The La Jolla Crab Stack

La Jolla Crab Stack with Ginger-Lime Dressing

I’m steering clear of anything that involves pre-heating, sauteing, boiling or baking at the moment, as the mere thought of going near my stove gives me heatstroke.

But I was determined to beat the east coast heat with a no-cook dish that comes straight from one of my favorite hometown restaurants, Roppongi of La Jolla. Delicious. Healthy. Impressive. No oven required. The La Jolla Crab Stack has it all.

La Jolla Crab Stack with Ginger-Lime Dressing

Chef Stephen Windows stacks layer upon layer of fruits and veggies and then tops off the tower with a handful of fresh crab meat. A final drizzle of make-ahead ginger dressing gives this piled high stack a punch of far eastern flavor.

Ready to start stacking? Grab your knife and check out this quick video for how to cut perfect cubes of mango without any mess!


La Jolla Crab Stack

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 30 min


2 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 Tablespoon sugar
6 Tablespoons lime juice
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup water
1 cup pea shoots
1 cup diced Roma tomatoes
1 cup thinly sliced cucumber
1 cup diced red onion
1 cup diced mango
1 cup diced avocado
1 cup fresh crab meat


Prepare the dressing by whisking together the ginger, sugar, lime juice, garlic and water. Refrigerate the dressing overnight.

See step-by-step photos below to assemble each of the four crab stacks by tightly layering together in a mold one fourth of each of the pea shoots, tomatoes, cucumbers, mango, onions, avocado and crab. (If you don't have a mold, you can use any hollowed-out aluminum can or circular bottle).

Press down on the top layer while slowly removing the mold to reveal the freestanding crab stack. Repeat with the remaining ingredients to form a total of four crab stacks.

Drizzle the crab stacks with the ginger-lime dressing and serve.

Recipe adapted from Roppongi Restaurant and Sushi Bar in La Jolla, Calif.

Step-by-Step Photos:

Step 1: Place a layer of pea shoots in the mold and then top with a layer of firmly packed tomatoes.

La Jolla Crab Stack with Ginger-Lime Dressing

Step 2: Place a layer of sliced cucumbers atop the tomatoes, fanning them out to fill the circular mold.

La Jolla Crab Stack with Ginger-Lime Dressing

Step 3: Layer the diced mango atop the cucumbers, then add the red onions.

La Jolla Crab Stack with Ginger-Lime Dressing

Step 4: Add a layer of avocado, pushing it firmly into the mold.

La Jolla Crab Stack with Ginger-Lime Dressing

Step 5: Add a layer of crab, then while pushing down on the crab with one hand, slowly slide the mold upward to reveal the layered La Jolla Crab Stack. Drizzle with ginger-lime dressing and serve.

La Jolla Crab Stack with Ginger-Lime Dressing


  1. 5

    Morgan Rogers says

    This recipe just made my day! I’ve been facing the same struggle of wanting to cook but instead baking myself in my little NYC kitchen while my friends call out words of encouragement from their spots in front of the A/C- I’m definitely going to make this for a dinner I’m having on Wednesday, thanks Kelly!

  2. 7

    Brittaney says

    I’m so impressed with your presentation! Everything on your site looks beautiful and delicious, and yet your instructions make it so easy!

    • Kelly replied: — June 20th, 2011 @ 2:17 am

      Thanks so much for your comment, Brittaney! I hope you guys enjoy the ribs tonight – I am so jealous!

  3. 8

    E says

    I can see doing this on a large scale for a party in a clear glass trifle bowl!

    • Kelly replied: — February 19th, 2012 @ 11:51 am

      I love that idea! The presentation would be incredible!

  4. 10

    Cristy says

    Saw this pic and thought it reminded me of something I had at a restaurant once. When I read your comments, I realized this is the restaurant where I had it! 6 years ago on vacation and it was delicious.

  5. 13

    c says

    What is pea shoots

    • Kelly Senyei replied: — May 24th, 2013 @ 12:45 pm

      Pea shoots can be found in some grocery stores in the produce section (near the greens), but if you can’t find them, you can just use sprouts, arugula or even spinach — basically any other leafy green. Enjoy!

  6. 14


    Hi Kelly, What size mold did you use? It looks delicious. Your book came in the mail last week. Many of the pages have post-it notes already. Love it. Thank you

    • Kelly Senyei replied: — July 19th, 2013 @ 9:53 am

      Thanks, Nancy! I used a 3-inch circular mold. Enjoy!

  7. 16

    Grace says

    Thank you for posting this – the crab stack is one of my favorites at Roppongi’s. Can’t wait to try this recipe out!

  8. 17

    Will says

    It all looked great until I scrolled down to see what the “foodies” were going to say. It is a deconstructed mango salsa with crab. Yes, it looks nice, but it doesn’t blow my skirt up. If you say this looks DELICIOUS, you have to say that every picture of every food looks DELICIOUS, or you aren’t being true to your own enthusiasm. I apologize to everyone who may not have known how to make a vertical salad, but it isn’t advanced culinary or anything. You can do it with a plastic cup.

  9. 18

    Frank Mosher says

    Looks sensational-However!! Before I waste my time trying it (not unique by the way, very similar to a recipe/presentation featured in fine cooking not very long ago), I have grave concerns that the finished product can be extracted from the ring! Certainly not as featured? Like the recipe, but doubt it can be constructed as shown.

    • Kelly Senyei replied: — April 4th, 2014 @ 12:15 pm

      Hi Frank! Just push down slightly on the top of the ingredients while pulling off the mold and it should release without any trouble!

  10. 19


    Would like to make the La Jolla Crab Shack – have 2 questions:
    Can I use shrimp in place of crabmeat ? What is the size of mold used ?
    Do not want to use a mold too small..


    • Kelly Senyei replied: — August 5th, 2014 @ 10:56 am

      Absolutely, Olga! You can use shrimp or any other seafood — even pulled chicken is great. And this ring mold is 3 1/2 inches in width, but you can use any size that you have on hand. Enjoy!

  11. 20


    Hah! I just watched your “Food blogging for dummies” video on Youtube and realized that I pinned this recipe a few weeks before. It was featured in the video, now I’m more anxious to try it out myself. Keep up the good work!

    • Kelly Senyei replied: — April 13th, 2015 @ 6:13 pm

      Thanks so much!


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