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

  • Where is the Bluebay spice available?

    • — Irene on March 18, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Irene, Old Bay seasoning is available at most major grocery stores in the US. If you live outside of the US or shop at a smaller store, you can make your own. Here is a recipe if you’d like to give it a try. 🙂

      • — Jenn on March 19, 2021
      • Reply
  • Made them tonight and they were delicious!

    • — D.Tomkins on March 16, 2021
    • Reply
  • Loved this recipe. I did put the crab cakes in the oven, followed by broiling to brown.
    No oil, less calories. Great taste!

    • — Deborah Stubbe on March 9, 2021
    • Reply
  • Just made this but made some changes. I didn’t have dijon. Used store-bought remoulade sauce. Added lemon juice 2 tablespoons..added crushed red peppers. Corn. Gave it an awesome little kick. Served with remoulade sauce.

    • — Kim g. on March 1, 2021
    • Reply
  • We loved both the crab cakes and the tartar sauce! Will definitely be making these again!

    • — Judi Green on February 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Just ok. Lacked flavor. Will not make this again.

    • — Janina Lyons on February 22, 2021
    • Reply
  • We love the crab cakes at Loeb’s Boathouse in Central Park and this recipe is very close when omitting the celery. A waiter there actually gave me their recipe and said they strive to serve the purest form of crab cakes while keeping them shaped. I use a form, which he recommended, for a perfectly round presentation and the entire pound of crab makes 6 cakes. Thanks again, Jenn for another great recipe.

    • — Patticakes from Darien on February 21, 2021
    • Reply
  • What is a suitable substitution for Old Bay. My husband is not a fan.

    • — Cynthia (Cyndi) Barrett on February 19, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Cynthia, there’s really no perfect substitute for Old Bay. You could use Cajun seasoning instead. The crab cakes willl still be good; they’ll just have a slightly different flavor. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on February 23, 2021
      • Reply
  • These are AMAZING! They are so very close to my favorite crab cakes from a local restaurant.
    Follow the recipe and you will not be disappointed.

    • — Noelle on February 18, 2021
    • Reply
  • My family loves when I make these crab cakes although I don’t eat them they are so easy to make.
    The tartar sauce is easy to make as well and is very good.

    • — Laureen Pollard on February 13, 2021
    • Reply
  • Wonderful recipe! We give it 10 stars!

    • — Nancy on February 7, 2021
    • Reply
  • These were unbelievable… they were so delicious. Key to it is to make sure your oil is the right temperature so they brown nicely but don’t burn. I had to add a little more panko so they would hold together, more like 3/4 cup instead of 1/2 cup, and I didn’t have fresh parsley so I left it out, but they were still so good. I’ll share this recipe with many friends and family members! Thanks for sharing!

    • — Jen on February 7, 2021
    • Reply
    • I agree with adding more bread crumbs, the right temperature and also making sure you definitely refrigerate them for at least an hour or more before cooking. Perfect recipe

      • — Laureen Pollard on February 13, 2021
      • Reply
  • Could I use gluten free breadcrumbs?

    • — Christyne on February 6, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure – enjoy!

      • — Jenn on February 7, 2021
      • Reply
  • These crab cakes taste AND look great. The first time I made them for our family we felt like we were eating a dinner from a high end restaurant. I’ve come back to them again and again and am never disappointed.

    • — Lisa Sletmoe on February 2, 2021
    • Reply
  • I continue to come back to this recipe for the best balanced crab cakes ever. The crab meat is the star and all the other ingredients just make the crab better without stealing the show! Frying them up in my cast iron pan makes them absolutely delicious. I have tried broiling them in the oven, but they just aren’t as tasty as they are when fried.

    • — Mike on February 1, 2021
    • Reply
  • These are the best crab cakes to make. I enjoyed making and didn’t find them to be dry like with other recipes.

    • — Natasha Murphy on January 30, 2021
    • Reply
  • I’ve made this twice now exactly as written, and both times, it was perfect. The crab is not overpowered by other flavors, and the veggies are fresh and crisp. We prefer this without the tartar sauce because the flavors are so wonderfully delicate.

    • — Shelley on January 30, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is the best crab cake recipe ever. I’ve served this often and it’s delicious. Served on a bed of arugula with a light French vinaigrette and Jenn’s tartar sauce. Delicious. I made a mistake of doubling up on the Old Bay (I’m from New Orleans and thought this would work) but don’t do that. The lovely flavor of the jumbo lump crabmeat (ours comes from the Gulf) is lost. Make this today and yes…it is adequate for a meal (two per serving).

    • — Sue on January 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • These are the best crab cakes I’ve ever had! Truly restaurant quality. I knew they’d be good when I saw the picture. I made them for friends who are very picky and they loved them!

    • — Mindy Einhorn on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Absolutely the best crab cakes recipe! I have made these at least five times, and they never disappoint! Excellent!

    • — Christine Allen on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is hands down the best crab cake recipe I ever tried, and the homemade tartar sauce is the perfect accompaniment. The panko breadcrumbs are the key to a good crunch. For the holidays, I make miniature versions of these as appetizers. We served these to some visiting friends from Maryland and they claim that these were better than any they’ve had back home! I’ve never been disappointed in any of Jenn’s recipes.

    • — Lynn J. on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • My husband loves crab cakes and for our annual New Years appetizer night, I made these crab cakes. Amazing! They are so easy to make and so good! Only change I made was to bake them. Even our picky eater liked them and that’s saying something. Try these, you won’t be disappointed!

    • — Jen on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Easy and delicious! A definite “keeper”!

    • — Kathy on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jen. I don’t know if you remember me but I’m the die hard loyal gourmet cook who used “The New York Times Cookbook,” by Craig Claiborne for over 30 years before I found you and your amazing recipes online. Just like my favorite cookbook your recipes never fail. That’s the sign to me of a great recipe or cookbook. That being said, your recipe for Maryland Style Crab Cakes were not only easy to make but delicious 😋! Crab🦀 Cakes are one of my husband’s favorite foods, and both of us agree that your recipe is hands down the best we have ever had. Tom is from a country town in Maine and I moved to Maine from New Jersey/New York 18 years ago. Tom grew up with fresh farm food and local seafood and I frequented many restaurants in New York City. He knows “fresh” and I gourmet. What a match! I always cook with my All-Clad pots and pans but I wouldn’t mind owning a Le Creuset Dutch oven that you are giving away. I’m going to try and review all the recipes I’ve used of yours to hopefully win the Dutch oven. Stay safe and well, Love, Beth 😊💕

    • — Beth Sorenson on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
    • ❤️

      • — Jenn on January 28, 2021
      • Reply
  • This was one of the first recipes I tried from your emails. I made them for a poolside cocktail party. They were bite size & I served them with the quick Tarter sauce.
    They were a huge hit, My future son in law who hates seafood loves them. I have given this recipe as well as your email address out so many times. PS I love your book.

    • — Lorie Kershaw on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
    • Would the cooking time be the same if I make 6 large crab cakes vs the smaller size (12 mini)? Thanks!

      • — Debbie Krakower on February 7, 2021
      • Reply
      • Hi Debbie, the recipe is for 6 crab cakes, so I’d just stick with the timing in the recipe. Hope you enjoy!

        • — Jenn on February 8, 2021
        • Reply
  • These crab cakes are amazing and tartar sauce are amazing even for the pickiest and crab cake snobs. (We have some in my family).

    • — Dana on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is such a great upgrade from using just Old Bay and Mayo. It gives it more flavor and crunch. I usually freeze some and pull them out for a quick and delicious lunch.

    • — Cheryl Sheppard on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • I always wanted to make crab cakes and was excited to try this recipe! It delivered! Delicious and so much more crab than what you get in a restaurant crab cake!

    • — Annie on January 28, 2021
    • Reply

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