How to Make Crab Cakes

By 7 m read
How to make crab cakes (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

So you want to make some crab cakes. Because you just got home from a weekend in Maryland and had the best crab cakes ever? Or a friend from Delaware told you how to make crab cakes easily at home by yourself? When I want crab cakes, I want crab cakes that are easy to make, taste like crab, have minimal fillers, and don’t fall apart while cooking. I might smother them with a homemade tartar sauce or just drizzle with some of my hot sauce or serve for friends on a nice bed of salad or stick them in a bun for a crab cake sandwich. 

 

What is a Maryland crab cake?

I’m not from Maryland, I’m from Switzerland. So I don’t know what an authentic Maryland crab cake is supposed to be. I’d say lump meat from blue crabs and Old Bay seasoning are two good starts. Then it gets complicated. Saltines or breadcrumbs? Celery or not? Fresh or a hard-boiled egg to make the stuff that holds it all together? And here’s a good one: fried or baked?

 

Easy, tasty crab cake recipe

How about creating a crab cake that tastes like crab, is easy to make, reasonable on the wallet, and adaptable to your taste. Yes, it’s possible. There are some important ground rules for making a crab cake, but when it comes to flavors, there’s wiggle room.

 

What kind of crab meat is best?

Because we want to stay in the middle of the budget range, we’ll go with refrigerated, handpicked, lump crab meat, most often found in the deli section; otherwise, ask your local seafood purveyor. It’s sweeter and tastier than canned crab meat but a purist will tell you that it’s not even close to freshly boiled lump crab meat. 

How to make crab cakes (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

What holds it all together?

The right amounts of moist crab meat, wet egg, and dry saltines. The trick is finding the best ratio. Adding celery and other ingredients, to me, are fillers. Let’s keep it simple and only use these three main ingredients plus seasoning. We want to make crab cakes and not bread cakes with a hint of crab taste. 

How to make crab cakes (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Do I need to chill the mixture in the refrigerator before baking or frying?

Yup. There’s no way around it as far as I know. The mixture has to have some time to settle and bind. I let it chill for at least an hour before forming the patties and it works every time. I honestly don’t know what would happen if you left them in the fridge overnight. If you try it out, let me know. 

 

Baking or sautéing?

It’s called a crab cake. So naturally, that would mean to bake it…right? Cakes are baked. But funny enough, the crab cakes you’ll find in restaurants are mostly sautéed. It’s a bit quicker than baking. But what about the texture? 

 

First of all, the crab meat you’re buying is already fully cooked. In other words, you don’t have to worry about undercooking the meat. That means, whichever cooking method you use depends on what result you’re looking for. 

 

Baking the crab cakes will result in a slightly softer texture. The butter used to grease the baking dish and brush the crab cakes add a nice little sweetness. Overall, it’s the “crabbier” crab cake. 

 

Sautéing, depending on the heat of the oil, creates a crunchy outside with a soft inside.

 

I don’t have a preference. It depends on my mood. Either way, they turn out perfect every time. 

How to make crab cakes (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

The best crab cake recipe

First, combine the egg, mayonnaise, parsley, Old Bay, Worcestershire and salt in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. 

How to make crab cakes (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)
How to make crab cakes (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Next, gently go through the lump crab meat with your fingers to make sure it’s free of the shell and hard cartilage. Set aside. 

Crumble the saltine crackers either by hand or in a mortar and pestle.

How to make crab cakes (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Now, add the crackers and lump crab meat to the bowl with the mayonnaise mixture and carefully combine everything together. Be careful not to break up the nice lump crab meat. Unless you bought jumbo lump crab meat. In that case, you’ll want some of the lumps to break apart, otherwise they might fall apart when baking or frying.

How to make crab cakes (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Tightly cover the bowl with cling wrap and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

 

How to make crab cakes

If you bake them:

Preheat oven or toaster oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and grease with butter. Form patties by hand (you can first put the mixture in a 1/2-c measuring cup – that’ll give you a nice sized patty) and place on the prepared baking dish. Brush the top of the crab cakes with some more melted butter.

How to make crab cakes (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

Put crab cakes in the oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes. If you’d like a little crustier outside, put them under the broiler for the last 3 minutes. Just before serving, squeeze some fresh lemon juice over them. Serve immediately.

 

If you sauté them:

Form patties by hand (you can first put the mixture in a 1/2-c measuring cup – that’ll give you a nice sized patty). Heat some vegetable oil over medium heat in a nonstick frying pan (I love using my Lodge pan for these beauties). Add crab cakes and fry for about 4 minutes per side until golden brown. Just before serving, squeeze some fresh lemon juice over them. Serve immediately.

 

Homemade tartar sauce

There are a lot of delicious store-bought tartar sauces out there. But if I have the ingredients and a couple of minutes, I prefer to make my own. The beauty of this sauce is flexibility. Play around with ingredients, taste, add some hot sauce, taste, maybe add some horseradish, taste. It’s a wonderful sauce to practice appreciating your taste buds and learning how different amounts of ingredients will change the flavor profile. And don’t forget: sometimes all it needs is another pinch of kosher salt to make it perfect. 

How to make crab cakes (Photo by Erich Boenzli)
(Photo by Erich Boenzli)

I’m sure everybody has their own take on the perfect crab cake. I’d like to hear your favorite way to make crab cakes. And even more important, I’d like to hear from someone who’s never made a crab cake, followed my recipe, and said: “ Wow, did I just make that?”. Because that’s what we’re all about here at Maplewood Road. Have fun, try something new, fail, try again, succeed. Repeat. 

 

Never forget: Every expert started out as a complete beginner. Keep cooking my friends.

How to make crab cakes (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

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How to make crab cakes (Photo by Viana Boenzli)

How to Make Crab Cakes

How to make crab cakes that taste like crab, are easy to make, reasonable on the wallet, and adaptable to your taste. Yes, it's possible.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Resting Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 35 mins
Servings 2

Ingredients
  

Crab Cakes

  • 1/2 lb handpicked lump crab meat
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Pinch of kosher sea salt to taste
  • 1/4 c (about 6) saltine crackers, crumbled
  • 1 Tbsp butter (for baking) or vegetable oil (for sauteing)
  • 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Lemon wedges for presentation

Tartar Sauce

  • 1/2 c mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp sweet relish
  • 1 Tbsp shallots, minced
  • 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp capers, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce
  • Pinch of kosher sea salt to taste

Instructions
 

  • First, combine the egg, mayonnaise, parsley, Old Bay, Worcestershire and salt in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. 
  • Next, gently go through the lump crab meat with your fingers to make sure it’s free of the shell and hard cartilage. Set aside. 
  • Crumble the saltine crackers either by hand or in a mortar and pestle.
  • Now, add the crackers and lump crab meat to the bowl with the mayonnaise mixture and carefully combine everything together.
  • Tightly cover the bowl with cling wrap and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

If you bake them:

  • Preheat oven or toaster oven to 450°F. 
  • Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and grease with butter. 
  • Form patties by hand (you can first put the mixture in a 1/2-c measuring cup – that’ll give you a nice sized patty) and place on the prepared baking dish. 
  • Brush the top of the crab cakes with some more melted butter.
  • Put crab cakes in the oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes. If you’d like a little crustier outside, put them under the broiler for the last 3 minutes. 
  • Just before serving, squeeze some fresh lemon juice over them. Serve immediately.

If you saute them:

  • Form patties by hand (you can first put the mixture in a 1/2-c measuring cup – that’ll give you a nice sized patty). 
  • Heat some vegetable oil over medium heat in a nonstick frying pan.
  • Add crab cakes and fry for about 4 minutes per side until golden brown.
  • Just before serving, squeeze some fresh lemon juice over them. Serve immediately.

Tartar Sauce

  • Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and serve over crab cakes.

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2 Comments
  • hari
    October 17, 2020

    this is a complete guide for beginner bakers who want to make crab cakes for the first time.
    love your detailed explanation.
    thanks for sharing this awesome recipe!