure how it would work in terms of flavor and consistency.

    • says

      I wouldn’t personally recommend this for someone trying to lose weight. As for the calories, if you use My Fitness Pal, you can enter this website and it will pull all the ingredients and the amount of calories in them.

  7. Janet Pettman says

    Living in Australia I am unsure as to what type of spice Spike is could you please let me know some of its contents and I may be able to find an alternative. Looking forward to making this as it looks delicious.

  8. Millie Neel says

    Hi Lisa, found your recipe on Facebook. Have you ever made this with real crab meat instead of imitation? Being a Marylander don’t eat imitation crab., we’ re a little crab snobby.
    I read your post about your Mom. I was fortunate to have my Mom until I was 52, she died 4 years ago at 85. Wasn’t expected, she didn’t tell anyone she was sick but I think she knew. We lived in different states and I would talk to her for hours when I traveled for work. I miss her all the time and I don’t like the car tripsanymore.

    • says

      Millie, I totally get the crab snobbery. I’m that way about some other things. So, I wouldn’t actually recommend making it with real crab meat because I don’t think it would hold up in this pasta salad. Maybe some miniature shrimp would work instead! I’m so sorry to hear about your mom. I had a 45 minute commute home from work the year my mom was dying and I talked to her several times of week. Even though I miss calling her for EVERYTHING I’m so grateful for that god awful commute because of all the extra conversations it gave us that year.

  9. diane says

    why not greek yogurt? what does it do to the consistency? also can you use sour cream non fat instead of yogurt?

    • says

      The greek yogurt is too thick and makes the dressing pasty instead of creamy. You could try sour cream. I haven’t made it that way yet, so I can’t speak personally to how it would taste/turn out.

  10. Linda parr says

    Thank you so much for sharing your sweet story! I’m sure she would never proud of you! I just know it! I’m making this tomorrow and lifting you up in prayer! Thank you

  11. Margie says

    This is the best blog post I have read in a long time. What a touching story! (And I totally plan on making this crab salad next week!)

    • says

      Hi Regina! I’m not sure what you mean by “regular” Italian dressing. You are looking for one that is oil and vinegar based as opposed to a creamy dressing. I hope that helps.

  12. Ginette says

    Hi .. this looks delish .. i assume the Spike spices are American .. do you what I could buy in Canada pls? Thank you in advance!

  13. Ruth says


    I have never responded or to be honest read someones’ story before but I think there is a reason I fell unto yours. I too lost my mother to cancer. I was 12 years old and her name was Betty. It is not a name you hear very often so I felt an immediate connection to your story. I don’t think the missing ever stops but somehow you always know that her presence and spirit are always around you and your children.

    • says

      Oh Ruth, well I’m so glad you decided to read and comment here. I agree. The missing really doesn’t stop. You just kind of learn to live with it. Thank you for sharing your story with me!

  14. Janet Smith says

    I don’t care for imitation crab.. I would use claw crab in the can.. it is little expense but worth it .. it make a statement with fresh dungeon crab.

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