Crab Cakes

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Crab cakes are a stunning appetizer that’s easy to make at home. Panko breadcrumbs help bind the seafood and vegetables together while providing a crispy crust. The combination of lump crab and savory seasoning makes for a delicious start to any meal.

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 this seafood appetizer. A combination of lump crab, panko, eggs, mayonnaise, mustard, bell peppers, onions, chives, and seasonings makes for a hearty and flavorful patty. 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.

These crab cakes serve up a generous portion of seafood with a nice crunch from the peppers and onions. The little extra layer of panko makes the texture more interesting, creating tiny crisp flakes on the surface. If you’d like, you can make smaller portions, if serving as a light appetizer as a one to two bite taster.

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

How to make crab cakes

  • Combine crab, breadcrumbs, egg, mayonnaise, mustard, vegetables, and seasonings.
  • Shape crab mixture into 4 equally sized round patties, 1-inches thick.
  • Coat each crab cake with breadcrumbs on all sides.
  • Pan-fry crab cakes in a nonstick pan until brown and crispy and warm in the center.

bowl of crab cake mixture

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.

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

four crab cakes shaped like discs and placed on a baking sheet

How do you make crab cakes with canned crab?

Canned crab is an excellent choice when you don’t have fresh crab available, or are short on time. For this recipe, I used 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.

Since large lump pieces or claws are not needed, the canned product works out 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. I found that I did not need to break down the crab any further.

crab cake being dipped in panko breadcrumbs

Can I use imitation crab meat?

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

How do you make Maryland-style crab cakes?

If you’ve got fresh crabs to cook, 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, just enough breadcrumbs to bind everything together, mayo, mustard, fresh herbs, and let the sweet crab meat shine through.

crab cakes cooking in a nonstick frypan

What kind of sauce goes with crab cakes?

A classic pairing is crab cakes and tart sauce. However, I’m a fan of making homemade mayonnaise, and roasted garlic to make aioli. If you’re looking for a bit of heat, a French remoulade provides creaminess plus Cajun seasonings, most often served in Louisiana. This recipe makes for a great starting base. Try adding different seasonings to mix up the flavors or get creative with the sauce.

showing the inside of a crab cake split open by a fork

More appetizer recipes


If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo #jessicagavin on Instagram. I’d love to see what you come up with. Cheers, friends!

How do you keep crab cakes from falling apart?

Crab cakes are delicate, however, 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.

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Crab Cakes

Crab cakes appetizer made with panko breadcrumbs to help bind the seafood and vegetables together while providing a crispy crust.
Pin Print Review
4.5 from 14 votes
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time30 mins
Servings 4 servings
Course Appetizer
Cuisine American


  • 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


  • Combine crab meat, 1 cup bread crumbs, egg, mayonnaise, mustard, salt, pepper, bell peppers, onions, and chives in a medium bowl.
  • Divide crab mixture into four portions, about ½ cup packed or 4 ounces. Form into compact cakes, 3-inches wide and 1-inch thick.
  • Add ½ cup of bread crumbs into a shallow bowl. Gently press and coat each cake.
  • 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.
  • Serve with lemon slices or sauce of your choice.

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Nutrition Facts
Crab Cakes
Amount Per Serving
Calories 278 Calories from Fat 135
% Daily Value*
Fat 15g23%
Saturated Fat 7g35%
Cholesterol 79mg26%
Sodium 1182mg49%
Potassium 236mg7%
Carbohydrates 19g6%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 2g2%
Protein 15g30%
Vitamin A 380IU8%
Vitamin C 30.2mg37%
Calcium 82mg8%
Iron 1.9mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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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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7 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?
    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.

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