For a quick and satisfying dinner, this easy crab cakes recipe really takes the cake! You get crisp patties with tender filling, and it’s simple enough for beginners.
Crab cakes are popular American fish cakes made from lumps of crab meat mixed with mayonnaise, bread crumbs, mustard, and other seasonings. While you can find them all over, they’re very popular in Maryland and Virginia, especially around the Chesapeake Bay.
Luckily, these delicious cakes are also super easy to make. Besides the crab meat, you just need a few common pantry ingredients.
Then, it’s only 30 minutes of cooking, and you’ve got your appetizer or main dish on the table. Simply mix, shape, and cook!
Also, play with the seasonings to find the mix that’s right for you! Try adding chopped herbs, a dash of cayenne pepper, or other spices.
And don’t forget to add a squeeze of lemon juice before serving.
So, serve these cakes as an appetizer, a light supper, or a fancy party. The crowd will go wild.
All About the Easy Crab Cake Recipe Ingredients
There are several different types of crab meat you can use for the mixture, and they all have pros and cons.
Ideally, you should use fresh crab meat if you can find it; it will have the best flavor and texture. However, you can use canned crab meat in a pinch.
When it comes to fresh meat, you can find it either whole or picked. Picked crab means that someone else has done all the hard work removing the meat from the shell, so you can start cooking immediately.
On the other hand, if you buy whole crabs or crab parts still in the shell, you’ll need to remove the meat yourself. (But if you buy live crabs, this will obviously be the freshest meat.)
In terms of picked meat, you’ll generally see several options:
- Jumbo lump crab meat is the most expensive meat because the large pieces of meat are tender and taste quite sweet. If you add it to crab cakes, the seasonings may overpower the flavor of the meat, and stirring the patty mixture would break up the luscious chunks.
- Lump meat is the best crab meat for these cakes because the chunks are relatively large and you don’t need to add lots of binders to the patty mix. It also has a lovely, bright color, which makes it good for dishes where appearance is important.
- Backfin is a mixture of two types of crab meat: small pieces of lump crab and flake crab meat from the body of the animal. It’s lower quality than lump meat, but it’s also less expensive. You can still make crab cakes with this type of meat, but they won’t be quite as nice.
- Claw meat is the lowest quality and least expensive meat, but it actually has the most flavor! That means it can handle all sorts of seasonings without getting lost. The meat is pinky-brown instead of white, so it doesn’t look quite as appealing as the other meats. But it’s perfect for tacos, stir-fries, stuffing, soups, and chowders.
The most common bread crumbs for crab cakes are panko, or Japanese bread crumbs. They’re made from white bread, and they generally have a larger flake than American breadcrumbs.
Also, they’re toasted with an electric current instead of a conventional oven, so they’re very crispy. Because of the size and texture, panko is a great option for making light crab cakes.
You can also use panko to mimic the texture of frying without using lots of oil. For example, Japanese chefs use panko to top casseroles or make baked crab patties.
If you can’t find panko, don’t worry! You can always use American-style breadcrumbs from a box or make your own.
As well, you can experiment with different types of bread for breadcrumbs. For instance, whole wheat, sourdough, rye, Portuguese, or Italian crumbs will all taste a little different – but they’ll all work in this crab cakes recipe.
And for a really easy option, you can pulse saltines in a food processor or blender to make crumbs yourself.
In this recipe, the breadcrumbs act as a binder for the crab mixture. So, it doesn’t really matter what type you use – your cakes will still taste amazing!
Old Bay Seasoning
For an authentic Maryland crab cake flavor, the most important spice is Old Bay Seasoning. In fact, it’s the main seasoning for most fish and seafood around Baltimore.
Old Bay Seasoning was created in Baltimore during World War II. And since then, Maryland crab cakes and shrimp dishes have drawn seafood-lovers from around the world.
Mayo is a very important component in these crab cakes, and it does double duty.
First, it works as a binder for the filling and keeps everything moist and creamy. Second, it adds a lot of flavor!
Even if you don’t normally like mayonnaise, you won’t be able to tell it’s there once you cook the patties. But if you want to replace it, you can use Greek yogurt instead.
You might be reluctant to put veggies in your crab cakes, but trust me, it’s tasty. Fresh parsley won’t overwhelm the crab flavor – in fact, it enhances it.
In addition, a squeeze of lemon juice and some finely-chopped green onions is a nice touch. And, if you’re not a fan of parsley, you can also use fresh dill instead.
Dijon mustard adds the perfect hint of heat and a little tanginess to the crab cakes. However, you can use your favorite hot sauce if you prefer.
Like the mayo and breadcrumbs, eggs are one of the binders in this recipe. You won’t taste them, but you definitely need them to hold everything together.
Easy Tips for the Best Easy Crab Cakes Recipe
Refrigerate Crab Cakes
Before you start frying, let the crab cake mixture rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. This will help the flavors meld and keep the cakes from falling apart when you cook them.
If you’re using lump crabmeat, be very gentle when you mix the ingredients together. Lump meat is made of large chunks, and you don’t want to break them up.
If you use flaked meat, this is less of an issue, but you still want as much texture as possible.
Also, be gentle when cooking the crab cakes. While refrigeration helps keep the patties together, they’re still very delicate, and they can break when you flip them.
Crab cakes burn easily, and that ruins the delicate flavor of the seafood. So, for best results, use a non-stick skillet with a wooden or plastic spatula for flipping.
And if you fry crab cakes this way, you’ll get golden-brown patties without using lots of oil.
Also, never walk away from the stove because the patties can burn without you realizing it. Plus, your nose can help you figure out whether it’s time to flip the crab cakes or not.
Easy Crab Cake Recipe
- Prep Time10 min
- Cook Time20 min
- Total Time60 min
- Servings12 crab cakes
- Yield12 crab cakes
Chill Time: 30 min (optional)
- Make the Crab Mixture
In the large mixing bowl, add the crab, herbs, breadcrumbs, and Old Bay seasoning. Stir everything very gently until just combined.
In the small mixing bowl, add the egg, mustard, and mayonnaise. Beat them together with the whisk until they’re completely combined.
Then, carefully stir the egg mixture into the crab one. But make sure not to overmix and break up the crab lumps.
- Form the Patties
If you are resting the mixture, cover the bowl now and put it in the refrigerator for half an hour.
When you’re ready to fry, divide the mixture into 12 portions. Next, wet your hands to form the crab cakes; this will help keep the mix from sticking to your skin.
While I like to make about 12 patties with this recipe, you can make the patties any size you want. For example, you can make small ones for an appetizer and large ones for a main course.
- Fry the Crab Cakes
Heat your skillet on the stove and add the olive oil. Once the pan is hot, place your patties in the oil to fry.
Depending on the size of your pan, you can fry about 4-5 patties at once. But make sure you don’t crowd the pan.
Fry the crab cakes for about 5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. When you take the patties out of the pan, place them on a paper towel on the baking sheet to absorb the excess grease.
Continue cooking in batches until you’ve used all the crab mixture.
- Serve and Enjoy!
Place your beautiful crab cakes on the serving plate with the tartar sauce and lemon wedges. Dig in!
What Can You Serve With Easy Crab Cakes?
- Since crab cakes are rich, I like to serve a side of vegetables with them. For example, a mixed green salad with a light vinaigrette is a refreshing accompaniment.
- For a more filling meal, make a batch of oven-roasted potatoes and yams. Or roast tomatoes and asparagus, and then drizzle them with a balsamic reduction.
- On the other hand, you can recreate a classic Baltimore experience with your Maryland crab cakes: serve them with coleslaw, cornbread, and tomato bisque.
How to Store and Freeze Easy Crab Cakes
Leftover crab cakes will last for about 3-4 days in the fridge. But they’re so good, I doubt you’ll have any remaining!
If you want the crab cakes to last longer, you can freeze them. This way, you can keep them for up to 3 months.
You can freeze them raw or cooked, but for the best crab cakes, I recommend freezing them raw. When you want to eat them, let them thaw in the fridge overnight and cook them the next day.
- Cooksillustrated Crabmeat 101