Crab Cakes

Crispy Crab Cakes with the BEST Crab Cake Sauce are restaurant delicious made right at home!

 Iyou have never made Crab Cakes before, you are going to be delighted and shocked at just how easy they are to make at home!   These extra Crispy Crab Cakes are golden crispy on the outside, light, juicy, flavor packed on the inside.   This easy homemade Crab Cakes recipe is made with lump crab meat, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, green onions and hand picked seasonings.  They can be served as a snack, appetizer or we love them as a main dish.   I’ve also included instructions on how to freeze crab cake cakes for a no stress snack, appetizer or dinner!

up close of best crab cake recipe on a white place with crab cake sauce

What is a Crab Cake?

Have you ever had the pleasure of sinking your teeth into a decadent yet delicate Crab Cake before?  It is one of the most tantalizing bites – of. your.  life.  A crab cake is a type of fishcake made with lump crab meat, mayonnaise, eggs, mustard, breadcrumbs, and seasonings that is mixed together then sauteed, baked, or fried to create a deeply golden crispy exterior giving way to luscious, creamy crab meat interior.

Crab Cakes are extremely popular in the Untied States, especially along the coast of the Mid-Atlantic States where blue crab is popular but you can find Crab Cakes in restaurants around the world and now make your own juicy, delicate, golden Crab Cakes at home!

Best Crab Cakes Recipe

I have long been a lover of Crab Cakes.  I think it’s a texture thing.  The crispiness giving way to juicy crab meat. so so good.  Until recently, however, I never thought much about making my own at home.  That is until I had the best crab cakes of my life in Kauai at Keoki’s Paradise.  They were served with fresh corn salsa and a Tomatillo Aoili.  I could have eaten them for days.  Breakast, lunch, dinner.  Repeat.    And now we can all eat the next best thing – these homemade Crab Cakes with Tomatillo Aoili!

This easy Crab Cakes recipe tastes luxuriously delicious but is actually super simple to make at home.  The Crab Cakes are full of juicy crab meat, seasonings and fresh flavors from the lemon juice and scallions.  The cakes are also formed ahead of time and refrigerated so you can fry them up in minutes when you’re ready to serve making them the perfect deceptively easy recipe to impress your guests.

These easy Crab Cakes are also extra crispy due to the use of panko and not just flour.  If you aren’t familiar with panko, it is a Japanese breadcrumb that is light and airy and delivers tantalizing crispy results.  It can be found next the Italian breadcrumbs at your grocery store and helps makes these the Best Crab Cakes!

easy crab cakes on a white place stacked on top of each other with crab cake sauce

What Type of Crab Meat Should I Use for Crab Cakes?

There are three main types of crab meat:  lump meat, back fin meat and claw meat.  For the best crab cakes, you are going to want to use the best fresh lump crab meat.  It comes from the body of the crab and therefore is the largest pieces of crab meat.

If you are in the Mid-Atlantic States, look for blue crab, whose native habitat includes the Chesapeake Bay and is generally considered to be the best tasting and favorite choice for Crab Cakes.

You can likely purchase crab meat at the seafood counter of your grocery store or specialty seafood markets or specially stores such as Whole Foods.  When buying crab meat, look for packages labeled, “‘jumbo lump” or ‘”petite jumbo lump,”  this will ensure you get the largest pieces of crab meat.

Can I use Canned Crab Meat for Crab Cakes?

Fresh crab meat is obviously best, but for a more economical version, you can also purchase cans of lump crab meat.  I know this is blasphemy to many, but canned lump crab meat can still produce delicious Crab Cakes.

So if you are working with a budget, or you want to make Crab Cakes more often, or just want to experiment and try them once before splurging on fresh crab meat, then try canned crab meat and then when $$ or time allows, try the fresh stuff.  I just don’t want the price of fresh crab meat to keep you from making these delectable morsels.

If using canned lump crab meat, be sure to drain your cans thoroughly of excess moisture and be extremely careful not to break it up too much while mixing or forming your cakes.

top view of best crab cake recipe with crab cake sauce in a white serving dish with lemon garnish

How to Make Crab Cakes

Step 1:  Combine mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, egg and a plethora of hand picked seasonings to a bowl and mix.

Step 2:  Gently fold in your crab meat, panko and scallions.  They key to avoiding rubbery crab cakes and to achieve light Crab Cakes is NOT to overmix at this point, just enough to combine.

Step 3:  Divide out your crab mixture into 9 even portions and form into patties, taking care not to pack the crab cakes too tightly so they don’t become dense hockey pucks.

Step 4:  Refrigerate 4-24 hours or freeze for 1 hour.  This helps them bind together and makes them much easier to work with.

Step 5:   When you are ready to serve, coat the patties in panko which makes them oh so crispy – WAY better than just flour.

a collage showing how to make crab cakes by forming patties, freezing then covering with panko

How do I pan fry crab cakes?

You will need a nonstick skillet and either peanut or vegetable oil to pan fry your Crab Cakes.

  1. Add enough oil to a large nonstick skillet to cover the bottom and up the sides about 1/4″ (about ¼ cup).
  2. Heat oil over medium heat.  You don’t want the oil too hot or it will burn the panko before the center is warm.
  3. Once oil is “hot,” add 4 -6 crab cakes to oil (you will work in batches), and fry for about 3-5 minutes per side, or until golden.  You can gently lift a corner of a crab cake to check for donenss before flipping.
  4. Carefully remove the crab cakes from the oil and place onto a wire rack to drain of excess oil (alternatively you can use paper towels).
  5. Serve immediately with your Creamy Tomatillo Aioli and you will be licking the plate clean and stealing your neighbors.   Or sorely tempted to.

 Can YOU BAKE CRAB CAKES?

Yes, you can bake Crab Cakes, but don’t expect them to be as crispy as fried.

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
  3. Place 12 crab cakes evenly spaced on baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes then gently turn cakes over and bake an additional 10-15 minutes or until golden.
  5. Broil if desired to get them more crispy, watching closely so they don’t burn.

What kind of sauce goes with crab cakes?

Crab Cakes are can be served with a variety sauces from tartar sauce, horseradish aoili, curry mayonnaise but my favorite is Creamy Tomatillo Jalapeno Aioli.  It is a flavorful sauce that takes just a couple minutes to make and lick the blender delicious!

Creamy Tomatillo Jalapeno Aioli

  • 1 medium tomatillo, husks removed, roughly chopped
  • 1 small jalapeno, seeded, deveined, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2-3 tablespoon fresh lime juice (to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Add all of the ingredients to your blender and blend until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve then taste and add additional lime juice to taste.

Can you prepare crab cakes ahead of time?

It is actually best to prepare your the crab cake mixture, form the cakes, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours ahead of time.  This not only allows the flavors to meld but more importantly makes them much easier to work with and solidifies the crab cakes so they will stay together and not fall apart when cooked.

To prepare the Crab Cakes ahead of time, place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet or whatever will fit into your refrigerator, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to cook.   You can refrigerate uncooked Crab Cakes for up tot 24 hours.  Do NOT add the panko until ready to cook or it will absorb moisture and not get crispy when cooked.

You can also make your sauce for your Crab Cakes 100% ahead of time.

up close view of a crispy crab cake on a white plate with crab cake sauce

How long do crab cakes last in the fridge?

Refrigerate your cooked Crab Cakes within two hours of cooking.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.

Can crab cakes be reheated?

You can reheat your Crab Cakes in the microwave or oven.  I recommend the oven as it will produce crispier Crab Cakes, although not as crispy as when they were fried.

To reheat, place Crab Cakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
  3. While the oven is preheating, remove Crab Cakes and let them sit at room temperature.
  4. Place Crab Cakes on prepared baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until heated through.

Can Crab Cakes be frozen?

Crab Cakes can be frozen at several different stages:  freeze the filling, freeze the cakes without the panko, freeze after fried

How to Freeze Crab Cake FILLING

  1. Add filling to a freezer bag.
  2. Squeeze out excess air, seal and label.
  3. Freeze for up to 3 months.
  4. When ready to use, defrost in the refrigerator overnight and continue to follow the recipe as written.

How to Freeze Unbaked Crab Cakes

Freezing unbaked Crab Cakes works well for entertaining when you just want to put the finishing touches on at party time.  I do NOT recommend freezing the Crab Cakes with the panko because it will get soggy from the moisture when the cakes defrost.

  1.  Place formed cakes WITHOUT panko on a baking sheet so they aren’t touching.
  2.  Place in freezer and freeze until solid.
  3. Wrap each Crab Cake tightly in plastic wrap, squeezing out excess air – this will ensure ice crystals don’t form.
  4. Place all the individually wrapped crab cakes in a large freezer bag.
  5. Squeeze out excess air, seal and label.
  6. Freeze for 2-3 months.
  7. When ready to serve, defrost in the refrigerator then continue to coat with panko and fry per recipe instructions.

How to Freeze Baked Crab Cakes

  1. Cool Cooked Crab Cakes to room temperature.
  2. Place cakes on a baking sheet so they aren’t touching.
  3.  Place in freezer and freeze until solid.
  4. Wrap each Crab Cake tightly in plastic wrap, squeezing out excess air – this will ensure ice crystals don’t form.
  5. Place all the individually wrapped crab cakes in a large freezer bag.
  6. Squeeze out excess air, seal and label.
  7. Freeze for up to 4 months.
  8. When ready to serve, bake from frozen at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes, or until warmed through, turning once.
a fork taking a bite of a crispy crab cake smothered in crab cake sauce

What is good to serve with crab cakes?

Crab Cakes can be a delectable starter or make it main meal with a simple green salad and a side of fruit.  Here are a few more ideas:

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REPLACE

Crispy Crab Cakes with Creamy Tomatillo Jalapeno Dip

Homemade Crab Cakes with the BEST Crab Cake Sauce are restaurant delicious made right at home! These extra Crispy Crab Cakes are golden crispy on the outside, light, juicy, flavor packed on the inside. These easy homemade Crab Cakes recipe is made with lump crab meat, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, and hand picked seasonings.  They can be served as a snack, appetizer or we love them as a main dish.   So if you have never made Crab Cakes before, you are going to be delighted and shocked at just how easy they are to make at home!  They also make fabulous no stress, make ahead appetizers that you can reheat!  
Servings: 9 crab cakes
Total Time: 30 mins
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins

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Ingredients

Crab Cakes

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 green onions thinly sliced
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 pound lump crabmeat picked over, patted dry*
  • 1 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs, divided**
  • 1/4 cup Vegetable oil

Creamy Tomatillo Jalapeno Dip

  • 1 medium tomatillo, husks removed, roughly chopped
  • 1 small jalapeno, seeded, deveined, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2-3 tablespoon fresh lime juice (to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions

  • Stir the first 8 ingredients together in a medium bowl (through egg). Fold in scallions, crab meat and ¾ cup panko until evenly combined, taking care not to over stir/break up the crab too much.
  • Divide crab mixture into 9 even portions and form into 3/4” thick patties taking care not to pack them too tightly. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or freeze for 60 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, prepare your Creamy Tomatillo Jalapeno Dip by adding all of the ingredients to your blender and blending until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • When ready to make crab cakes, coat crab mixture in remaining ¾ cup panko, firmly pressing the panko into the patties so it sticks.
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, pan fry until golden and crisp, about 4-5 minutes per side. Serve with Creamy Tomatillo Jalapeno Dip.

Notes

*Fresh crab meat is obviously best but for a more economical version, try 3 6 oz. cans lump crab meat.  Be sure to drain thoroughly of excess moisture.
**Panko is a Japanese breadcrumb and can be found in most grocery stores next to traditional breadcrumbs.

BAKED CRAB CAKES

You can bake Crab Cakes, but don’t expect them to be as crispy as fried.
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
  3. Place 12 crab cakes evenly spaced on baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes then gently turn cakes over and bake an additional 10-15 minutes or until golden.
  5. Broil if desired to get them more crispy, watching closely so they don’t burn.

How to Freeze Crab FILLING

  1. Add filling to a freezer bag.
  2. Squeeze out excess air, seal and label.
  3. Freeze for up to 3 months.
  4. When ready to use, defrost in the refrigerator overnight and continue to follow the recipe as written.

How to Freeze Unbaked Crab Cakes

Freezing unbaked Crab Cakes works well for entertaining when you just want to put the finishing touches on the Crab Cakes.  I do  NOT recommend freezing the Crab Cakes with the panko because it will get soggy from the moisture ad the Crab Cakes defrost.
  1.  Place formed cakes WITHOUT panko on a baking sheet so they aren’t touching.
  2.  Place in freezer and freeze until solid.
  3. Wrap each Crab Cake tightly in plastic wrap, squeezing out excess air – this will ensure ice crystals don’t form.
  4. Place all the individually wrapped crab cakes in a large freezer bag.
  5. Squeeze out excess air, seal and label.
  6. Freeze for 2-3 months.
  7. When ready to serve, defrost in the refrigerator then continue to coat with panko and fry per recipe instructions.

How to Freeze Baked Crab Cakes

  1. Cool Cooked Crab Cakes to room temperature.
  2. Place Crab Cakes  on a baking sheet so they aren’t touching.
  3.  Place in freezer and freeze until solid.
  4. Wrap each Crab Cake tightly in plastic wrap, squeezing out excess air – this will ensure ice crystals don’t form.
  5. Place all the individually wrapped crab cakes in a large freezer bag.
  6. Squeeze out excess air, seal and label.
  7. Freeze for up to 4 months.
  8. When ready to serve, bake from frozen at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes, or until warmed through, turning once.

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6 Comments

  1. Laura says

    Jen, your Kauai trip looks amazing! I can’t believe all the incredible restaurants you ate at! I have been to the Big Island several times but never Kauai, it looks like its the next stop! on another note, I am going to make these crab cakes these weekend. I love crab cakes but never knew they were so easy! My husband is going to love them! Thanks for all your great recipes, I look forward to your emails every week!

    • Jen says

      Hi Laura, I a LOVE hearing that you look forward to my emails, thank you so much! Kauai truly is magical, I am so excited for you to go! And I think you and your husband are both going to love these crab cakes, they really are addicting 🙂 I hope you have a great weekend with lots of great food!

  2. Sabrina says

    These look phenomenal! I had no idea crab cakes were so easy!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Sabrina! I had no idea either but am super happy about it 🙂 I hope you can make them soon!

  3. Diane says

    My husband went out on Sunday on a crab/fishing trip and luckily came home with some fresh crabs. We made these crab cakes last night and we both thought that they were the best crab cakes we have ever eaten! Although we didn’t make the sauce last night we plan to try it out soon and I’m sure we will love it as well.
    I was wondering if you know the best way of reheating left over cakes, amazingly we had two leftover. I will try heating them in the oven on a pre-warmed stone at 350 for about 10 min and see how they are. If you have a better way I’d love to hear it for the next time we make your amazing recipe.

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for your awesome comment Diane! That is SO COOL you were able to use fresh crabs YOU caught in this recipe! And I’m honored they were the best crab cakes you’ve ever eaten! As far as reheating, your method is right on!

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