I’ve had lots of requests for this recipe so I hope you all enjoy one of my favourite dishes from Mexican Fiesta.

The Mexican term “a la diabla” literally means “to the devil”, and there should be something with a good kick of chilli to get you there. This recipe uses the heat of the habanero chilli along with the piquant flavour of guajillo chilli to make a rich paste that goes beautifully with shellfish. The avocado leaves impart a delicate and fragrant aniseed flavour.

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Serves: 4 | Prep Time: 45 mins | Cooking Time: 25 mins | Skill: Mid


• 6 blue swimmer crabs, cleaned and cut into 4 pieces or 1 x 1.5 kg mud crab, cleaned and cut into 6 pieces
• 100 ml vegetable oil
• 200 ml fish stock

Chilli paste
• 50 ml vegetable oil
• ½ white onion, minced
• 8 garlic cloves, chopped
• 2 avocado leaves (see Note)
• 6 black peppercorns
• 1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
• 8 guajillo chillies, stemmed, seeded and lightly toasted
• 4 tomatillos, roasted
• 1 habanero chilli (seeds optional)
• ⅓ cup chopped coriander leaves
• 3 allspice
• 2 limes, juiced

• chopped coriander
• lime cheeks


To make the chilli paste, heat a 25 cm frying pan over medium and add the vegetable oil. Add the onion and garlic. Fry gently for 3-4 minutes or until translucent. Remove and place in a blender. Wipe out frying pan with paper towel.

Add remaining chilli paste ingredients to the blender and blend for 2 minutes or until smooth.
Add another 50 ml of oil to the frying pan and heat over medium. Add the paste and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Remove from the pan and reserve.

Add 50 ml of oil to a 35 cm heavy-based saucepan or large wok. When oil starts smoking, carefully add the crab. Toss or stir until the colour changes, then add the paste and stock. Cover with a lid. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until sauce has thickened.

Remove from the heat and arrange the crab pieces on a platter. Garnish with coriander and lime cheeks.