Crab Cakes are made with tender, flaky lump crab meat, fresh lemon and herbs, spices and Panko breadcrumbs for texture. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon on top and serve this classic Maryland favorite as a snack or a main dish.
You can find Crab Cakes on the menu of just about any classy seafood restaurant. That might make them seem a little fancy, but they are incredibly easy to make. Serve them with our homemade Tartar Sauce and tangy German Potato Salad or creamy Macaroni Salad.
Maryland style crab cakes are a staple in the state as well as in the coastal areas of New England, because of the thriving crab industry there. Crab isn’t just something to eat, it’s a way of life. These flaky fried fish-cakes were created by Crosby Gaige, who introduced his recipe for what he called the “Baltimore Crab Cake,” made with fresh crab meat, breadcrumbs and spices, at the World’s Fair in 1930.
We add a few extras to keep the fish moist and really bring out the flavor of the crab, like lemon juice and mayo. The cakes are pressed together to form patties, then fried in a skillet to get that signature crispy exterior.
Best Crab Meat for Crab Cakes
Fresh is always best when making crab cakes or crab dip! There are different types of crab that are readily available in grocery stores, but these seem to be the most commonly found:
Blue crab – found on the east coast and known for its buttery flavor and texture.
Dungeness crab – found on the west coast and known for it’s impressive size.
Canned crab meat – Avoid the cans! Pasteurization extends shelf life but also kills the flavor.
I usually talk to the butcher in the seafood section of the store and ask where to get the freshest crab meat. Often they will sell it there by the pound, or you can find it refrigerated elsewhere. Costco sell a big container of lump crab meat that’s great, too.
How to Make Crab Cakes from Scratch
Prep. Pick through the crab meat and look for any pieces of shell that may have been left behind. Slice some green onions thinly, chop some fresh parsley, beat an egg in a small bowl, and gather up the rest of the ingredients.
Mix. In a large mixing bowl, combine the crab, onions, herbs, spices, egg, breadcrumbs, lemon juice and mayo. The egg and breadcrumbs provide the binder that will hold the crab cakes together, and the little bit of mayo will keep them from drying out.
Form. Once the mixture is well combined, use clean hands to form patties. I use an ice cream scoop for even portioning, or you could use a kitchen scale or just eyeball. This recipe makes about 8-10 crab cakes depending on size. Press each portion in to a half inch thick patty.
Refrigerate. Let your patties rest and chill for about 30 minutes in the fridge. This important step will help hold them together as they fry.
Pan Fry. Melt some butter and oil in a large skillet (cast iron is recommended) over medium heat. Add the patties to the skillet, working in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan. Cook them for about 3-4 minutes per side or until they are golden and crispy.
Can I Bake Crab Cakes Instead of Frying?
While frying is my recommended method for the best flavor, you absolutely can bake crab cakes if you’re looking to cut back on calories. Place crab cakes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or simply sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake at 450° F for about 15 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. For added color and flavor, brush with melted butter before baking.
Top Tips and FAQs
Why did my crab cakes fall apart? Lack of a good binding agent is usually the culprit, which is why we use both egg and panko breadcrumbs in our mixture. The mayo also helps. If you don’t want to use breadcrumbs, saltine crackers are the best alternative, but keep in mind the added salt factor.
Can I make ahead of time? I definitely recommend cooking these right before serving, but you can form the patties a day or 2 ahead of time and store them in a tightly sealed container in the fridge.
Storing leftovers – Completely cool leftovers and store in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. Reheat in the oven at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes.
How to freeze Crab Cakes – Un-cooked crab cakes can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge, then fry as directed. You can also freeze the cooked and cooled crab cakes for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge then heat in the oven at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or bake from frozen at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except oil and butter. Stir to combine and then with your hands, form patties. Use an ice cream scoop for easy portioning. Flatten them into ½” patties. (Should make about 8-10 patties)
Refrigerate the patties for 30 minutes.
Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-medium low heat. Add some of the patties to the hot skillet (don’t crowd the pan - you want at least an inch between patties). If it seems like the patties are browning too quickly, reduce the heat. Cook 3-4 minutes per side, or until golden and crispy on both sides. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Repeat until all patties are cooked through.
Serve with homemade tartar sauce and lemon wedges on the side.
If the mixture is too moist to hold the patty shape, add more bread crumbs and if it is too dry, add an extra tablespoon of mayo.
Patties can be formed and stored in the fridge up to 2 days in advance of cooking.
These are best when eaten fresh; store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days and reheat in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.
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Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.