This is the best recipe for Crab Cakes. Bursting with lump crab meat, and flavored to perfection, these crispy crab cakes are crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside, while being lower in calories than most recipes. Absolutely perfect!
Serve these homemade crab cakes with a wedge of lemon and tartar sauce for dipping, and wow everyone with this impressive appetizer!
The Best Crab Cake Recipe
The difference between a good Crab Cake and a great Crab Cake all comes down to the details.
And this recipe for Crab Cakes knocks it out of the park in terms of flavor, texture, and ease!
- Lump crab meat is the star. If I am going to enjoy Crab Cakes, I want to enjoy the taste of crab--not the fillers. In this recipe for crab cakes, the fillers simply work to just work to enhance, not overwhelm, the delicate flavor of the crab--just the way it should be.
- Crispy, not greasy. Instead of being deep-fried, these crab cakes are coated with panko breadcrumbs and then lightly pan-fried, leaving them crispy, yet not at all heavy or greasy.
- Perfect texture. From the tender crab to the crispy coating to the moist interior, these crab cakes are delicate, yet hearty.
- Lower in fat and calories. Circling back to the fact that these crab cakes are not deep-fried, nor are they stuffed with tons of mayonnaise and breadcrumbs, they have fewer calories and less fat than traditional crab cake recipes.
- Can be baked or fried. You can opt to either bake or pan-fry the crab cakes. I prefer the texture when pan-fried, but the Baked Crab Cakes are still pretty delicious and do save a few extra calories compared to the pan-fried Crab Cakes.
- Better than restaurant crab cakes. Seriously! Because crab is the star and these crab cakes, the flavor just can't be beat!
What Type of Crab is Best for Crab Cakes?
When it comes to making crab cakes, you want to look for fresh lump crab meat. You can purchase this from a seafood market or it can be found by the seafood counter at your local grocery store.
Depending on where you live, you may find Maryland Blue Crab or Dungeness crab, which both are delicious in crab cakes. But regardless of the variety, fresh is best! You do NOT want to use canned crab meat (found next to canned tuna and salmon) when making crab cakes, as the flavor will not be nearly as good. In a pinch, use defrosted, frozen lump crab meat.
Notes on Ingredients
- Crab: Be sure to use fresh lump crab meat or frozen defrosted crab meat. Both Dungeness and Blue Crab are great options. If using jumbo lump crab meat, you will need to slightly chop it up before adding the crab cake batter, as the crab cakes won't hold together if the chunks of meat are too large.
- Bread Crumbs: This recipe uses breadcrumbs in the filler and as a light coating. Panko is the best option, as it will keep the cakes' interior light and the exterior crispy.
- Shallot: Instead of using both an onion and garlic, I love using minced shallots in crab cakes. The shallot will add mild notes of onion and garlic, without overwhelming the delicate flavor of the crab.
- Red Bell Pepper: A little bit of red bell pepper adds freshness and texture to the crab cakes. I would not recommend using green bell peppers, but feel free to use orange or yellow bell pepper, as they have a similar flavor as red bell pepper.
- Mayonnaise: This recipe uses only a small amount of mayonnaise, which adds moisture and creaminess to the crab cake. Use full-fat or reduced-fat mayonnaise, not fat-free or Miracle Whip for the best flavor.
- Lemon: Use the juice of a FRESH lemon, not jarred lemon juice. Jarred lemon juice has an artificial, bitter aftertaste.
- Old Bay: Old Bay Seasoning is the perfect blend of seasonings for these crab cakes. Use store-bought or homemade Old Bay Seasoning.
- Hot Sauce: You can omit the hot sauce to reduce the heat level of these crab cakes if desired.
How to Make Crab Cakes
- Saute the shallot and pepper. To develop flavor and soften the shallot and pepper, lightly saute the minced pepper and shallot in a bit of oil in a large saute pan until just beginning to soften. Remove the mixture from the saute pan and place them in a small bowl to cool slightly before adding to the crab cake filling. Wipe out the saute pan, so that you can use it to pan-fry the crab cakes.
- Combine the crab cake filling. In a large mixing bowl, mix together ½ cup panko with the egg, mayonnaise, Worcestershire, mustard, lemon juice, Old Bay, and hot sauce. Add in the shallot and pepper mixture and the lump crab meat. Fold everything together until just combined.
- Shape the crab cakes. First, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Then using about ⅓ cup of the mixture, shape into an even round disk and place on the baking sheet.
- Chill. In order for our crab cakes to hold together when pan-frying, it is CRUCIAL we chill them for at least 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours, prior to cooking.
- Coat the crab cakes in breadcrumbs. To give our crab cakes a crispy exterior, we want to coat them in a thin layer of panko breadcrumbs. To do this, remove the crab cakes from the refrigerator once they have been chilled, and then dip each crab cake into the remaining breadcrumbs to lightly coat on each side. Place the breaded crab cakes back on the baking sheet.
- Pan-fry the crab cakes. Heat a small amount of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is heated, add 3-4 crab cakes to the skillet and pan-fry for 4 minutes per side, or until golden, and then remove them to a platter and repeat the process with the remaining crab cakes. You don't want to overcrowd the skillet, or the crab cakes will steam instead of crisp, so it is best to work in batches.
- Serve. Serve immediately with fresh wedges of lemon and tartar sauce for dipping if desired.
Baked Crab Cakes
This recipe for crab cakes is delicious when pan-fried or baked. Baking the crab cakes saves a bit of hands-on time, not to mention a few calories.
To bake the crab cakes, place the prepared crab cakes onto a sheet pan that has been sprayed with an olive oil cooking spray. Lightly spray the exposed surfaces of the crab cakes with additional cooking spray. Bake at 450 degrees F for 7 minutes, remove from the oven and flip the crab cakes, lightly spray again with cooking spray and then return to the oven to continue baking for 5-6 minutes, or until the exterior is golden brown.
How to Serve Crab Cakes
Crab Cakes are delicious served as an appetizer with a side of tartar sauce or hot sauce. But they are also fabulous served on a toasted bun with tartar sauce, lettuce, and tomato for a Crab Cake Sandwich.
Leftover crab cakes can be stored in an airtight container once cooled for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. To reheat, broil the crab cakes for 1-2 minutes per side or heat in a 400-degree F oven for 5 minutes. You don't want to microwave the crab cakes, as they will become soggy.
Preparing in Advance
If you would like to prepare Crab Cakes in advance, you have two options.
- Up to 24 hours in advance. Prepare and shape the crab cakes and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. When ready to cook the crab cakes, remove them from the refrigerator and coat them in the bread crumbs and pan-fry or bake as directed.
- Up to 1 month in advance. Prepare and shape the crab cakes as directed. Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze for 2-3 hours, or until firm. Place the frozen crab cakes into a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 1 month. Defrost the crab cakes in the refrigerator overnight before breading and cooking as directed.
The secret to keeping crab cakes intact when cooking is to thoroughly chill the crab cakes before cooking. Once your crab cakes have been shaped, refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours before frying.
No. I recommend waiting to coat the crab cakes with a final layer of breadcrumbs until right before pan-frying. This will prevent the breadcrumbs from becoming soggy and keep your crab cakes light and crispy.
It is best to purchase crab meat that is labeled hand-picked. Which simply means someone else has gone through the meat to check for cartilage and shells. That said, I think it is always best to pick through the meat yourself to ensure that all shells and/or cartilage are removed.
More Holiday Appetizers
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- 1 ½ tablespoon oil divided
- 1 shallot minced
- ½ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
- 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs divided
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
- ½ teaspoon hot sauce
- 1 pound lump crab
- Lemon wedges for serving
- Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and pepper to the oil and cook for 3-4 minutes or until just softened. Remove the peppers and shallots to a small mixing bowl and allow to cool slightly.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix together ½ cup panko with the egg, mayonnaise, Worcestershire, mustard, lemon juice, Old Bay, and hot sauce.
- Add in the pepper and shallot mixture and crab meat and fold together until just combined.
- Shape the mixture into 8 crab cakes, about ⅓ cup mixture each. Place onto a tray and refrigerate the crab cakes for at least 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours before pan-frying.
- Remove the crab cake from the refrigerator and coat each side of each crab cake with the remaining ½ cup panko.
- Heat ½ tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is heated, add 4 crab cakes to the skillet and pan-fry for 4 minutes per side, or until golden.
- Remove the crab cakes to a platter. Add the remaining ½ tablespoon oil to the pan and repeat with the 4 remaining crab cakes.
- Serve with lemon wedges and tartar sauce if desired.