Maryland Crab Cakes with Quick Tartar Sauce

Tested & Perfected Recipes Cookbook Recipe

A Maryland staple, these crab cakes made from fresh lump crab meat and Old Bay are authentic and easy to prepare.

Crab Cakes

Photo by Alexandra Grablewski (Chronicle Books, 2018)

When you live in Maryland, eating Chesapeake blue crabs and crab cakes is practically a religion—and, in my family, we are all loyal devotees. Every summer, we hit all of our favorite crab shacks, from local joints all the way to dives on the Eastern shore, where you can look out over the Bay and put your feet in the sand.

I’d never attempt making steamed blue crabs at home (live crabs, giant steamers—yikes!) but I do often make crab cakes, which are just as delicious and so much easier to prepare, not to mention eat. The key is to use fresh lump crabmeat and to go light on the filler. These have just enough filler to bind the crabmeat together and also add great flavor. I love them with the quick tartar sauce below, but you could also serve them with lemon wedges or cocktail sauce.

What you’ll need To Make Maryland Crab Cakes

Ingredients

The most important thing when you’re making these 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 (or 12 mini ones), which feeds my family of four easily. Celery is not traditional in Maryland crab cakes, but I love the little crunch it adds; feel free to leave it out if you’re a purist.

ingredients in bowl

How to make them

To begin, combine the eggs, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire, Old Bay, salt, celery, and parsley in a bowl.

how to make crab cakes

Mix well.

crab meat and Panko

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.

how to make crab cakes

Shape into 6 crab cakes (about ½ cup each) and place on a prepared baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. This is really important to help the crab cakes set.

ready to bake

Preheat a large nonstick pan to medium heat and coat with canola oil. When the oil is hot, place crab cakes in pan and cook until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes.

frying in pan

Flip and cook 3 to 5 minutes more, or until golden.  Be careful as the oil may splatter.

how to make crab cakes

How To Make Tartar Sauce

tartar sauce ingredients

Combine the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, sweet pickle relish, red onion, lemon, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

how to make crab cakes

Whisk well, then cover and chill until ready to serve with the crab cakes.

how to make crab cakes

Enjoy!

crab cakes

Photo by Alexandra Grablewski (Chronicle Books, 2018)

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Maryland Crab Cakes with Quick Tartar Sauce

A Maryland staple, these crab cakes made from fresh lump crab meat and Old Bay are authentic and easy to prepare.

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

Ingredients

For the Crab Cakes

  • 2 large eggs
  • 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
  • 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

Instructions

For the Crab Cakes

  1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean-up.
  2. Combine the eggs, 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; using a rubber spatula, gently fold the mixture together until just combined, being careful not to shred the crab meat. Shape into 6 cakes (each about ½ cup) and place on the prepared baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. This helps them set.
  3. Preheat a large nonstick pan to medium heat and coat with canola oil. When the oil is hot, place the crab cakes in the pan and cook until golden brown, 3 to 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.
  3. Note: The nutritional information does not include the tartar sauce.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Serving size: 2 crab cakes
  • Calories: 299
  • Fat: 14 g
  • Saturated fat: 3 g
  • Carbohydrates: 9 g
  • Sugar: 1 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Protein: 32 g
  • Sodium: 1141 mg
  • Cholesterol: 275 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Reviews & Comments

  • This recipe is amazing

    • — Maggie on January 25, 2021
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  • My husband’s family lives in Maryland and since we live in Toronto, he’s been searching for a good crab cake everywhere we go. I made this for him on his birthday and he LOVED IT! So did I, they are easy to make and delicious. For the tartar sauce, I don’t like sweet so I used some dill pickle and added some freshly chopped dill. Cant wait to make this recipe again! Thank you Jenn!

    • — RM on January 23, 2021
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  • Hi Jennifer,
    I made this recipe last night and it was great. I doubled the amount for my family of four and we will enjoy leftovers today. The hour in the fridge was perfect, my crab cakes didn’t fall apart. I will definitely make them again!
    Cheers, Eva

    • — Eva A. on January 22, 2021
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  • I have made this recipe many times and absolutely love it! No changes needed.

    • — Janey on January 17, 2021
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  • This looks delicious–okay to substitute fresh Dungeness crab? Thats all i can find in WA state.

    • — Hilarie on January 5, 2021
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    • Yes, I think that should work. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on January 5, 2021
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  • I really love this recipe and have made a few times since first trying it. One thing I’ve noticed is that it can lean too salty. The first time we’ve made this, we copied recipe as is and it was a serious salt lick. The second time we’ve made, we omitted the salt and it’s generally fine but can lean too salty for those with a more sensitive palette. Curious if anyone else has experienced this and some potential solves to mitigate the saltiness?

    • — Amina W. on January 4, 2021
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  • Excellent! It’s a keeper. Next time I’ll add a little more red pepper flakes and Old Bay Seasoning, just because we like the heat more than most people.

    I don’t care if Marylanders don’t think this is the definitive recipe of the true crab cake, it was really delicious!

    • — Susan on January 2, 2021
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  • Really good recipe!! I tried baking them at 450 degrees and finished in the broiler also. Came out perfect as well. Very highly recommend this recipe!!!!!!

    • — Nick on January 1, 2021
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  • Made these last night and they were delicious! Used fresh crab meat from Costco. They were sort of wet, but fried up nicely in the pan and looked just like the picture. My husband suggested a little cayenne pepper, I think next time I will dust some with the cayenne before frying. BTW tonight is caesar salad using https://www.onceuponachef.com/recipes/caesar-salad-dressing.html. Easy and tasty.

    • — Meredith on December 31, 2020
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  • This is the real way to make crab cakes. I don’t make crab cakes often, but when I do this is how I make them. Never, ever put green or red pepper in your crab cake like restaurants do. You want to taste the crab meat. I don’t use celery, just the green tops of a scallion, but a tad bit of celery would be tasty.

    Now, I have to make some crab cakes!

    • — Ruby on December 30, 2020
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  • CAN THESE BE BAKED IN THE OVEN INSTEAD OF FRYING?

    LOVE YOUR RECEPIES AND COOKING STYLE –

    • — david on December 30, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi David, I like the crab cakes best pan-fried but you can cook them in the oven. As you mentioned, I’d suggest you use a combination of baking and broiling; bake them in a 350-degree oven on a lightly greased baking sheet for about twenty minutes, or until hot (and it’s not necessary to flip them). Then I’d slide them under the broiler for about a minute to get them golden brown on top. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on December 30, 2020
      • Reply
  • I live in Annapolis Maryland. Lost my recipe and haven’t made crab cakes in a while. This recipe is horrific. Do not listen to this person. He obviously is NOT from Maryland. DO NOT use the Panko. Maybe use one slice of white bread crumbled to little pieces just to hold the shape, and that’s it! These crab cakes were doughy and disgusting. By the way, he forgot the lemon and old bay. ALSO, we do not put celery in our crab cakes. Yuck

    • — Kim on December 29, 2020
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    • Instead of panko, try crushed ritz crackers! Way less soggy!

      • — Sonia on December 30, 2020
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    • Perhaps you misread the recipe like you misread the author’s name or couldn’t tell from her photo that the author is female.

      • — Christine on December 30, 2020
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  • I have made these crab cakes before when lump crabmeat was not as pricey as it is now. Currently, here is some good imitation crabmeat made from pollack available at substantially lower prices, and it could be cut up into a lumpy form. If I use it should I make any modification to your recipe?

    • — Bert on December 24, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Bert, I don’t think you’ll need to make any changes. Hope they turn out well!

      • — Jenn on December 24, 2020
      • Reply
  • Can these be broiled instead of fried?

    • — Rita on December 20, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Rita, I like the crab cakes best pan-fried but you can cook them in the oven. As you mentioned, I’d suggest you use a combination of baking and broiling; bake them in a 350-degree oven on a lightly greased baking sheet for about twenty minutes, or until hot (and it’s not necessary to flip them). Then I’d slide them under the broiler for about a minute to get them golden brown on top. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on December 20, 2020
      • Reply
  • As a Maryland girl, these crab cakes are spot on! Many thanks for another fabulous recipe.

    • — Jennifer on December 19, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hey Jenn – I look forward to making your crab cakes, I want to make mini cakes. I shouldn’t have to adjust anything except for the amount per cake, right?

    • — Megan Hixson on December 16, 2020
    • Reply
    • Correct – hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on December 17, 2020
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I have made these delicious crab cakes before. Loved them! But was wondering, can I assemble a day ahead, refrigerate and then cook the next day?

    • — sv on December 7, 2020
    • Reply
    • Sure SV, but I wouldn’t push it any longer than that (and glad you like them)!

      • — Jenn on December 8, 2020
      • Reply
  • Made them a couple of times (without celery; I’m a purist :)). Fried 1st time, baked the second. Both ways they came out excellent. Another dish I have no reason to order in a restaurant.

    • — ostap bender on December 6, 2020
    • Reply
  • I love crab cakes – and I love that I now have an easy recipe to follow at home. Another terrific dish! Thank you so much, Jen! Just love your blog.

    • — Cheryl on December 6, 2020
    • Reply
  • I used the basic recipe except I added 1 ½ cups of Holy Trinity, a combination of finely chopped celery, onion, garlic and 4 kinds of peppers, which I add to everything except pancakes 🙂

    • — Brooks M Rowe on December 2, 2020
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  • Hi can you bake them instead of frying them?

    • — Jude on November 24, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Jude, I like the crab cakes best pan-fried but you can cook them in the oven. As you mentioned, I’d suggest you use a combination of baking and broiling; bake them in a 350-degree oven on a lightly greased baking sheet for about twenty minutes, or until hot (and it’s not necessary to flip them). Then I’d slide them under the broiler for about a minute to get them golden brown on top. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on November 25, 2020
      • Reply
  • I have made this recipe several times now and it always turns out perfect. I was nervous about the crab cakes falling apart when I put them in the fridge but no worries – after an hour or more in the fridge they stayed together when I fried them. This is one of those recipes my husband says can never be experimented with or changed.

    • — Leanne on November 14, 2020
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  • Hi,
    This looks good. If I have 2 lbs of crab meat, should I double all the other ingredients?

    Thanks!

    • — Emily on November 9, 2020
    • Reply
    • Yep – hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on November 10, 2020
      • Reply
  • Have made numerous crab cake recipes.This recipe,first time making this one.Chilled them for hours and they didn’t form into shapeable patties.Fell apart into many pieces.Were very wet.I don’t like too much filler but this was definitely a lack of enough filler or 2 eggs is one too many.

    • — Jeff on November 9, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Jeff, Sorry you had a problem with these holding together! The nature of crab meat makes the crab cakes a little delicate, but they should hold together. It may be that your crab lumps were too big. I know it’s a shame to break up lump crabmeat, but I do find that smaller lumps hold together better.

      • — Jenn on November 10, 2020
      • Reply
  • I added three pieces of chopped cooked bacon. It was great! Didn’t do the tartar sauce.

    • — Christine Ouali on October 25, 2020
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  • Tried the crab cake recipe but did not make the tartar sauce. The crab cakes were easy to make and were very good. Fried them in oil in a cast iron skillet and they browned up perfectly. They looked as good as they tasted. I used “expired” Old Bay so that that spice was probably a bit understated but I don’t think it hurt the taste too much. I’d give it 5 stars but I rarely rate anything “perfect”. This was close.

    • — Michael Eisenhard on October 22, 2020
    • Reply
  • My wife is from Delaware and she is not shy at critiquing my crab cakes. I made her this recipe for her birthday, and she said, hands down, these were the best she’s ever eaten. My family and I agreed. I recommend using whole grain dijon mustard, as my wife thinks the turmeric in ground dijon makes the cakes bitter, and I think she’s right. Also, follow the recommendation to break up the lumps with jumbo lump crab meat to keep the cakes from falling apart. I added just a splash of sweet pickle juice to the tartar sauce to bump it up, and it worked. You were right about the French green beans with shallots as an accompaniment. Perfect!

    • — Blair on October 10, 2020
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  • Can i use canned crab meat instead of fresh crab meat? I wasn’t able to find fresh crab meat. If so, should I use 1 lb total as stated in the recipe?

    • — Myrna on October 2, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Myrna, these are definitely best with fresh crab meat but canned will work (and yes, you’ll need 1 pound). Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on October 2, 2020
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    • I used canned crab meat as well if it wasn’t for the saltiness it would have been perfect I would suggest leaving the salt out if using meat from the can. It would be good to put this as a note in the recipe.

      • — Tara on October 8, 2020
      • Reply
  • Hi Jen, I’ve tried this recipe using fresh crab meat from Costco & they were superb! but I can’t find them nowadays where we are so can I use canned crabmeat instead? if so, would I need to adjust the amount of crab meat versus fresh crab meat? the canned ones I have are 170 grams each.
    Thank you!

    • — Myrna on October 1, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Tory, these are definitely best with fresh crab but canned will work. And I believe you’ll need to use just under 3 cans. Please LMK how they turn out!

      • — Jenn on October 2, 2020
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  • Love it and wouldn’t change a thing, just wondering if you can add some shrimp to the crab cakes, or is that just too much?
    Thanks,
    D

    • — Darla Baker-LaFazia on September 19, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Darla, glad you like these! I’ve never put shrimp in these so I can’t say for sure, but I think it would work. I would just make sure that you keep the ratios the same (so cut back on the crab and replace it with the same amount of shrimp). Please LMK how they turn out if you try them!

      • — Jenn on September 21, 2020
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  • Best crab cakes we’ve ever had; the crab is really the star, as it should be. This is my new go-to recipe for crab cakes.

    • — Diana on September 9, 2020
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  • We vacation on Virginia’s Eastern Shore so we eat a lot of seafood, including crab! This week our neighbor sent over some cooked crabs, and I tried making crab cakes for the first time…they were delicious. We had some of them for breakfast in a sort of pseudo-Eggs Benedict: English muffin, smashed avocado, crab cake, egg (optional), and tartar sauce. Thanks, Jenn. I always know your recipes are going to work out!

    • — Yolanda on September 4, 2020
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  • Hi Jen,
    How can I make these crab cakes gluten free & still be awesome?

    • — L. Andersen on August 23, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi L, feel free to use gluten-free panko — they’ll still be delicious!

      • — Jenn on August 24, 2020
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  • Perfect recipe, the flavor was on the spot . My husband loved them.
    Will make again for sure .

    Thanks
    Wendy freehold NJ

    • — Wendy on August 18, 2020
    • Reply
  • Excellent! They were moist and delicious without being either “mayonnaisy” or bready. I cooked them in butter rather than canola oil and they were exceptional. The family loved them.

    • — Lydia on August 14, 2020
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  • After reviewing the recipe and reviews, I am excited to make these for my family for dinner. What sides would you recommend to accompany these delicious crab cakes?

    • — Laura on August 13, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Laura, I think the crabcakes with pair nicely with these green beans and cornbread muffins. Also, just a heads up that I have a feature on the website– for all main dishes, I suggest one or two sides that I think would pair nicely with them. To see what I’ve suggested, scroll down to the bottom of the recipe. Immediately under the recipe, you’ll see the dishes that I’ve suggested. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on August 14, 2020
      • Reply
  • Great taste & flavor. Tweaked with adding a splash of lemon juice into the mix. If pressed for time, place cakes in freezer to expedite setting of the cakes.

    • — Fred on August 12, 2020
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    • These were delicious but despite being well chilled fell apart in pan. Did not stop my gang from eating every morsel. Your recipes are always tops. Thanks for sharing.
      As an aside. I wish well intentioned cooks would make it before issuing stars and comments. How many “looks amazing” do we need.

      • — Gayle on August 13, 2020
      • Reply
  • Can I freeze these after cooking?

    • — Amber on August 3, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Amber, I’m not crazy about the way crab freezes, but a number of readers have mentioned that they’ve frozen the crab cakes successfully, so you could give it a try. 🙂

      • — Jenn on August 4, 2020
      • Reply
  • 1 LB of crab meat is WAY TOO MUCH!!! not only price wise but most importantly quantity wise for the recipe. We used half a pound of lump crab meat and it was the PERFECT amount. Taste wise though this was absolutely amazing!!! 7.5 or 8 out of 10 and i’m a tough critic. Only reason i’m giving it 4 stars is cuz the 1LB crab meat is ridiculously incorrect other than that amazing recipe and amazing cakes!

    • — Brandon Packard on August 2, 2020
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    • I found the 1-lb of crab meat to be perfect. Maybe your chunks were too large. Mine were delicious!

      • — Tracy on September 5, 2020
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    • Every crab cake recipe uses 1lb crab meat for the stated amount of servings.Definately operator error.

      • — Jeff on November 9, 2020
      • Reply
    • If you want them to taste authentic then 1lb is perfect. I live in Buffalo, NY & I too had gotten used to crab cakes with way too much filler… Until I tasted an authentic Maryland crab cake that is! These are spot on!

      • — Rosie on December 10, 2020
      • Reply
  • Delicious, very little filling and super easy and quick to make. Will definitely keep this recipe and make it again! Yum!

    • — Rudy on July 31, 2020
    • Reply
  • Made these on Sunday night & they were absolutely delicious! Perfect compliment of flavors & textures. This is now my go-to for Crab Cakes.

    • — Sharon on July 28, 2020
    • Reply
  • Great recipie! Thank you so much for sharing it!!! This was the first time that I had ever made crab cakes. I made them several days earlier and froze them. When I fried them (sliightly thawed), they came out perfect.

    • — Laura on July 26, 2020
    • Reply

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