Crispy, Creamy Crab Rangoons

San Franciscan appetizer is great for now and later

Crab Rangoons are not traditional Chinese food, but they are delicious. You find them in just about every Chinese restaurant in the United States, but they originally started showing up on menus in San Francisco, not China, in the 1950s. It’s not difficult to make them; if you can make a dip, you can make crab Rangoon filling. The folding is where you have options, and as long as you create a pocket around the filling, you are good to go. They can be made and frozen for months, and then fried when you get a hankering for some delicious crab Rangoons.

The traditional filling mix is cream cheese — sometimes with some crab and seasoning. A homemade crab Rangoon normally has close to equal parts crab and cream cheese, while most restaurants are closer to one part crab to four parts cream cheese or more. I like to play up the secondary flavor and add onion or green onion, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, cilantro and any other hot sauce or Asian condiments that can bring in a new depth of flavor.

The wrap needs to be a wonton wrapper or an egg roll wrapper that has been cut into quarters. They are very different compared to a spring roll wrapper. Wonton/egg roll wrappers puff slightly when fried compared to spring roll, which becomes extremely brittle and crunchy. There are numerous ways to fold, but the flower, hat and folded-in-half wontons are the most popular. You can use plain water to help seal the folds, but a beaten yolk can help hold the folds together better. Once you wrap the Rangoons, you want to fry them within about 10 minutes, otherwise the wrapper starts to get soggy. You can
make them further in advance by placing them on a tray and freezing them until you are ready.

Oil that is too hot equals a burned Rangoon; oil that is too cool equals an oil-logged, soggy Rangoon. The optimal temperature is 340 to 370 degrees. If you are frying them fresh, 360 to 370 should be fine. The filling will be warm and the wrapper will turn a nice, puffed, golden brown. If you are frying them from frozen, you want the 340 to 350 range. You will still get the puffed, golden brown final outcome, but this will give the wrapper and filling some extra time to thaw.

No fryer? No thermometer? No problem. Fill a deep saucepan about half way with oil. (It will bubble some when the product is added.) Heat over medium-high and test the temperature with the corner of a Rangoon. Holding onto the opposite end, place about a quarter inch of the Rangoon into the fryer. You should see a steady, but not a violent, bubble. Too lazy of a bubble and it is too cold; too violent and it is too hot. Only fry a few at a time and adjust the heat to the pan as needed. Once they become golden brown, remove them from the oil and place them on a plate or a dry paper towel.

They do freeze well, but if you throw them into a bag before you put them in the freezer, you will have a big mess. They need to be individually frozen, then they can go into a bag for storage for up to a couple months. Place freshly made Rangoons onto a tray that is lined with a nonstick baking sheet, waxed paper, parchment paper, or that is just well-greased. Make sure the Rangoons are not touching and place the tray in the freezer. After they have been in the freezer for 2 hours to overnight, carefully pry the Rangoons off the tray and place them into a bag. They make an easy snack for last-minute guests.

Crab Rangoons

Makes 45 to 60


  • 1   bunch green onions (8 to 10), thinly sliced (substitute 1 small onion, diced)
  • 1   garlic clove, minced
  • 2  tablespoons ginger, minced (optional)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons cilantro, minced (optional)
  • 6 to 8 ounces crab meat or imitation crab meat, shredded
  • 8  ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1   teaspoon soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon pepper or hot sauce to taste
  • 1   package wonton wrappers (normally found in the produce section)
  • 1   egg, beaten
  •      oil to fry

  Make all appropriate cuts and mix filling ingredients in a bowl. Place a tablespoon of mixture in the center of a wonton wrapper. Brush the edge of the wonton with the beaten egg. Pull opposite flat edges to center and pinch all edges. Preheat oil to 365 degrees, then fry a few Rangoons at a time until golden brown and floating. Remove from oil, place onto paper towel to cool and serve.

Sweet and Sour Sauce

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ to ¾ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup ketchup


  • 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 ½ tablespoons cold water

   Bring sugar, water, vinegar and ketchup to a simmer. Separately mix cornstarch and cold water to create the slurry. Whisk slurry into simmering mixture until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (should be all or most of the slurry). Remove mixture from heat, transfer to another container and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to an hour to cool. Serve with crab Rangoons.

Brook Harlan is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. He is a culinary arts instructor at the Columbia Area Career Center.