Maryland Crab Cakes Recipe (Little Filler)

These Maryland crab cakes get the stamp of approval from locals and out-of-towners alike. This classic lump crab cake recipe combines the flavors of lemon, parsley, and Old Bay Seasoning but the most flavor is from the crab meat itself. For the best texture, use lump crab meat, little filler, and bake the cakes in a very hot oven.

Maryland crab cakes with cocktail sauce and lemon

I’ve been debating publishing our favorite crab cakes recipe on my blog because I was nervous there wouldn’t be enough crab aficionados reading this! But after asking readers on Instagram if you/they want the recipe, the response was a loud YES.

So here we go!

I’ve lived in Maryland for half my life and say with 100% honesty that crab cakes are as essential as the air this state breathes. My husband was born and raised here and has crab-feasting down to a science. Crab isn’t just food, it’s a way of life here. I’ve served these particular crab cakes to locals and out-of-towners alike, all of whom rave about the recipe. I’m really proud of it and am so excited to share these Maryland crab cakes with you!

Maryland crab cakes

How to Make Maryland Crab Cakes

Crab cakes make a wonderful main dish or even as sandwich on a toasted bun. If shaped smaller, mini crab cakes are an awesome finger food. With this recipe, you can be confident that you ALWAYS have a quick dinner recipe in your back pocket, as well as an impressive crowd-pleasing appetizer. They make great leftovers, too!

  1. Whisk the flavors and binders together.
  2. Add the crab meat & filler.
  3. Very gently mix together: Fold the ingredients together slowly and carefully. If over-mixed, the lump crab meat will break apart.
  4. Refrigerate for 30 minutes: This is a key step in the recipe! Make sure the crab cake mixture is cold before you shape it into individual cakes. There is little filler in this recipe, so the cakes will fall apart if the mixture is not refrigerated before cooking.
  5. Grease baking pan & preheat oven. The oven gets pretty hot, so I don’t recommend using parchment paper. Grease the pan or use a silicone baking mat.
  6. Portion into cakes: Use a 1/2 cup measuring cup to scoop and portion out the mixture. Form into individual cakes. Place on the greased baking sheet.
  7. Bake: Bake the cakes on very high heat for about 12-14 minutes.

Baking vs Sautéing on Stove: Some cook crab cakes on the stove, but I heavily prefer the baking method. When cooked on the stove, crab cakes are often flattened into patties so the center cooks. For thick jumbo-style crab cakes, I recommend baking them at a high oven temperature. They cook very quickly and remain extra plump.

lump crab meat and other ingredients

Video Tutorial: Maryland Crab Cakes

Types of Crab Meat

  1. Jumbo Lump: Jumbo lump crab meat is off-white and comes from the crab’s swimmer fin muscles. Crabs only have 2 of these muscles, so you need a lot of crabs to make a serving of jumbo lump crab meat. This is why it’s the most expensive type. It’s very sturdy and is wonderful served alone or as a topping for dishes or salads.
  2. Lump: Lump crab meat is also off-white, but a bit smaller than jumbo lump. It’s still very sturdy and flavorful. It comes from the body of a crab and is ideal for chunky crab cakes.
  3. Backfin: Backfin crab meat, also known as flake crab meat, is off-white too. It also comes from the body of a crab. The term “backfin” can also include the broken pieces of lump crab meat. It’s flakier than big lumps of crab meat.
  4. Claw: Claw meat is darker than the other types of crab meat. It’s not as sweet, but it has a stronger flavor. Claw meat is the least expensive and is ideal for soups, dips, and stews.

hands shaping crab cakes

Best Crab Meat for Crab Cakes

The Chesapeake Bay is home to Maryland’s famous blue crabs. Opinions vary on what the best crab variety is and it’s usually determined by where you live. Maryland crabs are known for their unique buttery flavor and Dungeness crabs, found on the west coast, are known for their impressive size. If you aren’t steaming your own crabs for crab meat, let me help you navigate which crab meat is best for crab cakes.

Whichever crab variety you use, make sure you purchase crab meat labeled “hand-picked” or “fresh-picked” which means that the crab meat has been picked through for shells and cartilage. (Still, it’s good practice to gently run your hands through the meat for any hard cartilage remnants.)

Crab meat sold out of the shell has been cooked and can be consumed. It’s very rare to find raw crab meat sold out of the shell– it’s almost always cooked before it’s picked out of the shell. At the market, you can find canned, frozen, or fresh (refrigerated) crab meat. Unrefrigerated canned crab meat doesn’t have an ideal flavor for crab cakes. If you need to use canned, look for canned crab meat in the refrigerated section of your market. The fresher the crab meat, the better the crab cake will taste. Ask your grocer where to find the freshest crab meat in the store. I purchase fresh crab meat sold in a 1 lb plastic tub from the seafood counter in my grocery store. Sometimes the tubs are behind the glass or found on ice next to the seafood counter.

For the absolute best crab cake, I recommend using lump crab meat or a mix of lump crab meat and backfin meat. Lump crab meat guarantees those big mouthwatering bites of crab. Don’t worry, all the other ingredients are pretty inexpensive.

crab cakes on baking sheet

Ingredients in Maryland Crab Cakes

Let’s walk through each ingredient so you understand its importance. While there are a few flavorful and binding ingredients, the real star of this crab cake is the crab itself. These flavors and binders simply enhance the true taste of crab.

  1. Egg: Egg is the main binding ingredient in crab cakes.
  2. Mayonnaise: Mayonnaise is another binding ingredient. I don’t like mayonnaise and I LOVE these crab cakes, so if you aren’t a mayo person, don’t worry. You can’t taste it.
  3. Fresh Parsley: Fresh herbs are a MUST in crab cakes. Sometimes recipes or restaurants use dill, but fresh parsley is most common. If needed, you can use dried parsley.
  4. Dijon Mustard: Dijon mustard is another must-have ingredient in crab cakes. I don’t recommend any other type of mustard– just dijon.
  5. Worcestershire Sauce: This adds so much flavor. You don’t need a lot– just 2 teaspoons.
  6. Old Bay Seasoning: What is crab without Old Bay Seasoning???
  7. Lemon Juice & Salt: Fresh, balancing flavors.
  8. Crab Meat: The leading role in the whole recipe.
  9. Cracker Crumbs: Drumroll please… the filler in this crab cake recipe is cracker crumbs. There is so much debate on what the best filler is and trust me, some of the best crab cakes are made with CRACKERS! See more below.

Since we’re baking the crab cakes and not sautéing them in butter or oil, brush the cakes with a little melted butter prior to baking. This tiny addition gives them that unmistakeable restaurant flavor. When they come out of the oven, squeeze a little lemon juice on top!

Maryland crab cake

Crab Cake Filler

While we have binding ingredients like mayonnaise and egg, crab cakes need a filler so they remain intact when cooked. And this is where people are very opinionated: what is the best filler? I’ve tested many and have even asked popular restaurants to spill the beans–most are very secretive about the crab cake ingredients they use! My #1 crab cake filler choice is cracker crumbs, specifically Saltine cracker crumbs. Bread crumbs are flavorless and too crunchy. Go for the Saltines! To make the crumbs, you can place the crackers in a zipped-top bag and crush the heck out of them with a rolling pin, or you can use a little ninja, a big food processor, or even a blender.

Crab cake meal with corn and potatoes

Maryland crab cake with lemon wedge

What to Serve with Crab Cakes

Keep it simple and serve with a squeeze of lemon. These Maryland crab cakes are so juicy and flavorful that they don’t need tartar sauce or cocktail sauce, but both are popular finishing touches. (I love a touch of cocktail sauce with mine!) If you’re making crab cakes for a big family meal, here’s what I recommend serving with your crab cake dinner:

  • cornbread and/or corn on the cob
  • caesar salad
  • baked potatoes or roasted potatoes
  • steamed vegetables
  • dinner rolls
  • coleslaw
Print
Maryland crab cakes with cocktail sauce and lemon

Maryland Crab Cakes Recipe (Little Filler)

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 6 large crab cakes
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

For the best texture, use lump crab meat, little filler, and bake the cakes in a very hot oven. Serve with lemon wedges, a garnish of chopped parsley, and/or cocktail sauce or tartar sauce. For more success tips and to learn which crab meat to use, see blog post above.


Ingredients

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (60g) mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (or 2 teaspoons dried)
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning (up to 1 and 1/2 teaspoons for a spicier kick)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, plus more for serving
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound fresh lump crab meat*
  • 2/3 cup Saltine cracker crumbs (about 14 crackers)
  • optional: 2 Tablespoons (30g) melted salted or unsalted butter

Instructions

  1. Whisk the egg, mayonnaise, parsley, dijon mustard, worcestershire sauce, Old Bay, lemon juice, and salt together in a large bowl. Place the crab meat on top, followed by the cracker crumbs. With a rubber spatula or large spoon, very gently and carefully fold together. You don’t want to break up that crab meat!
  2. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day.
  3. Preheat oven to 450°F (232°C). Generously grease a rimmed baking sheet with butter or nonstick spray or line with a silicone baking mat.
  4. Using a 1/2 cup measuring cup, portion the crab cake mixture into 6 mounds on the baking sheet. (Don’t flatten!) Use your hands or a spoon to compact each individual mound so there aren’t any lumps sticking out or falling apart. For extra flavor, brush each with melted butter. This is optional but recommended!
  5. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges and on top. Drizzle each with fresh lemon juice and serve warm.
  6. Cover leftover crab cakes tightly and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Notes

  1. Freezing Instructions: You can freeze the portioned un-baked crab cakes for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator, brush with melted butter, then bake as directed. You can also freeze the baked and cooled crab cakes for up to 3 months. Thaw, then warm up in a 350°F (177°C) oven for 10-15 minutes or until warmed throughout. Or bake the frozen crab cakes at 350°F (177°C) for about 25-30 minutes.
  2. Which Crab Meat to Use: For any questions regarding which crab meat to use, see Best Crab Meat for Crab Cakes in the blog post above. I highly recommend fresh (refrigerated) lump crab meat.
  3. Smaller Sizes: For smaller crab cakes, divide the mixture into 12 1/4 cup portions. For mini crab cakes, divide into 24 2 Tbsp size portions. Bake at the same oven temperature. The bake time is shorter for these smaller sizes. The crab cakes are done when the tops and edges are lightly browned.

Keywords: seafood, Maryland, crabs

127 Comments

  1. Sally, so like, I’ve gone on the Rehoboth Beach Cam website several times today, cause well, if I can’t be there, at least I can watch and pretend I am. Guess I’m feeling kinda homesick. And now you post this???!!!! Just makes me want to get in my car now and drive the 400 miles to get steamed crabs. When I was a kid, we’d go crabbing and my grandmother would steam them for us; such fond memories. Lobster may be king here in the Northeast, but I’ll always be a crab girl, and you must know I put Old Bay on everything. Hope I get the chance to make these!

    1. Funny, I just moved to Delaware from Massachusetts. I’m collecting recipes for crab cakes so the timing is perfect for me.

    1. Hi Chagit! I don’t recommend it. It’s pretty salty, so the flavors and binders may need to change. If you try anything, let me know!

  2. I’ve never even had crab cakes before (to be honest, I’m not much of a seafood fan besides fish), but these do look quite nice in any case! I’m not much of a cook either, as baking is more my style, but if I ever run into anyone who is looking for a good crab cake recipe, I will certainly direct them to this recipe 🙂

  3. Oh Thank You!! These crab cakes look and sound terrific! I can’t wait to try them. I grew up in Washington DC. There as in Maryland, crab cakes are wonderful. I’m so happy to have your lovely family recipe to try. I promise to give you full credit for every compliment.

      1. Like every other recipe you post, I imagine myself grabbing a spoon and sitting down to a big bowl of it, just as is. Please post more crab recipes.

  4. Had crab cakes on a 3-week student exchange waaaaaay back in the 90s and have never gotten over them (i. e. the unavailability of them, or good crab, where I live). What torture to see the pictures!!!

  5. I used to love crab cakes, a real love for them, but I hate mustard. Actually, mustard creeps me out. I will spare you the story, but, I bet I loved them until I found out mustard is in them. Can I just leave that ingredient out, or is there something I can substitute for it? Thank you.

    1. Hi Cynthia! I promise you can’t taste the dijon mustard. It’s a key ingredient! If you absolutely don’t want it in the mixture, no worries at all. Simply leave it out. No need to replace with anything.

  6. Fellow MD Gal here (transplanted from GA) and I can’t wait to try these! I usually use Faidley’s recipe which is very similar but your recipe seems to be a notch above, just like all of your other recipes. Thank you so much for sharing!

  7. I never knew Sally was right here in my home State- how exciting!! I’ve made homemade crab cakes and have eaten many throughout the State and must say that this recipe is “spot on”!! It has all the right elements- lump crabmeat, little filler, little mayo, and Old Bay!

  8. Hi Sally!

    This recipe sounds great!
    I will be heading to Maryland for a week this summer and we will certainly be hunting for blue crabs to eat! What are your favorite places to get local fruit, food, baked goods and things to do there? It will be the rest of what we do aside from a cousins wedding to be attended.
    Thanks, Lisa

    1. Where in Maryland? I know Baltimore pretty well, but others may have more insight if you’ll be on the Eastern Shore! (The BEST place on earth!)

  9. Please tell me about the food processor (brand?) in the crab cake video! Thank you! And, I’ll def be making this recipe soon!

      1. Thank you for your speedy response! Gonna buy the food processor and make the crab cakes. Thank you for your generous heart!

  10. Oh my gosh I am SO excited!! It’s 8:30 a.m. and I’m already starving for these. I think I need to adjust tonight’s dinner plans and make a batch. I grew up crabbing on the bay in Delaware in the summers- crab meat runs through my veins! And I’ve always been on the search for the perfect recipe to make them at home. It hasn’t happened yet but something tells me the search is over (It usually is whenever it’s a Sally recipe!) I know you said they don’t need any dressing, but, do you have a remoulade or aioli sauce that you would recommend? Thank you for sharing this with all of us. I can’t wait to try them!

    1. Hi Angela! I would LOVE to know if you try these! Aioli sauce would be fantastic served with these crab cakes. The only one I’ve tried (that I can remember) is this one: https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/the-creamiest-aioli

      It’s delicious. 5 stars.

      1. Made these last night to pair with steaks for my dad’s birthday dinner- an absolute hit to make and they came together in less than ten minutes. You truly can’t go wrong! I used Ritz crackers because that’s what I had on hand and the prospect of hitting up the grocery store AGAIN on a pre – 4th of July Sunday had me in tears. But i’m happy to report the Ritz work well too!! And you are right– these are so flavorful on their own, they don’t need a thing to dress them up! My family aren’t aioli fans so I’ll save that for when i’m cooking only for me and the hubby! Thanks again for sharing, absolutely a delicious recipe and one I will definitely use again!

    2. Fog City Diner Cookbook has a great sherry-cayenne mayo to serve with crab cakes. One cup mayo, 1 teaspoon cayenne, 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar. Has a good little kick, but not too much.

      1. Thanks Sue, I’ll have to try this too! That sounds like it would be a great topper if you turn this into a crab cake sandwich =)

  11. Oh yum! I have a couple of crab loving friends that I make crab cakes for. My recipe is almost the same, but I’m going to try yours next time because it looks so good! I’m going to use cracker crumbs instead of bread crumbs, and a little more Worcestershire Sauce than I normally do. Also, I’m going to bake them–I usually gently fry them. My recipe calls for green onions, so I’m going to see which version I like best. I have fresh parsley in my garden to use. My grandmother told me about using a measuring cup for portioning crab cakes, chicken salad, etc., and it works great! I rinse the cup out with hot water after each measure of crab cake so none of the crab mix sticks to the side of the cup. I will try these soon!

    1. Great tip about rinsing the measuring cup out! I’ll try that next time. And I swear by baking them in an oven that’s so hot, it’s almost like a broil.

      1. I made these tonight and they were great! I gave some to my neighbors to try and they said they were the best they ever tasted. They want us to get together to make a batch of them soon “exactly like these”! I was able to make them in my convection toaster oven so I didn’t have a hot kitchen :).

  12. These look fantastic, I can’t wait to make them! We are heading to the Chesapeake Bay for a much needed vacation soon… Where do you buy crabs and crab meat on your state? Are there local shops or stands? A grocery store? Any help or guidance would be appreciated! Thank you!

    1. Hey Melissa! There are SO MANY options for purchasing steamed crabs and crab meat around the Chesapeake. Will you be near St. Michaels? If so, I highly recommend Chesapeake Landing. If I can’t make it to a crab specialty dealer, I purchase it at my local grocery store. I love Pontchartrain Blues brand– the lump crab meat. If you’re at a grocer or market, I recommend it.

  13. Thanks Sally! We’re going to be South of Annapolis. I will be sure to comment once I’ve tried the recipe. Such great timing, thanks again!

  14. I love making homemade crab cakes and I’m excited to see most of the ingredients are similar to what I haphazardly add each time! I love the idea of crackers instead of breadcrumbs though!! Also, I’m not a mayo fan but I’m sure that would help keep them moist.

  15. I am so excited to see this recipe! I am a life long Marylander and you are right — we have a lot of opinions on crab cakes. Can’t wait to try these!

  16. My go-to crab cake recipe is from the Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook and is similar to yours but calls for cooking the crab cakes in butter on the stove so I’m interested in your method of baking them in the oven. I’ve always insisted on picking the crabs myself but Dungeness season won’t start until late fall (I’m in Oregon) so I might have to pick up some canned crab and try these now!

  17. I just made these tonight. Honestly, they were disappointing and really, really dry. Maybe I’m spoiled living in the DC-MD area for having high crab cake standards, but these just were just a miss and a poor use of $18 of crab meat 🙁 I wanted so badly to enjoy them, but I can’t recommend this recipe as-is. I’m sorry Sally! Normally your recipes are awesome— Maybe decrease the breadcrumbs? Or increase the wet ingredients? Anyone else find these to be super dry?

    1. Over-baking, perhaps? I’m curious why yours tasted dry with the mayo, sauce, mustard, etc! Was your crab meat particularly dry? It’s usually a bit wet, which is a good thing. I’ve made these a ton and never had that problem! So sorry they didn’t turn out for you, but let me know if you try them again. Remove from the oven a couple minutes earlier.

  18. I’m a Delmarva gal transplanted to Texas and you’ve made me so homesick! Have you ever had crab cakes from Woody’s in Dewey? Simply to die for! I’ll be making yours soon as a surprise for my hubby – we can’t get a decent one away from home.

  19. Julie, with my wife’s roasted red pepper sauce these could be the best cakes I have had! The oven method works great and nomore broken cakes when you try to turn them.
    Thanks from Texas!

  20. These look delicious. My husband just received a squeeze bottle of mustard garlic
    Aoli . He really likes it and he might be ordering more of it. So when he does I know what I will be using a couple teaspoons to make these crab cakes.
    Old bay is too spicy for me, can I substitute something else for it ? Please let me know

    1. Hi Heather! You can leave the old bay out, but how about adding just a pinch of it? You can reduce down to 1/8 or 1/4 teaspoon. Just a little bit of flavor spread over 6 crab cakes. Or instead, add a little more parsley or lemon juice.

  21. We made these and used them as crab cake sandwiches with tomato lettuce and tartar sauce and they were awesome!! Thanks for the recipe Sally!

  22. Hello sally.
    I pinned this after I seen it.
    Could you also post a recipe for regular classic crab cakes please? So I can make both. Crab cake sandwiches sound good.
    Please let me know.

  23. These look wonderful, but….my family has gone Gluten Free and I am wondering if I can use GF breadcrumbs/panko for the binder instead of the saltine crackers or is there something else that you might recommend?

  24. Hi Sally, I would like to make these as appetizers and I am wondering if you have any suggestions about size and cooking time? Should I use a 1/4 cup measuring cup? How long would you recommend cooking them for? Thanks so much for any guidance you can share with me!

      1. Wow, that is embarrassing – I’m sorry. I read the note about which crab meat to use and freezing instructions, I’m not sure why I didn’t see number 3.

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