The best crab cakes let the fresh crab meat be the main event with very little filler and a whole lot of flavor. These classic Maryland style crab cakes feature jumbo lump crab meat, lemon, parsley, a little filler to keep them together and a touch of spice from cayenne pepper.
CRAB CAKES RECIPE
After living on the coast for so long, I’ve come to appreciate and enjoy fresh seafood. Whether I run to the farmer’s market and get seafood right from the fishermen or enjoy a night out at a local restaurant, it’s easy to get my hands on fresh fish, shellfish, and crab. Beautiful, fresh seafood is always available to make the best tasting dishes.
I’ve eaten a lot of crab cakes in my life, after all, that is my favorite item to order at the restaurants around town. You can always tell between a true Maryland style crab cake and something that should not even carry its name.
Maryland style crab cakes are all about the crab. It’s all about the fresh lump crab meat that has a pronounced taste, some sweetness, and juicy, soft texture. When you bite into it, the most important thing is the crab while everything else is just there to enhance the experience.
The key to the best crab cakes possible will always be choosing the best crab meat and a lot of it. Second most important thing is to use as little filler as possible as to not overshadow the texture and taste of crab. The rest can totally be optional, so if you don’t like parsley, don’t add it!
MOST COMMON QUESTIONS
What is the best crab meat to use?
If possible, use jumbo lump crab meat that is refrigerated or fresh. This will give you truly a superior taste because it’s taken out of the largest muscle and kept in tact. This meat is white in color, looks like lumps of meat (hence the name), and has the best flavor. It is also the most expensive option.
Another option is backfin crab meat. Backfin meat is a combination of jumbo lump meat and special grade meat. It is also white in color but it comes more broken up and flaked apart. This crab meat can also be labeled a “lump” crab meat. Both will be good to use in crab cakes.
Crab meat to avoid is canned and not refrigerated. This meat will be better used in soups rather than crab cakes. If canned is the only option, use the one that has to be refrigerated. You can find it in the refrigerated section or seafood counter of your grocery store.
What is the best filler?
I’ve tried so many filler options from crackers, to bread, to bread crumbs and I find Panko to be the best. It’s very light but great at binding. Its flavor does not overpower the crab meat either.
Can crab cakes be gluten free?
YES! Gluten free bread crumbs is a perfect substitution for Panko because it also tends to be light and airy in texture.
What is the best way to cook them?
Two most common ways to cook crab cakes is to pan fry or bake them. While both are excellent choices, many people tend to favor one method over the other. Baked method will give you cake that are plump, soft, and juicy with rounded tops. Pan fried (or seared) cooking method will give you a beautiful crisp on the outside and juicy, tender center.
While you can choose either method, I prefer to pan sear my cakes and that is the recipe I will share here.
HOW TO MAKE IT
Crab cakes are so easy to make and unless you overload on the filler or press the patties too tight, you won’t mess them up.
Check the crab meat – make sure to check every lump of meat by carefully feeling around for any leftover shell fragments. You don’t need to break it apart, just check around the lumps.
Mix ingredients – mix all ingredients but the crab meat in a bowl and whisk well.
Add crab meat – add crab meat and mix it well. I like to break up some of the lumps and leave others in lumps. This gives a great texture to the crab cakes.
Shape the patties – to keep all the patties the same size, I use an ice cream scoop to spoon out equal amounts. Shape the patties but don’t press them tight, just enough to form the shape of a patty. An average ice cream scoop will give you good size cakes about 3 inches in diameter and about 1 inch in thickness.
Preheat the pan – preheat the pan first over medium to medium-high heat and add the oil.
Sear crab cakes – Let oil heat up until hot and add crab cakes. Do not move them after you place them in the pan until ready to flip. Cook crab cakes for 4-5 minutes per size.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH CRAB CAKES
Sauces – Remoulade and tartar sauce both go very well with crab cakes.
Sides – try servings them with coleslaw, fresh salad, fruit salad, roasted or sauteed vegetables, fries or roasted potatoes, corn salad, or potato salad.
As a sandwich – get some small, soft buns from the deli and serve crab cakes on the buns with lettuce, tomato, and a little Remoulade or tartar sauce.
CAN I FREEZE AND REHEAT CRAB CAKES?
You can freeze uncooked shaped patties for up to two months. To freeze crab cakes, shape the patties and place them on a parchment paper covered baking tray. Freeze for two hours and then transfer frozen patties into a zip-top freezer bag. You can portion them in several bags or just one bag but place a waxed paper square between each one.
Thaw frozen cakes in the refrigerator and then saute in the pan as instructed in the recipe.
All the seafood is always better to eat right away but crab meat is surprisingly forgiving. If you have leftovers, consider eating them cold too. It’s great on a sandwich or even on a toast point.
If you do want to reheat crab cakes, do it in a pan or oven. In the oven, reheat them uncovered at 325° for 10-13 minutes. To reheat them on the stove, preheat the pan over medium-low heat and grease in with a little oil. Reheat the cakes for 3-4 minutes on each side.
MORE CRAB RECIPES TO TRY
If you’re a fan of crab, I have several wonderful recipes. My Hot Crab Dip is the most popular with our friends and family and Crab and Artichoke Dip is delicious as well. Crab Stuffed Mushrooms never disappoint our dinner guests either.
If you made any of my recipes and shared them on Instagram, make sure to tag me @willcookforsmiles and #willcookforsmiles so I can see all the things you tried!
Connect with Will Cook For Smiles!
Be sure to click below and follow me on my social media, so you never miss a recipe.
Don’t forget to sign up for email, so you won’t miss any new recipes.
- 1 lb lump crab meat
- 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
- 1 egg
- 3 tbsp mayonnaise
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp fresh minced parsley
- 1/2 lemon zest
- 1 small lemon - juice only
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2-3 tbsp canola oil for cooking
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp spicy mustard
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp pickle juice preferably from sweet pickles
- 1 tsp horseradish
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp Cajun seasoning
- Check every lump of meat by carefully feeling around for any leftover shell fragments. You don’t need to break it apart, just check around the lumps.
- Mix all ingredients for crab cakes except for the crab meat in a bowl and whisk well.
- Add crab meat and mix it well. Break up some of the lumps and leave others in chunks.
- Use an ice cream scoop to spoon out equal amounts of crab mixture. Shape the patties but don’t press them tight, just enough to form the shape of a patty.
- Preheat the pan first over medium to medium-high heat and add the oil.
- Let oil heat up until hot and add crab cakes. Do not move them after you place them in the pan until ready to flip. Cook crab cakes for 4-5 minutes per side.
- Mix all the ingredients for Remoulade sauce and serve it on the side of crab cakes.