July 26, 2023

Maryland Style Crab Cakes

Maryland Style Crab Cakes

This classic but fresh crab cake recipe, influenced by my frequent trips to the Eastern Shore as a kid, pays homage to a place I spent a lot of time while growing up, and makes as the perfect crowd pleaser for any occasion!

Crab cakes are a staple throughout the Mid-Atlantic, but specifically in Maryland and the Delmarva region. Growing up, my best friend’s parents owned a beach house in Ocean City, Maryland and we spent plenty of time down there. One of my favorite parts of going to Ocean City was being able to get a great crab cake sandwich. Whether it was from Fish Tales, The Shark, Micky Fin’s, or countless other restaurants, I had to have one every time I went. Tere is something special about sitting at a table on a pier, staring into the ocean, listening to the locals play Reggae, that takes the crab cake to the next level. 

My preferred way to enjoy a crab cake is as a sandwich but I will eat them over salads, under eggs (as benedicts), or by themselves. That is one of the best parts of crab cakes, they are extremely versatile. You can make a large batch of these crab cakes and have them as a different meal each day of the week!

Let's Talk about the Filler

While the binder/filler always seems to have a bad rep in crab cakes, which is commonly justifiable, a good binder/filler is integral in the overall structure of your crab cake. If the filler/binding ratio is off, then your crab cake will either have a bready texture without the full crab flavor or it will simply not hold together and you will essentially have a crab salad.

The key to have a perfectly-bound crab cake is to:

  • Have just enough dry ingredient (breadcrumbs) to bind with the wet (the dijon/egg/mayo dressing) and the liquid from the crab to fully absorb the moisture without being in excess to have a crumbly or dry texture.
  • When you finish making the mixture, you should be able to take the mix in your hands, and gently squeeze (being careful not to break up the lumps of meat) without there being any liquid running out in between the gaps in your fingers. On the flip side, you want to make sure that all the breadcrumbs are fully hydrated and that there are no patches of dry breadcrumbs that have not soaked up any moisture.

Getting this perfect balance can be tough and it is not always the same, depending on the amount of moisture in the crab/size of egg/amount of moisture in the breadcrumbs, but squeezing a small amount between your hands is typically a good baseline.

Ingredients for the Best Maryland Style Crab Cakes

  • Crabmeat: Bigger is typically better here but you do want balance. The perfect mix to me is 50% fresh lump/backfin meat to 50%  jumbo lump crab meat. That way you get some large chunks of meat that stay untouched while also getting some of the smaller lumps that break apart and blend into the binder and other flavorings. As always, I prefer to use only locally caught and picked Fresh Chesapeake Crab Meat, but if that is not an option, try to source the best unpasteurized crab you can find. Oh, and definitely stay away from imitation crabmeat.
  • Flavoring: I like to use flavors that complement the crab and elevate it’s flavor. My go to choices are herbs such as chives and parsley, lemon, and of course, Old Bay. You can use whichever herbs you prefer, but I would recommend avoiding the stronger-flavored herbs such as rosemary or sage because they have a tendency of distracting your taste buds from some of the more delicately-sweet notes that crab meat present.
  • Binder/Filler: The binder/filler is essentially a dressing made of mayo, dijon, and additional ingredients for added flavors, that is thickened by the addition of an egg, and bound by the absorption of breadcrumbs. If you want to make a gluten-free crab cake, you can use gluten-free bread or potato starch as a replacement for the standard breadcrumbs.

Tips for Making Crab Cakes

  1. You can bake the crab cakes: If you don’t feel comfortable frying the crab cakes, feel free to shape them and then bake them on a sheet pan that has been buttered or sprayed at 350 F for 15-20 minutes or until they are golden brown and have reached an internal temperature of 135 F.
  2. Be gentle when working with the crab meat: The key is to keep the lumps of crab as large as possible and the best way to do that is to gently fold everything together when you are mixing.

Crab cakes are definitely a summer favorite and this recipe might be one of my favorites. Cheers and eat well!

Maryland Style Crab Cakes

This classic but fresh crab cake recipe is the perfect crowd pleaser for any occasion. It features fresh lump crab meat, just enough filler to bind the crabmeat together, and is seasoned to perfection.















  • 1 pound of fresh crab meat (jumbo or regular lump)
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • The zest of 1 whole lemon
  • The juice of ½ of a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons of chives (chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons of Italian parsley (picked + chopped)
  • 1 clove of garlic (peeled + chopped finely)
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of Old Bay
  • 1 whole egg
  • 3 tablespoons of mayo
  • 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon of worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon of hot sauce
  • ½ cup of freshly ground breadcrumbs

Note: Makes 6 (4-5) ounce crab cakes


Making the Mixture:

  1. Start by carefully picking through the fresh crab meat to ensure there are no shells in the meat.
  2. Once picked, gently transfer the crab to a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Add the lemon zest and juice, the salt, the chives (chopped), parsley (chopped), garlic (chopped) and old bay to the crab and gently toss to coat the crab.
  4. In a separate bowl, add the egg, the mayo, the Dijon, the Worcestershire sauce, and the hot sauce and whisk to combine.
  5. Using a rubber spatula, add the dressing to the seasoned crab meat and gently fold the dressing into the crab so that the crab is evenly coated, careful to not to beat or break up the crabmeat.
  6. Once the crab meat is dressed, fold in the breadcrumbs and gently toss until all of the breadcrumbs are evenly distributed. Sample the binding by taking a small amount of the mixture in your hand and squeeze to see if there is excess moisture.
  7. Finally, sample the seasoning by tasting a small amount of the mixture and adjusting the seasoning as needed.

Cooking the Crab Cakes:

  1. Place a large non-stick skillet or cast-iron skillet on the stove and heat it over medium heat. Add enough oil to barely coat the bottom of the pan and allow the oil to heat for about 30 seconds.
  2. When the oil is hot, take about 4-5 ounces of the crab cake mix and gently shape it into a circle in your hands, compressing it lightly so that it holds its shape. Once shaped, place the crab cake into the pan and proceed to place 2-3 of the crab cakes into the pan (depending on the size of the pan) and gently press the top of each crab cake with a spatula to slightly flatten the cakes. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook each crab cake for about 4-5 minutes, or until it turns golden brown on the side that is facedown in the pan.
  3. Flip each crab cake and continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes or until both sides are golden-brown and the internal temperature is 135 F.
  4. Repeat until all the crab cakes are cooked.


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