Crab cakes are what Maryland is known for; picking Maryland crabs, crab cakes and Old Bay seasoning. A traditional in the Chesapeake Bay area. And may be crab dip…
I’ve had the pleasure of eating some delicious (real deal), all-meat, no filler crab cakes in my time and this has taught me how to make just as delicious, all jumbo lump crab cakes at home.
What I’ve learned is that there are many version of “the best crab cake recipe” and even locals will debate you real Maryland crab cakes. Just look at the comments on this post!
What's In This Article
What Are Maryland Style Crab Cakes?
Authentic Maryland Crab Cakes are made with jumbo lump blue crab meat with little filler, Dijon mustard and Old Bay Seasoning plus locals secrets for the perfect cake. It is an easy recipe, but one that is often overthought.
Locals will tell you there are never any bell pepper, celery, carrot, onion or garlic in a good cake. And in fact, some would say even parsley is a huge no-no. This doesn’t mean that you can’t get a darn good Louisiana or North Carolina style cake with all of these things and using backfin, it just means it isn’t Maryland-style.
When someone says “no filler” they just mean that there is the least amount of binder possible to hold the crab meat together. It is impossible to not use any and even locals will debate until the cows come home about what is the correct filler.
The Perfect Crab Cake
It has been a labor of love. An expensive labor of love ranging over the past decade.
With jumbo lump crab meat costing $31+, this isn’t something you can just make over and over again until you get it right. You can’t just willy nilly make recipes that use jumbo lump crab meat.
So here we go- on an adventure to build the perfect cake at home. A softball mound of deliciousness.
You need just enough to glue your glorious pieces of jumbo lump crab meat together, but no more. In fact, some of the best crab cakes will start to fall apart from the lightest touch of a fork.
It is even challenging to get them to the perfect golden brown because they are so fragile.
Types of Crab Meat
The first thing to know is how to buy the crab meat. We are talking blue crab here, not snow crab, king crab, dungeness crab or stone crab.
- Claw– dark meat that comes from the claw, a little more stringy than other varieties.
- Special– smaller pieces, comes from small little crevices or the “special” sections of the crab, good for flavoring and dips.
- Backfin– some larger lumps coming from, you guessed it, the back of the shell, whiter meat, does well in crab cakes, feathery texture.
- Jumbo lump– large chunks of meat, the beauty is the large pieces used for crab meat cocktails or delicious to pop in your mouth plain, very tasty and moist.
Maryland Crab Cakes pride themselves on being jumbo lump Maryland crab, but since it is so expensive, most of them are a mix of jumbo lump and other type of meat.
For this Maryland crab cake recipe, I used all jumbo lump and it was expensive, not gonna lie. Feel free to use a less expensive option or a blend.
Ingredients in a Crab Cake
- Fresh crab meat- many people will pick their own fresh crabs or buy it from a stand on the side of the street. If you aren’t local, you might have to buy pasteurized from the seafood department.
- Mayonnaise – The glue that helps hold it all together.
- Worcestershire sauce- A heady ingredient with a wealth of flavor in small doses.
- Dijon mustard- Adds a little zing. Core ingredient for most crab cake recipes.
- Old Bay Seasoning (or coarse sea salt or another seafood seasoning)
- Fresh lemon juice– Always use fresh. Any citrus juice starts to lose flavor the moment it is juiced, so the bottled stuff lacks luster.
- Panko bread crumbs– Some commonly seen binders are saltine crackers, other cracker crumbs, Italian bread crumbs and brioche. I use panko, but you can play around with any type you like.
- Egg – to hold it all together.
Lastly, and not actually part of the crab cake, is the crab cake sauce. Crab cake enthusiasts will tell you they should not be served with sauce at all.
Let the crab shine! Maybe a spritz of fresh lemon wedges, juice but no more. Others do allow small amounts of worcestershire sauce, hot sauce or a light salt and pepper seasoning, but these are all debatable.
I say, serve it with whatever you like. I actually like cocktail sauce or remoulade, but most come with a side of tartar sauce or a tartar based crab cake sauce. Some even like a chipotle or lemon herb aioli.
What to Serve with a Crab Cake
Many folks like a “steak and cake”- meaning a surf and turf type meal with beef and a crab cake. Any type of steak will do. My favorites are a grilled Balsamic Whiskey Sirloin, pan fried steak or crab imperial filet mignon.
Don’t stop there though, you can also serve it with chicken for chicken imperial or on top of a salmon filet. Or with other seafood like scallops or salmon croquettes.
How to Make Crab Cakes
Making Maryland style crab cakes is fairly easy, but can take a little knowledge. The very first rule is to not overwork the filling and not break up the lovely lumps of buttery meat.
- Dab the crab meat with paper towels to get out excess moisture which can prohibit it from sticking. Do this gently to try not to break apart any of the large crab meat lumps.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, Old Bay and lemon juice. Mixing these first until well blended will prevent you from over mixing at the end.
- Add the crab meat, panko and lightly beaten egg. Toss lightly using your fingers until just moist, again, trying to not break apart any crab meat lumps. If it isn’t sticking, add more panko slowly until it binds. The moisture can vary greatly from packaging and additional binder might be needed.
- Crab cakes are fragile, so treat them with care. Carefully form 8 jumbo crab cakes or 16 crab balls.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper and lightly grease to prevent sticking. Place the crab cakes gently on the baking sheet using a spatula to transfer.
- Preheat the broiler to high heat. Place 4-5 inches from heating element. Broil until lightly brown on top, approximately 7-8 minutes or even less depending on your unit.
- Remove, transfer to serving plates using a spatula and then garnish with minced parsley (optional) and a sprinkle of Old Bay seasoning. Serve with your choice of dipping sauces or fresh lemon wedges.
Tips for Making Crab Cakes:
- Use the right type of crab meat for the cake you making.
- Don’t overdo the filler.
- Don’t overseason, allow your crab meat to shine!
- Don’t over sauce, let those flavors loose.
- Don’t over mix the crab mixture, loosely toss it.
- Don’t overcook your cakes.
Commonly Asked Questions
Crab cakes are one of the few recipes that contain mayonnaise that you can freeze. I prefer to freeze mine cooked instead of raw (even though the crab meat isn’t actually raw).
Can I use imitation crab I would advise against using imitation crab meat for crab cakes. Crab is the main ingredient and will flavor the whole dish. Imitation crab meat is just a white fish compressed into crab-like shapes and then tinted a weird orange color. ?
You sure can! Make them, form them and place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and refrigerate covered for up to 24 hours. In fact, this step can help the fragile lump crab meat hold together while cooking.
You sure can make these into fried crab cakes. Add oil to a shallow frying pan and cook for 2-3 minutes on both sides until lightly browned.
You surely can grill them, but you need to use some sort of flat surface. The delicate meat will fall right through the grates of a traditional grill.
You don’t! Old Bay is the most popular in my area because it originated in Maryland. It was bought by McCormick and is now supplied throughout the US. You can use any seafood seasoning you like or even a nice Cajun blend. It adds a little bit of salt, to any salt blend will also work.
In Maryland, they usually come with a shrimp boil, corn on the cob or french fries, but here are a few of my favorites when making them at home:
Deviled Egg Mac Salad
Bacon Wrapped Asparagus
More Crab Recipes
- Crab Imperial
- Crab Melt
- How to Make Snow Crab Legs
- Spicy Crab and Sausage Soup
- Baked Stuffed Lobster
- Crab Cake Egg Rolls
- Salmon Cakes- while they aren’t crab, they are still delicious!
So there you go, everything you need to know about how to make crab cakes. And if you are going for a fully Maryland theme, serve them with an Orange Crush, our favorite summer time beverage!
More Favorites from Savory Experiments
Maryland Style Crab Cake Recipe
- 2 pounds jumbo lump BLUE crab meat
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning , plus more for garnish
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
- Dab the crab meat with paper towels to get out excess moisture. Try not to break apart any of the large crab meat lumps.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, Old Bay and lemon juice.
- Add the crab meat, panko and lightly beaten egg. Toss lightly using your fingers until just moist, again, trying to not break apart any crab meat lumps. If it isn't sticking, add more panko slowly until it binds. Carefully form 8 jumbo crab cakes or 16 crab balls.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly grease. Place the crab cakes on baking sheet.
- Preheat the broiler to high heat. Place 4-5 inches from heating element. Broil until lightly brown on top, approximately 7-8 minutes.
- Remove, transfer to serving plates using a spatula and then garnish with minced parsley (optional) and a sprinkle of Old Bay seasoning. Serve with your choice of dipping sauces.
- Have you tried our Maryland Crab Cakes? Make sure to come back and tell us how you liked them in the comments or star ratings.
I was ruined after having the BEST crab cakes in Maryland until i came across this recipe! This has become a staple for quick weekly dinners as well as larger gatherings at the house. Thank you!
Aw, thank you! Glad you loved them so much. A good crab cake recipe is hard to find 🙂
I have made crabcakes exactly like this many times. i was born and raised in Baltimore and been eating blue crabs since I could sit at the table. I do however use French’s classic yellow mustard instead of grey poison. Although both are good. Also I always chop 1 TB. fresh parsely. Your recipe is spot on, but I guess depending on where in Maryland you grew up is the difference in some ingredients. Although I would not use seasoned breadcrumbs. As kids we ate our crabcakes on saltines with French’s mustard, the cakes were much smaller then.lol. I do have a question. When making large crabcakes ( 6oz.- 8oz.) I have trouble keeping them together. So what do you think about lightly and gently dusting them with cornstarch to act as a glue? I don’t think it will change the flavor. So for now I stick with 5oz. Cakes. But I am going to try this one day. I also think the cornstarch would crisp up nicely. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
Hi Keith! Totally true that depending on where you grew up depends on the recipes. I’ve heard of so many types of binders- crackers, panko, bread crumbs and more, and they are all good, just a little different.
It is hard to hold them together when they are large, that is SO true! Cornstarch might hold them together, BUT you might have an issue with texture rather than flavor. It can have a little bit of starchy texture unless heated to a high heat and crab cakes don’t cook for long enough to get that.
What I would try is molding them and then letting them firm up a bit in the fridge or freezer to help it bind. Everything is cooked, so you are really just looking to heat them through than actually cook the food. I also use an ice cream scoop so they are piled more high than flat. it is easier to keep a mountain together than a hockey puck. If you think about a lot of the restaurants in the area, a good cake is described as being like a baseball, not a pancake.
And if they break a little, there is ZERO shame. I would rather serve a jumbo lump cake with a few large pieces rolling off than a perfectly formed cake with nothing but backfin and filler.
Hope that helps and let me know how they turn out!
I made these for a crowd at Christmas. Made small meatball sized cakes and baked them in mini muffin pans. They disappeared so fast! Everyone loved them, even me. I am not a huge crab cake fan because of all the filler junk in them. These however are really easy and amazing. Thanks for posting a go to recipe for me.
Awesome, Nancy! Thanks for coming back to let us know!
Hi Jessica, I question the amount of crab called for in your recipe ( 2 pounds); Every recipe I’ve seen to date (and I’ve seen tons of them) calls for only 1 pound…?
Hi Linda! I do use 2 pounds and make 4 jumbo crab cakes. If you wanted to cut it back to 1 pound, that is fine, just half the rest of the recipe and make slightly smaller crab cakes.
To much verbiage before getting to recipe , annoying
Hi William- all that verbiage actually has some useful information about crab and crab cakes- I’m sorry it was too much for you to have to scroll for a half a second to get to the recipe. My readers have varying expertise levels in the kitchen and many follow me purely because I provide so much helpful information in addition to fabulous recipes.
Spot On Jessica
Some people get annoyed by themselves. Keep doing what you do!
Thank you, Kevin!
I love blue crab. Your recipe is spot on.
Grew up not too far from you. My other favorite is soft shell crab fried crunchy.
Thanks, Myrna! Soft shell is another fun one, although I’ve never made that one at home.
Never made crab cakes before. My son was coming home and he just loves the cakes, so I decided to make them. Was looking for a recipe and found this one. Absolutely fabulous. So easy to make, done in just a few minutes. I did have to gradually add more panko, a little at a time. Thank you, my son was over joyed.
I have made the crab cakes several times now and love this simple recipe! I’m from eastern shore Md and have had some of the best crab cakes restaurants on the shore have to offer, mine now are as delicious and filler free as there’s!! The cost saving to so easily make your own is phenomenal !!! Thank you
You are SOOOOO welcome! We love them too!
Yaaaaasssss! The only way to make crab cakes!!!!
YAAAASSSS! We agree! 🙂
Born and raised in Maryland and this is the same recipe we have always used ingredient wise. We don’t measure it out here but try to keep the filler items super minimal, like you mentioned. No sauce needed of course. They melt in your mouth. Marylanders usually will not order crab cakes out of state other than parts of Delaware and Virginia who know how to make a proper crab cake too. We are super particular. Mixing lump and backfin usually gives a great meaty consistency to your cake. Thanks for your recipe and defining so well what truly makes a MD crab cake.
Thanks for the feedback, Jen! I spent a lot of time “researching” how to make the perfect cake. Tough job, but someone has to do it! LOL.
Delicious! In case anyone wondering gluten free options I substituted the sane measurement for chickpea flour and it worked perfect. You can not taste the flour. My parents both from Baltimore, and we always had these. Nothing to me beats a Maryland crab cake. You gotta have Old Bay.Tastes just like memories at the Grandmother’s house. Thank you!
So glad you loved it!
The Maryland Crab Cake recipe My Mother gave me —She was born in Baltimore —back in the early 30’s —uses Saltine Crackers —not Panko—a much later invention !
This recipe is very close to the one I use. I live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and we eat a lot of seafood. The main difference is we use Ritz crackers as the filler. Also, our jumbo lump isn’t quite as expensive as yours or we would never eat crab cakes!
Oh yeah, forgot to say I cook on a griddle and use remoulade sauce as the topping.
Thanks for stopping by to let us know! If crab was less expensive, I’d be eating them WAY more often. LOL.
Easy to make and absolutely delicious!!
Thank you, Sharon! So glad you enjoyed them!
Thank you for posting this recipe. It is wonderful since I have been a Marylander native for most of my life. G &M has about the #1 crabcake In Linthicum Maryland and this almost matches it. The only difference I believe is that they add Mustard Powder to the mixture of wet ingredients and use mostly special meeat mixed with some Backfin and then they roll it in backfin. But, your crabcake is excellent as well. I have pinned this to my board for Crab and look forward to using the recipe for years to come. Thanks Again, Tom
Thank you, Thomas! I agree, G&M has a smashing crab cake! There are so many ways to make really good ones that I hesitate to ever call any cake “the best”, ya know? I totally understand using powder to not add to the wet ingredients, but even with the best powder, I find that creamy Dijon adds the punch I really look for.
The Recipes are very good
We were at the Narrows in Kent Island area, and they gave us their crab cake recipe complimentary. we are
going to Charlotte, NC and my job is to make crab cakes. Could we complimentary have
Hi Georgina, I am a little confused as to what you are asking me?
These babies look so good!! I have never had crab cakes (I know, sad, huh) but I grew up in West Texas and …….. Now these are on my list of foodies to try!
Pinning and sharing!!
I can’t see how anyone wouldn’t love them- but still, let me know how it goes!
I bet these would be a big hit at our Super Bowl party. Thanks for sharing at Saturday Dishes.
Thanks for having me and stopping over, Kerry!
I love crab cakes. You are making me so hungry! Thanks for linking up to Saturday Dishes Super bowl link up. I pinned these!
Thanks for having me and pinning, Diane.
Thanks for inviting me over. These look so good!!!
Hi! Loved the recipe…just wondering how many crab cakes is a serving? I made 8 crab cakes…Im doing weight watchers and was just trying to figure out the points.Thanks!
Hi! I generally make 4 really big ones, so just divide the nutritional info in half. I just changed recipe cards and the serving size isn’t showing well. Thanks for helping me see that !
Hey Jessica! Where is the very Best place to Buy the Freshest Jumbo Blue Crab Meat???
Hi Conrad- where are you located? In my area, it is from a guy selling crab on the side of the road from crabs he got that morning! LOL. Second best is unpasteurized, this can be challenging to find when not on the East coast or Gulf coast. Most grocery stores have a pasteurized version in a lined metal can, that is the third best. You can also order fresh crab meat online, but this gets even more pricey because you have to do overnight and chilled shipping. https://www.ilovecrabs.com/crab-meat-md-jumbo-lump.html