This homemade Crab Cakes recipe couldn’t be more delicious or easy, made with fresh lump crab meat, bell pepper, cilantro, mayo and spices. Serve them as an appetizer or main dish, topped with our crab cakes sauce.

You could use any leftover crab to make our favorite Crab Dip, and don’t miss my tips and tricks for How to Cook Crab Legs.

Three crab cakes on a plate with crab cakes sauce on top.

My mom made this recipe for homemade crab cakes for the first time when I was a teenager and my family was immediately obsessed! We then went through a crab cakes “craze” where we had them really often–usually as part of Sunday dinner.  Wow was I spoiled!

If you’re not familiar with crab cakes, they are fish patties made with seasoned lump crab meat coated in bread crumbs and lightly pan fried, baked, or broiled.

What we LOVE about this recipe:

  1. Oh so easy. Super quick to prep and cook, and you can make them ahead of time and pan fry just before serving!
  2. That crab cake sauce! A simple 6-ingredient sauce that takes this crab cakes recipe to the next level.
  3. Minimal “fillers”: Most crab cake recipes have a lot of “fillers” inside, like crushed crackers, chopped veggies, and tons of herbs and seasonings. They may taste fine, but you can barely taste any crab! This crab cakes recipe has minimal fillers so that the crab is really the star of the patty.

A Word About the Crab Meat:

It’s so important to purchase quality crab meat!  Remember, you get what you pay for, and since the main ingredient in crab cakes is obviously CRAB, you want to buy good quality fresh lump crab meat! Avoid crab meat that comes in a can like tuna fish.

  1. Where to buy fresh crab: Look for crab labeled, “hand picked” or “freshly picked”at higher end grocery stores or your local fish market. (Costco carries it!) Always look for refrigerated crab meat–it helps to ask the person at the seafood counter for your options. If you have to substitute canned crab meat, just note that it won’t have the same wonderful taste and texture.
  2. Look for lump crab: There are different grades of crab meat depending on the part of the crab the meat was taken from. “Lump” meat is best because it is smaller white pieces of crab meat. Jumbo lump is a little too large and would be wasted in crab cakes as its larger white pieces are more appropriate for fresh salads or sandwiches.

How to make Crab Cakes:

Mix crab cake ingredients. Add crab meat to a bowl and mix in the bell pepper, mayonnaise, old bay seasoning, garlic, salt and pepper.

Lump crab meat in a mixing bowl, then crab cake ingredients added to the bowl.

Chill. Refrigerate mixture for at least one hour.  This will make the crab cakes easier to form and hold their shape.

Refrigerated crab cake mixture stirred together in a bowl, ready to form patties.

Form crab cakes.  Use a ⅓ cup measuring cup to scoop the crab (which will yield about 7, three inch crab cakes). Press mixture firmly into your measuring cup. Invert into the palm of your hand and flatten it gently, molding it tightly with your hands to form a flat disc.

Crab cakes formed into patties, on a tray.

Coat with eggs and breadcrumbs. Add two beaten eggs to a bowl and panko bread crumbs to a separate bowl.  Sprinkle crab cakes with cornstarch and set them in the egg mixture, using a pastry brush to brush beaten egg over their top. Scoop and press breadcrumbs around the sides and on top of the crab cake.

Two process photos of a crab cake being dipped in beaten egg, then in breadcrumbs.

Pan fry. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add crab cakes and cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

Six crab cake patties cooking in a skillet.

For Baked Crab Cakes: place them on a greased baking tray and bake at 400 degrees F for about 8 minutes, then flip and bake for 5-10 more minutes, until warmed through and crispy on top.

For Air Fryer Crab Cakes: Preheat air fryer to 375 degrees F. Arrange crab cakes in a single layer in the air fryer basket (you may need to cook in batches) and cook for about 8 minutes, until golden on top and warmed throughout.

Crab Cakes Sauce:

Make the crab cake sauce by combining all ingredients–mayo, garlic, chives lime, chili powder, salt and pepper–in a bowl. The sauce can be made up to 1 week in advance, and taste best when it’s had time to refrigerate to let the flavors blend.

This is our favorite sauce for crab cakes but other popular sauces to serve with them include tartar sauce, remoulade sauce, cocktail sauce and horseradish-sriracha sauce.

Crab cakes sauce mixed in a bowl, next to another photo of it served on crab cakes.

Make Ahead and Freezing Instructions:

To Make Ahead: These crab cakes are great made in advance! Just keep them covered in an airtight container in the fridge, and pan fry right before serving!

To Freeze: You may freeze these crab cakes before pan frying. Just wrap each one in plastic wrap and place in a freezer safe bag. Freeze up to 1 month. Let thaw in the refrigerator overnight before pan frying.

What to serve with crab cakes?

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Recipe

Three crab cakes on a plate with crab cakes sauce on top.
Prep 15 mins
Cook 10 mins
Refrigerate 1 hr
Total 1 hr 25 mins
Save Recipe

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound lump crab meat*
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper (yellow, red, or a little of both), chopped
  • 2 large eggs , separated
  • 2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasonings
  • 2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 clove garlic , minced
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh cilantro , chopped
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper , to taste
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • Panko bread crumbs

Crab Cakes Sauce:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tablespoons chives , finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic , minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Make chipotle mayo crab cakes sauce by combining the ingredients until smooth. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve. (This can be made several days in advance).
  • In a mixing bowl add the crab meat, bell peppers, one beaten egg, Old Bay seasoning, mayo, garlic, cilantro and salt and pepper. Gently stir just until blended. 
  • Refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 5 hours.
  • Beat the remaining egg and add to a shallow dish. Add the panko bread crumbs to another dish.
  • Spoon about ⅓ cup of the mixture into your palm and flatten into a small disc, about 3 inches in diameter. 
  • Sprinkle the outsides of the crab cake patties with a tiny bit of cornstarch. 
  • Dip each patty lightly in the beaten egg, and then coat them lightly with panko bread crumbs. I try to avoid doing a thick coating of crumbs because I like the crab flavor to shine through as much as possible. 
  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the crab cakes and cook for about 3-4 minutes on one side, until golden brown on bottom. 
  • Gently flip to the other side and cook for another 3 minutes, or until golden. Remove to a plate. Serve warm with chipotle mayo sauce for dipping.

Notes

Baked Crab Cakes: place them on a greased baking tray and bake at 400 degrees F for about 8 minutes, then flip and bake for 5-10 more minutes, until warmed through and crispy on top.
Air Fryer Crab Cakes: Preheat air fryer to 375 degrees F. Arrange crab cakes in a single layer in the air fryer basket (you may need to cook in batches) and cook for about 8 minutes, until golden on top and warmed throughout.
More Crab Cake Sauce Ideas: tartar sauce, remoulade sauce, cocktail sauce or horseradish-sriracha sauce.
Eggless Crab Cakes: Use vegan mayonnaise, and use ¼ cup egg substitute in place of each whole egg.
Make Ahead Instructions: These crab cakes are great made in advance! Just keep them covered in an airtight container in the fridge, and pan fry right before serving!
Freezing Instructions: You may freeze these crab cakes before pan frying. Just wrap each one in plastic wrap and place in a freezer safe bag. Freeze up to 1 month. Let thaw in the refrigerator overnight before pan frying.

Nutrition

Calories: 175kcalCarbohydrates: 8gProtein: 12gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 69mgSodium: 725mgPotassium: 159mgSugar: 1gVitamin A: 430IUVitamin C: 17mgCalcium: 40mgIron: 0.8mg

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I originally shared this recipe August 2018. Updated December 2021 with new photos and a video tutorial.

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Lauren Allen

Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

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Comments

  1. Your directions say to put 1/3 of the crab mixture in your hand to make a patty however, the recipe states it makes 7. Did you mean a 1/3 cup???

  2. Why were my crab cakes so moist? They did not pack together very well and fell apart when placed in the egg mixture. What happened?

    1. it has been my experience that you need to make sure that you drain as much liquid out of the crab meat as possible, as well as add some of the bread crumbs into the mixture to help absorb any remaining mixture. I also do not dip mine in egg before coating in bread crumbs. I just coated them in the bread crumbs as there was usually enough moisture to begin with.

  3. 5 stars
    Per my family, these are the best! I’m allergic to crab, but I wanted to make something special in addition to the other traditional Thanksgiving dishes and everyone LOVED them! The directions were super easy and most of the ingredients were already in my fridge (except for the lump crab – which was super easy to find at Safeway!). I fried them in Olive Oil – came out perfect!!!! So glad I found your website! This will be my GO TO for all future meals.

  4. 5 stars
    What a great recipe! Crab cakes used to always intimidate me, so I very much appreciated the step-by-step instructions and the photos. My kids loved them and my husband was very impressed.

  5. 5 stars
    Made these on a whim and will definitely be making them again. The family loved them and they were super easy!

  6. Dear Lauren, thank you for sharing this with us. I think about making it to have an office lunch with lettuce salad. Have a pleasant rest of the week