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.
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 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 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.
Video Tutorial: Maryland Crab Cakes
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 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.
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: This adds so much flavor. You don’t need a lot– just 2 teaspoons.
- Old Bay Seasoning: What is crab without 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 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
- zucchini casserole
- steamed vegetables
- dinner rolls
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 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 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 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.
- 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 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 Comments & Reviews
This is the best recipe, I followed the instructions and it was super easy and crab cakes came out perfect! Thank you for sharing
These rival the best crab cakes I’ve ever
had which was at Berrett’s in Williamsburg VA.
Any recommendations on what to use instead of egg? We have an egg allergy here
Hi Kathy, egg is the main binding ingredient in this recipe and we haven’t tested any alternatives. Let us know if you do try any experimenting, but it may be best to search for a recipe that is specifically formulated to be egg-free.
Simple and delicious! In the past, I have always used the Old Bay crab cake mix, but ran out. This recipe was so easy and delicious that I won’t go back to the package mix. PS. I’ve never written a review before, but your recipe warranted it.
I was wondering if this recipe could be used to stuff mushrooms? It sounds delicious!
Hi Mary Ann, that sounds delicious!
Awesome cakes!!!! I noticed in comments that browning was an issue for some folks. If you brush a lot of melted butter on them like I do, they take forever to brown…. learned that my second go round. They could not be any more perfect!
Yummy! Love this video for your recipe very helpful.
This recipe was amazing! I did switch the oven to broil for about 8 minutes at the end to get a crisp on top, so good! I also went ahead and added a little extra Old Bay. Used a Thousand Island with a touch of horseradish for the sauce, great!
Great recipe! Family LOVED it!
AaaaaaaaMAZING!!!!! You don’t need to change a thing!!! 2nd night we toasted ciabatta bread, layered it with homemade aioli, heirloom tomatoes, romaine and of course the tasty fresh cast ion cooked CRAB CAKE and they were to die for! I pined it because this is a keeper!!! Thank you
These were perfect! My husband who is a crabber and fisherman here in Washington state said they were the best he’s ever had! I can’t wait to make these again. I doubled the recipe and made 12. They browned up nicely- after about 20 min and I brushed with butter before baking. Thank you!!!
So glad you and your husband loved this recipe, Abby!
This is PERFECTION! I LOVE this recipe and will continue to use it! Thank you very much! P.S. I used Club crackers because I didn’t have saltines on hand and the buttery, salty goodness of the Club was a nice touch. Thanks for the recipe!
I was going to ask about buttery crackers. Thanks for letting us know.
Always on here for random baking recipes, didn’t expect it to be the first place to pop up for a crab cakes. Definitely the best ones I’ve ever made and probably best I’ve ever had.
This is my go-to recipe. Everyone asks for it and I pass it on!
Made these and came out great! Delicious. Very easy recipe.
Wonder if I Could use ritz crackers instead of saltines?
Hi Renee, Absolutely — use the same amount.
Delicious crab cake. Definitely for people who love crab. I hate to state the obvious but the quality crab you will matter, especially with this crab forward recipe. I bought Super lump crab meat from Costco (Chicken of the Sea brand, $26/lb) and it was good but not as good as the Maryland fresh crab meat. Thank you.
The cakes never browned in my oven after 25 minutes and I had to flash fry them in a hot bacon grease fry pan to get a crisp without overcooking. They were still slightly mushy yet dry. They didn’t hold very well together. The flavor was ok but some what disappointing with so many high reviews.
Did you happen to make any changes to the recipe? Each ingredient is important! Thank you for giving this recipe a try.
My crab cakes didn’t brown well either, but when I turned them over the bottoms had the golden brown look. However they were so good it didn’t care about the color.
Sounds like a technique issue. Did you make sure your oven was fully preheated before puttingthem in?
Delicious and easy to do! Thanks for a delicious recipe and clear instructions! Baking them is so much easier and in my opinion, better than frying, less oil, no burning or falling apart. I added celery because I like it and because I had the time, after chilling them for about 45 minutes I shaped them and put them back into the refrigerator for another half hour on the silpat mat. I know some people spiced them up but we were happy with the flavors. I offered lemons, hollandaise and a seafood sauce to have with them and all were good, just down to preference. My husband and I both loved them! Thank you!
I thought these crab cakes were very good, however I found them a bit salty. Perhaps I might decrease the bay seasoning and add a bit of hot paprika when I make them again. Also I would eliminate the salt all together, use unsalted butter, and maybe unsalted saltines. That said, I would definitely make these again. We used leftover California crab. It is so sweet and meaty. T
I eliminate the salt completely. It picks up enough from the crackers and Old Bay. I add a splash of Soy Sauce and a little extra mustard. Pound of jumbo lump and it’s absolutely fabulous.
I have made these before and love them….lump crab was hand picked. I always add a couple drops of tobasco to spice it up. I was wondering how these would do as minies made in a cup cake pan.
Has anyone tried these in a mini version? Do they hold up well?
Yea your fine. I make little ones all the time lol.
Best recipe ever!! I added a little lemon pepper seasoning too. My mother-in-law and I enjoyed…
The best Maryland crab cakes have NO filler. No crackers. No breadcrumbs. Just binders, parsley, & Old Bay.
I am looking for Hollies crab cake recipe on eastern shore
Fabulous recipe every time! Thank you Sally for making my daughter very happy on her birthday!!
Excellent crab cake recipe! Mini ones are great to take to friends in evening.
I must say I have never made crab cakes in my 60-year life! Oh, my goodness so delicious…!
made them as your recipe is for my husband’s birthday. He absolutely loved them!
Crab cakes came out AMAZING! The crab shines through due to less filler. They are light and moist. I never have leftovers, they are that good!
Crab taste came through. Mad and baked according to directions. Recipe went in the keeper 3 ring binder.
Wondering if these will hold up frying them….. I am making them for approximately 50 military veterans. I would hate to ruin even one crab cake!
Hi Sharon, we haven’t tried deep frying these crab cakes so we’re unsure of how they’d do — let us know if you do give it a try!
So I tried frying these in a sauté pan with some canola oil…. Yes they held together perfectly. Having different options for these Veterans is a good thing!! I know they will enjoy them as much as I did!
Thank you! They came out so good , I think the saltines and extra butter on top did the trick. I did make some remoulade sauce but really didn’t need them. Very moist oh and I put them under broiler for a minute just to crisp up top!!! This recipe is a keeper!
I made these recipe up yesterday from handpicked crab meat from my steamed crabs on Saturday. I am originally fro MD, so I grew up my entire life eating crab cakes. I had to use gluten free crackers for my husband, but oh my, these are one of best I have had in my life. Can’t wait to make for my grown children. Have never made them in the oven, either fried or broiled. This method was perfect.