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.
Semi-homemade appetizer with easy shortcuts
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.
Which cream cheese should I use?
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.)
Finally, I added a helping of Gardein mini crabless cakes that I’d 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!)
Serve the vegan crab rangoon with jarred sweet and sour or sweet red chili sauce. (Trader Joe’s makes my preferred sweet chili sauce.)
The appetizers look surprisingly fancy for something that’s so easy to put together! They would be great for a dinner party alongside vegan fried rice.
How to make this easy starter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Take a package of Gardein crabless 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 vegan cream cheese, lemon juice, non-dairy milk, sliced green onions, and 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 with sweet & sour or sweet chili sauce.
How to reheat them
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.
Vegan crab rangoon
- 1 Tablespoon neutral high heat oil I used organic canola oil
- 5 Gardein crabless cakes
- 8 ounces non-dairy cream cheese*
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon non-dairy milk
- 3 green onions white and green parts chopped small, divided
- 15 mini filo shells I used Athens brand
- Pinch salt
- Optional: Dipping sauce of your choice like sweet & sour or sweet chili sauce. I use Trader Joe's sweet chili sauce.
- 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 1/4 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.
Here are more vegan seafood recipes I know you’ll love:
Content updated February 2020. Originally posted October 2016.