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
- Crabby Totchos
- 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.
Your recipe is real. Sometimes though, I just like dumping fresh steamed crabs with Old Bay and dry mustard on butcher paper with a hammer and paring knife and pick away. I’ll use my teeth to get the meat from the legs too. Don’t forget to crack open the knuckles. Nothing left behind but shell. With ice cold beer this process should take about 4 hours. At the 2 hour mark maybe throw in a tomato sandwich or a deviled egg.
OH, Bob! We love picking crabs too 🙂 In fact, I’ve also got Old Bay Steamed shrimp on the blog. 🙂
Quick question: can these be fried instead of oven? 🙂
Sure can!Pan fried though, not deep fried. They are very fragile, they will fall apart in a deep fryer. Pan fried or even air fried totally works.
Omg!!! They were delicious 😋. Only thing I did was add a bit of salt and pepper (per grandma)!!! Thanks!!!
Native Maryland’er here- YES. THIS is the REAL DEAL if youre craving AUTHENTIC, meaty, delicate & delicious Maryland crab cakes! Its virtually impossible to find them outside of Maryland, but this is the key to having them ANYtime we want. We’re THRILLED!!
Thank you, Marie! So glad you LOVE them!
This was delicious and so very easy. I only had a pound of the Jumbo lump crab meat so I halved a few items. This still made 1 small and 4 large crab cakes. I can’t believe I’ve never made them before. Served with a salad and remoulade, it was the perfect meal.
Lovely! And thank you for coming back to let us know!
Wow! Way too wordy for a recipe. We don’t need to know how many rimmed pans you have! Just the recipe, please..
Hi Andrea, There are some folks who follow me because they like what I have to say. There is a “jump to recipe” button right at the top if you don’t care to hear what I have to say. Thank you for finding the time to spread negativity. I hope you have a great day.
No need to be rude if you look there is a place you can just touch that says “ jump to recipe” glad I could help you
WOW! These taste just like the ones I had the last time I was in Baltimore. Amazing!
We made this for dinner tonight and we loved how full of crab meat it was! It reminded us of when we visited Maryland, and it’s great how we can make this at home. Delicious and easy!
Awesome, Jamie! Glad you enjoyed it!
Wow, these crab cakes look amazing. So delicious and flaky. Yum, I can’t wait to find some blue crab meat.
What a smashing delicious and super easy to make recipe this is! I did have some crabmeat that I was debating what to do until I bumped into this recipe. Definitely a keeper.
These crab cakes look delicious and super easy to make! Take me back to my sea roots! Yummy!
Tried this receipe for the first time last night – apprehensive because I was cooking dinner for my daughter-in-law’s birthday and had no time for redo’s. I followed the recipe and did not make any adjustments (used Panko). The results were amazing! I would recommend this crabcake recipe to anyone – easy to follow
instructions with amazing results.
Thank you, Glenda, so glad you loved it and took the time to come back and let us know. It means a lot.
Thank you for sharing your Maryland Style Crab Cake recipe!
The crab cakes were easy to make and delicious paired up with jumbo wild caught Argentine Red Shrimp smothered in Old Bay seasoning. What a great Christmas dinner. We have 8 crab cake leftovers and froze them for 3 future dinners.
Fabulous! They freeze well. Happy holidays!
I tried another blogger’s crab cake recipe tonight and was extremely disappointed. I stumbled upon yours and want to give it a try. I’m just wondering, can I use canned lump crab meat?
You can- sometimes it’s the only stuff available. Just try to find a jumbo lump meat. It’s been pasteurized so it tastes just a little different.
Why is it so difficult for folks to understand CRAB CAKES are crab, not flavor changing additions. Born and raised on the Eastern Shore of Chesapeake Bay, I have had crab cakes that were “rated best” in many states along the Eastern seaboard, from Maine to Florida. Not even close to the real thing. Most use special crab, not lump. Today, most of the retail crab is from Southeast Asia. Make sure it is at least “Blue Crab”, even it’s from the Gulf of Mexico or North Carolina. Restaurants proclaiming Maryland “style” are filled with bread, diced peppers and onions as well as unidentified ingredients. Your recipe is the closest to our 4 generations of making these at home. YUMMY is all I can say.
Thank you, Dave! I’ve eaten many in my travels as well and it really makes me angry when they are just filled with seafood seasoning and other stuff. CRAB, GOOD CRAB should be your base!
It has been awhile since I had some real crab cakes and stumbled across this recipe. Looked right. It was right – couldn’t have been better. My advice is to throw away any other recipe and use this one – can’t miss (a Baltimore native).
Thank you, Dan! As a fellow Marylander, that means the world to me! 🙂
I live close to Maryland and we have a crab feast every year. We picked the remaining crabmeat and froze it. Last night I used your recipe and they were THE BEST I have ever had. (As well as my guests couldn’t stop raving over them!). Thank you!
WOOHOO! That means so much and thank you for coming back to let us know!
Absolutely AMAZING! My mom was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and has not had an authentic crab cake like this since she moved to Florida 20+ years ago! So yummy!!
Fabulous, Kristin! And thanks for coming back to let us know!
I’ve been getting Box Hill
Crab cakes for years… do you think this is a close recipe to theirs? Holy cow the shipping is expensive!
Hi Regan- I’ve never had Box Hill but I just took a look at their site and they also don’t list the ingredients. Based on the image, they are similar- both jumbo lump with little filler and no peppers. Four cakes for $75 is pricey to begin with! This will make two 8-ounce crab cakes using 1 pound of jumbo lump meat at around $30/pound. So to make four 8 ounces (theirs are 6 ounces), you are still looking at only $60 with no shipping cost. They really aren’t that hard to make, give it a whirl!
I used lump crab at about half the price of jumbo lump, followed your recipe and added a little cayenne. Blue crab a little strong for my taste. Tried the tarter sauce as well. Really great recipes, thanks.
Thanks, Mark! Blue crab certianly has a specific flavor, but they wouldn’t be Maryland style without them. 🙂
What is your fb page?
This is the closest recipe I’ve seen to an authentic crab cake. Personally, I add more mayo, Dijon and ton more Old Bay too. I also like mine with capers and green onion in lieu of parsley. And, if I’m making double the recipe, an extra extra egg so that it binds a little better.
Hi Tom, thanks for the feedback! I have to say that I’ve never had a crab cake with capers and only a handful with green onion. Where in Maryland are you from?
Love the authenticity of your crabcakes! Sometimes I use crushed Ritz or Townhouse crackers. You know– slightly buttery!
I love that sub and have totally used it too- buttery and salty are right my alley!