Dungeness Crab Louie

The origin of the West Coast’s most famous salad is unclear.  It appeared on menus in San Francisco and Seattle as early as 1910 and can now be found on the menu of every reputable fish house in the Pacific Northwest.  Although this perfect salad is simple and straight forward the ingredients and presentation follow an exact recipe, and local diners would be close to horrified to find some foreign matter like mushrooms or avocado on their plate.  The proper base for the salad is ALWAYS crisp iceberg lettuce.  A generous serving of very fresh Dungeness crab is piled on top of the lettuce and is surrounded by tomato and hard boiled egg slices, cucumber (acceptable to most crab fanatics) and wedges of lemon.  I shred the lettuce and cut tomatoes and eggs (occasionally cucumbers) into bite sized pieces so a knife isn’t necessary.   Garnish with lemon wedges.
Serve the salad icy cold with a bowl of Louie dressing.  Thousand Island works in a pinch and is always served with the salad.  If you order a Louie with some other dressing be prepared for “the look” from the waiter.  Great creations just shouldn’t be tampered with.   This salad deserves the best so I always make my grandmother’s Louie dressing to serve along side.
Our Dungeness crab season is at its peak right now and will continue for several months.  If you find fresh crab in your market I hope you will try this amazing salad.  The combination of flavors and textures is perfect.

The Olympic Club in Seattle, The St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco and The Bohemian in Portland all laid claim to this dressing.  A similar version is still served today, a hundred years later.  You can’t improve on perfection.

Crab Louis Dressing

2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chili sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup green pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup green onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Serve the dressing on the side along with crusty French bread.


  1. A Feast for the Eyes says

    What a gorgeous salad! The dressing is what really caught my eye. I am saving this one in my recipe file. Thanks– and if I do blog it, I'll give you full credit!

  2. George Gaston says

    Cathy, this is a spectacular looking salad. I love the history and the basic rules of preparation. I also love the dressing, which has always been a favorite with any crab or shrimp dish.

    Many thanks…

  3. Donna-FFW says

    What a truly lovely salad and can I tell you the dressing alone sounds just amazing, truly delicious. I am bookmarking this whole post.

  4. Jeannie says

    I am looking at that plate of crab meat! They are so delicious looking I could eat them just like that! That bowl of dressing looks heavenly too! My boys will love it.

  5. Foley says

    Looks fantastic – one of my favorite salads!! I will have to look for some freash crab meat…
    Thanks for the Louis dressing recipe!

  6. Devon says

    Regional cuisine is always fun to learn about; I especially like the hard and fast traditiond like the Louie dressing.

  7. Linda says

    Oh Cathy this post made me so homesick for San Francisco…it is almost impossible for me to get good Dungeness crab here….I miss it and this salad…it looks so refreshing…and delicious!

  8. Paula says

    Oh man, oh man, oh man! I just stared at those photos for a while! GORGEOUS salad, and one of my favorites. It's been wayyyy toooo longgg since I had one, and now, at 10:15 pm at night, I want one. Guess what's going on my menu this week? YUM! DOUBLE YUM! Bookmarked!

  9. Lea Ann says

    I love this post because I've never heard of this salad. It looks wonderful and appreciate having the recipe. I love salads and this one looks gorgeous.

  10. Jamie says

    You do know how you are killing me a little bit more with every fantastic recipe, every fabulous photo of a crab meal you show me? I am crazy about crab! This is such a perfect salad and WOW love that dressing! I must do this! Must convince husband to buy and boil crabs this weekend. Stunning and deliciously fabulous as usual, Cathy!

  11. Sophie says

    Dear cathy,

    What a splendid salad with a georgous dressing!! It feels like summer!!!!

    MMMMMMMMM,…beautifully layed out too!

  12. susan says

    If one day I am told that I have to pick one thing, and one thing only, to eat for the rest of my life it will be dungeness crab. I never tire of it. If Costco has the crab, this will be on my menu this weekend! Thanks for your comment. Grandmothers can have profound effects on our lives. I can't wait to be one!

  13. The Muse says

    marvelous presentation for an all time favorite of mine!…
    to me..having seafood look fresh, always makes it so much more appealing !

  14. Lori (All That Splatters) says

    One of the first dressings I ever learned to make as a newlywed many, many years ago! My salad was never as beautiful as yours, though. Gorgeous photos, Cathy!

  15. lostpastremembered says

    This is such a classic… thanks for sharing… love the lovely display too… kicking it old style! Great post@

  16. Rettabug says

    I almost missed seeing this beautiful creation, Cathy! *drool* Fresh dungeness crab may be a bit difficult to find here in the frozen tundra of Ohio but I'm going to try. This looks delicious & is so beautifully presented, as always.
    Thanks for sharing it with us.

  17. Marilyn says

    One of my all time favorites. I remember having this the first time at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. Now I must run and buy some crab.

  18. Shelley (Pink House) says

    This looks delish! Reminds me of when I was growing up in SE Portland. Every Friday a cafe near our high school would make Crab Louie Salads and my friends and I would head there for lunch. Yum! I still remember that as a big treat! I always like mine with Blue Cheese dressing though.

  19. vernonfashionstudio says

    I grew up eating this salad at the St Francis in San Francisco. It was to die for and you have brought back all those wonderful memories with this post. These days I am allergic to crab and shrimp so I have to make due with imitation crab but I will try your dressing tonight.

    Linda T

  20. Laurie Perez says

    My husband made this last night for dinner! Wow! The dressing was amazing! The green pepper perfect! We plan to use the dressing for our shrimp cocktails going forward! 5 stars!


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