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Your tips for making GREAT crab cakes

I'm looking for a recipe for crab cakes that has little or no filler -- I want the lump crab meat to be the star of the show. Any suggestions?

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  1. dep on the amt of crab, I use 1 or 2 eggs, 1 or 2Tls mayo, tsp of worscestershire, tsp lemon juice, sprinkle of old bay seasoning and just enough crumbs (preferably from my cornbread) to barely hold together. I usually know that they will be good when I am frustrated trying to make them into a form and into the pan - they fall apart, but then as they cook they come together to a very good crab cake:)

    3 Replies
    1. re: ElsieB

      You are so right. The harder they are to get in the pan, the better they will be! I totally concur with your ingredients, and would only add that if you don't have Elsie's cornbread, try some buttery cracker crumbs.

      1. re: k_d

        Have you ever tried using panko in place of cracker crumbs?

    2. I know it sounds crazy, but I use Wonder bread cubes, not dried, crusts off. I mash it together with an egg or two (depending on amount I am making), it sorta melts. Add my seasonings and crab, finger fluff it to mix and refrig before I fry the cakes. A winner!

      6 Replies
      1. re: Quine

        Do you refrigerate the crab mixture, or do you form the cakes and then refrigerate?

        1. re: CindyJ

          refrig the mix then quickly, with wet hand, form sloppy cakes. :) sloppy is good, make a ball, as it will flatten when cooking.

        2. re: Quine

          If you're crazy, Quine, so are most of my neighbors on Maryland's Eastern Shore. They're watermen, crab pickers, brokers and otherwise involved in the trade. They use Wonderbread too - anywhere from one to four slices, crusts removed, cubed or crumbed. I'd rather have their crabcakes any day over the fancy city variety.
          All the wet ingredients sop into the Wonderbread which disappears into the crabmeat. Same color and you don't even see that it's there. The seasonings are spread evenly through the crabcakes and the tasteless Wonderbread (why we hate the stuff) picks up the crab flavor. The cakes are wet when you form them but they get solid after an hour or so in the fridge. The starch in the bread makes a nice crust when they're sautéed and the inside is light and evenly seasoned.
          Quine, I agree. Wonderbread is a winner this time. HIde the wrapper and enjoy the crabcakes.

          1. re: MakingSense

            ah yep, just about the only use WonderVread has in my book. *smile*

            1. re: Quine

              Two others. The volunteer fire department near my house on the Chesapeake serves fried softshells between two pieces of WonderBread which initially horrified me. But the bread sops up all the juice that squishes out and, since it has NO flavor of its own, all you get is the pure taste of the softshells. It just serves as a handle for eating them. Kinda gross but utterly delicious.
              The other use is as modeling clay. If you mix it with Elmer's Glue, it works for your kids to use like clay and it hardens well. Ick. But it's non-toxic since Elmer's is made from milk. You can add food coloring.

              1. re: MakingSense

                Making Sense mentioned in passing a VFD that cooks softshell crabs. Are those soft crabs pan or deep fried. In any case it sounds like it may be worth a trip. Where is this VFD?

                I enjoyed the thread re crabcakes. My wife has tried white bread and saltines with the Old Bay recipe as a starting point. The important thing is that any homemade crabcake with good fresh crab meat beats a restaurant product any day. I prefer pan fried.

                As my friend Bob says "who makes the best crabcake? --- You do."

        3. There's some great interesting recipes in Tom Douglas's new cookbook "I Love Crab Cakes" - many different funky versions (if you haven't seen it, it's really very cool).


          1. Definitely do not use breadcrumbs. I found the toasted, crumby taste overpowering for something delicate like crab. What about combining with mashed potatoes instead of bread to bind it?

            1 Reply
            1. re: Full tummy

              I like either cracker crumbs or moistened bread. I refrig the cakes after a very loose forming. The crab must stay whole.

            2. See this post for a couple of different versions of low-filler crab cake recipes.


              8 Replies
              1. re: QueenB

                I read this post, and now I'm more confused than ever. I have a feeling that the recipes provided are ALL wonderful, but there are so many variations (cracker crumbs/white bread/panko; onions/no onions; dry mustard, Dijon mustard; Worcestershire/ no Worcestershire; broil/saute, etc.) that, for my first attempt at crab cakes, I don't know which recipe to follow.

                I did find a nice-looking container of jumbo lump crabmeat at Costco, so I'm headed in the right direction, but now what? Decisions, decisions . . .

                1. re: CindyJ

                  Cindy, I think it depends on your personal preference. I don't care for onion or peppers in my crabcakes, I like to taste crab with a bit of seasoning. As for the bread/crackers/panko, the bread or crackers is more traditional for Eastern Shore crabcakes. It's really up to you. I would highly recommend saute over broil though.

                  If you make the recipe I posted, add the least amount of Old Bay. That will give you just enough flavor and not overwhelm the crab.

                  Pick one of the recipes that sounds the best to you and make it. Then, try another one. It's the only way you'll find out exactly which one you like!

                  1. re: QueenB

                    Good advice. I'm from Virginia and like my crab cakes simple....crab and just enough binder to barely hold together & salt and pepper. No onion or other seasonings. And serve them on top of a nice thin slice of country ham and it's perfect.

                    1. re: QueenB

                      I agree that you want to keep strong flavorings out of there. I just throw some fresh bread into the food processor to make fresh breadcrumsb, toss in some old bay, salt and pepper, and mix it with a squeeze of lemon. I like using eggs instead of mayo, but with eggs you want to make sure the entire thing is cooked, while mayo gives a bit more flexibility.

                      Very important is to carefully toss the crab in so that you don't break up wonderful chunks.

                      Also, before you sit down to make the cakes, feel the crab. Has it been picked for cartilege? You can tell because if it hasn't been well-picked, you'll feel bits of shell. If it hasn't been picked, you'll want to do that. It can be time-consuming, so allow for that.

                    2. re: CindyJ

                      Since it's your first time, use the recipe on the side of the can of Old Bay. Do you know how much of that stuff they have sold since they introduced it in the 1940s? It's the traditional recipe from the Chesapeake Bay area where crab cakes originated. Then you can start fine-tuning your own preferred method.

                      1. re: MakingSense

                        Could not agree more---the Old Bay recipe is a good one. I add shallots and parsley to mine.

                      2. re: CindyJ

                        make a great remoulade and then it won't matter so much!

                        1. re: nissenpa

                          But crab cakes are the wedding... remoulade is just the dress.

                    3. So here's the epilogue: I developed a "hybrid" recipe, based on what I liked best about several recipes offered here. The mixture consisted of jumbo lump crabmeat, some chopped scallion, a little Old Bay Seasoning, Saltine cracker crumbs (not much, though), one egg, about 1/4 cup mayo, a dash of cayenne, a little lemon juice. I did everything I was supposed to -- mixed the ingredients carefully so as not to break up the crab lumps, formed the patties, chilled them for about an hour, placed them carefully into heated oil in a non-stick skillet. Then I waited for them to bind up in the pan -- and they never really did. Of the 4 crab cakes, three fell apart when I turned them. Oh, they tasted wonderful, despite their awful-looking presentation. And I decided that that would be my first and last attempt at making crab cakes. That is, until yesterday, when I was in a local gourmet eatery. I remarked about how beautiful the crab cakes in the counter looked, and asked their secret for holding them together. I was told they use a ring mold. So I'll try at least once more -- after I receive the ring molds I ordered this morning from Cooking.com.

                      14 Replies
                      1. re: CindyJ

                        I made crab cakes for the first time last week. I adapated an appetizer recipe from the new Gourmet cookbook. Basically, the same everyone mentioned, 2 eggs, lemon juice, dash of worcestershire sauce, Old Bay seasoning, chopped parsley, 1/4 cup mayo. Refrigerate mixture for 2 hours. Here's what is interesting: roll cakes in crushed corn flake crumbs and bake (not fry) on greased pan in 400 F oven for 20-30 min. They were very crabby and very crunchy, everyone liked them. I made 6 from a 1 lb. of jumbo lump crab instead of the appetizer sized ones called for in the recipe and adjusted the baking time.

                        1. re: CindyJ

                          My guess...too much mayo.
                          Just a hunch, though.

                          1. re: QueenB

                            Wow! And I was thinking "not enough."

                            1. re: CindyJ

                              CindyJ, mayonnaise is mostly oil. Heat is the enemy of mayo. Ever heat some and watch what happens? It breaks down. Instead of binding your crabmeat together, the oil will cause it to slide apart when you cook the crabcakes. The more mayo, the more oil, the more breaking apart. Listen to QueenB.

                              1. re: MakingSense

                                Exactly. Listen to MakingSense...who is definitely making sense.

                                When you heat the mayo, it basically melts. Which is what happened to your crab cakes.

                                1 tsp mayo, 2 Tbsp melted butter in place of your 1/4 cup mayo.

                                1. re: QueenB

                                  Okay! I've modified my recipe so my next attempt WILL be better! Thanks for the advice -- AND the chemistry lesson.

                          2. re: CindyJ

                            Here is my go to recipe after years of playing around...
                            I think I may have to try the wonder bread though!

                            3/4 cup panko (1/4 in recipe, 1/2 cup to coat cakes)
                            1 pound fresh crabmeat, drained well, picked over
                            1/4 cup mayonnaise
                            3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
                            1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
                            1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
                            1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
                            1 large egg, beaten to blend
                            1/2 cup red pepper

                            Coat crab cakes with breadcrumbs in dish, pressing breadcrumbs to adhere. Transfer crab cakes to prepared baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 6 hours.
                            Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, add crab cakes to skillet and cook until golden brown and heated through, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer crab cakes to paper towel-lined plate.

                              1. re: chef chicklet

                                Actually it may be more like a 1/4 cup. I'm not sure if it's a regional thing but for whatever reason, I LOVE a little red pepper in crab cakes. I don't see many recipes including it though. These crab cakes do fall apart quite easily, but as long as I refrigerate them they come out fine.

                                1. re: SweetPea914

                                  Oh I love red pepper too, I use it a lot too. I know when I put too many of any veggie into a crab cake, or meat loaf they fall apart unless the dice is fine.

                                  When I first saw your ingredients I thought about cayenne!

                              2. re: SweetPea914

                                Except for the red pepper, this is identical to the recipe I just made tonight from epicurious. It was very good, as was the greens with lemon vinaigrette they pair it with:

                              3. re: CindyJ

                                CindyJ the crab cakes need to be wet, and refrigerated for a good amount of time to set up/ Doesn't matter if you use crackers, wonder bread, or whatever bread like substance. They need to be wet, and your hands will be sticky. I coat them in fine crumbs lightly or panko. I don't do them the same way as far as a recipe and ingredient since I try to mix it up, just make them wettish (new word). When you form them gently round them in your hands with slight compression. Or they fall apart.

                                You have to learn the feel, there isn't ever going to be an exact amount with your wet ingredients. Oh and taste as you go also, I do, even with raw egg.

                                ok my only little "secret" is a slight kiss of lemon juice, and I mean a kiss, (wave the lemon over the mix) to bring the crab back to life.

                                1. re: CindyJ

                                  I have made crab cakes with a 1/4 cup of mayo, but with the addition of 2 eggs. I didn't use any kind of breadcrumb in the mixture but did use a dusting of panko crumbs after shaping them into cakes. They held up quite well, even though I only chilled them for about 15 minutes.

                                  1. re: CindyJ

                                    I'm guessing that if you experimented with what kinds of crumbs you're using, the breakdown in the pan would change. You used saltines. I have used panko -- with mayo like most recipes -- and after refrigerating they have been okay. Not bombproof, but they stay together quite well.

                                    Sure, mayo is an emulsion of oil and egg and it will break down if microwaved or otherwise heated on its own. My understanding is that the crumbs (panko, bread, or cracker) are moistened by the mayo and the egg (which containing little smearable fat and a lot of protein is a good binder, but can also become very tough when heated at frying temperatures) during the resting period. This is why making crab cakes and cooking them right away isn't recommended. The refrigerated rest is what allows the ingredients to properly meld together.

                                    The idea that crab cakes break down in the pan because mayo breaks down easily doesn't entirely make sense to me. Once you mix everything together, mayo ceases to be just mayo. The whole mixture is something new entirely, a new emulsion of sorts. Has anyone seen a difference in stability of their cakes depending on what kind of crumbs they've used?

                                  2. Technical musing...
                                    Why do common recipes for crabcakes call for mayonnaise anyway? It's nothing but an emulsion of egg, oil and seasonings, usually lemon or vinegar. The heat of cooking the crabcakes breaks mayo down (and may or may not cause crabcakes to break apart - but we don't need to worry about that.)
                                    Why not add the eggs by themselves? - most recipes call for them in addition to the mayo anyway.
                                    You can certainly use better quality oil than mayo companies are likely to use when they manufacture mass market products.
                                    A squirt of fresh lemon would probably be a plus.
                                    If cooks added the ingredients separately, wouldn't there be better control over the final product?
                                    Was using mayo just a recipe change at some point as a "convenience" because it was easy for home cooks?

                                    18 Replies
                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                      Thinking out loud.

                                      I am not convinced that mayo breaks down when added to foods as you've implied. I've added it to many things and find that it does improve the texture. Like mashed potatoes, a tablespoon will give you fluffy creamy potatoes and make you wonder why you worked all these years adding, cream, hot milk, sour cream. I saw it, my husband made them for me ( he is from VA) he added a tablespoon and before I tell not to, I quickly closed my mouth. He alone makes all the mashed potatoes for us now. A dear friend's Mom taught him this little trick. And he loves my crab cakes, which is all that really matters anyway, I do add a little mayonnaise.

                                      Why add Mayo? My mom used to put it in a simple chocolate cake, it was super fudgey & moist.
                                      Actually your mayo comment is worthy of a new thread.

                                      1. re: chef chicklet

                                        I think that mayo cake recipe was invented by Hellmann's - to sell more mayo. Anytime you can get somebody to throw in a cup of mayo, Wow! They'll use a lot more of your product.
                                        As for it breaking down? Put a couple of tablespoons of mayo in the microwave and watch...

                                        1. re: chef chicklet

                                          My secret to great mashed potatoes is a spoonful of mayo.

                                          However, if you use mayo as a vehicle for a breadcrumb coating on things like pork chops or chicken, you will see that it does break down. When you cut or bite in, you don't get a layer of mayo underneath your crumbs. Same thing happens with the crabcakes.

                                          Potatoes are different because the mayo is not subjected to high heat for a substantial amount of time, just the heat from the cooked potatoes. I believe that is what makes the difference. The higher heat is what makes it break down.

                                          1. re: QueenB

                                            I guess this is one of those things we each have to try for ourselves. And I think it takes alot of practice to make good crab cakes.

                                            I freeze left over mashed potatoes they're that good, and I microwave. It is only a tablespoon. I attributed the fluffiness to the egg.

                                            I don't use mayo as a vehicle, and I don't know what I do different I don't experience a mayo layer at all. I refrigerate if I use it in binder, for awile, and it is absobed by the other ingredients. My crab cakes are pretty good,(so says my East coast husband) and they don't fall apart either.

                                            I don't usually cook with the micro wave anyway, only as a reheat.

                                            1. re: QueenB

                                              QueenB, it's neither high heat nor a long period of time. Mayo breaks down quickly. Quicker than I had guessed.
                                              Try it just as a science experiment. I put a plop of mayo right out of the fridge in a small dish into the microwave (you could do this in a pan) and within about 15 seconds, it had completely melted. There was liquid oil and some congealed stuff which I imagine was egg solids and other things that Hellmann's uses. It wasn't pretty.
                                              The oil wasn't even hot. I put my finger right into it and it wasn't uncomfortable. I would likely burn my finger if I put it into hot mashed potatoes.

                                              I'm not saying that anybody has to change any recipe that they are happy with. It just struck me that we were all going round and round about using mayo and whether it might or might not be a problem with crabcakes. For the first time, I questioned if something I had always taken for granted should be re-examined.

                                              1. re: MakingSense

                                                I believe you, Making Sense. Considering that mayo is nothing but an emulsion, I'm not surprised that gentle heat can break it down as well.

                                                I assume then, that it is the oil in the mayo that gives mashed potatoes their creamier texture when you add it? Or perhaps some action of the egg as binder when you whip/mash.

                                                I'm not saying anyone has to change a recipe either, but I'm betting my paycheck that Cindy's cakes didn't stick together in the pan because the mayo was simply too much.

                                                1. re: QueenB

                                                  I thought I read that she thought there was too little mayo?

                                                  We all make our dishes differently. I don't know that what she did wrong causing them to fell apart is about a 1/4 cup of mayo. I thought it was the 1/2 cup of peppers.
                                                  My opinion comes from my own personal experience.
                                                  Meat loaf for instance, if I put too many veggies in it which are not cut fine dice, well then their steam causes them to seperate from the wall of the meat and binder even if it's left to cool before slicing. I've personally had this happen.

                                                  There is not a drop of mayo in the meatloaf. Eggs and sauce are used as the binder and some sort of absorbant like breading or another carb such as rice or oatmeal is used to take on some of the moisture to make it all work.
                                                  It's a structural mishap.

                                                  1. re: chef chicklet

                                                    I didn't use any chopped peppers in my recipe. The only pepper was a bit of cayenne. And yes, my original thinking was that I'd used too LITTLE mayo; I was under the impression that, because of the egg content in mayo, it would serve as a binder. Still, as I review various crabcake recipes, so many call for 1/4 cup of mayo, or even more.

                                                    Well, as soon as my mold rings arrive, I'm going to try another batch, this time with just a teaspoon of mayo, and I'll try white bread instead of saltine crumbs. I'm wondering, though, if I should add another egg to the mixture.

                                                    1. re: CindyJ

                                                      You can always add to it, hard to take it our once it's in there.
                                                      Oh I apologize with thinking you put in diced pepper, the amount you have indicated seemed what I would assume for a diced veggie...anyway.
                                                      Good luck, you'll figure it out, then you will be the expert! Take good notes, I want to hear how the rings work out. I've often thought about getting some myself.

                                                      1. re: CindyJ

                                                        Since I've been musing about the mayo, I've decide to experiment with deconstructing the crabcake by leaving it out and substituting mayo-type ingredients instead. Next time, I'm going to add 2 eggs (1 from the regular recipe, 1 to make up for that in the mayo), some fresh lemon juice for the zing of the mayo, and some melted butter as a substitute for the oil in the mayo. I make traditional Chesapeake Bay crabcakes with white bread which totally dissolves - you don't even realize it's there - so this might work pretty well.

                                                        1. re: MakingSense

                                                          How much crab to the two egg and bread are you using? Any crumb coating or will you fry or broil. Let us know how they turn out!

                                                          1. re: chef chicklet

                                                            Figured I'd use the standard 1 pound since that's what everybody seems to buy. I generally use 2 sliced of bread, crusts removed.
                                                            Usually I don't crumb coat my cakes since I use bread in them - the starch in the bread seems to give them enough of a crunch on the outside. But I may try coating a few this time.
                                                            I always, always pan fry. Broiling dries out the outside before the inside can get warmed through. And I guess I'm a little sentimental. The traditional way of doing them for the watermen around the Chesapeake is pan-frying.
                                                            If I'm going to broil, I might as well do an Imperial, Norfolk or other crab dish.

                                                          2. re: MakingSense

                                                            BTW -- does that white bread have to be along the lines of Wonder Bread, as mentioned above, or can it be a really good quality bakery-baked white bread?

                                                            1. re: CindyJ

                                                              The very reason we disdain WonderBread is why it works as the "glue" that binds the crabmeat together. Know how it softens into mush and sticks to the roof of your mouth? Terrible for eating but it will dissolve in the liquids in the recipe and the starches in it will blend with the egg to bind the crabmeat. Cut off the crust and the color is the same as the crab so you won't even see it once it dissolves.
                                                              Hide it in the bottom of your grocery cart so none of your friends see you buying it. I've used Pepperidge Farm and it was OK but not the equal of WonderBread.
                                                              The winning recipe at this year's Washington DC chef's Crabcake cook-off was made with frozen Texas Toast from Safeway. Not exactly high class bread. Four-Star class chef.
                                                              This is not the time to be uppity. Who really cares if it does the job?

                                                              1. re: MakingSense

                                                                Okay -- Wonder Bread is on my grocery list. But, besides removing the crust from two slices, what do I do with it? Do I make bread crumbs? If so, should I toast the bread first? Or maybe let it get stale first?

                                                                1. re: CindyJ

                                                                  Fresh bread crumbs. You want it to get mushy and dissolve. Toasting it or letting it get stale defeats the purpose.
                                                                  I know this sounds counter-intuitive but generations of Chesapeake Bay residents have been making crabcakes this way and it works. Many do use saltines which also dissolve. I just find that WonderBread makes a lighter crabcake which I prefer.

                                                                  Quine posted above that he cubes his WonderBread. He fluffs the whole mixture with his fingers. Remember to let the cakes "rest" in the fridge so they adhere really well.

                                                2. re: chef chicklet

                                                  Alright....I'm going to have to try this mayo in mashed potatoes deal. I'm intrigued by this and now am finding myself coming up with a menu for tonight that I can make mashers with. thanks for the tip...i'll give it a whirl. I've always been aware of the mayo in cake recipes, but potatoes?.....love that!

                                                  1. re: cbh

                                                    trust me, I never would of thought to do that on my own.... I have been on a creamy mashed potato quest forever. I love love love them.
                                                    Offering to help me with dinner one night, he said that he would mash the potatoes for me, and I said sure, and he uses a hand masher. I brought the butter, and the milk out along with salt and pepper. I am a purist and when I saw the mayo I started to object, and then he plopped it in there and I watched in amazement. I love his potatoes!!!
                                                    Fluffy, and beautifully creamy. We have Best Foods (West Coast) in our house and Hellman's on the occasions that I remember to pick it up at Cost Plus Market...Hope you enjoy it!

                                              2. Here is my crabcake recipe, CindyJ - thought I'd throw it out there...it is not too unlike much of what is mentioned here...but I feel very confident in this recipe...it is tried and true and they've even been enjoyed by many Annapolis, Maryland crabcake-aholics on boat outings...we even have eaten them room temp or cold as leftovers and everyone fights over them. We serve them with a simple remoulade/tartar sauce - recipe follows. Also, fwiw, I've never had various mayo breaking down issues...

                                                1 lb. lump crab
                                                2 heaping T. mayo (hellmans or homemade)
                                                2 eggs
                                                1/2 t. plus a dash more Worchestershire
                                                1/2 t. plus a little more to taste Old Bay seasoning
                                                1/4 t. salt
                                                1/4 c. or so of very finely minced white onion
                                                1t. mustard powder
                                                4 slices of "Pepperidge Farm Very Thin" white bread dryed out in oven for 10 mins - crumbled up or cubed - whatever your preference.
                                                Clarified butter

                                                1. Combine all ingredients except bread. Can be refrigerated at this point to blend flavors etc.
                                                2. Add bread
                                                3.Form into patties and brown in pan with 2 T. of Clarified butter or ghee on medium high heat. Cook for 3/5 mins. a side and then you can keep them warm in the oven.

                                                Remoulade/Tartar sauce:

                                                1/2 c. good mayo
                                                2 T. small chopped pickles - whatever is your favorite
                                                1 T. coarse grained mustard
                                                1 T. champagne or wh. wine vinegar
                                                pinch salt
                                                pinch pepper

                                                Swirl everything in the food processor with Pulse a few times until well mixed, and ready to serve. Store in the fridge -


                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: chowlicious

                                                  I love to try different crab cakes I think your recipe sounds petty good, I love remoulade sauce and your addition of champagne!

                                                  All this talk has created a serious craving!