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.
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
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. (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.
Make the Crab Cakes
To begin, combine the eggs, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire, Old Bay, salt, celery, and parsley in a bowl.
Mix well to combine.
Add the crab meat (be sure to check the meat for any hard and sharp cartilage) and panko.
Gently fold the mixture together until just combined, being careful not to shred the crab meat.
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.
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.
Flip and cook 3 to 5 minutes more, or until golden. Be careful as the oil may splatter.
Make the Tartar Sauce
Combine the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, sweet pickle relish, red onion, lemon, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
Whisk well, then cover and chill until ready to serve.
YOu may also like
- Hot Crab Rangoon Dip with Crispy Wonton Chips
- Crab Soup
- Salmon Cakes
- Cioppino (Fisherman’s Stew)
- Pan-Seared Scallops with Lemon Butter
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.
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
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean-up.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Note: The nutritional information does not include the tartar sauce.
- 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.
I am a true born and bred Marylander. I have been working on the perfect crab cakes for nearly 20 years and think I just may have perfected it! Your recipe is pretty close, however, I don’t use parsley or celery and instead of panko, which I have tried, the original saltine cracker finely crushed works the best, 10-14.
It’s also very important to drain your crabmeat first. This may be the culprit if your crab cakes don’t bind. I also always broil them.
Love your recipes!
This recipe looks delicious. I am from Western Washington and we have delicious dungeness crab. Wondering if this recipe would work? Thanks!
Sure, I think dungeness crab should work. Hope you enjoy!
Hi Jen I have a question ?? Can i substitute the crab for Mahi Mahi fish.
On another note I love all your recepies,
Hi Suzanne, So glad you like the recipes. I don’t think Mahi Mahi would work here, but do think you could use it in these salmon cakes. Hope you enjoy if you make them!
Very easy and super tasty crab cakes. love it!
We made it too July 1 2022. Absolutely a keeper!!!
We love these crab cakes! I usually need to double the recipe and I’m wondering if they can be flash frozen and then thawed and cooked another time?
Glad you like them! I generally don’t love the way crab freezes, but it’s doable. Place the uncooked crab cakes on a plate in the freezer until firm, about 2 hours. Then wrap each cake in plastic wrap and place in a plastic freezer bag and freeze for up to 1 month. Hope that helps!
These are a family favorite!
Because the prices of crab skyrocketed, I have been using Lion’s mane mushrooms to satisfy the family’s crabcake cravings. With this recipe, they are still delicious!
Sometimes I switch up the flavors with red onion, cilantro, and cayenne pepper.
PS. My husband is from Maryland and he didn’t realize I had used Lion’s mane mushroom instead of crab. 😂 Loved them still.
I just made these for dinner and once again the recipe was spot on!!! I so appreciate your guidance, Jenn. I made it exactly as written and it looked the same as your photos. You bring me such joy. Thank you.
I made this before & it was perfect. The tarter sauce was wonderful!! I will make it with imitation crab tonight & see how the flavor is affected by the change in crab used.
I was considering using imitation crab. How did they turn out?
These are amazing, easy, and dang near idiot proof. Great simple recipe.
These are DELICIOUS. The “lack of binding ingredient” someone else mentioned may not have read the recipe: it uses eggs and panko, which does delicate binding while simultaneously keeping the crab taste front and center. I was a little short on panko so I crunched up about 6 club crackers and they did a nice job keeping things together just a little bit more so I didn’t have to chill them (always trying to cut down on prep time, I admit!). All-star results!
Do not use this recipe.
This recipe lacks a binding ingredients to hold cakes together.
Don’t waste your time.
eggs + panko = binding agents
I’ve been making this recipe for years now, ever since I received it in my email box. It’s wonderful. I was sold when Jenn said use just enough filler to hold the crab together, not vice versa. I’ve also used flounder and pollack in this recipe which I then call seafood cakes. Instead of tartar sauce I serve them with remoulade sauce.
This was my first time making crab cakes and they turned out 10/10. Can’t find any complaints. It’s a solid recipe that you can tweak to your specific tastes (do you want an extra crunchy outside layer or a little spicy kick?) Super happy I found this recipe – the proportions are spot on, hardly any excess juice (didn’t need to squeeze out like some other recipes I found). Wish I could share a picture here. It was perfection. Thank you!
This was the best crab cake recipe I’ve ever made! So, so good. I made this exactly as written and used a small plastic 1/2 cup measuring cup, which formed the perfect sized cake. I’ll be making this one again & again. I can’t imagine what the problem was with the previous commenter’s version. Anyway, thanks again, Jenn!
Sorry to say this was definitely not the Maryland style crab cake I’m used to. I followed this recipe because I was not able to find my own. It was too wet even after adding a second pound of lump crab meat. It was a total mess. I’m very disappointed because crab cakes is not something my family eats regularly, its what we call a nice treat. This batch was not.😞
These are amazing. I have been making them for years. Even my picky eater likes them. We haven’t been able to order crab cakes at restaurants since we first ate these (and we aren’t too far from the Chesapeake bay). The ones at restaurants are always too bready. There have been a few instances where I couldn’t refrigerate them for at least an hour. They fell apart when cooking them, but they still taste just as good.
Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe. My husband super loved it.
I made this but I used my scallop tins and then air fried them! Excellent!
By far my favorite Crab Cake recipe! I’ve served this as both an entree and make smaller ones for an appetizer and every time it’s a winner. Haven’t made the tarter sauce, but I did make the crab cake sauce in her other recipe and it’s delish, but even just served with a lemon is perfection.
Awesome recipe, I did double the old bay and more panko. Turned out perfect.
Making these for the 2nd time tonight. An excellent crab cake recipe my whole family enjoys. I did eliminate the celery because my son-in-law does not like the flavor. I also, as another reviewer suggested, only put in a little more than half of the panko into the mix and then covered the outside of the crab cakes with the rest. Love your recipes!
I made these last night and they were so delicious! I followed the recipe EXACTLY, except that I baked the crab cakes instead of frying them. I baked then for 12 minutes at 375 and then put the broiler on for a minute. The recipe made 11 crab cakes (I used an ice cream scoop) and I froze 6.
Thank you for such a special dinner!!!
I loved this recipe so much . It’s really awesome
These crabcakes were absolutely perfect. I didn’t add celery but followed the recipe to a “t” and they turned out perfectly. Finally a recipe that doesn’t add fillers like peppers! This is a keeper – thanks Jenn.
I’m sure these would be delicious, but authentic Maryland crab cakes aren’t made with filler & they can are fried not baked
Bill. Please go back and reread the recipe, they are fried. Although, broiling is perfectly acceptable. The recipe is great, really close to mine, but alas alac I am a purist so no celery or tarter sauce.
So good, loved them!!
Can you send me a non filler recipe ? Clfleyer@yahoo.com
I’ve made this recipe at least 10 times in not so many months. So delicious! Very easy recipe as well. It’s my go to. I can probably make it from memory but I always come back here just in case. Thanks! 💝
Delicious, loved them!
I could only find claw meat, would that work? Also, can you freeze these uncooked?
Hi Tracey, I don’t love the way crab freezes, but it is doable. Place the uncooked crab cakes on a plate in the freezer until firm, about 2 hours. Then wrap each cake in plastic wrap and place in a plastic freezer bag and freeze for up to 1 month. Hope that helps!
The tip about refrigerating is great. I was in a rush so I popped it into the freezer for five minutes. Also I forgot celery so I used 1/4 c onion + celery salt (skipped actual salt). Great recipe!!!?
Really easy to put together. In the refrigerator right now. Can’t wait to taste.
Fantastic recipe. Followed exactly with the addition of one green onion (because I am obsessed with those)! Hubby said they were the best crab cakes he has ever had! And my salt loving guy did not add any extra salt. That never happens. Thank you Jenn.
Can I substitute shrimps/prawns for the crab?
Hi Naz, I haven’t tried it but a few readers have commented that they’ve used shrimp successfully. I’d love to hear how they turn out if you try it!
These crab cakes were restaurant quality. We do crab legs for New Years. Made these with our left over crab and they were so good!!! The sauce is unique.
Love these crab cakes. Not a bunch of filler. You taste the crab and everything else just brings out more flavor. We halve the recipe for the two of us. Makes four crab cakes at 1/2 cup each. We serve it over the Caesar salad on this website. The only change we made was to leave out the Panko until the end. Then measure out a half cup of the mixture in round measuring cup, put it in plastic to help form a cake and then carefully place it on a plate of Panko and make the crust around it. Use your hands to keep it in the right shape. A little slippery but it’s doable. Thanks Jenn.
This is my go-to recipe for New Year’s Eve. My husband is a crab cake junkie and absolutely loves these. The only change I make is that I omit celery and make half of the tarter sauce. It’s an outstanding recipe. Thank you so much for sharing it with us!
Maryland born and bred. Very similar recipie to my families 4th generation. The key, and I can’t stress this enough, to this or any crab cake recipe is the crab meat. Fresh MD lump or backfin which can be very difficult to obtain the further you get from the Chesapeake and off season even if your local. Most Maryland restaurants (95%) don’t serve Maryland crabmeat anymore due to the cost and to a lesser extent the supply.
Many of the issues that people have commented negatively I would be willing to bet are related to using imported or previously frozen or canned crab meat. All of which is inferior to the fresh MD product which has a sweet crab flavor that’s a must for crab cakes. Most restaurants over season their cakes to hide the inferior quality crabmeat. Butter, Salt, Old Bay, Worcester Sauce, and Mustard in elevated amounts to make up for the deficiency of the product. Fools a lot of people who are willing to shell out big bucks for a crab cake that is no comparison to the authentic product. Yeah, call me a crab snob but I grew up catching, cooking, and eating the real thing. Not gonna change it after almost seventy years.
I served these crab cakes last night (Christmas Eve) and they are truly are the best…moist, flavourful, and festive. I used best quality frozen crab meat and was very pleased with the result. This will become a new favourite.
I made these for a quiet New Year’s Eve dinner with my husband. The smell of these cooking caught his attention but when he saw the sauce, his comment was that he might prefer cocktail over tartar sauce. Well, he raved about the crab cakes, including the sauce, and definitely wants them in heavy meal rotation! The only slight modification I made was to cut back on the sweet relish and add some finely minced garlic. Delish!!
We lived in Northern Virginia (DC) for six years and Virginia Beach for two, and these fit our memories of awesome crab cakes. (I could never beat the atmosphere at Chick’s Oyster Bar in VB, but these have the taste.) I followed the recipe exactly…except the celery, because we are purists :). The price of crab has gone sky high since the pandemic, but these were worth every penny for good lump crab meat. We’ve never found a restaurant that made crab cakes that fit our expectations, but these do. Thanks! Love this recipe! Another keeper!
Include jalapeño and serve with corn salsa.
Hi Jenn, I see you must have spent some time in Maryland since you are about the only one outside of there to get the recipe almost right. 🙂 Just a note from someone from there and spent many days for lunch at G&M’s that has about the best crab cake in Maryland. Add a little of the dry mustard along with the wet and we would only put in 1 extra large egg and not two large eggs. If you have to add breadcrumbs, please reduce by half or use one slice of bread with a little milk. G&M’s would use special and lump meat for the inside of the cake and coat the outside with back fin lump and then broil them after 30 minutes in the frig. I don’t know of anybody in Maryland that would add celery to the crab cakes. We want the flavor of the crab to shine. You now have pretty much the original recipe from Maryland. We would use the other parts of the crab for soup or stews or pasta dishes and I would be very happy for that in the winter months. enjoy and I like what you did. the recipe was actually a 4.5 star but, I had to stop at 4.
Say it again, You have to from MD. I have never put celery in my crab cakes either
Fantastic recipe that was enjoyed by the entire family! I cooked them in an air fryer and would highly recommend. 8 minutes per side at 375 degrees.
Wondering if this will work with imitation crab since I’m allergic to shellfish
Hi Riah, Yes it will work, although the taste will be different.
Has anyone tried baking these in the oven, instead of frying them?
No amounts given for ingredients
Hi Mary, It sounds like you are just looking at the portion of the page that has the pictures with some instructions underneath. If you scroll down a bit to under the pictures, you’ll find the full recipe. Alternatively, at the very top of the page, to the right of the recipe name, you’ll see an orange/red button that says Jump to Recipe – if you click on that, it will take you directly to the recipe. Hope that clarifies!
Ditto! I would love to save a dish washing 😁 Any oven baking advice would be great!
Hi Shawna, 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!
I just made these crab cakes. I followed the recipe exactly. I spent $50 on fresh frozen crab and shelled it.
It was so salty that I may have to throw them away. If I ever can afford to make them again, I will either eliminate the Old Bay Spice or reduce by half. I found them inedible. So disappointed!!
Really tasty and so easy to make! A real crowd pleaser! Everyone always raves about them when I make them.
I have even made these with good quality raw prawns, as I couldn’t find crabmeat. Both are delicious! I am thinking of combing crab and prawns another time to get the best of both!
Thank you for such a wonderful recipe!
Best crab cakes I ever made. Only had 8 oz of crab so I added 1/4 cup extra of panko. Did not have parsley so I added 1 finely chopped green onion. Easy and delicious.
Another recipe of yours that we absolutely love! I follow several different cooking bloggers but yours is, by far, my favorite! I very seldom make any changes. They are wonderful as written!
I forget to make comments and of course I should. Thank you!
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!
I absolutely agree with you on this. 1/4 makes more sense. It takes time to cook 1/2 cup and needs more oil and covering is a must while cooking to make sure it cooks through to hold it together with lower temperature. Thank you for the tips.
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!
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!
Excellent recipe! Just made it for dinner and everyone said it was delicious!
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.
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!
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!!