Vegan crab rangoon appetizers look surprisingly fancy for something that’s so easy to put together!
They’re a crowd pleasing finger food at parties or a tasty side dish for a stir-fry.
Instead of using dough, the appetizers are made in mini filo cups.
You still get that signature crunch without folding or frying. And instead of crab meat, they’re made with vegan crab cakes and non-dairy cream cheese.
Before I went vegan, crab rangoon were my favorite side dish at a Chinese restaurant in Des Moines, Tsing Tsao.
Crab rangoon are fried pouches that are loaded with cream cheese, green onions, and a dotting of flaked crab meat.
(Crab rangoon are also called crab puffs or cheese wontons.)
They’re served with sweet and sour or sweet chili sauce for dipping.
(Heads up. Sometimes imitation crab is used for crab rangoon, but that’s not vegan either. The imitation is made with binders & fish, usually Alaskan pollock.)
Where did crab rangoon originate?
If a cream cheese-filled appetizer doesn’t sound like a typical dish from an area where cheese is far from standard, that’s because crab rangoon is not actually from China.
(The majority of East Asians are lactose intolerant.)
Crab rangoon originated in San Francisco at a restaurant called Trader Vic’s.
Since then, many Chinese restaurants in America have started selling them.
I went vegan in 2007 and vegetarian a couple years before that.
So it’s been a long time since I’ve cracked through the fried pastry to the softened cream cheese inside of a crab rangoon.
And a vegan version isn’t something that I ever see in restaurants.
What’s a vegan to do?
Egg-free wonton wrappers are hard to find.
Making dough from scratch, filling but not over filling them, getting them to seal properly, and then deep frying sounds like a lot of effort.
So when I was walking down the freezer aisle at a local grocery store, I had an aha moment when I saw miniature filo shells.
The filo shells just so happen to be vegan. I could use them for vegan crab rangoon instead!
I’d still get that crisp shell without any of the detail work of making dough and folding it just right.
So I picked up a package.
Then I used non-dairy cream cheese for the filling, green onions, lemon juice for tang, and a splash of non-dairy milk to make it extra creamy and light.
Vegan cream cheese
There are so many good vegan cream cheeses on the market these days.
Miyoko’s is my favorite. Kite Hill is a good second choice.
Non-dairy cream cheese from Trader Joe’s or Go Veggie is fine. And the price is right.
Any of them will work for this recipe.
Just make sure it’s a non-dairy cream cheese that you personally enjoy since that’s a dominant flavor.
To maximize the efficiency of the dish and to make sure that the results were repeatable for readers, I chose to use packaged non-dairy cream cheese instead of homemade.
If you’d rather make it from scratch, you may need to adjust the amounts of non-dairy milk and lemon juice that you include. The cream cheese recipe in Artisan Vegan Cheese is my favorite.
Vegan crab cakes
Gardein mini crab cakes make up the “crab” in this recipe. They’re chopped small and browned in a skillet.
Gardein crab cakes come 10 to a bag. So you’ll only need half of a bag for this recipe.
Some of the crab cakes goes into the cream cheese mixture. And some is used as garnish.
That way you get crab cake flavor in each bite.
Plus, it emulates a bit of that deep fried feeling by getting extra crunch in every mouthful.
(If you don’t have access to Gardein crab cakes, you could try using my vegan crab cakes instead. You’ll definitely need to use fewer of them, because they’re considerably bigger than Gardein’s. I haven’t tried using them yet with this recipe. Let me know if you do it!)
Step by step instructions
Here’s how to make this recipe at a glance. For complete ingredient amounts & instructions, keep scrolling to the recipe card below.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Take a package of Gardein mini cr’b cakes out of the freezer.
Put 5 of the cakes into a lightly oiled skillet. Then brown on both sides.
Remove them from the skillet.
Chop the crab cakes. Then put them back into the skillet to brown all over.
In a bowl, combine the following:
- Vegan cream cheese
- Lemon juice
- Non-dairy milk
- Sliced green onions
- A portion of the browned crab cakes
(Save some of the crab cake pieces to use as a topping.)
Then fill mini filo cups with the cream cheese mixture.
Finish with some of the remaining crab cake pieces, and bake.
Remove from oven and finish with more sliced green onion.
Serve the vegan crab rangoon with jarred sweet and sour or sweet red chili sauce.
(Trader Joe’s makes my preferred sweet chili sauce.)
They would be great for a dinner party alongside pineapple fried rice.
How to reheat
If you have any leftovers, vegan crab rangoon keep well if you put them in a single layer in a covered container and freeze them.
(The filo cups soften too much in the refrigerator.)
Then when you’re ready to eat them, move them directly to a parchment paper covered baking sheet and pop them in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.
They reheat beautifully. And I daresay they may be even better that way because the filo becomes extra crispy.
It’s great for having appetizers in an instant, or if you want to make everything ahead of time for a gathering.
More vegan seafood recipes
Here are even more vegan seafood recipes you’ll love:
Easy vegan crab rangoon appetizer
- 1 Tablespoon neutral high heat oil I use avocado oil
- 5 Gardein crabless cakes
- 8 ounces non-dairy cream cheese*
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon non-dairy milk
- 3 green onions white and green parts chopped small, divided
- 15 mini filo shells I use Athens brand
- Pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Bring a skillet to a medium-high heat with oil. Add frozen crabless cakes to skillet and brown on each side for 6 to 7 minutes. Remove them from the skillet and chop them very small. Return them to the skillet and continue browning for a few minutes more. Once the pieces are nicely browned, remove from heat, and set aside.
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine non-dairy cream cheese, lemon juice, and non-dairy milk until light and whippy. Stir in 2 Tablespoons of green onions and ¼ cup of the chopped crabless cakes.
- Line the filo shells across a parchment paper covered baking sheet. Put a heaping teaspoon of cream cheese mixture into each shell. Then top the filled shells with the remaining crabless cake pieces and a pinch of salt.
- Bake the filled shells for 10 minutes.
- Remove from oven, transfer to a serving platter, garnish with the remaining green onions, and serve with dipping sauce of your choice.
Content updated January 15, 2023. Originally posted October 24, 2016.
I made this on Christmas Eve doubling the recipe and using the sweet chili sauce. It was a big hit. I highly recommend Miyokos cream cheese over the others as it has so much flavor. I will make this again.
I’m so glad that the vegan crab rangoons were a hit, Desiree! I completely agree that Miyoko’s cream cheese is the best. Her packaged cream cheese wasn’t around when I created this recipe back in 2016 (only the cream cheese recipe from her book was available.) But hers is easily the best vegan cream cheese out there. Time to update this recipe! 🙂
What a good idea! I love these cute, little treats. These are definitely appealing to my anti-fiddly nature.
Excellent, anti-fiddly personalities unite! 😀
I’m still oohing and ahhing over your pictures—so beautiful! I’ve never been a seafood fan, but I’ve got a couple of seafood lovers in my life so I’ll have to give this a try!
That’s so nice to hear, Sarah! Thank you!
Mary Ellen @ VNutrition
I used to love crab rangoon too! They were my favorite! I cannot wait to try these – they look so perfect and easy. Your pictures are beautiful too!
Thank you! I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. 😀
I’ve never had crab rangoon of any kind because I’m also a bit lazy. Using filo is so smart! I’m way more likely to make something if there’s a pre-made short cut 🙂
Pre-made shortcuts for the win!
You have no idea how many times I have picked up the packages of wonton wrappers in every single grocery store around here PRAYING that they will be vegan. Sadly, they never are. I LOVE the idea of using this little pastry shells – genius. You get that perfect crunch and as much filling as you want. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Gardein Crabless Cakes in our stores, but I’m sure Whole Foods has it…I just need to get over that way one day. Thank you for this recipes – I can’t wait to make them!
Yes! What is up with the elusiveness of vegan wonton wrappers? I see them all the time in vegan cookbooks and recipes, but they are nowhere to be found in grocery stores. I’ve literally looked for them across the country in grocery stores for 9 years! After all of that searching, I finally found some at the local Korean market, and then funnily enough, I didn’t buy them! After all of that time, I couldn’t remember why I needed them. Haha! 🙂
Great solution to an age-old problem — simplifying a complex recipe to the balancing point between easy and delicious! Now, I wonder if you’ll ever make them again. (Just kidding.) By the way, I once made a huge batch of pierogi that were fantastic — and never made them again. I understand.
I wish pierogi weren’t so fiddly. I really miss them, but not quite enough to tough out making the filling, making the dough, and folding all of them. I’m glad to hear that you also were one-and-done with homemade pierogi. 🙂
Dianne's Vegan Kitchen
I love when something looks like it took hours to make but it didn’t take long at all! I’ve never actually had crab, but I’d love to try these! They look like they’d be great for a potluck, too.
Yes, they’d be great for a potluck! And a benefit of them being so easy to make is that you could easily double or triple your batch, and it wouldn’t be much additional work.
Amy Katz from Veggies Save The Day
I’ve never had crab rangoon, but yours look delicious! I love hearing about the origins of famous dishes. Did you read the book The Fortune Cookie Chronicles? You might enjoy it.
Oh, I’ve never heard of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles. It sounds really interesting! I’ll have to see if they have it at my library.
I can’t wait to try these – sound so yummy. And I am serving them to my non-veg friend who is allergic to sea food – she’ll be elated!!!!!
That’s wonderful, Pamm! I hope that you and your friend enjoy them.
This is a wonderful appetizer. I didn’t know Gardein had crabless cakes.
Yes, the crab cakes are a new-ish item from Gardein. They came out in 2015. They’re terrific and also really good in tacos.
Wow!!! First of all, your photos are beautiful and the food really does look fancy – literally like something you’d order from a nice (expensive) restaurant. I’m impressed! Haha!! Anti-fiddly nature ?? I’m right there with you! That’s awesome that you were able to find vegan mini filo dough shells – so nice to have a quick, convenient option. These sound amazing and look almost too pretty to eat!
Thank you, Mandy! That’s so nice of you to say. 🙂
I like your filo tart shell shortcut! I don’t often make things that need a lot of fiddly pastry work, but premade shells sound perfect.
Yes, filo tart shells are such an easy fix! Fiddly pastry work is pretty and all, but it doesn’t suit my temperament. These are appetizers I’ll actually make again and again. 😀
Definitely making these next week for our house warming party. I was looking everywhere for easy good finger foods and you just fit the bill perfectly with these! I cant wait!
Excellent! I’m so glad to hear it. And congratulations on the new home!
OMG that is one thing I “miss” terribly- Crab Ragoons!
I am so making these- thank you for creating such an easy vegan version xo
Awesome! I think you’re going to love them. It’s nice that they’re freezer-friendly, so that you can have a couple whenever you want.
I am so excited to try these! These will be a great make-ahead easy appetizer for the holidays. If you are ever in NYC, go directly to Red Bamboo! They have fantastic vegan crab rangoon! While you’re there, you can get a vegan shake as well. Just be really hungry when you go!
Oh, wow, I didn’t know that! Thanks, Janis. I’ll add Red Bamboo to my extensive list of “must visits” for my next trip to NYC. I hope that happens sooner rather than later. It’s such an amazing place! And I hope you enjoy the crab rangoon recipe. I’ll definitely be adding them to my make ahead appetizers for the holidays too. Let me know if you try them!
Yes, I most definitely DID enjoy this recipe! It is so unique, and I love the little bite-sized portions. Simple to make, too!
Excellent! Thank you for letting me know, Janis!
Oh my gosh, crab rangoon was one of my go-to appetizers before I went vegan. Using those crabless cakes is genius – they’re so spot on and affordable!
If you liked crab rangoon in your pre-vegan days, you’re going to love these!
I missed the Crab Rangoon phase since I went veg then vegan before it showed up on Midwestern menus, but a dear non-veg friend orders them as her “guilty pleasure” whenever we’re at a certain restaurant. I’ve always wondered what the hype was all about. Now I can try it for myself, thanks!
Oh, I hope you try these, Linda! I’m thinking about making another batch just for the freezer, so that I can take out 2 or 3 whenever I want a little appetizer with my meal.