Veracruz-Style Crab Soup


  • 1 1/2 pounds crabmeat
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced or put through a press
  • 2 medium-size canned or home-made pickled jalapeno chiles (en escabeche), seeded and chopped (about 3 tablespoons chopped)
  • 1/4 cup chopped green olives
  • 1/4 scant cup capers, drained, rinsed and chopped
  • 2 pounds (8 medium) tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, or 2 large cans, drained and chopped
  • Salt (1 to 2 teaspoons) to taste
  • 1 1/2 pounds (5 to 6 medium) waxy potatoes, scrubbed and diced
  • 1 pound winter squash or pumpkin, peeled and diced (about 2 cups diced)
  • 2 sprigs cilantro, plus 1/2 cup chopped, for garnish
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 sprig fresh mint
  • 2 quarts water
  • 3 limes, cut into wedges, for serving


  1. Buy fresh crab that has already been cooked, shelled and cleaned. Keep refrigerated while you prepare the soup base.
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy bottom soup pot or Dutch oven and add the onions. Cook, stirring, for 5 to 8 minutes, until tender.
  3. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another minute or two, until the garlic begins to color.
  4. Add the tomatoes and about 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, for about 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are somewhat cooked down and the mixture smells fragrant.
  5. Add the potatoes, the winter squash, chiles, olives, capers, sprigs of cilantro and mint, the oregano and the bay leaves, and stir together for 5 minutes. Add the water and salt to taste, and bring to a simmer.
  6. Simmer 20 to 30 minutes, until the potatoes and pumpkin are tender and the broth tastes marvelous.
  7. Adjust salt and garlic. Remove from the heat if not serving right away.
  8. Five minutes before serving, heat the soup to just below a simmer and stir in the crab.
  9. Heat through, stirring and being careful not to let the soup boil or the crabmeat, which is already cooked, will become too rubbery. Just before serving, stir in the chopped cilantro, and serve, with lime wedges on the side.

Serves 6 to 8.

You can make the same soup using fish instead of crabmeat. Use white-fleshed fillets such as snapper, mahi-mahi, and halibut. Cut into 2-inch pieces and add to the simmering soup 10 minutes before serving.

Advance preparation: The entire soup, up to the adding of the crabmeat, can be done a day ahead of time and held in the refrigerator.