Maryland Crab Cake Recipe (2024)

Crab cakes are what Maryland is known for; picking Maryland crabs, crab cakes and Old Bay seasoning. A traditional in the Chesapeake Bay area. And maybe crab dip…

Maryland Crab Cake Recipe (1)

I’ve had the pleasure of eating some delicious (real deal), all-meat, no filler crab cakes in my time and this has taught me how to make just as delicious, all jumbo lump crab cakes at home.

What I’ve learned is that there are many version of “the best crab cake recipe” and even locals will debate you real Maryland crab cakes. Just look at the comments on this post!

Maryland Crab Cake Recipe (2)

What's In This Article

What Are Maryland Style Crab Cakes?

Authentic Maryland Crab Cakes are made with jumbo lump blue crab meat with little filler, Dijon mustard and Old Bay Seasoning plus locals secrets for the perfect cake. It is an easy recipe, but one that is often overthought.

Locals will tell you there are never any bell pepper, celery, carrot, onion or garlic in a good cake. And in fact, some would say even parsley is a huge no-no. This doesn’t mean that you can’t get a darn good Louisiana or North Carolina style cake with all of these things and using backfin, it just means it isn’t Maryland-style.

When someone says “no filler” they just mean that there is the least amount of binder possible to hold the crab meat together. It is impossible to not use any and even locals will debate until the cows come home about what is the correct filler.

Maryland Crab Cake Recipe (3)

The Perfect Crab Cake

It has been a labor of love. An expensive labor of love ranging over the past decade.

With jumbo lump crab meat costing $31+, this isn’t something you can just make over and over again until you get it right. You can’t just willy nilly make recipes that use jumbo lump crab meat.

So here we go- on an adventure to build the perfect cake at home. A softball mound of deliciousness.

You need just enough to glue your glorious pieces of jumbo lump crab meat together, but no more.In fact, some of the best crab cakes will start to fall apart from the lightest touch of a fork. It is even challenging to get them to the perfect golden brown because they are so fragile.

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Types of Crab Meat

The first thing to know is how to buy the crab meat. We are talking blue crab here, not snow crab, king crab, dungeness crab or stone crab, which have a different flavor profile and texture, thus not working well in this recipe.

And please, please, please… for the love of all things holy, do not ask me if you can use imitation crab meat! You know, the bright orange dyed processed fish stuff. The answer is NO. A hard no.

  • Claw– dark meat that comes from the claw, a little more stringy than other varieties.
  • Special– smaller pieces, comes from small little crevices or the “special” sections of the crab, good for flavoring and dips.
  • Backfin– some larger lumps coming from, you guessed it, the back of the shell, whiter meat, does well in crab cakes, feathery texture.
  • Jumbo lump– large chunks of meat, the beauty is the large pieces used for crab meat co*cktails or delicious to pop in your mouth plain, very tasty and moist.

Maryland Crab Cakes pride themselves on being jumbo lump Maryland crab, but since it is so expensive, most of them are a mix of jumbo lump and other type of meat.

For this Maryland crab cake recipe, I used all jumbo lump and it was expensive, not gonna lie. Feel free to use a less expensive option or a blend.

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Ingredients in a Crab Cake

These easy crab cakes only require a handful of simple ingredients without a lot of filler. With very little filler, you get to enjoy the natural flavor of the crab more. You can find these at your local grocery store or seafood market.

  • Fresh crab meat- many people will pick their own fresh crabs or buy it from a stand on the side of the street. If you aren’t local, you might have to buy pasteurized from the seafood department. This might look like something in a can. If you can get you hands on a clear, plastic container, that is your best bet.
  • Mayonnaise – The glue that helps hold it all together.
  • Worcestershire sauce– A heady ingredient with a wealth of flavor in small doses.
  • Dijon mustard- Adds a little zing. Core ingredient for most crab cake recipes.
  • Old Bay Seasoning -or coarse sea salt or another seafood seasoning.
  • Fresh lemon juice– Always use fresh. Any citrus juice starts to lose flavor the moment it is juiced, so the bottled stuff lacks luster. A squeeze of lemon adds so much brightness. Save a few wedges for serving after they are cooked.
  • Panko bread crumbs– Some commonly seen binders are saltine crackers, other cracker crumbs, Italian breadcrumbs and brioche. I use panko, but you can play around with any type you like.
  • Egg – to hold it all together.
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Lastly, and not actually part of the crab cake, is the crab cake sauce. Crab cake enthusiasts will tell you they should not be served with sauce at all.

Let the crab shine! Maybe a spritz of fresh lemon wedges, juice but no more. Others do allow small amounts of worcestershire sauce, hot sauce or a light salt and pepper seasoning, but these are all debatable.

I say, serve it with whatever you like. I actually like co*cktail sauce or remoulade, but most come with a side of tartar sauce or a tartar based crab cake sauce. Some even like a chipotle or lemon herb aioli.

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What to Serve with a Crab Cake

Many folks like a “steak and cake”- meaning a surf and turf type meal with beef and a crab cake. Any type of steak will do. My favorites are a grilled Balsamic Whiskey Sirloin, pan fried steak or crab imperial filet mignon.

Don’t stop there though, you can also serve it with chicken for chicken imperial or on top of a salmon filet. Or with other seafood like scallops or salmon croquettes.

And of course, side dishes like au gratin potatoes, a Jennifer Aniston Salad or grilled broccoli.

And you can’t beat a good sauce. A homemade tartar sauce, clarified melted butter or even a homemade remoulade will all make the perfect sauce.

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How to Make Crab Cakes

Making Maryland style crab cakes is fairly easy, but can take a little knowledge. The very first rule is to not overwork the filling and not break up the lovely lumps of buttery meat.

  1. Dry crab meat. Dab the crab meat with paper towels to get out excess moisture which can prohibit it from sticking. Do this gently to try not to break apart any of the large crab meat lumps.
  2. Combine wet ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, Old Bay and lemon juice. Mixing these first until well blended will prevent you from over mixing at the end.
  3. Add remaining ingredients. Add the crab meat, panko and lightly beaten egg. Toss lightly using your fingers until just moist, again, trying to not break apart any crab meat lumps. If it isn’t sticking, add more panko slowly until it binds. The moisture can vary greatly from packaging and additional binder might be needed.
  4. Form patties. Crab cakes are fragile, so treat them with care. Carefully form 8 jumbo crab cakes or 16 crab balls.
  5. Add to baking sheet. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper and lightly grease to prevent sticking. Place the crab cakes gently on the baking sheet using a spatula to transfer.
  6. Bake. Preheat the broiler to high heat. Place 4-5 inches from heating element. Broil until lightly brown on top, approximately 7-8 minutes or even less depending on your unit.
  7. Serve and garnish. Remove, transfer to serving plates using a spatula and then garnish with minced parsley (optional) and a sprinkle of Old Bay seasoning. Serve with your choice of dipping sauces or fresh lemon wedges.
Maryland Crab Cake Recipe (9)
Maryland Crab Cake Recipe (10)
Maryland Crab Cake Recipe (11)

Tips for Making Crab Cakes

​Follow these tips to make sure you make the absolute best crab cake every time.

  • Use the right type of crab meat for the cake you making.
  • Don’t overdo the filler.
  • Don’t overseason, allow your crab meat to shine!
  • Do not over sauce, let those flavors loose.
  • Don’t over mix the crab mixture, loosely toss it.
  • Don’t overcook your cakes.
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Storage and Freezing

Make this recipe in larger batches or ahead of time for easy prep at parties!

Can You Make Crab Cakes Ahead of Time?

You sure can! Although I would suggest forming the actual cake and waiting until you are ready to serve to cook them- either pan fried, broil or bake.

Since the crab is already cooked, it will be cooked a second time when you make the cakes and if you cook them and then reheat, it will be a third. Seafood doesn’t handling reheating well, so opt for just forming the crabcakes and storing them in the fridge until you are ready.

How to Store Crab Cakes

You can store leftover crab cakes in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They’re best enjoyed within two days. Reheat them by searing them in a hot skillet for 1 minutes on each side or in the oven. Of course you can microwave them for 30 seconds or so, but seafood tends to get rubbery when reheated in this manner.

How to Freeze Crab Cakes

This authentic crab cake recipe is great for freezing. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for up to one month. Unwrap and allow to thaw in the refrigerator overnight and then cook according to the directions.

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Commonly Asked Questions

Can I freeze crab cakes?

Crab cakes are one of the few recipes that contain mayonnaise that you can freeze. I prefer to freeze mine cooked instead of raw (even though the crab meat isn’t actually raw).

Can I use imitation crab meat?

Can I use imitation crab I would advise against using imitation crab meat for crab cakes. Crab is the main ingredient and will flavor the whole dish. Imitation crab meat is just a white fish compressed into crab-like shapes and then tinted a weird orange color.?

Can I make crab cakes in advance?

You sure can! Make them, form them and place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and refrigerate covered for up to 24 hours. In fact, this step can help the fragile lump crab meat hold together while cooking.

Can you fry crab cakes?

You sure can make these into fried crab cakes. Add oil to a shallow frying pan and cook for 2-3 minutes on both sides until lightly browned.

Can crab cakes be grilled?

You surely can grill them, but you need to use some sort of flat surface. The delicate meat will fall right through the grates of a traditional grill.

Do I have to use old bay?

You don’t! Old Bay is the most popular in my area because it originated in Maryland. It was bought by McCormick and is now supplied throughout the US. You can use any seafood seasoning you like or even a nice Cajun blend. It adds a little bit of salt, to any salt blend will also work.

What sides go with crab cakes?

In Maryland, they usually come with a shrimp boil, corn on the cob or french fries, but here are a few of my favorites when making them at home:
Vinegar Coleslaw
Kale Gratin
Deviled Egg Mac Salad
Bacon Wrapped Asparagus
Tomato Rice

More Crab Recipes

We love crab of all kinds are my house, so here are a few more crab recipes you might like.

  • Crab Imperial
  • Crab Melt
  • How to Make Snow Crab Legs
  • Spicy Crab and Sausage Soup
  • Baked Stuffed Lobster
  • Crab Cake Egg Rolls
  • Salmon Cakes- while they aren’t crab, they are still delicious!

Crab Smashed Potatoes

4.93 from 14 votes

Crispy smashed potatoes slathered in butter, topped with creamy crab, given another butter bath before being topped with bacon and baked.

See The Recipe!

Maryland Crab Dip

4.28 from 50 votes

Hot Crab Dip with cream cheese is a is a Maryland classic! Blended with cheese, lump crab meat and old bay, this crab dip served hot is the best party appetizer recipe!

See The Recipe!

Crab Dip Stuffed Artichoke Hearts

4.16 from 13 votes

Crab Dip Stuffed Artichoke Hearts takes traditional hot crab dip and bakes in an artichoke heart, topping it with crunchy panko and Sriracha Aioli.

See The Recipe!

Maryland Crab Cake Recipe (17)

So there you go, everything you need to know about how to make crab cakes. And if you are going for a fully Maryland theme, serve them with an Orange Crush, our favorite summer time beverage!

Maryland Style Crab Cake Recipe

4.38 from 498 votes

Maryland Crab Cakes are made with jumbo lump crab meat with little filler, Dijon mustard and Old Bay Seasoning plus secrets to making authentic Chesapeake crab cakes!

Prep Time: 20 minutes mins

Cook Time: 10 minutes mins

Total Time: 30 minutes mins

Servings: 6

Print RecipePin Recipe SaveRate this Recipe


  • 2 pounds jumbo lump BLUE crab meat
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning , plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg lightly beaten


  • Dab the crab meat with paper towels to get out excess moisture. Try not to break apart any of the large crab meat lumps.

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, Old Bay and lemon juice.

  • Add the crab meat, panko and lightly beaten egg. Toss lightly using your fingers until just moist, again, trying to not break apart any crab meat lumps. If it isn't sticking, add more panko slowly until it binds. Carefully form 8 jumbo crab cakes or 16 crab balls.

  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly grease. Place the crab cakes on baking sheet.

  • Preheat the broiler to high heat. Place 4-5 inches from heating element. Broil until lightly brown on top, approximately 7-8 minutes.

  • Remove, transfer to serving plates using a spatula and then garnish with minced parsley (optional) and a sprinkle of Old Bay seasoning. Serve with your choice of dipping sauces.

  • Have you tried our Maryland Crab Cakes? Make sure to come back and tell us how you liked them in the comments or star ratings.



Calories: 283 kcal, Carbohydrates: 15 g, Protein: 31 g, Fat: 9 g, Saturated Fat: 1 g, Cholesterol: 94 mg, Sodium: 1499 mg, Potassium: 365 mg, Sugar: 1 g, Vitamin A: 95 IU, Vitamin C: 11.6 mg, Calcium: 117 mg, Iron: 2.3 mg

Author: Jessica Formicola

Calories: 283

Course: Appetizer, Main Course

Cuisine: American

Keyword: crab cake recipe, maryland crab cakes

Did you make this recipe?I’d love to see your recipes – snap a picture and mention @savoryexperiments or tag #savoryexperiments!

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Maryland Crab Cake Recipe (19)
Maryland Crab Cake Recipe (2024)


What makes a Maryland crab cake different? ›

A true Maryland crabcake will not have herbs other than parsley and not contain onions, peppers or any other additive. Mayonaise, mustard, Worcestershire, lemon juice, and old bay are the only seasonings used.

Is it better to bake or pan fry crab cakes? ›

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).

Why do my crab cakes fall apart when I deep fry? ›

While egg is a popular choice, it alone is not enough to make crab cakes retain their shape. A starch binder is also required. The key here is maintaining the proper balance, as too little binder means your crab cakes will fall apart, but too much will give your crab cakes an unfortunate texture.

What is the difference between boardwalk style and Maryland style crab cakes? ›

Maryland Crab Cakes

Restaurant style cakes are more gourmet and are made with large chunks of crab meat so it the crab is the main focus. Boardwalk style cakes are filled with smaller chunks of crab, egg, breadcrumbs, and seasoning- Old Bay, of course.

Which crab meat is better for crab cakes? ›

For the best texture, use lump crab meat, little filler, and bake the cakes in a very hot oven. Serve with lemon wedges, a garnish of chopped parsley, and/or co*cktail sauce or tartar sauce.

What helps crab cakes fall apart? ›

There's actually a pretty easy fix for this common problem. Simply stick your crab cakes in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. The time they spend there will allow the crab cakes to solidify their shape. It also helps to bring out their flavors more, so there's more benefits to be reaped here!

How do you tell if crab cakes are done? ›

Crab Cake Cooking Directions

Place crab cakes in the preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes or until the cakes are golden brown on top and firm to the touch. When you remove the crab cakes, their internal temperature should be 145° F. Take them from the oven and let set for about 5 minutes before serving.

What temperature should crab cakes be cooked at? ›

Preheat oven to 350F. Place crab cakes on baking pan and top with butter,lemon juice and/or white wine to taste. Bake to an internal temperature of 165F (approx. 25-30 minutes for 4 ounce crab cakes).

Can you overcook crab cakes? ›

We've had the best success with the pan method using a little bit of melted butter mixed with the same amount of olive oil in a nonstick pan. (The oil seems to keep the butter from browning and burning before your cake is browned.) DON'T OVERCOOK YOUR CRAB CAKES!

Should you let crab cakes rest? ›

Form the crab mixture into 8 patties. Pat them gently into shape without pressing them too much. Drop the patties into the panko and turn them to coat both sides, patting to shake off the excess. If you have time, you can let the crab cakes chill in the refrigerator an hour or more before frying.

Why do crab cakes taste fishy? ›

Unless your seafood is literally catch of the day, chances are it will taste and smell a bit fishy, thanks to a compound found in nearly all seafood called trimethylamine oxide, or TMAO.

What holds crab cakes together? ›

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.

Why are Maryland crab cakes so expensive? ›

The cost to produce Maryland crabmeat is very high, and the price it can fetch at the market is consistently undercut by imported alternatives.

What state is best known for crab cakes? ›

While crab cakes show up on menus around the country and the world, there are few places where they are as much a part of the culture as in Maryland. Is there any food more quintessentially Maryland than a crab cake?

What is the most popular crab in Maryland? ›

Maryland Blue Crabs are on every visitor's must-eat list.

What makes Maryland crabs different? ›

Maryland crabs are the best because of the “mustard” as we call it, that bright yellow liquid, that sweetens the meat of the crab. This is actually the hepatopancreas, a main component of the crab's digestive system that looks like tubes acting as the crabs liver and pancreas.

What makes Maryland crabs special? ›

What makes it so unique, though, is that the climate helps improve the taste and amount of fat located in the crabs. Maryland blue crabs hibernate in the Chesapeake Bay throughout winter, which allows them the luxury of building additional fat reserves that have a distinct look and taste.

What's the difference between lump crab cake and Maryland crab cake? ›

Both are prepared with the same delicious ingredients except that one is made with only Jumbo Lump crab meat and the other is made with only Backfin crab meat.

Why is Maryland famous for crab cakes? ›

Being situated on the beautiful Chesapeake Bay has given the area easy access to the blue crabs that live in the waters. Crab cakes made from true Chesapeake Bay blue crabs are probably the best tasting you'll ever have. Of course you can't have a Maryland crab cake without some Old Bay seasoning.

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