Crab Cakes

4.89 from 26 votes
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Crab cakes are a stunning appetizer that’s easy to make at home. I use panko breadcrumbs to help bind everything together while providing a crispy crust.

Stack of crab cakes with crispy brown surface.

Crab cakes are always on the menu at fancy restaurants, but why wait for date night or special occasions to enjoy them? For this recipe, all you need is lump crab, panko, eggs, mayonnaise, mustard, bell peppers, onions, chives, and seasonings.

Creating a panade with the breadcrumbs and eggs ensures that the cakes keep their shape when frying. Serve them with just a squeeze of lemon juice, a creamy tartar sauce, or aioli. This crab cake recipe serves up generous portions with a nice crunch from the peppers and onions. You can easily make smaller portions if serving as a light appetizer taster.

Crab selection

Top down photo of a bowl with crab cake ingredients ready to be mixed.

Fresh jumbo lump crab or a mixture with the claws is great when available. However, jumbo lump crab meat tends to be more expensive. Canned or pasteurized and refrigerated crab is a great option year-round or if short on time. For this recipe, I use fresh pasteurized canned crab meat. I found it in the refrigerated section at my local Asian market, however, it’s sold at most large grocery stores.

Using a canned product works well because it’s a mix of meat from different parts of the crab and still has a tender texture and sweet taste. It’s much more affordable too, it cost about $14 for a pound. Make sure to drain the crab meat before using, and lightly chop it into smaller pieces if needed.

How to make crab cakes

Bowl of crab cake mixture.

You’ll need half a pound of crab meat that is broken down into smaller pieces. This makes it easier to bond together with the other ingredients. Add the crab meat to a mixture of breadcrumbs, egg, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, chopped red bell pepper, red onion, chives, salt, and pepper.

Form the patties

Four crab cakes shaped like discs and placed on a baking sheet.
Crab cake being dipped in panko breadcrumbs.

Use your hands to shape the crab mixture into four equally sized round patties, flattened to about 1 inch thick. Coat each one with panko breadcrumbs on all sides for consistent crunchiness.

Cook the crab cakes

Crab cakes cooking in a nonstick frypan.

I recommend using a large nonstick pan to cook the crab cakes. It prevents the delicate coating from sticking, making it much easier to pan-fry. Heat the vegetable oil until it’s nice and hot, but not smoking. Fry the crab cakes until golden brown and crispy on both sides. The process takes about 5 minutes per side.

What kind of sauce goes with crab cakes?

A classic pairing is crab cakes and tartar sauce. However, I’m a fan of making homemade mayonnaise, and roasted garlic to make the aioli. If you’re looking for a bit of heat, a French remoulade provides creaminess plus Cajun seasoning, most often served in Louisiana.

Cocktail sauce is a delicious option for tomato flavor. Try adding different seasonings to mix it up or get creative with the sauce. Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze on top for a citrusy flavor.

How do you make Maryland-style crab cakes?

If you’ve got fresh crabs to cook, like delicious blue crabs, then you’ll definitely get closer to Maryland-style crab cakes. Also, Old Bay seasoning and Worcestershire sauce are used for flavoring. The recipe is kept simple, with just enough breadcrumbs to bind the mayo, mustard, and fresh herbs so the sweet crab meat shines through.

More appetizer recipes

Frequently asked questions

Can I use imitation crab meat?

Imitation crab meat, like surimi used in sushi rolls, can also be used. However, the texture will be more rubbery, and the flavor is saltier. I recommend fresh or canned crab meat if you can swing it.

Can crab cakes be made ahead of time?

Yes, you can form the cakes and keep them in the refrigerator up to a day ahead of time. Although, wait to coat them with the panko until right before frying so they do not get soggy.

How do you store and reheat crab cakes?

Once cooked, crab cakes will last up to 2 days in the refrigerator. I like to reheat them in the microwave or place them on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake them at 350ºF (177ºC) until warmed through, and then broil for a few minutes to get the coating crisp again.

Showing the inside of a crab cake split open by a fork.

How do you keep crab cakes from falling apart?

Crab cakes are delicate, so using a panade of egg, mayonnaise, mustard, and breadcrumbs provides a proper binder. As the starches in the bread absorb the moisture it becomes sticky. The eggs will also set when cooking, locking the ingredients together. Make sure to form the cakes into tight patties, and be careful when flipping during cooking.

Crab Cakes

Crab cakes appetizer made with panko breadcrumbs to help bind the seafood and vegetables together while providing a crispy crust.
4.89 from 26 votes
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American

Ingredients 
 

  • ½ pound crab meat
  • 1 ½ cup panko bread crumbs, divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ cup red bell peppers, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons minced red onions
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges

Instructions 

  • Make Crab Mixture – Combine crab meat, 1 cup bread crumbs, egg, mayonnaise, mustard, salt, pepper, bell peppers, onions, and chives in a medium bowl.
  • Form the Patties – Divide crab mixture into four portions, about ½ cup packed or 4 ounces. Form into compact cakes, 3 inches wide and 1 inch thick.
  • Bread Crumb Coating – Add ½ cup of bread crumbs into a shallow bowl. Gently press and coat each cake.
  • Cook the Cakes – Heat a large nonstick saute pan over medium heat. Add vegetable oil and once hot add the crab cakes. Cook until the surface is golden brown and crispy, about 5 minutes on each side.
  • To Serve – Garnish with lemon slices or sauce of your choice.

Recipe Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: 4 crab cakes
  • Serving Size: One crab cake
  • Make ahead: Store the formed patties in an airtight container for up to 1 day. Wait to add the panko coating until ready to fry
  • Storing: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 days. 
  • Reheating: Microwave on high setting for 15 to 30-second increments until hot. Alternatively, bake at 350ºF (177ºC) until warmed through. Broil for a few minutes to get the coating crispy.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 4 servings
Calories 278kcal (14%)Carbohydrates 19g (6%)Protein 15g (30%)Fat 15g (23%)Saturated Fat 7g (35%)Cholesterol 79mg (26%)Sodium 1182mg (49%)Potassium 236mg (7%)Fiber 2g (8%)Sugar 2g (2%)Vitamin A 380IU (8%)Vitamin C 30.2mg (37%)Calcium 82mg (8%)Iron 1.9mg (11%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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14 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Graden Johnson says

    Hello Jessica,
    I read your recipe about your crab cakes and it sounds delicious. What is the carb count on these crab cakes? Are they Keto friendly?
    Thanks,
    Graden Johnson

  2. Jim Bauerlein says

    what do you think would be good dishes to serve with the crab cakes…I am
    making them next weekend & havin key lime pie for desert…I love you web site…thank you

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you Jim! I would definitely serve it with a salad. You could do a grilled corn salad, a classic Caesar salad, broccoli slaw, or coleslaw.

  3. Jeff says

    I replaced the crab with salmon, and made it 4 or 5 times. The family loves it. I made an easy topping of plain Greek yogurt, lemon, hot sauce and dill. Thank you.

    • Brynne Sissom says

      My crab cakes fell apart in the pan. I used everything as described, Jessica. I drained the canned crab so it wasn’t so wet. I’m on your email list, the oil was hot, not too hot. Too much panko?