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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 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. (My crab dip, too!) I’m really proud of it and am so excited to share these Maryland crab cakes with you!

Maryland crab cakes on a white platter

Overview: 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.

The full written recipe is below, but here’s an overview.

  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

2 images of Crab cake mixture before and after adding crab

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 (and crab dip!), 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 on white plate

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
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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 1x
  • 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

Scale
  • 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 (41g) 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

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Hands down the best crab cakes I’ve ever made, and I’ve experimented with many recipes. The Saltines as the filler made such a difference. I followed the recipe exactly, except that I was in a hurry and pan fried them.
    Thank you for the wonderful recipe!

  2. Well done, Sally. Admittedly, as a native Marylander, I was skeptical. What does this baker know of crab cakes? But, you mentioned that you’ve spent half your life here. And, you just let the crab shine. This is how our southern md grandmothers would make it.

    People: if you don’t think this is a good recipe then you did not purchase quality crab.

  3. My dear friend made your crab cakes for a luncheon hands down Best crab cakes ever‼️‼️ I Consider myself a seasoned cook and now will be very proud to serve your WONDERFUL RECIPE.
    Thank You

    1. We often make these a mini crab cakes – see the recipe notes for details. Also see the recipe notes for details on make ahead instructions. They can be frozen either before or after baking if you need to prepare them in advance. Enjoy!

      1. These taste just like they came from a seafood restaurant. Baking is so much nicer and the butter really makes the difference.

  4. I made these and they were awesome! I’m curious about the tomato sauce in the pictures. It looks delish. Do you have a recipe for it?

    1. Hi Vivian! That’s store-bought cocktail sauce. It’s optional as a garnish/sauce for the crab cakes. We don’t usually use it but some love it with their crab or shrimp!

  5. Making these for the first time tonight. I’m not a native Marylander but a pretty decent cook and have lived here since 1988. My wife and I love crabs and I have a good reputation for steaming live crabs, learned from the local native residents. She loves crab cakes and we have a standing rule based on past experience never to order crab cakes at any restaurant not located in Maryland. I’ve made crab cakes only once before and though good, your recipe sounds spectacular.

  6. I am a bit and raised Baltimore, Md girl and these crab cakes are the best I’ve ever made, I usually just follow the recipe on the Old Bay can but these are way better, thank you!

    1. My family are crab cake connoisseurs and they unanimously judge these the best in Baltimore. What a recipe! Thank you.

      1. So glad they were a hit with your family, Tom!

  7. These were phenomenal… We live in California but used to live outside DC and miss real crab cakes – Made this recipe after an exceptionally disappointing restaurant crab cake last weekend – Delicious! completely erased the overpriced full of filler duds from the restaurant – can’t wait to make them again

  8. These were delicious! Like a few others, I can’t have gluten so I substituted Schar table crackers (basically gf saltines) and they came out perfect! Definitely restaurant quality.

  9. I grew up on Kent Island crabbing and fishing for a long time and can honestly say that I am a crab cake snob. These crab cakes are amazing! No other way to describe it. I made them exactly as described in your recipe and they came out perfect! My family has already requested that we make these for Thanksgiving instead! Thank you Sally!

  10. This will surprise you, but being Kosher, we made this with roasted cauliflower instead of the crab meat and it was excellent. Also so nice to bake rather than fry! Got rave reviews!

  11. Your recipe was so easy, I substituted panko bread crumbs, that I grind them fine in the
    blinder. I also added some red pepper because I’m from the South and we like a little
    kick in our food. Hands down it was the easiest Crabcake recipe I’ve ever had and I will
    keep making it. Thank you

  12. Sally,
    I will say the best compliment is for you. My husband had 2 and then asked me where I bought them? I said “ Sallys”. !!!!!

  13. I posted above but wanted to add, while making I did not have old Bay or saltine crackers. I substituted crushed Ritz and Creole seasoning,. Added a 1/2 teaspoon of the creole and followed the rest of the recipe, delicious.

  14. I grew up in Baltimore City but live in Florida now. I always had to wait for a visit to Maryland to get good crab cakes. My husband found a seafood market here in our town who sells blue crab lump crabmeat by the pound. I used your recipe tonight and made these crab cakes. I used a little more old bay seasoning and substituted the crackers with gluten free homemade breadcrumbs. They were absolutely delicious and looked fantastic too when I took them out of the oven. I’m so happy how these turned out. My husband typically does all the cooking so I was especially pleased with how these looked and tasted. Thank you for a great recipe. I wish I would have taken a picture because they looked so good.

  15. Just bought some crab meat to try this recipe. My husband doesn’t like when you can taste the mayo in crab cakes. Should I substitute something instead of the mayo or do the other ingredients hide this flavor? Thanks!

    1. Hi Heather! There’s so many other flavors going on (mostly crab) that the mayo isn’t as much a flavor as it is a great way to hold everything together. We recommend sticking to the recipe for best results!

      1. We did make the recipe as written and my husband loved it – not too much taste of mayo. Thanks!

  16. Stupid question but do I have to grease the silicone mat im putting on the baking sheet?

    1. Not a silly question at all! The silicone mat is non-stick, no need to grease it.

  17. Making these tonight for our ‘non-traditional’ Thanksgiving dinner, hoping I don’t muck them up because of the cost of the crab meat (yikes!), but luckily like you mentioned, the other ingredients are super cheap. My comment is more of a compliment on your recipe blogging style and, can I just say, KUDDOS to you. I absolutely hate recipe blogs that have almost literally ‘War And Peace’ written before the recipe. It’s the worst. You nailed, by giving your tips and tricks, and breaking down the steps and ingredients with NEEDED and helpful info only. Not a rambling story about what your step uncles sixteenth Christmas in the United States meant to him, or other totally unrelated drivel.
    Since it’s Thanksgiving, I’ll say this: Thank YOU. I’m grateful to have come across a well written recipe blog. Finally! 🙂 Now, here’s to hoping I don’t completely mess up these delicious looking Maryland Crab Cakes!

  18. Love these, I did add 2cloves of garlic( can’t seem to cook without it), used chipotle mustard and I used saltines and club crackers, half each. Wow, delicious , thanks!

  19. Wow!! These were amazing! I’ve never had better crab cakes! I can’t wait to make these again!

  20. I made these tonight and being from B’more was super impressed and will make this my new recipe. The taste was superb and the hubby loved it. I live In Louisville now so it brought back memories of going crabbing and making fresh crab cakes!

  21. Followed your recipe and the cakes were fabulous! They held their shape and were just delicious . My family and guest raved about them. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

  22. Born in MD and now live in Utah so I can’t really get my hands on Maryland blue crab unfortunately but fresh Dungeness is a great stand in. I absolutely love this recipe. Definitely better than any crab cakes I’ve had here, and I was a chef at a fine dining seafood restaurant! And they are probably even better than any I ever had in Maryland. Thanks for sharing this recipe, it’s always my go to and great for entertaining! Really yummy with a hollandaise or a homemade tartar with capers and dill. Great job!!

  23. We discovered this recipe a few months ago. It has absolutely become our favorite crab cake recipe. We love the use of saltines as a binder, and the seasoning is spot on. My husband can’t stop raving about these–and I am just as big of a fan!

  24. I thought I made really good crab cakes (recipe from a well known New Orleans restaurant-I know, not MD, but crab cakes are well known down there, too!) until on a whim I tried these. Best crab cake ever. Seasonings spot on and loved baking them. No need to try another recipe as I think these are perfect. Try it—you won’t be disappointed!!!

  25. I love this recipe. My daughter cannot have gluten, so I make them with gluten free panko breadcrumbs and they turn out perfectly!

  26. Thank you Sally!
    This is my Go-To Crabcake Recipe! (Although I sub the crackers for 1 1/2 cups potato roll breadcrumbs as they’re always onhand!).
    Having lived in Baltimore for 8 years, anywhere I travel away from Maryland and see Crabcake on the menu, I steer clear! I make my own!

  27. Is there a way to make these in an air fryer? I want to make them for Christmas, but my oven will be tied up with a prime rib and yorkshire puddings. I greatly regret not upgrading to two ovens when we built haha.

    1. Hi Vy, We haven’t tested these crab cakes using an air fryer, but do know some readers have had success with it. If you do give it a try, we’d love to know how it goes!

  28. Best awesomest crab cakes ever
    I luv them .
    Thank you for your receipe
    Yours is the Best

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