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Deliciously juicy Maryland Crab Cakes are easy to make and a great way of showcasing one of the best seafood ingredients! They can be served large for a main course or small as appetizers that will be the talk of your event!
Delicious Maryland-Style Crab Cakes
It’s time for another installment in my American Eats series, where I’m visiting each state, one at a time, by making some of its most iconic foods. This week it’s Maryland and these plump, juicy crab cakes with little filler are one of the foods that the “Old Line State” is best known for.
Maryland crab cakes are first and foremost supposed to showcase the unique and wonderful flavor of crab rather than bulking them up with too much mayo or breadcrumbs. A little mayo and breadcrumbs is necessary as a filler to help bind the crab cakes together, but you don’t want to overdo it.
When it comes to choice of filler, the recipes I looked at ran the gamut from breadcrumbs to saltine crackers to bread. I opted for Panko breadcrumbs because I always have them in my pantry and I don’t always love the texture of pulverized crackers as a filler in similar recipes.
What kind of crabmeat should I use?
If you are in Maryland, you would be looking for their famous Chesapeake Blue Crabs. Elsewhere in the country, you might be getting dungeness crab, which is also delicious and will work just fine for this recipe even if the taste is slightly different from Maryland crabs.
Ideally, fresh, real lump crabmeat is best, but refrigerated pasteurized lump crabmeat works too if that’s what is available to you. You can also go with frozen crabmeat. Just don’t use canned crabmeat (found near the canned tuna) or imitation crabmeat for these crab cakes if you want them to taste like the real thing.
The people at the meat and seafood counter are very helpful in pointing you in the right direction if you aren’t too familiar with crab and are having trouble finding it. I have found pretty decent lump crabmeat at Costco here in California.
What You’ll Need
- Crab meat: Crab has an almost sweet flavor that seafood lovers will definitely enjoy. Imitation crab meat is just white fish that is pressed into a similar shape and dyed an orange color on the ends.
- Mayonnaise: Use real, full-fat mayonnaise for this recipe. The ingredients are minimal, so you can really tell if reduced fat mayo or Miracle Whip is used. The mayo helps bind the crab cakes as well as keeping them juicy and moist.
- Breadcrumbs: Keeping the amount of breadcrumbs to a minimum is one of the keys to real Maryland crab cakes. It’s just enough to help give some structure and hold the crab cakes together while still letting the crabmeat take center stage.
- Mustard: This ingredients increases the depth of flavor.
- Green onions: I love the fresh crunch and zesty flavor of green onions in these crab cakes.
- Old Bay seasoning: This seasoning bland was created in Maryland and plays a starring role in many of the recipes coming up celebrating the 7th state to join the U.S.A.
- Worcestershire sauce: This ingredient adds more flavor and an umami quality.
- Lemon juice: A little fresh lemon juice brightens things and keeps the crab cakes tasting fresh. I like serving them with extra lemon wedges on the side as a garnish to squeeze more juice over the tops of the crab cakes.
- Egg: An egg helps hold the crab cakes together.
- Fresh parsley: A bit of chopped parsley adds another fresh element to these. I don’t recommend using dried parsley in its place.
- Salt & pepper: These key ingredients keep food from tasting boring or bland.
How to Make Crab Cakes
- Prep work: Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat mat.
- Mix the flavor enhancers and binding agents: Combine green onions, mayo, egg, parsley, Old Bay seasoning, dijon mustard, worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Whisk everything together with a fork.
- Gently mix in crabmeat and breadcrumbs: Toss gently to evenly moisten the breadcrumbs and meat. Try not to break up the crab meat any more than necessary. The mixture should look similar to tuna fish that you make for a sandwich when you think it still needs more mayo. It will just hold together, but not be overly wet.
- Shape crab cakes: Use a 1/2 cup measuring cup sprayed with nonstick spray to scoop out 6 equal-sized mounds of the crab mixture. Gently shape them into mounds or fat, round discs about 2 1/2 inches across. Arrange the mounds on the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake: Place them in the preheated oven for 12-14 minutes. They should be turning golden brown on top and around the edges.
- Garnish and serve: Serve hot with your favorite dipping sauce and lemon wedges for squirting over the crab cakes.
Tips for the Best Crab Cakes
- Don’t pack your crab cakes too tightly: When you scoop them out, they should just hold together. You don’t want to squeeze them like a snowball or they will turn out like a hockey puck, rather than having a flaky, delicate texture.
- Mix everything together gently: If you are too heavy handed when mixing the crabmeat and breadcrumbs into the mayo mixture, you run the risk of breaking apart the luscious chunks of sweet crabmeat. Think of it as more “folding” or “tossing” the ingredients together rather than stirring.
- Storing Leftovers: Keep uneaten crab cakes in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can also freeze cooked crab cakes for 2-3 months. Thaw and reheat in the microwave or in a 350 degree F oven until hot.
- Freezing Instructions: Uncooked crab cakes can be frozen for 2-3 months. Make the crab cakes, then freeze them for 2-3 hours before wrapping in two layers of plastic wrap. To bake, thaw in the fridge overnight and bake as directed the next day.
How to serve crab cakes
We like making a dinner out of these, serving them with some sides and eating them with a fork and some cocktail or tartar sauce on the side. They make great party food, especially since you can prepare them in advance and just bake them right before serving. You can make smaller hors d’oeurves-size versions and serve them as appetizers for a party or other event.
Another option is to make a crab cake sandwich by using a full-size crab cake between a buttered and toasted bun with some butter lettuce and an aioli or other sauce.
Are crab cakes better baked or fried?
You can either bake or fry these crab cakes. My personal preference is to bake them because it’s easier (no risk of them falling apart when you flip them) and they are less prone to drying out (it’s easy to overcook the crab cakes when frying them in a pan).
The upside of frying is you get a wonderful crispness on the outside of your crab cakes that I love. I haven’t tried these in the air fryer yet, but I’m thinking that might give me the best of both worlds and it’s on my list to try the next time I’m making these. If you have one and want to experiment, let me know in the comments how it goes!
What to serve with crab cakes
- Caesar Salad
- Deviled Egg Potato Salad
- Boiled Corn on the Cob
- Steamed or roasted vegetables
- Summer Fruit Salad
- Homemade French Fries
- Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries
More Recipes Like This
- San Francisco Cioppino Seafood Stew
- New England Fish Chowder
- How to Cook Alaskan King Crab Legs
- Maine Lobster Rolls
- Classic Shrimp Cocktail
- The Ultimate Shrimp Po Boy Sandwich
- Crispy Coconut Shrimp (Fried or Baked)
- 1 pound fresh jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over to remove any cartilage or shell fragments
- 4 green onions, green parts only, chopped
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1/2 cup plain panko breadcrumbs
- Lemon wedges & a sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
- Tartar sauce, creamy chipotle chile sauce, remoulade sauce, cocktail sauce, etc.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat mat.
- Combine green onions, mayo, egg, parsley, Old Bay seasoning, dijon mustard, worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Whisk together with a fork.
- Add the crab meat and breadcrumbs, then toss gently to evenly moisten. Try not to break up the crab meat any more than necessary.
- Use a 1/2 cup measuring cup sprayed with nonstick spray to scoop out 6 equal-sized mounds. Gently shape them into mounds or fat, round discs about 2 1/2 inches across and place them on the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake for 12-14 minutes until lightly golden brown on top and around the edges.
- Serve immediately with your favorite dipping sauce and lemon wedges for squirting over the crab cakes.
- Frying: If you prefer to fry your crab cakes, you will need an additional 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup vegetable oil. After shaping the crab crakes, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes (or up to 24 hours). Place the flour on a plate and lightly dredge each crab cake in the flour. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a skillet, then fry each crab cake for 4 to 5 minutes on each side in the hot oil before transferring to a wire rack.
- Storing Leftovers: Any leftovers can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days or frozen for 2-3 months. You can reheat in the microwave or in a 350 degree F oven for 10-12 minutes until hot.
- Freezing Instructions: You can freeze uncooked crab cakes. Just make and shape the crab cakes, then freeze them for 2-3 hours. Once frozen, wrap them well with two layers of plastic wrap. To bake, thaw the crab cakes in the fridge overnight and bake as directed the next day.
- Smaller Crab Cakes: As is, these crab cakes are filling and large. You can make smaller, half-size crab cakes. Decrease the baking time to around 8-10 minutes.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 263Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 109mgSodium: 871mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 2gSugar: 5gProtein: 18g
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods and portion sizes per household.
Curious about foods from other states in my American Eats series? Check them out below!
Alabama • Alaska • Arizona • Arkansas • California • Colorado • Connecticut • Delaware • Florida • Georgia • Hawaii • Idaho • Illinois • Indiana • Iowa • Kansas • Kentucky • Louisiana • Maine • Maryland • Oregon • Puerto Rico • South Carolina • South Dakota • Texas