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

102 Comments

  1. I have to start off by saying that I LOVE your recipes! Every sweet that I have made of yours is fabulous! I was born and raised in Baltimore, and while I haven’t lived there for quite some time, every time I’m home, I get my mom to make me crab cakes at least once. I saw “Maryland Crab Cakes” while scrolling through Pinterest and had to stop to see what kind of abomination was being billed as the real deal. Then I saw the pic. And, well, yours looked like the real deal. Then I read the recipe and it’s almost exactly what my mom makes- beside a secret family addition that my grandfather swore by. Now I like you even more!

    1. Thanks! My husband was born and raised here and I’ve lived here for a long time. I’ve had too many disappointing crab cakes. We just love these and they’re pretty easy!

  2. I made these for dinner last night and they were great! Very flavorful and not dry at all. My oven stopped working just as I went preheat it- so I sauteed on medium heat in a little butter and olive oil. They were fragile but ended up fine. And just due to mistakes on my part- spicy brown mustard was fine instead of dijon, and town house crackers instead of saltines also worked. Thanks again, Sally!

  3. They look delicious. I keep hearing about old Bay seasoning, but we don’t seem to have it in the UK. Do you know what I could use instead please that would be similar?
    My friends came to visit recently and gave me one of your recipe books as a present. There are many things I would like to make in it.

    1. Yes, happy to help! Use a sprinkle each of regular salt, celery salt, ground red pepper, and smoked paprika instead.

      1. Hi Rebecca,

        You can order Old Bay Seasoning on Amazon. It’s a great seasoning blend and you can use it in many other recipes. Hope you try some!

  4. SO good. Best crab cakes my husband and I have ever had! We even got one of our 5 year old boys to try a bite and not declare instant hatred

  5. I am from Maryland but don’t live there anymore, although I visit often. I’ve eaten many crab cakes but never made them. What makes them Maryland crab cakes…is it the cooking style, rather than the source of the crab meat? I’ve never really thought about what makes Maryland crab cakes different other than knowing I’m always disappointed when I order them in a restaurant in any other state. ☺ Thanks!

    1. Hey Susan! This is a great question. So technically, it would be the type of crab. Blue crabs have a deliciously sweet flavor. Also, crab cakes elsewhere are sometimes coated in breadcrumbs where these don’t have a coating at all.

      1. Thank you! We made these for dinner last night, and they were amazing. Being a native Marylander, I’ve eaten many crabcakes but never made them before this recipe. The lightly buttery Saltine crackers were the perfect filler that still let the crab be the star. We will definitely make these again!

  6. These were fabulous! No filler, SO MUCH crab, and so much flavor! Thank you for another incredible savory dish, Sally!

  7. I am always SO skeptical when I see a “Maryland crab cake” recipe. So I opened this to see how appalled I would be and you shocked me with a perfect recipe, almost identical to my own! Saltines are for sure the key ingredient (beyond the obvious lump crab). I think I see crab cakes in my very near future!
    Love your recipes!

    1. Followed this recipe except used striped bass from New Jersey and ritz crackers and it was delicious! We cleaned the stripped bass, removed the red from the fillets, separated them, loaded the tops with old bay and baked them at 450 for 30 minutes, leaving them dry enough to flake, cooled them off, flaked them, and followed your recipe, it was fabulous !

  8. I do not like to cook at all. I had some lump crab that I needed to use and found this recipe. It was so easy and my family loved it! It almost makes me want to try to cook something else!

  9. I just bookmarked you…. I will definitely be waiting for your next recipe. I make Maryland Crab Cakes all year long (Great for the holidays), your recipe is spot on. I often add horseradish for a little pep and I season my own bread crumbs instead of crackers (don’t judge). On the Eastern Shore we generally fry or broil them, therefore, I roll them lightly in seasoned bread crumbs if fried. BTY – I’m going to try heavy whipping cream instead of mayo with a batch soon.

  10. Great recipe. More or less my own, so I don’t know why I continue to look at crab cake recipes.

    I’m not Maryland born and bred, and to tell the truth I prefer lobster because we always went to New England on summer vacay, but my husband’s family whose members have never even venture out of state for university insist that sides for crab cakes are local tomatoes, local corn on the cob, and fresh peach cake. I’m cool with your selections, especially coleslaw, but those items have been drummed into me as murland.

  11. I have tried many crab cake recipes, but yours stood out from the others with the Saltines and baking method. (I already knew how good crushed Saltines were as a coating for fish when deep frying.)
    So, I made your crab cakes today, and my family and I thought they were the best ever! I followed your ingredient list and instructions to the letter. The only thing I would change next time is let them brown more, as shown in your picture. Other than that, your recipe is crab cake perfection!

  12. My first attempt at crab cakes and they were a huge hit! I’m super picky about crab cakes and these rivaled the best restaurants! Thanks for the recipe.

  13. My mom is from Maryland but is allergic to onions (worst allergy ever), which makes finding crab cakes very difficult whenever we visit. I guess a lot of recipes use onion? I’m going to make these next time I see her – she’ll be thrilled. Thanks!

  14. WOW!!! This recipe is the bomb!!! Absolutely delicious and will be replacing my regular go to recipe. I subbed out Saltines with Club crackers as that is what I had in the pantry (the buttery flavor of Club crackers doesn’t hurt either 🙂 I added 2 tsp of lemon juice instead of one because I love lemon. Greased pan really well and basted with butter as recommended. The other ingredients accentuate and let the real star of this recipe, the crab meat, shine. Thank you for such an awesome recipe!!!

  15. I tried your recipe yesterday and it was absolutely great! I have recently moved to Baltimore (Hey, I didn’t know you lived here for a while! :)) and I fell in love with crab cakes… never thought I would have been able to prepare them myself! And I definitely prefer baking them. I didn’t expect it was so easy to make crab cakes… once you have the right recipe, like I do now, thanks to you!

  16. OMG. SUPERB!!! I am a Maryland Native and I too, have had quite a few crab cakes in my lifetime! I love to cook and (a pretty good one at that) so one day it dawned on me, “why not try and make it yourself?!” So when I came across your recipe and the lump crab went on sale… I figured, why not give it a try. It will be money well spent if they turn out half as tasty as your pictures! And I gotta say… I probably will NEVER order crab cakes at a restaurant EVER. AGAIN. I cannot rave enough!! Tres bon. Very Authentic. Awesome. Delicious. Thumbs Up.

  17. Have been searching for a great Crab Cake recipe with little filler. Can’t wait to try!!! Will start shopping for fresh lump crabmeat today. Question: can I use lite mayo vs regular?

    Thanks

  18. Thank You for your quick reply!! I went back and reviewed your recipe and since it only calls for 1/4 cup of mayonnaise I’m going to use the real stuff. Now off to find some fresh lump crab meat!

1 2

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

With kitchen-tested quality recipes and step-by-step tutorials, my goal is to give you the confidence to bake and cook from scratch.

Recipes You’ll Love

Archives

Categories

Sally's Baking Challenge

Join the community on the 1st of every month as we tackle a new challenge recipe.

View More

Sally's Cookie Palooza

A tradition since 2013, every December we countdown to Christmas with 10 new cookie recipes in a row!

View More

Sally's Pie Week

The first week of every November is all about Thanksgiving Pies.

View More

My Cookbooks

About Sally

Welcome to my Kitchen!

I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally

×