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
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


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 Saltine cracker crumbs (about 14 crackers)
  • optional: 2 Tablespoons (30g) melted salted or unsalted butter


  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.


  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


    I never leave comments… but oh my gosh. This was better than any crabcake from an expensive seafood restaurant charging $12 a cake. I died. I followed this to a T and it was absolute ABSOLUTE PERFECTION.

    BUTTER BUTTER BUTTER, you GOTTA add it, folks! Brush it on. Mix it in the binder. Butter the pan. Brush the crab cakes at the very end then broil on high for a minute or two. Oh my GOD.

    Thank you, you talented human…

  2. These are AMAZING. I live in Eugene, Oregon, and my friend is a crab fisherman on the coast (only an hour away), and he just brought me FRESH CRAB, and it was PERFECT for this recipe! Yes for baking them! Yes for the mustard! (And a little extra hehe) and Yes for the brushing of the butter! Thank you SO MUCH Sally 🙂 best regards from the west coast.

    1. Hi Linda! You can use Panko, but I’m afraid they might be a bit too coarse in the center. Let me know if you try them!

      1. Thank you for such a quick response! I may try them with panko, but will follow the recipe the first time so I have a comparison.

  3. I made this for the first time 2 weeks ago and my husband has requested it 3 times since then! So easy it’s almost a crime and so delicious it might be a sin! Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!


  5. Made these crab cakes tonight for dinner.
    Followed the recipe exactly and they definitely were better than restaurant quality! Served them with homemade coleslaw and jasmine rice. So yummy!! Thank you Sally

    1. Hi Meghan, I’m unsure of the nutritional info of this recipe, but there are many great online calculators like this one:

  6. I’m currently avoiding eggs because I’m breastfeeding and my baby has an egg sensitivity. I’m planning to use vegan mayo. Do you think I could leave out the egg or substitute something else?

    1. I have seen egg substitutes in the store before. I don’t know where you are from but I know I saw vegan egg substitute at our local schnucks

  7. I followed the recipe but just added extra parsley, green onions and red peppers they were so good! Definitely restaurant quality. Also I used an 8oz portion of crab meat which was plenty. I will be making again.

  8. Hi Sally, I lived in Maryland for 39 years before moving to Florida. I know the best Crab Cake and they came from G&M’s in Linthicum Maryland. But, I have to admit, you have an excellent crab cake. I didn’t need to make it since I truly know the recipe. the only difference with G&M and the one you have is that they use a little bit of Dry Mustard as well as dijon mustard and they roll the crab cake over Backfin lump crab meat. Also, the cakes are 1/2 lb each and broiled on top. You must be a Marylander or at least spent much time there. Great job!!

  9. Made your crab cakes for dinner last night. Best way to describe them is awesome. Served them with mashed potatoes, stewed tomatoes and homemade coleslaw. Flavor was better than most restaurant ones we have tried. I chose to make 4 in lieu of 6 this way one was a sufficient serving.

    Thank you, Sally

  10. I made these for the first time and they are absolutely out of this world! I’ve had many crab cakes in high-end restaurants that don’t even compare to these. I paired them with a green apple risotto and haricots verts, and the combination was perfection. Thank you for another fantastic recipe, Sally!

  11. These were very tasty, made them with fresh Dungeness crab. Next time will experiment and add Chopped scallions!

  12. I have tried many crab cake recipes over the years and this one, BY FAR, is the best recipe everrrr!!! You have the Midas touch! Thank you!

  13. I made these as directed and they were delicious. I definitely say brush the butter on top. It gives lots of flavor and makes them golden brown. My family loved them.

    Thank you so much for sharing. I had all the ingredients in my pantry and my family LOVED them!

  15. I have been making recipes from your site for a while now, and I always know I can trust what you tell me to do. This was no different than the last recipe of yours I made. FANTASTIC. Delicious. Honestly better than most restaurant crab cakes I have tried. I didn’t have worcestershire, so I made a substitute with soy, lemon juice, and sugar, but other than that, followed the recipe to a T.

    It was totally worth the $40 I spent on crab. Didn’t need sauce with the mayo built in.


  16. This recipe is simple and delicious! Made two with gluten free crackers. Everyone LOVED them. Delicious

  17. I’ve tried a number of crab cake recipes and this is by far the best. They were awesome! I didn’t have saltines so I substituted oyster crackers and the crab cakes were absolutely delicious!

  18. I cook all the time and I think this recipe is 100% on point with how a crab cake should be. The refrigerated fresh lump meat is well worth the price and makes a lovely presentation. I’ve also used this for salmon cakes with no adjustments. Oh, I did omit the salt since old bay and the saltines are both salty. That’s the only thing I changed. I didn’t think it needed the additional sodium and it probably would’ve been fine either way. Don’t flip them in the oven! I turn the broiler on high for 2 minutes at the end just to brown and crisp the top. I also used the additional 1/2 tsp old bay. Thank you for another fantastic recipe!

  19. Made these for Easter dinner, since we could not go out! Great taste and texture. I did not have parsley, did not miss it. The easiest recipe I could find with little mayonnaise and little filler. Lotsa flavor though!

  20. I made these crab cakes on Saturday. I was skeptical that they were as good as all the reviews say….HOLY F&*K !!! They are AMAZING! My boyfriend and daughter absolutely loved these. The recipe was so easy to follow and the results were Maryland crab cake lover worthy. Thank you so much for posting this recipe!

    If you are on the fence…..these are the absolute best that I have had and I am a crab cake lover. I felt like a Queen serving these to my family and watching them enjoying every bite. Any place the recipe said butter….I added and I am so glad I did. Just amazing.

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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