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Showing you how to make Crab Cakes that are full of jumbo lump crab meat and minimal breading. Serve them with tartar sauce, and offer coleslaw, French fries, hush puppies, or flaky buttermilk biscuits on the side. Mom’s simple Maryland crab cake recipe yields the most decadent, buttery, and delicious pan-fried patties — with just minutes of effort!

Side shot of crab cakes on a plate with beer and french fries in the background

Crab Cake Recipe

Once again, the classics reign supreme! My mom’s traditional crab cakes are a family favorite because they highlight the sweet, buttery natural flavor of the crabmeat — without too much breading or other fillers to get in the way. With minimal ingredients, you won’t believe how easy it is to cook restaurant-quality crab cakes at home. They’re absolutely perfect for birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, or any other special occasion!

Overhead shot of a plate of the best crab cakes with a side of fries and coleslaw

Ingredients

This is a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for the best crab cake recipe. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Egg: give the cakes structure.
  • Mayonnaise: acts as a binding agent to bring the mixture together, and adds flavor and moisture to the patties.
  • Dry mustard, salt, and pepper: extra flavor to enhance the natural taste of the crab.
  • Jumbo lump crab meat: the best of the best! See my notes below if you prefer to substitute with other types of crab.
  • Saltine crackers: a very small amount of “breading” that acts as a binder to the hold the patties together.
  • Fresh parsley: a touch of freshness.
  • Butter and oil: for pan frying the crab cakes. Butter adds flavor, while the oil has a higher smoke point.
Process shot showing how to make crab cakes

The Best Crab Meat for a Maryland Crab Cake Recipe

Jumbo lump crab meat from Maryland or Virginia blue crabs is the best of the best! While it’s also the most expensive crab that you can purchase, it’s well worth the investment for special occasions. Nothing else has the same rich, buttery texture, bright white appearance, and large chunks.

I buy the refrigerated jumbo lump crab in the seafood section at the grocery store (not the shelf-stable cans near the tuna fish). This crab meat is fully cooked and ready to use in recipes.

Frying crab cakes in a cast iron skillet

How to Make Crab Cakes

While they taste incredibly fancy, these crab cakes are one of the easiest dinners that you will ever make!

  1. Whisk together the egg, mayonnaise, dry mustard, salt and pepper in a bowl.
  2. Add the crab, crushed saltines, and chopped parsley. Gently fold everything together, just until combined. Try not to break up those big, beautiful chunks of crab as you stir.
  3. Divide the mixture into 4 large patties. I like to make a round ball or mound, and then gently press down to desired thickness. You want the patties to be pretty thick — about ¾ inch. Wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  4. Fry the crab cakes in a large skillet with butter and oil for about 3-5 minutes per side (or until golden brown).
Square image of a plate of crab cakes on a dinner table

How to Serve Crab Cakes

Serve the warm patties with lemon wedges or a squeeze of lemon juice, an extra fresh parsley garnish, and your sauce of choice.

Crab Cake Sauce

You can pair crab cakes with a variety of different sauces. Purchase tartar sauce (or make your own with this recipe), purchase cocktail sauce (or make your own with this recipe), use a remoulade sauce, or even good ole’ ketchup!

Sides

Here are some easy sides that go well with crab cakes:

Overhead shot of Maryland crab cakes on a plate with tartar sauce and lemon wedges

Make Ahead Crab Cakes

You can prepare crab cakes in advance and refrigerate the patties for up to 24 hours before cooking.

Storage

If you want to make the patties and cook them in advance, or if you have leftovers, the cooked crab cakes will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

How to Reheat

To reheat cooked crab cakes, place the patties on a rimmed baking sheet. Cover loosely with foil and warm in a 350°F oven for about 10 minutes, or just until heated through.

How to Freeze

You can freeze the patties either before or after cooking. To freeze before cooking, wrap individual patties tightly with waxed paper and foil. Freeze for up to 2 months. When ready to use, allow the patties to thaw in the refrigerator overnight before frying in a pan according to the recipe instructions.

Cooked crab cakes can be tightly wrapped and frozen for up to 2 months. When ready to use, allow the patties to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. To reheat, place the thawed patties on a rimmed baking sheet. Cover loosely with foil and warm in a 350°F oven for about 10 minutes, or just until heated through.

Close overhead shot showing how to make crab cakes

Recipe Variations

  • Add about 1 teaspoon of Old Bay seasoning to the crab mixture for some added zest and classic Maryland flavor. Other nice options include extra fresh herbs, Worcestershire sauce, or Dijon mustard.
  • Baked Crab Cakes: Pan-frying gives the patties the best flavor and a crispy, golden brown exterior. That said, you can also bake them in the oven. For baked crab cakes, preheat the oven to 450°F. Generously grease a rimmed baking sheet with butter, place patties on the pan, and brush the patties with melted butter. Bake crab cakes for 12-14 minutes, or until golden brown, flipping halfway through.
  • If you don’t want to splurge on a container of jumbo lump crab meat, you can also use lump crab meat (which is a little bit smaller than the jumbo lump) or even backfin crab meat in a pinch. Shelf-stable canned crabmeat (near the tuna fish) and claw meat are not my preference for this recipe.
Overhead shot of hands holding a plate of Maryland crab cake recipe

Tips for the Best Crab Cake Recipe

  • Chilling the patties for at least 1 hour (or up to 24 hours) before frying helps them stay together when they cook.
  • The eggs and mayonnaise act as a binder, but a filler is also important to help hold the patties together when they cook. Saltine cracker crumbs make the best filler for crab cakes. We keep the amount of breading to a minimum here, using just 5 crackers for the whole recipe. I do not recommend substituting with Panko breadcrumbs, or other bread crumbs which lack flavor and can be too crunchy. Instead, just put the Saltines in a little Ziploc plastic bag and crush them finely with a rolling pin or mallet. You can also process them in a mini food processor if you prefer.
  • Scale this recipe to feed any size crowd. If you’re cooking for just two people, cut the ingredients in half and buy an 8 ounce container of crab meat. For a larger family, double all of the ingredients and cook the patties in batches.
Close overhead shot of two crab cakes on a plate with parsley and lemon wedges

More Crab Recipes to Try

Side shot of crab cakes on a plate with beer and french fries in the background

How to Make Crab Cakes

5 from 2 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Chilling Time 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 195 kcal
Showing you how to make Crab Cakes with this easy family recipe that's full of jumbo lump crab meat and minimal filling!

Ingredients
  

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • ½ teaspoon dry ground mustard
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Dash of black pepper
  • 1 lb. jumbo lump crab meat
  • 5 saltine crackers, finely crushed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil or vegetable oil, for frying (or more, as needed, to coat pan)
  • Lemon wedges, for serving
  • Tartar sauce or cocktail sauce, for serving

Instructions

  • Whisk egg, mayonnaise, dry mustard, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add crab, saltines and parsley. Gently fold together, just until combined.
  • Form into 4 patties (about ¾-inch thick). Wrap patties in waxed paper and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  • Heat butter and oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add crab cakes and cook until golden and crispy, 3 to 5 minutes per side.
  • Serve with lemon and tartar sauce or cocktail sauce.

Notes

  • Add about 1 teaspoon of Old Bay seasoning to the crab mixture for some added zest and classic Maryland flavor.
  • Baked Crab Cakes: Pan-frying gives the patties the best flavor and a crispy, golden brown exterior. That said, you can also bake them in the oven. For baked crab cakes, preheat the oven to 450°F. Generously grease a rimmed baking sheet with butter, place patties on the pan, and brush the patties with melted butter. Bake crab cakes for 12-14 minutes, or until golden brown, flipping halfway through.
  • If you don’t want to splurge on a container of jumbo lump crab meat, you can also use lump crab meat (which is a little bit smaller than the jumbo lump) or even backfin crab meat in a pinch. Shelf-stable canned crabmeat (near the tuna fish) and claw meat are not my preference for this recipe.
  • Chilling the patties for at least 1 hour (or up to 24 hours) before frying helps them stay together when they cook.
  • The eggs and mayonnaise act as a binder, but a filler is also important to help hold the patties together when they cook. Saltine cracker crumbs make the best filler for crab cakes. We keep the amount of breading to a minimum here, using just 5 crackers for the whole recipe. I do not recommend substituting with Panko breadcrumbs, which are flavorless and too crunchy. Instead, just put the Saltines in a little Ziploc plastic bag and crush them finely with a rolling pin or mallet. You can also process them in a mini food processor if you prefer.
  • Scale this recipe to feed any size crowd. If you’re cooking for just two people, cut the ingredients in half and buy an 8 ounce container of crab meat. For a larger family, double all of the ingredients and cook the patties in batches.

Nutrition

Serving: 1crab cakeCalories: 195kcalCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 23gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 105mgSodium: 1395mgPotassium: 247mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 346IUVitamin C: 9mgCalcium: 58mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: best crab cake recipe, crab cake recipe, crab cakes, how to make crab cakes, maryland crab cake recipe, maryland crab cakes
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan

This recipe was originally published in February, 2020. The photos were updated in February, 2022.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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  1. 5 stars
    You absolutely nailed this recipe. My mother in law made the BEST crabcakes and this recipe follows hers precisely. She was adamant about using saltines, not premade cracker crumbs. Crabcakes are serious business with Marylanders.

  2. 5 stars
    Thank you so much for this information I sell Dinners every month and they live crab cakes. Your recipe have them coming back for more. Can wait till next weekend to cook more.