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. (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

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 (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

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

227 Comments

  1. I made these crab cakes for Christmas Eve and they were delicious!! I’m making them again for New Year’s Eve. Baking instead of frying is so much better. I lined my baking sheet with foil and generously greased it with softened butter. This helped the crab cake develop a beautiful golden brown crust on the bottom. I served them crust side up, drizzled with melted butter, squirt of lemon juice and garnished with minced Italian parsley. Clean up was a breeze. Thank you Sally for this fabulous and easy crab cake recipe.

  2. Now that was easy. Been making cakes for many years but this was the easiest. Added some pepper flakes cause we like them hot. Excellent

  3. I am flabbergasted that you use Saltines. Because you have stolen my secret ingredient 🙂

    I use Saltines when i make Fried Shrimp. And I make it probably 10 or more times a year. I put a sleeve or two in a food processor and let it run until they are pretty fine. Then a typical Flour-Egg-Saltine breading routine. I season the flour and the Saltines with salt (light) and pepper. I will bread a couple pounds of shrimp, then deep fry them immediately in batches. I’m not kidding, its the best fried shrimp breading I’ve ever had- and fried shrimp is one of my very favorite things to make/eat(also very good on fried flounder/sole).

    Very cool to see Saltines used in seafood 🙂

    K

  4. From a fellow Marylander, perfect recipe. Simple, no added flavors… let the crab shine. That’s what a real crab cake is about!

  5. Hello again…..can you bake uncooked still frozen crab cakes? I know not ideal but have some frozen uncooked cakes with probably no time to defrost. (guests are tentative) If possible, would you please give me instructions?
    Thank you,
    Maria

    1. Absolutely! The bake time will be a few minutes longer to ensure the cakes cook through. They will leak a bit of liquid as they bake. No necessary, but you may want to lower the oven temperature to 400°F (204°C) for the first 10 minutes to help guarantee they cook evenly. After 10 minutes, increase the temperature to 450°F (232°C).

    2. I assume you know that the crab you use is already “cooked” in fact you can eat it right out of the container it comes in. But I think you know that and was just referring to the fact they are frozen.

  6. This was a great recipe! I did cook mine for about 17 mins. Delicious, none better in a restaurant. Recently my husband paid $23 for a single crab cake like this!

    1. What twmp should the oven be? I know you said verg hugh heat but whats a good temperature? Making them for superbowl on Sunday. 🙂

  7. I always look for baked crab cake recipes and have tried many. THIS, hands down, the best I’ve ever come across! I did not have Saltines, so I had to use panko crumbs and they still turned out delicious! We loved the texture and the ratio of ingredients was perfect! Can’t wait to make again and use Saltines!

  8. I’m not sure if it was the crab, but I follwed the recipe and they came out pretty darn salty. Next time I will make without salt.

  9. This recipe was perfectly seasoned and I made a delicious crab Cake Benedict, I’ve been searching for the perfect recipe & this is definitely a hit! I used all the ingredients and instead baked them in my cast iron. Thanks Sally!

  10. Great recipe. I grew up in “The Land of Pleasant Living” but even an extra 1 1/2 teaspoons of Old Bay is, shall we say, too polite. I made the recipe last night for the second time and used total of 5 tsp of Old Bay. That was a little more like it. Got a little burn going almost like eating steamed crabs. Next batch, 6 tsp… hun!

  11. Hi Sally. I made this and it was absolutely delicious. Nailed it. Thanks for the receipe.

    Katrina C.

    1. make a really small batch of the sauce used for the actual crab cakes (sans the egg) as a starting point and then simply add more old bay or some cayenne pepper sauce if you want it spicier. This should work very well.

  12. Awesome, I’ve used your recipe at least 6 times. I no longer drive 30 miles to get the best crabcakes in Maryland. I just use your recipe and I’m fully satisfied. My husband loves them. Do you have a recipe for salmon?

  13. I have been frying crab cakes for years as did my Mom.
    But I must tell you this recipe was delicious and the cakes look a lot better.
    Thank you Sally

  14. I’m from Baltimore, and I have to say the FLAVOR of this recipe is fabulous! However, I had a great deal of trouble with their falling apart, both while trying to form the cakes and when serving. Even *delicately* brushing with melted butter made them crumble. There simply was no adhesion, which really surprised me, given the egg and mayo in the recipe. I did have to substitute Panko crumbs for the cracker crumbs, but that shouldn’t have made a difference, since I used exact measurements as written and chilled the mixture for over an hour before baking. They were so tasty, I do want to make them again. Any suggestions for making them hold their shape?

    1. Hi Mary! So glad you enjoy the flavor of these crab cakes. It may help to break up some of the large lump meat so the mixture binds together better. You may also want to increase the breadcrumbs slightly. Both will help for next time.

      1. I had already finely chopped the crab meat. I may also try adding just a Tbsp of high gluten flour to help hold it together next time.

  15. Thank you for this great recipe. I have made crab cakes many times over the years and usually fried them as I have found that baking them didn’t give the best results. Your recipe, however, is wonderful, but, I did bake them longer than recipe called for. Also, did you broil them for a bit to get the browned look in your picture?
    I did use panko instead of the saltines but the results were wonderful. This will be my go to for crab cakes from now on.
    Thank you again.

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed this recipe, Diane! I did not broil them, the melted butter does help them brown up nicely in a 450 degree oven.

  16. These were delicious! Only change would be to add a little more binder but the flavor was wonderful! These made a yummy valentines dinner with filet Mignon.

  17. Made these with leftover Dungeness crab and they are really good. We’re doing steaks for Valentines Day and this will be a perfect appetizer. YUM.

  18. Made these for Valentine’s dinner. Used a 1 lb. can of refrigerated crab that was about half & half jumbo lump & backfin/claw (marked as “best for crab cakes”). Followed recipe except went lighter on the Old Bay & omitted salt since I used the Saltines. Included melted butter & also brushed with butter as recommended. For those who have trouble with crab cakes falling apart, I divided my mixture into 6 “mounds” & baked them in muffin tin sprayed with Pam. They browned beautifully & released from the pan after Letting them sit for a few minutes & loosening around the edges with a knife. Hope that works for others.

  19. Made these for our Valentines Day dinner, followed recipe and everything turned out perfect. Will definitely be making crab cakes again!!!

  20. Great recipe although when pan frying I don’t use any filler, just crab an egg and a little mayo and squirt of mustard. Years ago experimented using small amount of Ritz crackers and they were also good when broiling/baking but not frying. Grew up in MD and lived there most of my life, but now live in north GA where they think a good crab cake is two parts crab and 5 parts filler with a lot of green and red pepper and other junk thrown in.

  21. My first attempt at making crab cakes and these just turned out amazing. So simple to make yet they made such an elegant entree for my guest. I cant wait to make these again. I did use the jumbo lump crab and would not change a thing.
    Thank you!

  22. I made these tonight – Delish! I used a lot more Old Bay, but that’s the only think I changed. I think I’ve found our forever crab cake recipe!

  23. I’ve always been a “don’t mess with seafood” type of person. Just give me the crab with a bit of butter. Then one day about a month ago my husband had a craving for crab cakes so I found this recipe and decided to give it another shot. While I still am generally in my ways that seafood is best without a lot of additions, I am OBSESSED with these crab cakes. I’ve made them several times and my mouth is watering as they are in the oven right now. Absolutely amazing. The only tweak (as others have mentioned) is that they don’t brown enough in the recipe’s bake time. Maybe it’s my oven but I put it on broil for a few after the 14 mins and they are MAJESTIC! You’ve converted me and this recipe has nearly become a staple in my kitchen. Thank you!!!

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