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 comes from the crab meat itself. For the best texture, use lump crab meat, very little filler, and bake the cakes in a very hot oven.
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!
Overview: How to Make Maryland Crab Cakes
Crab cakes make a wonderful main dish or even as a 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.
- Whisk the flavors and binders together.
- Add the crab meat & filler.
- Very gently mix together: Fold the ingredients together slowly and carefully. If over-mixed, the lump crab meat will break apart.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bake: Bake the cakes on very high heat for about 12–14 minutes.
Baking vs. Sautéing: Some cook crab cakes on the stove, but I 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 in the oven at a high temperature. They cook very quickly and remain extra plump.
Types of Crab Meat
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Best Crab Meat for Crab Cakes
The Chesapeake Bay is home to Maryland’s famous blue crabs. Opinions vary on what the best-tasting crab variety is, and it’s usually determined by where you live. Maryland crabs are known for their delicately sweet, buttery flavor, and Dungeness crabs, found on the West Coast, are known for their impressive size and meatier texture. 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-pound 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.
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.
- Egg: Egg is the main binding ingredient in crab cakes.
- 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.
- 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.
- Dijon Mustard: Dijon mustard is another must-have ingredient in crab cakes. I don’t recommend any other type of mustard—just dijon.
- Worcestershire Sauce: Just a small amount provides big flavor, just as it does in chicken meatballs, black bean burgers, and beer cheese dip.
- Old Bay Seasoning: What is Maryland crab without locally made Old Bay seasoning???
- Lemon Juice & Salt: Fresh, balancing flavors.
- Crab Meat: The leading role in the whole recipe.
- 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!
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.
What to Serve With Crab Cakes
Keep it simple and serve with a squeeze of fresh 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 or on your menu of Memorial Day recipes, 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
- Zucchini casserole
- Steamed vegetables
- Dinner rolls
For even more inspiration here are 15+ summer dinner ideas! And don’t forget the chocolate chip cookies or vanilla cupcakes for dessert!Print
Maryland Crab Cakes Recipe (Little Filler)
- Prep Time: 40 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 55 minutes
- Yield: 6 large crab cakes
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
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.
- 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 (454g) fresh lump crab meat*
- 2/3 cup (41g) saltine cracker crumbs (about 14 crackers)
- optional: 2 Tablespoons (30g) melted salted or unsalted butter
- 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.
- Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day.
- 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.
- 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 top with melted butter. This is optional but recommended!
- Bake for 12–14 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges and on top. Drizzle each with fresh lemon juice and serve warm.
- Cover leftover crab cakes tightly and refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.
- Freezing Instructions: You can freeze the portioned unbaked 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.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Glass Mixing Bowls | Whisk | Rubber Spatula | Baking Sheet | Silicone Baking Mat | Pastry Brush
- 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.
- Smaller Sizes: For smaller crab cakes, divide the mixture into 12 1/4-cup portions. For mini crab cakes, divide into 24 2-Tablespoon-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 Comments & Reviews
Lived in Maryland all of my life and very picky about crab cakes. When I went searching for a good recipe , I found yours!
I have some amazing backfin/lump crab from Wegmanns and cannot wait to make these! Will give an update later- Thank you for posting!
I’ve tried lots of Maryland crab cake recipes and they all came out horrible except this one! They all tasted like breadcrumbs. Finally a great recipe for Maryland crab cakes, less filler! They came out perfect and I’m making it again today. Thank you for posting!
Best crab cakes, have never baked, will always bake now! Thank you!
This recipe sounds perfect.
quick question…you indicated 3 ways of baking frozen..
1) bake uncooked
2) reheat thawed already baked cakes
3) reheat frozen already baked cakes
I am serving for a rather large dinner party. 3 would be easiest for me however which is best for flavor? also you do not flip when baking?
Maria, for absolute best taste and texture, freshly baked crab cakes are ideal, so I recommend freezing the formed crab cakes prior to baking, then baking them.
I doubled the recipe and made it for a Christmas Party, so much easier and less messy than frying, as a bonus the cakes don’t fall apart. Everyone was impressed by my “cooking skill” The thing I especially like about the recipe is that the crabcakes are nicely browned , equally sized and save well as leftovers. I used metal biscuit cutters as the mold. Thank you so very much!
These crab cakes were delectable! I used a little extra salt (I am a salty girl) and topped with a little butter before and after baking.
Thank you for an outstanding recipe!
There is simply no excuse for not following this recipe! So sue me if you’re dissatisfied. I’ll win in court because the judge will be enamored with these wonderful crab cakes!
Used the GF panko and they came out GREAT !! Get the brand hat has a finer ‘grind’ to it.
Excellent guidance! Thank you. The GF Panko works very well. We favored the brand with smaller ‘crumbs’
The best ever crab cakes & easy. Have passed recipe on to many people. I‘ve also use almond crackers for those who are gluten free. Still very yummy!!!
Best crab cake recipe ever. I grew up summers in so. Maryland and have had a variety of crab cakes over my 54 years. My wife loves crabs. We found this recipe and made it tonight. I have to say this has been the best answer to a wonderful healthy crab cake. Not greasy, very flavorful excellent option to bake. Times and temperature work just right I added lemon juice to the initial mix as I find that tends to mitigate some of the crab odor. I also rinse my crab meat a couple of times to clarify. I look forward to making this again.
I just made these for the first time for a thanksgiving appetizer and everyone said these are the best crab cakes they have had and wanted the recipe. The baking at high temp is definitely a great way to keep the integrity without having all the filler and other stuff in most recipes. I used Club Crackers instead of saltines and did opt to brush with melted butter before baking. These are delicious and are now a requirement at family gatherings! 🙂
These are some of the best crab cakes I ever had. Nice balanced taste. I brushed top with melted butter. What can be bad about that? Baked for 14 minutes on coated and buttered cast iron pan. They are wonderful. Thanks for sharing.
Made these crab cakes, excellent. I added the butter but browned the butter first. Yum
YUM! I bet that addition of browned butter was delicious 🙂 Thanks for your positive feedback!
Exactly the recipe I was looking for! These crab cakes have the WOW factor. My cousin’s wife made crabcakes when I was in Baltimore and they were fabulous several years ago. Found this recipe and decided to try for boyfriends birthday. Boyfriend and I loved them!!! Easy to make and amazing taste! Follow all the helpful hints. This will be the only recipe I use! Thank you!
These look AMAZING!!! Can’t wait to try this recipe!! Do you have a remoulade recipe that you recommend to go with them? I LOVE remoulade!!
Hi Josh! I don’t, but I know you can find a few online!
Delicious I’ve tried 10 or more recipes for crab cakes over the years and Sally’s recipe was definitely THE BEST! Loved that the crab cakes were baked. Didn’t have Saltines or fresh parsley so I substituted Ritz crackers and added 2 tsps of freeze-dried parsley and was generous with the 1/4 cup mayo delicious. Coincidentally, I’d read earlier adding mayo to marinades for steak, chicken, lamb, etc. because it helps the marinade penetrate the meat and helps in browning or grilling without drying the meat out. I used an inverted large biscuit cutter to make the crab cakes without swishing them, then just righted the cutter to place the cakes on a Silpat I’d put in the rimmed sheet pan. Finished each cake with a tsp of melted butter. Made exactly six perfect crab. cakes. YUMMY!
I used this recipe and it was a big hit. It was my first time making crab cakes and I was nervous but this recipe was so easy. This will be my go to for company.
Hi- I couldn’t find lump crab meat so I bought snow crab legs. I don’t know much about crab this is my first time making them. I have a few questions and I’m hopping you can answer them. First of all do snow crab legs come cooked from the supermarket? I got some on sale but not sure if they are cooked and then frozen. Second, if thy are cooked I don’t need to boil them for 10 minutes or so ? Just thaw them and shred the meat?
Thanks for your help.
Hi Martha, it’s likely the crab is cooked. I would double check the package to make sure– it should say. Thaw, then pick the meat, and use in the recipe.
Great recipe! My crab cakes looked like they came from a restaurant! Thanks for sharing!
Hello, I was wondering if these crab cakes would turn out as delicious if I made mini ones instead of 6 big ones what do you think?
Hi Anne, yes! I often make mini crab cakes from this recipe. See recipe note.
This recipe is great would recommend
Hi Sally, As a native Marylander your recipe is similar to mine. I don’t add Worcestershire sauce or salt because the Saltines and the Old Bay make it salty enough. I believe that backfin is the same as Jumbo Lump as it comes from the back fin muscle. Baking is now my favorite way of preparing them too. PS Love your recipes.
Followed the directions, no substitutions and it was delicious!! Better than the restaurant!! This is a keeper.
My second time making these absolutely delicious crab cakes. Have recommended to friends.
WOW Sally!! I’ve tried crab cake recipes for many years now and never had one I wanted to try again. Now that I’ve found yours, no need to look any further. It’s absolutely great — better than any crab cake I’ve had in restaurants.
Dennis from Yorktown, VA
This is a great recipe!! Simple, easy and delicious. I froze these cakes as directed before cooking. Came out great! Perfect to have in the freezer when company arrives!!
You froze them or refrigerated as the recipe calls for? Hoping to make this for my wife’s birthday meal
@Jim – After mixing ingredients, these should be refrigerated for 30 minutes (or up to five days) before baking so that the ingredients combine and set. I shape the cakes and then refrigerate them and they do not fall apart during the baking. You can also shape the cakes and freeze them immediately after mixing ingredients without refrigeration but only if you do not plan on cooking them within five days. When cooking after freezing, you do not have to thaw the cakes. Just bake as instructed. This is an excellent recipe that really lets the crab shine through.
I have always fried my crab cakes and unless you packed them tight they would generally fall apart when turned over. Baking them solves this problem. Using a 1/2 measuring cup to prepare them was a great idea! I did turn on the broiler for the last couple minutes to get the tops a nice golden brown. Wonderful recipe and will use it again!
Hi Sally.I’ve been looking for a good recipe and these sound amazing.What temperature do you recommend? Thank you.
Hi Bill, You oven should be 450°F (232°C). Enjoy!
My second attempt at making homemade crabcakes and this recipe was a family pleaser and winner! I used culinary reserve hand picked claw meat, the recipe made 8 good sized crab cakes. I didn’t have Old bay seasoning , so I made my own with fresh herbs and spices. I will be making this regularly, quick prep, easy recipe for weeknights!