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Maryland Crab Cakes with Quick Tartar Sauce

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

Plate of Crab Cakes with tartar sauce.

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. Don’t forget the peel-and-eat shrimp, hush puppies, and cornbread.

What You’ll Need To Make Maryland Crab Cakes

Crab cake Ingredients including panko, mayonnaise, and Worcestershire sauce.

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).

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. (For a less expensive alternative to crab cakes, or when fresh crab meat is not in season, try fresh salmon cakes.)

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.

Egg and mayonnaise mixture in a bowl.

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.

Crab mixture in a glass bowl.

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.

Crab cakes in a skillet.

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.

Bowl of unmixed tartar sauce ingredients.

Whisk well, then cover and chill until ready to serve.

Glass bowl of tartar sauce.

Video Tutorital

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Plate of Crab Cakes with tartar sauce.
Photo by Alexandra Grablewski (Chronicle Books, 2018)

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


For the Crab Cakes

  • 2 large eggs
  • 2½ tablespoons mayonnaise, best quality such as Hellmann's or Duke's
  • 1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup finely diced celery, from one stalk
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 pound lump crab meat (see note below)
  • ½ 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
  • 1½ 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 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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  • I made this for the first time for my parents anniversary dinner. I used canned jumbo lump crabmeat, tripled the recipe, and made it up the day before. The tartar sauce I made up two days before. Served it with glazed carrots, roasted green beans, and mashed potatoes. It was a HUGE hit with everyone! And as for the tartar sauce, I’m never buying pre-made in the store again. Ever. Definitely going in my saved recipes. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • — Erin P. on May 14, 2024
    • Reply
  • Excellent recipe. The crab cakes were Delicious!!!

    • — Sylvia Luna on April 25, 2024
    • Reply
  • HELP! I have friends visiting next week from Seattle, they arrive May 1st. I’m thinking of serving your Maryland crab cakes. What salad and sides would be perfect?? thank you!

    • — alana on April 24, 2024
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    • Hi Alana, I like serving the crab cakes with these string beans and cornbread muffins, but they would also be great with coleslaw. Hope that helps and that your friends enjoy whatever you prepare!

      • — Jenn on April 24, 2024
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  • This was a delicious sauce and crab cake ! Thank you for sharing! It will be on a regular rotation.

    • — Karen Brown on April 10, 2024
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  • This recipe is a 10000/10 recipe! So so easy to follow and the flavors are just mind blowing! I increased the amount of panko slightly as I was afraid it would fall apart if I didn’t. Otherwise followed this recipe to the dot and it was a maaaaajor crowd pleaser! First time I’ve ever made crab cakes and most definitely not the last. Thank you!

    • — Mariam on April 9, 2024
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  • Delicious

    • — Karen L Clemmer on April 5, 2024
    • Reply
  • The best!!!!!

    • — Dennis on April 3, 2024
    • Reply
  • Absolutely delicious! Best crab cake recipe ever!!! Thank you so much Jenn Segal for all your great recipes.

    • — Barbara on March 29, 2024
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  • Hey Jennifer, your retired Navy guy here again. I’ve made these several times and they are always great. My wife and her family are all from MD and say these are great. The typical conversation breaks out about celery/tartar sauce blah blah blah. I think I’m going to put an aioli sauce on them. My question, I made a full batch but my kids have canceled. Can I freeze the ones I don’t cook for later or just cook them and figure out other uses? Thanks
    US Navy Retired

    • — Jon Melvin on March 25, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Jon, Glad you like them and they inspire a healthy dialogue about celery vs no celery. 😊 I don’t love the way crab freezes, but it is possible. Place them on a baking sheet in the freezer just until firm, about 2 hours. Wrap each cake in plastic wrap and place in a plastic freezer bag. Freeze for up to 1 month. Defrost the crab cakes in the refrigerator overnight before cooking. You can also cook them and then freeze – before eating, just thaw, and reheat them in a 350°F oven for about 7 – 8 min or until heated through. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on March 26, 2024
      • Reply
    • Thanks for the response Jennifer, I made three last night and we put the Russian dressing from the Rueben on them. My wife likes two on a bed of greens with roasted potatoes, I had mine sandwich style. So I did not freeze the other three, wrapped them in plastic and have them in the fridge, will make them on Friday so all good. I may try the frozen thing if I make them for a crowd, as a shout out to Jen, I found her site making the “ham and cheese sliders” years ago, if you haven’t tried these your missing out. If you have a crew of adult young ones as I do make two batches there will be no left overs.
      US Navy Retired

      • — Jon Melvin on March 27, 2024
      • Reply
  • The taste is great but they really need to finish in the oven to get them hot in the middle. I had to put them in the oven for 10 minutes to get them hot.

    • — Donna Scott on February 18, 2024
    • Reply
  • I have made Jenn’s crab cakes several times. Always delicious without any doubt. This time I tried the freezing, then baking method as suggested in the comments. The verdict is… Jenn’s method of pan frying them is preferred for a 5 Star rating.
    I also baked the French Apple Cake for St. Valentine’s dessert. Shared it w/ my neighbors. Outstanding. Light and delicate. (be sure to sprinkle a little sugar on top prior to baking, as the added sweetness makes a big difference.) Also, this recipe needs enough apples for the best taste and texture, otherwise it will be bland. Note*
    I never hesitate to use one of Jenn’s recipes for company or sharing food with friends, because I am confident of a great outcome that always delivers.

    • — Dee F. (Chattanooga) on February 15, 2024
    • Reply
  • I made your crab cakes for the super bowl party yesterday and received rave reviews from everyone. I doubled the recipe and used crabmeat from Maryland which was caught, cooked, and picked by my brother-in-law. Whenever I go home to southern Maryland, I always take a cooler and bring back crabmeat that he freezes for me! I made cream of crab soup with it on Christmas Eve, and still had enough crabmeat left to make crab cakes for the party. I followed your recipe, but I put them in the freezer on the foil covered cookie sheets for a couple hours before I brushed them with melted butter and baked them at 375 degrees for about 30-35 minutes. (This way you don’t have to turn them…..perfect every time)! We put them on slider rolls to serve with tartar sauce…..YUM!! Thank you Jen! Another PERFECT recipe!!

    • — Nancy Norris on February 12, 2024
    • Reply
  • It`s Dungeness Crab season again here in Nor-Cal,we always get extra to make this recipe 2-3 times every year b/c it`s the best recipe,simple and delicious without filler to let crab shine.A total keeper we go to again and again as well as the tartar sauce.Thanks for this one Jenn.

    • — lowandslow on February 12, 2024
    • Reply
  • We cooked these a few days ago. They came out perfectly. My son ended up eating 4 of them. This is now in our family rotation. I was true to the recipe and I don’t believe it needs to be changed at all. I was concerned that they would fall apart when cooking however, pitting them in the refrigerator to firm up was perfect. I did use parchment to line my pan when I was forming them.

    • — Frank Brennan on February 7, 2024
    • Reply
  • I made this recipe exactly as written. It made wonderful crab cakes and it was super easy. I love your recipes and next I will try the salmon cakes.

    • — Gina on January 24, 2024
    • Reply
  • These were delicious and came together so easy. I followed recipe exactly as instructed. Will definitely make again. I didn’t make the sauce.

    • — Tracy P on January 15, 2024
    • Reply
  • great recipe. it came out perfect. the tartar sauce was delish and so easy to make

    • — ana on January 9, 2024
    • Reply
  • I have been making crab cakes for years with a recipe from Williams Sonoma . It was good, but I tried this recipe last night & it is fantastic! So easy and so delicious! I assembled everything in about 10 minutes & it was nice not frying the cakes in an inch of oil. I cooked half last night & the other half tonight. They were excellent tonight too. The tartar sauce was also easy & very tasty. I followed the recipe exactly as it is & can highly recommend it! Thank you for sharing this yummy recipe!

    • — Liz on January 2, 2024
    • Reply
  • I made this for dinner and the crab cakes were delish! They would be great as an appetizer as well. I will make the tartar sauce next time. Thanks for an authentic Maryland crab cake recipe.

    • — Susan Howard on December 31, 2023
    • Reply
  • Grew up on the Chesapeake Bay and never saw celery in a crab cake (that I can remember). Maybe I just missed it. But, please don’t fry in oil, use butter instead, it’s the best by far.

    • — Barry Austin on December 28, 2023
    • Reply
  • What a great recipe!!! We used jumbo lump crabmeat which we broke up a little. This was so easy and clean-up was a breeze. We left out the celery & parsley, just personal preference. We lined a small baking pan with aluminum foil (sprayed with PAM). We placed the crabcakes on the pan and baked them in the toaster oven. Baked at 375 degrees for 13 minutes, placed a pat of butter on each crabcake and baked them for 2 more minutes (total of 15 min.). They were absolutely perfect!!! The “Quick Tartar Sauce” was also amazing!!! We made this for our “Feast of Seven Fishes” on Christmas Eve and we loved it so much that we’ll be making it many more times throughout the year!!!

    • — Denise on December 25, 2023
    • Reply
  • Not sure if it was me or the recipe but this was a waste of crab meat. No flavor at all in the crab cakes and the tartar sauce was awful.

    • — T. Layton on December 24, 2023
    • Reply
    • Same on the flavor of the crab cakes. I followed the recipe and these crab cakes were SUPER mild. I didn’t make the tartar sauce- sounds like that was a good thing.

      • — Trish on January 1, 2024
      • Reply
    • The recipe did not have the temperature to bake them. What is the temperature for the oven? Do I heat the oil on the pan while preheating the oven, or do I preheat the oven first and then put the pan in to get the oil hot! I’m cooking them this weekend so I need to know, Today’s date is Wednesday 5-15-24
      My daughter made these and said that they are delicious.

      • — Sherry Summers on May 15, 2024
      • Reply
      • Hi Sherry, These crab cakes are actually just pan-fried – not baked. I like the crab cakes best pan-fried but you can cook them in the oven. 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 May 16, 2024
        • Reply
  • First time making crab cakes with left over king crab. This was super easy to follow and it really made exactly 6 half cup crab cakes! The tartar sauce was also amazing! Will always use this recipe for my left overs!

    • — Izzy on December 23, 2023
    • Reply
  • Just a BIG FYI (For Your Information): NONE of us in Maryland puts tartar sauce on our crab cakes. Tartar sauce is for fish. Pickle relish? No! No! No! Pickle relish belongs in potato salad. You missed a huge step. Refrigeration. If you don’t refrigerate the crab cakes for at least 30 minutes after forming them, they will fall apart while frying or broiling.

    • — ConneeConehead on December 17, 2023
    • Reply
    • Maybe you missed the part where Jen clearly states to refrigerate the crab cakes for at least an hour- that this helps them set.

      • — Kathy on December 30, 2023
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    • Sorry, but I was born and raised in southern Maryland and all my family use tartar sauce on their crab cake sandwiches! I have never put it on fish! Jen also lives in Maryland so obviously her family uses tartar sauce as well! This recipe is incredible!

      • — Nancy Norris on February 12, 2024
      • Reply
  • I use dungeness crab, omit the salt and they always turn out wonderful. Family likes the tartar sauce and a splash of lime directly on the cakes.

    • — Sheila Sage on December 16, 2023
    • Reply
    • Where in this recipe does it say the temperature to set oven and for how long.

      • — Laurie Minnow on January 13, 2024
      • Reply
      • Hi Laurie, I don’t have that info in the recipe as these are sautéed in a pan. Hope that clarifies!

        • — Jenn on January 15, 2024
        • Reply
  • It is Christmas time again and I have been making these every year for the past 5 years for our Christmas party. Everyone can’t get enough of these! The compliments are genuine and I need to triple the recipe as they can’t have just one crab cake. I like the fact that I can form them a day before the party. Some say the tartar sauce should be bottled and sold. I put a little less mayonnaise, but just my preference. I use good quality frozen King crab legs and they turn out great.

    • — Sara on December 16, 2023
    • Reply
  • They look delicious ! Can these be made as appetizers?

    • — Helen on December 15, 2023
    • Reply
    • Definitely!

      • — Jenn on December 15, 2023
      • Reply
  • Magnificent!

    We had 500g raw sushi tuna (frozen) on hand, so used it instead of crab meat.

    This recipe is perfect. Also, used combination of Hellman’s and kewpie mayonnaise.

    Found frying 2 at a time in a skillet is optimal, because need to keep temperature low to cook through after refrigerating so long. (the refrigeration is necessary!)

    The perfect accompaniment to my taste is capers

    • — Des on December 10, 2023
    • Reply
  • I love this recipe! It reminds me of the restaurants.

    • — Tameka on December 5, 2023
    • Reply
  • Excellent!!!

    • — Marlene on December 2, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi- I want to make these for a larger group but don’t want to spend an hour frying up while guests are here. In the comments I saw people baking them instead of frying, as well as making them ahead and then warming them up. Any chance you could give a few make-ahead suggestions or large-batch instructions? If baking on a sheet, how long and what temp? If making ahead, what’s the best re-heat method (baking? what temp? etc.).
    Oh, and I’ve made these for friends and family at least 30+ times since I first found the recipe and every single person who has tried them says they are the best they’ve ever had. Seriously. The best. Thank you, per usual, for your great recipes.

    • — Daniela Botterbusch Cole on November 9, 2023
    • Reply
    • Glad you like them! To make them in the oven, I’d suggest 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. If you make them ahead and reheat them, I’d put them on a baking sheet in 350°F oven for about 7 – 8 min or until heated through. Hope that helps and that everyone enjoys!

      • — Jenn on November 9, 2023
      • Reply
      • Thank you!! I appreciate these make-ahead instructions for an upcoming party.

        • — Melanie on December 18, 2023
        • Reply
  • I made your crab cakes for the 1st time about 2 weeks ago. The cakes were amazing! I cut the recipe in half because I’m cooking for my husband and me. The tartar sauce was super yummy too. I did leave out the pickle relish since I’m not a fan, but everything was so incredibly good I’m planning on making the crab cakes with the tartar sauce this week again. Than you for an easy but really tasty recipe! I’m a fan.

    • — Theresa Rosen on November 2, 2023
    • Reply
  • My son made for my birthday. We did not add celery, bay or Worcestershire. They still were EXCELLENT. Also we baked on sheet covered with butter at 425 until set and egg cooked. Did I say EXCELLENT?

    • — Eric's Mom on October 31, 2023
    • Reply

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