Maryland Crab Cakes with Quick Tartar Sauce

Tested & Perfected Recipes Cookbook Recipe

A Maryland staple, these crab cakes are made from fresh lump crab meat and just enough filler to bind the crabmeat together.

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 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 easier to prepare (not to mention eat). The key is using fresh lump crabmeat and just enough filler to bind the crabmeat together. I love them with tartar sauce, but you could also serve them with lemon wedges or cocktail sauce.

What you’ll need To Make Maryland Crab Cakes

Ingredients

It’s very important to use fresh, good-quality lump crab meat. Look for fresh-off-the-boat crab meat, which is sold in a clear plastic container, usually resting on ice in the seafood department. It’s expensive, but one pound is enough to make six generous crab cakes (or 12 mini ones), which feeds my family of four easily.

If fresh lump crab meat is not available, the second-best option is refrigerated crab meat, such as Phillip’s, which is readily available year-round. Avoid shelf-stable canned crab meat, which contains additives that affect the taste and texture of the meat.

Note that 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.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Make the Crab Cakes

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

Mix well to combine.

how to make crab cakes

Add the crab meat (be sure to check the meat for any hard and sharp cartilage) and panko.

crab meat and Panko

Gently fold the mixture together until just combined, being careful not to shred the crab meat.

how to make crab cakes

Shape into 6 large crab cakes (about ½ cup each) and place on a 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 oil. When the oil is hot, place crab cakes in the 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

Make the 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.

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 are made from fresh lump crab meat and just enough filler to bind the crabmeat together.

Servings: Makes 6 large crab cakes
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 40 Minutes, plus at least 1 hour to let the crab cakes set

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
  • 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

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 over medium heat and coat with 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 the crab cakes warm with the tartar sauce.

For the Quick Tartar Sauce

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, relish, mustard, onion, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
  2. Make-Ahead Instructions: The crab cakes can be formed, covered, and refrigerated a day ahead of time before cooking. The tartar sauce can be made and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

  • These are outstanding. Best I’ve ever eaten. A couple of pointers:
    1) you have to flatten them as you cook them. I used plenty of oil and a lid. As they contain a raw egg product, you really need to make sure they’re thoroughly cooked inside. Don’t try to flatten them until you’ve cooked one side and flipped them over. Then your spatula won’t stick to the crab cake and cause it to fall apart.
    2) You can make them smaller, or larger than directed. Larger ones are a bit harder to flatten out, but your overall cook time might be lower. We used a 10″ skillet and a couple of them turned out like small pancakes; as long as you flatten them out well they’ll cook all the way through. That said, it might be easier to make them smaller, say 1/4 cup each, instead of the directed 1/2 cup each, because then you can fit more in a pan.
    3) We recommend making your own mayo for the dip. Quality mayo anyways is really important. We went off the rails on our dip and ended up spicing it up quite a bit.
    4) These are really rich, especially when fried in oil. Maybe there’s another way to cook them, but they’ll continue to be very rich regardless. So be ready for leftovers, unless you have a good size crowd or a giant tummy lol.
    5) We tried to follow the recipe exactly, except for the dip. But we doubled the recipe as we had at least twice the amt of crab specified. I think we did end up adding more celery and parsley than specifed tho.
    6) Do not skim and buy some other product. Get the Old Bay Seasoning spice! I don’t care if you have to drive far, do it. This is a critical component.

    This is a really fantastic recipe. Enjoy!

    • — Jeremiah XX Weed on October 10, 2021
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  • What a fabulous recipe! The crab cakes (and tartar sauce) were some of the best I’ve ever had anywhere. I had no problem with them sticking together, as I made sure to pull apart the jumbo crab pieces and refrigerate the formed cakes for over an hour. I’ll be making these again, for sure! Our guests were asking about the recipes (I also made Jenn’s corn muffins and apple tart), and my friend commented that she LOVED Once Upon a Chef and had just bought her cookbook!

    • — Catherine Clinger on September 19, 2021
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  • Wow! The Maryland crab I purchased was crazy expensive but so worth it. This recipe was so tasty and not loaded with a ton of breadcrumbs. My husband loves crab cakes and orders them anytime we are out for dinner. He said that they were the best he’s ever had. Slowly working my way through all of your recipes. 💜. I initially was worried that the mixture was too wet but the rest time in the refrigerator was the key. Thanks for another winner, Jenn. Your recipes make me appear to be a really good cook!

    • — Lori on September 16, 2021
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  • Excellent recipe! Just made it for dinner and everyone said it was delicious!

    • — Barbara on September 12, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this recipe for a friend who loves crab cakes. She said they were the best she had ever eaten. Every time I serve them they get rave reviews.

    • — Gordon Dahlstrom on September 12, 2021
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  • Best crab cakes I’ve ever had! Do not skimp on the fresh crabmeat, like our amazing and generous Chef has mentioned. $40 for a pound (Wegman’s) seemed steep, yes, but it was worth it. Hubby requests a bit more Old Bay next time since he’s such a fan. I might even try to use this mixture into stuffed shrimp! Thank you!

    • — Amy on September 8, 2021
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  • I made this recipe for my husband. He’s originally from Maryland and he loved them. So did I!! I’m so happy to have finally found a great crab cake recipe!!

    • — Kristina on September 3, 2021
    • Reply
  • This recipe is way too wet for 1 lb crabmeat half all the ingredients. 2 large eggs is way too much along with the worcester and mayo

    • — Rob Stokes on September 2, 2021
    • Reply
  • On point!

    • — Marcella on August 30, 2021
    • Reply

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