Demystifying the Difference Between Cangrejo and Jaiba

Have you ever wandered through a seafood market or savored a crab-based meal, encountering the terms “cangrejo” and “jaiba”? These words might appear interchangeable, yet they carry nuanced differences that mirror regional tastes, cultural influences, and the captivating diversity of crabs. 

Let’s delve into the contrasts between “jaiba” and “cangrejo” to enhance our understanding of these delightful crustaceans.


Cangrejo is a Spanish term used for “crabs.” Yet originally, this umbrella term refers to decapods from crustaceans, hard shell animals. Decapods are an order of crustaceans, including many familiar groups, including crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, and prawns. Most decapods are scavengers.

Since crabs are most commonly available and eaten decapods, the word cangrejo is abundantly used to refer to them. This common name is used for more than 4,000 species of crustaceans.

By no means does the word “cangrejo” signify the aquatic environment of the carbs, like fresh or sea waters.

“Cangrejo” refers to crabs across Spanish-speaking countries, Therefore, the word is commonly used to refer to the kind of culinary crab in specific Spanish regions. For example: 

  • In Mexico, “cangrejo” encompasses a variety of crabs, including blue crabs, mud crabs, and stone crabs. 
  • In Spain, “cangrejo” pertains to the common crab (Cancer pagurus) found in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. 
  • In Peru, “cangrejo” refers to the jumbo lump crab (Lithodes maja) found off the coast. 
  • In Chile, “cangrejo” refers to the king crab (Paralithodes camtschatica) from the North Pacific Ocean. 
  • In Argentina, “cangrejo” represents the red crab (Gecarcinus ruricola) from rainforests. 


Jaiba” is a wide, encompassing phrase used for large-sized freshwater blue crab species (Callinectes sapidus) across different Latin American regions, like Mexico and Central America. It’s also known as the blue crab or the Mexican crab. While, another word used for blu crab in Spanish is “ cangrejo azul.”

The jaiba or cangrejo azul is a relatively large crab with a body that can grow up to 12 inches in diameter. It has a blue carapace and a cream-colored abdomen. The jaiba’s meat is white and delicate and has a sweet, slightly salty flavor.

Jaiba is a popular ingredient in Mexican cuisine, and it is often used in ceviche, soups, and stews.

When choosing jaiba, look for crabs that are alive and active. The carapace should be smooth and free of cracks. The jaiba should also have a strong, fresh smell.

To cook jaiba, you can steam, boil, or grill it. It’s also a popular ingredient in ceviche, a type of seafood salad made with raw fish or shellfish cured in citrus juice.

When you come across “jaiba,” think it refers to blue crabs in certain cuisines. However, it’s also an umbrella term for crabs, depending on the specific area of use.

Concluding the Difference Between Jaiba vs. Cangrejo

Although “jaiba” and “cangrejo” may seem synonymous, they offer distinct perspectives on the captivating world of crabs. Jaiba is a Spanish name used for blue crab (Callinectes sapidus), and cangrejo is an umbrella term for all decapods like crabs, crawfish, lobsters, and prawns.

Hence, both terms celebrate the joy of crab-based cuisine, showcasing the delectable contributions of these creatures to our meals. The next time you relish a scrumptious crab dish, consider the nuanced differences between “jaiba” and “cangrejo,” enhancing your culinary experience with added flavor and cultural insights.

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Cashmere Muhammad
Cashmere Muhammad

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