I think crab should be the primary flavor in Crab Cakes - not mustard or spices or bread crumbs: crab! Well crab and a buttery crisp crust. Do you agree? If so, then this easy Crab Cake Recipe is for you!
In restaurants, I almost never order crab cakes (or Crab Salad). Only if I've seen them and know that they actually look like crab on the inside and not like breadcrumb patties. So often crab cakes are loaded with filler ingredients and too many other flavors.
For this crab cakes recipe, I start with fresh crab meat and add just a few simple ingredients to hold them together. Then coat them in panko breadcrumbs so they have that delicate crunch on the outside once you fry them. (I love to fry them in a mixture of oil and butter because butter and crab are made for each other! )
This is often referred to as 'Maryland-style' (though it's not technically a Maryland crab cake unless it's made with Maryland blue crab). I love how the Detroit Free Press defines it: "A true Maryland crab cake has discernible pieces of crab. It's made with just enough filler to hold it together, and it has a sweet crab flavor."
Look for high-quality lump crab meat that has a mix of of large and smaller pieces. You can also use jumbo lump crab meat (without the smaller pieces), but it's more of a challenge to keep the crab cakes together when frying and is substantially more expensive.
I don't recommend using canned crab for the best crab cakes. It's worth the splurge to use fresh lump crab. But if you decide to try this recipe with canned crab, keep in mind that the quality varies a lot by brand. Here is an article that reviews some of the most common.
I tried several recipes to come up with just the right ingredients to highlight but not overpower the taste of the crab. Most recipes call for dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce and/or Old Bay Seasoning, ingredients that I like for some foods, but not for crab cakes as they overwhelm the crab flavor. And I skipped the bell pepper and/or celery that many recipes call for, opting for just some minced green onion. Again, crab should be the star!
Important Recipe Tip
There is one challenge to this lump crab cake recipe: you'll have to be gentle when flipping them - they're not little hockey pucks, so they require some finesse. But you'll also find them forgiving.
Once you add the crab cakes to the pan, gently press down on the tops with a spatula to flatten them slightly and if they crumble a little on the flip, you can gently press them back together with your spatula. You'll get the hang of it, I promise. And the delicately crispy, buttery, crab-forward (is that a thing?) result will be totally worth the effort.
Serve these crab cakes with lemon wedges (for that perfect little squeeze of lemon) and Remoulade Sauce or French Remoulade Sauce (similar to tartar sauce) for dipping. To make these a meal add a simple green salad or Wedge Salad. And, for a feast, add a wedge of skillet cornbread or bowl of Tomato Bisque. Hungry yet?
How to Make Crab Cakes
Step 1: Whisk together egg, mayonnaise, lemon juice, hot sauce and green onion and gently fold into crab.
Step 2: Scoop out crab mixture and shape into ½-inch thick crab cakes. Gently coat each crab cake in panko breadcrumbs and transfer to parchment lined platter or baking sheet.
Step 3: Fry crab cakes in a large, hot cast iron or nonstick skillet in a sizzling blend of butter and olive oil. cook 4-5 minutes on each side until golden brown. Serve with lemon wedges and remoulade sauce for dipping.
Easy Crab Cakes
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 pound lump crab meat
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice ideally fresh
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce such as Tobasco original
- 2 green onions finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or a high heat oil like avocado or canola oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- kosher salt for finishing, optional
- lemon wedges for serving
- chopped fresh parsley or chives, for garnish, optional
- 1 recipe Remoulade Sauce for serving, optional
- Set up your breading station: Line a platter or baking sheet with parchment paper and spread panko breadcrumbs onto a medium plate.
- Place crab in a medium bowl. In a separate small bowl, whisk together next 5 ingredients (egg through green onions). Gently fold egg mixture into crab meat until fully combined.
- Scoop out ⅓ to ½-cup of the crab mixture and shape into a ½-inch thick crab cake. Gently coat the crab cake in panko breadcrumbs and place on prepared platter or baking sheet. Repeat with remaining mixture.
- Heat olive oil and butter in a heavy, large skillet (ideally cast iron) over medium heat until sizzling. Add crab cakes and cook 4-5 minutes, gently press down on the tops with a spatula to flatten them slightly. Gently flip and cook 4-5 minutes more, until golden brown; if they crumble a little on the flip, gently press them back together with your spatula.
- Lightly sprinkle with kosher salt to finish (optional). Serve hot with lemon wedges, a sprinkle of fresh parsley or chives (optional) and Remoulade Sauce for dipping.