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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.

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

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. (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.

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!

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Crab Cakes

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

Ingredients

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

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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Comments

  • These crab cakes are incredible. I live in Ocean City, Maryland, and let me assure you that I’ve eaten plenty of crab cakes before. These are the best I’ve ever tasted and certainly the best I’ve ever made. I was able to use fresh caught crab and I’m not sure I’ll have crab any other way again! The recipe was straightforward and they turned out beautifully! Now if I could just get someone to ‘pick’ crabs for me in the future – I’d be making these weekly!

    Five stars, hands down.

    • — Anne on October 31, 2023
    • Reply
  • Amazing!! Thanks for a great recipe. We made these tonight using fresh jumbo lump blue crab meat from the gulf. Absolutely fantastic. And the tartar sauce was perfect with just a splash of tabasco!

    • — Kirsten Juhl on October 26, 2023
    • Reply
  • I’ve made these crab cakes using this recipe several times (whenever the price of crab meat seems reasonable). They’re delicious, but as others have commented, I have trouble keeping them together during frying, even after refrigerating them as suggested. This last time, I used my air fryer instead, and they were perfection, without all the mess of oil. My combo toaster oven and air fryer seems to take longer than regular air fryers, so I air fried the crab cakes for 15 minutes at 370 degrees. Most air fryer recipes I saw online said seven to ten minutes at temperatures from 370 to 400 degrees. I also put a thin pat of butter on each crab cake before air frying as suggested on one website. I can’t imagine better crab cakes!

    • — JLClarkson on October 22, 2023
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  • These are by far the best crabs cakes I’ve had! Followed recipe exactly! Making them again for the 3rd time.. I also had left overs that I did not fry up and froze them. Thawed them out before frying and they tasted just as good as the day I made them! You can’t go wrong with this recipe!

    • — Sue Phillips on October 8, 2023
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  • These are unbelievable crab cakes! They look just like the photo and taste better than many crab cakes I’ve eaten in restaurants. I wouldn’t change a thing about the recipe because they’re perfect…..

    • — Lorraine on September 16, 2023
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  • Where’s the ingredient amount list?

    • — burneggroll on September 16, 2023
    • Reply
    • It sounds like you are just looking at the portion of the page that has the pictures with some instructions above. 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!

      • — Jenn on September 18, 2023
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  • Absolutely the best recipe, even better than crab cakes from my favorite restaurants. The quick tartar sauce is great, but truth be told I’m more of a tropical salsa girl. Would love to see a recipe for that from you!

    • — Linda on September 4, 2023
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  • Hi Jenn,
    We love all of your recipes that we have tried! We want to make this Maryland crab cake recipe, but we are now in north Georgia. Does it have to be fresh, or can it be frozen? Do stores like Publix, Kroger, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Costco sell acceptable crab meat? Thanks so much!

    • — Tom Grignon on August 20, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Tom, so glad you like the recipes! Fresh crab meat is definitely best but frozen fresh crab meat will work as well. My third choice would be pasteurized crab (i.e., Phillips brand). Just avoid canned crab. Out of the stores that you mentioned, Whole Foods is likely to have the best quality. Hope that helps and that you enjoy the crab cakes if you make them!

      • — Jenn on August 22, 2023
      • Reply
  • We loved them. As with all of your recipes, your attention to detail (in this case frying time) is spot on. I had small problems with one as it broke apart during the second flip, but some extra time refrigerating will take care of this the next time we make.

    • — JOHN M FOODY JR on August 15, 2023
    • Reply
  • I have made this recipe several times and it has become a family favorite. I substituted celery for green pepper and it turned out great. We use a Cajun style remoulade for a spicier kick and the family loves it.
    Thanks for a great recipe.

    • — Angie on August 13, 2023
    • Reply
  • This has been our go-to crab cake and tarter sauce for the last 5 years. It is perfect showcasing the crab and the tarter beats anything you can buy by a mile (I add extra lemon). Company favorite!

    • — Dawnee on August 13, 2023
    • Reply
  • I want to serve these for a party but don’t want to be frying up crab cakes in front of my guests. Can I fry these in advance, freeze them and then reheat in the oven? If so, at what temp and for how long? Thanks for all your fabulous recipes, Jenn! You are definitely my go-to for all things yummy.

    • — Laurie on August 9, 2023
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes! 🙂
      Yes, you can make these ahead, freeze, thaw, and reheat. I’d reheat them in a 350°F oven for about 7 – 8 min or until heated through. Hope everyone enjoys!

      • — Jenn on August 9, 2023
      • Reply
  • I made a big mistake but they were still delicious.

    I knew that there were two recipes in the post, yet I erroneously took the mayo amount from the tartar sauce. The result–I used 1 cup of mayo when only 2.5 TBS were required. Having made salmon cakes and similar dishes before, I should have known better…

    That aside, the very wet crab cakes fried nicely and were delicious. I’ve since purchased another pound of lump crab meat and plan to do it right very soon.

    • — MT on August 7, 2023
    • Reply
  • I just made the crab cakes and tartar sauce for dinner and I can’t believe how delicious both tasted I literally could have drank a cup of the sauce Lol.

    I did read all the reviews twice and noticed a few people complained that the crab cakes fell apart and tasted salty …. To combat the canned crab saltiness I put the crab in a fine mesh colander and then rinsed in cold water to remove the excess salt and then made sure to dry the crab really well to eliminate the excess water. This worked my crab cakes weren’t salty and didn’t fall apart and didn’t have a heavy fish taste which I enjoyed.

    Thanks Jen great recipe!

    • — Grace on August 6, 2023
    • Reply
  • Lived on the eastern shore of Maryland for several years. These crab cakes were easy to make and absolutely delicious.

    • — June on August 6, 2023
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  • Born in Baltimore. We never had tarter sauce with crab cakes! They are soooo good, they don’t need a thing. P.S. About the celery…. I know that you owned up on that one. Thanks Chef Jenn

    • — Cat on August 3, 2023
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  • I have made these multiple times and each time I say a silent “Thank you, Jenn”. Perfect recipe. Good food shared around the table with family and friends and the memories of those occasions – that is the real value of a shared, excellent recipe. Balance of ingredients is spot on.

    • — Judy on August 3, 2023
    • Reply
  • Can these be made appetizer size, refrigerated, and heated up?

    • — Del Bull on August 3, 2023
    • Reply
    • Yes and yes. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on August 3, 2023
      • Reply
  • love crab cakes but at $80. for the lump crab meat tried the shrimp as suggested by another review. Very good even tho not a big fan of shrimp.

    • — sidney on August 3, 2023
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    • Hi, love these crab cakes, would it be ok to substitute bread crumbs instead of panko?

      • — Yas on October 1, 2023
      • Reply
      • Sure that should be fine (and glad you like them)! 🙂

        • — Jenn on October 2, 2023
        • Reply
  • Celery in crab cake. Not in Maryland

    • — Barry Fleischmann on August 3, 2023
    • Reply
  • No celery in Maryland crabcakes!

    • — Linda Nelson on August 3, 2023
    • Reply
  • question: I cannot STAND MAYO. For the crab cakes, can I substitute plain yogurt or sour cream? Or maybe egg?

    • — susan on August 3, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Susan, Greek yogurt will work – just cut back a bit on the lemon juice since the yogurt will add acidity.

      • — Jenn on August 3, 2023
      • Reply
  • I don’t like tartar sauce, and I think these would be much better with a good remoulade sauce. Anybody have a good recipe for remoulade?

    • — Ann Marie on August 3, 2023
    • Reply
    • This may not be what you are looking for, but I always use this spicy mustard sauce with crab cakes and we like a lot:

      2 TBS mayo
      2 TBS sour cream
      2 tsp chopped fresh parsley
      2 tsp Dijon mustard
      1 tsp white wine vinegar
      pepper to taste

      • — Bev on August 6, 2023
      • Reply
  • I made these tonight. Delicious. Instead of frying them in oil, I cooked mine in the air fryer @ 390 degrees for 14 minutes.

    • — Bates Sharon on July 29, 2023
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  • A friend turned me onto this recipe. It is excellent. I made for visiting family and they “LOVED” them. Followed recipe to the letter turned out beautifully. The tartar sauce is a true winner… my husband loved both.

    • — MayasMom on July 16, 2023
    • Reply
  • I just made these last night, exactly as written, and they were fantastic!!! My husband and I loved them and will definitely be making them again soon! Thank you!

    • — Dale on July 8, 2023
    • Reply
  • This is a great recipe and I’m a total crab cake junky (I order it every time I’m in the Delmarva area and can guarantee a good showing). My one hack is that I didn’t add extra salt (upped the Old Bay slightly) and because I didn’t have time to refrigerate, I baked them on parchment paper at 375, then for the last 5 minutes added a pat of butter to the top and broiked for that nice crisp. Yum, and because no flipping, I had no issue with everything holding together beautifully! Thanks for this recipe.

    • — Zena on July 6, 2023
    • Reply
  • Excellent recipe especially the tartar. My adjustments went as follows:

    I omitted the salt since old bay is used. For the tartar, I minced butter pickle slices.

    It seemed like a lot of Mayo so I added extra onion and pickle.

    Everyone loved it even the kids.

    • — Frank DiStefano on June 29, 2023
    • Reply
  • I made w/the exception of celery. I used white and light green scallion. Also used your regular tartar sauce recipe (we like the capers) vs. the quick version. I have 4 I’m making that I froze uncooked and defrosting tonight. Crab is SO expensive in FL, so these are a real treat.

    • — jay levine on June 29, 2023
    • Reply
  • It was really awesome! Flavorful and tasty. My friends really loved it and now im proud of myself!

    • — Sauu on June 21, 2023
    • Reply
  • Excellent recipes — both for the crab cakes and the tartar sauce. I love that the crab shines through, and the addition of the Dijon gives both the crab cakes and the tartar sauce just the right amount of tang. I was pleasantly surprised with how well the cakes held together after an hour in the refrigerator. They cooked perfectly in the pan without falling apart.

    • — LorryE on June 21, 2023
    • Reply
  • I love your Maryland Crab Cakes recipe!
    I have a guest coming over that is allergic to eggs. I am going to get vegan mayo. What might I substitute for the egg?

    THX!

    • — Ed on June 20, 2023
    • Reply
    • So glad you like them! You could try using a bit more mayonnaise in place of the egg or buy an egg substitute at the grocery store. Hope your guests enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 21, 2023
      • Reply
  • Can’t wait to try these crab cakes! My quick faux remoulade sauce incorporates Duke’s mayo, dill pickle relish (game changer for me), minced garlic, dehydrated onion (please, do not judge), and splash of sriracha sauce.

    • — Annie on June 11, 2023
    • Reply
  • Second time making these tonight! Followed the recipe to a T, ( except I used claw crab meat because it’s a lot cheaper) and they are sooo good!!!! The best!! Thanks!

    • — Sue on June 7, 2023
    • Reply
  • Oops, forgot to give it 5 stars!

    • — Jeannie on June 2, 2023
    • Reply
  • These were perfect! I wouldn’t change a thing. Delicious 😋
    The tartar sauce is amazing. At first I thought there was way too much of it, but it’s so good I used it all.
    Thank you for posting. This will be my go to recipe for crab cakes and tartar sauce. I might use the tartar sauce with other fish. The best!

    • — Jeannie on June 2, 2023
    • Reply
  • They were delicious, we added finely chopped green onions and garlic

    • — Theresa on May 31, 2023
    • Reply
  • I thoroughly enjoyed this recipe, delicious! 😋

    • — Michele on May 28, 2023
    • Reply
  • Duke’s or nothing🤣

    • — Fredvegas Ziggy on May 23, 2023
    • Reply
  • No one from The Eastern Shore of Maryland includes celery in their Crab Cake recipe!!!! First sign of someone outside of the Delmarva region…

    • — Sean Sandoval on May 18, 2023
    • Reply
    • Take a walk on the wild side, Sean. People like this recipe. Look at the reviews!

      • — MJ on June 11, 2023
      • Reply
  • Those were delicious! I used fresh crab claws and legs,which took a long time to prepare. It was worth it! I split the tarter sauce in half and added Franks hot sauce to one for a choice. All the ingredients were fresh and it was quite simple to make. Wonderful served with a salad and bread! So yummy and tasty!

    • — Colby on May 15, 2023
    • Reply
  • Living off the coast of Washington with beautiful Dungeness crab I’m always looking at Crab Cake Recipes…. I’ve tried many many recipes and this the best I’ve ever made! Well Done! Copied and tucked away in my recipe file!

    • — SusieM on May 5, 2023
    • Reply
  • I made this! It came out awesome! Thank you so much!

    • — Maria Aponte on April 6, 2023
    • Reply
  • Wonderful crab cakes! I’ve been making crab cakes for over 40 years. I have a tried a true recipe but thought I’d try something new. This one is better. More flavorful. I substituted green onions for the celery and added a little more Old Bay. I pan fried one and it was delicious, but was a little hard to keep together. I baked the rest on a rack (brushed with a little melted butter and lemon juice) for about 20″ and broiled for the last 5″ or so. Perfect.

    • — christie on April 3, 2023
    • Reply
  • Delicious my go to recipe!

    • — Sabreena on March 31, 2023
    • Reply
  • I used this recipe but substituted green onions for the celery and added finely chopped red pepper. I also made a chipotle aioli. So good.

    • — Heidi on March 26, 2023
    • Reply
  • I made this with Dungeness crab meat, that I picked myself and was never rinsed before picking. Maybe that was why it was a bit too salty for my taste, but definitely reminded me of Maryland crab cakes. I’ll make these again but omit the salt. The tartar sauce was good, I found it was even better when topped with a few drops of hot sauce.

    • — Beau Patterson on March 17, 2023
    • Reply
  • Really enjoyed these crab cakes. I added 1/2 again of panko for more stability. Nice tartar sauce too. Thank you for these treats!! Ronn

    • — Ronn C on March 14, 2023
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  • 5 stars

    • — Robert Pontious on March 6, 2023
    • Reply
    • I made it with shrimp instead of crab it was excellent 5 🌟

      • — Robert Pontious on March 6, 2023
      • Reply
  • This was a delicious recipe ! I have made them twice ! So yummy

    • — Karen Brown on March 3, 2023
    • Reply

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