Maryland Crab Cakes with Quick Tartar Sauce

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When you live in Maryland, you eat crabs. It’s a summer pastime: picnic tables covered with brown paper, silver buckets, buttered corn, french fries, and the unmistakable scent of seafood and Old Bay. It’s that time of year, and my mind is already drifting to all those weathered crab shacks at the Eastern Shore, where you can look out over the bay and put your feet in the sand. Is it August yet?

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Some people might be so daring, but I would not attempt an all-you-can-eat crab feast at home. (Live crabs, giant steamers…yikes!) I would, however, make crab cakes, which are just as delicious and super easy to prepare. And — added bonus — your children will probably like them. At least mine do, and that includes one finicky little 5-year-old.

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The most important thing when you’re making crab cakes is to use fresh, good quality lump crab meat. I get mine at Whole Foods, which can be expensive, but one pound is enough to make six generous crab cakes, which feeds my family of four easily. Or, if you live in the DC area (and are willing to make the trek into the city), you can find great quality, inexpensive crab meat at the Maine Avenue fish market.

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The other key to great crab cakes is to go light on the filler. These have just enough to bind the crab meat together and add great flavor.

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I love them with the tartar sauce below, but you could also serve them with lemon wedges or cocktail sauce. As for accompaniments, think corn on the cob, french fries, coleslaw or any simply prepared green vegetable.

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Maryland Crab Cakes with Quick Tartar Sauce

Print Recipe
Servings: Makes 6 crab cakes, enough to serve 3 adults as a main course


For the Crab Cakes

  • 1 large egg
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise, best quality such as Hellmann's or Duke's
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup finely diced celery, from one stalk
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 pound lump crab meat (see note below)
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • Vegetable or canola oil, for cooking

For the Quick Tartar Sauce

  • 1 cup mayonnaise, best quality such as Hellmann's or Duke's
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon minced red onion
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


For the Crab Cakes

  1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Combine the egg, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire, Old Bay, salt, celery, and parsley in a large bowl and mix well. Add the crab meat (be sure to check the meat for any hard and sharp cartilage) and panko; gently fold mixture together until just combined, being careful not to shred the crab meat. Shape into 6 crab cakes (about ½ cup each) and place on prepared baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  3. Preheat a large nonstick pan to medium heat and coat with canola oil. When oil is hot, place crab cakes in pan and cook until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes per side. Be careful as oil may splatter. Serve immediately with tartar sauce or a squeeze of lemon.

For the Quick Tartar Sauce

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
  2. Note: If you can only find jumbo lump crab meat, you may need to break the pieces up a bit. If the clumps are too large, the crab cakes won't hold together well.


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  • Ree

    I Was born and raised in Maryland….Love our crab cakes this recipe sounds really good minus the CELERY…..No CELERY

  • Cecilia Rischmiller

    I read the whole recipe and it sounds very easy to do, and with all these ingredients have to be delicious. I agree with Jennifer fresh and good quality ingredients are the key for success when you cook

  • Melissa

    I’m from Maryland. bred and buttered!!! And altho this recipe does sound good. NO true Marylander would add any veggie to their Crab Cake!! Don’t mess with perfection!!! Now…I
    ‘m hungry for crab cakes!! :)

  • Millie

    I have made this recipe and I absolutely love them and so does the family. I grew up on Long Island, N.Y. and they have great crab and lobster and I have also made this recipe with lobster meat. Amazing.

  • nancy hilliard

    What would you recommend as a fill in for “Old Bay”? I am a West Coaster (Canada) and am not familiar with this seasoning….

  • I made these for Christmas Eve – they were delicious. I omitted the celery – just a personal preference – everything else was followed to the recipe. Will be added to my recipes book as a staple. Thank you!

  • John C

    I grew up in Maryland and have kept the food traditions alive since leaving the state many years ago. Personally I like your recipe, but would forgo the celery and Old Bay, and add a 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper. I have never used panko, only 2 slices of finely chopped bread crumbs (white bread) per pound. Lastly, I would never put steak sauce on a quality steak and cringe at the thought of tarter sauce on a delicate and bound to be delicious crab cake. But go with what you like. Cheers!

  • Angie Fronzaglia

    Best Crab Cakes ever! The Tartar sauce was amazing! Will be making these again soon!

  • Jo

    If we don’t have old bay seasoning, what would be a nice replacement?

    I also don’t know what panko is :) don’t think we have it here

    • Jenn

      Hi Jo, Here’s a recipe for Old Bay:link to

      Panko is a type of breadcrumbs; if you can’t find it try crushed up saltine crackers.

      • nancy hilliard

        Panko Japanese Breadcrumbs can be found in the deli section here in Canada – they are lighter than regular B Crumbs and way tastier!- hope you find them!

    • nancy hilliard

      Look above Jo – I had to ask the same question! :-)

      • nancy hilliard

        (re: Old Bay)

  • I was searching for a quick tartar sauce recipe on Pinterest & found yours- I just whipped it up at the last minute for dinner & it’s great! This was my first attempt and it’s a keeper- thanks so much!

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