Crab Cakes

updated Dec 29, 2023
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Crab cakes should be all about the crab — no questions asked. They should be crispy on the outside, moist and flaky on the inside, and taste exclusively of fresh, delicious crab. No fillers or excess spices getting in the way. If you agree, you’ve come to the right place.

Our crab cake recipe is intentionally unfussy. We’ve put crab meat at the center of the equation, and thrown in just enough extras to hold the patties together. Serve them with lemon wedges, an arugula salad, and tartar sauce. Here’s our method for the best crab cakes possible.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

The Key to Making the Best Crab Cakes

The key to making the best crab cakes is simple: Crab, not breadcrumbs or mayonnaise or spices, should be the focus. Yes, including all three makes for flavorful cakes that won’t fall apart when you pan-fry them, but here, too much isn’t a good thing. If you load up on fillers, the delicate crab meat will get lost in the noise.

We know crab meat is a splurge, so it’s a waste if it’s not the star. This is the kind of recipe you make for a date night or a special occasion, so we know there’s no room for error. That’s why this recipe was thoroughly tested to ensure it’s utterly foolproof.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

What Ingredients Do I Need to Make Crab Cakes?

  • Crab: First, it’s important to buy the right type of crab. You’ll want to reach for jumbo lump crab meat here. It’s pricey, but, like we said, this is a special treat. Head to the fish counter to find it — either fresh or frozen is fine since it’s typically flash-frozen to preserve quality. If frozen, let it defrost in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Egg: An egg binds the ingredients together and gives the crab cakes some structure.
  • Mayonnaise: Mayo adds moisture to the crab cake mixture.
  • Breadcrumbs: Panko breadcrumbs help bind the patties.
  • Mustard: Dijon mustard adds tang.
  • Parsley: Chopped fresh parsley lends color and freshness.
  • Worcestershire and hot sauce: These two sauces provide zip. Don’t be afraid of the hot sauce here — it simply adds flavor, but doesn’t actually make these crab cakes spicy.
Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Is It Better to Better to Pan-Fry or Bake Crab Cakes?

We pan-fry the crab cakes here, which gives them a crisp, golden-brown crust on both sides. It’s the classic method that everyone loves. But we’re also fans of baked crab cakes when cooking for a crowd (make a double batch for your next party). Both methods work well for any occasion.

How Do I Serve Crab Cakes?

With crab cakes at the center of the plate, you don’t need much else to make this a special meal. Serve them on top of a bed of salad greens (we particularly like frisée or arugula) with a big squeeze of lemon, or serve them next to your favorite grilled or roasted vegetables. If sauces are your thing, make a classic tartar sauce, a cool and creamy tzatziki, or a spicy remoulade. Popping open a bottle of crisp white or rosé wine is optional, but we do think it rounds out the occasion, if you’re so inclined.