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.
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:
- Oh so easy. Super quick to prep and cook, and you can make them ahead of time and pan fry just before serving!
- That crab cake sauce! A simple 6-ingredient sauce that takes this crab cakes recipe to the next level.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Chill. Refrigerate mixture for at least one hour. This will make the crab cakes easier to form and hold their shape.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
- Fresh arugula garnished with lemon juice and fresh cracked salt and pepper.
- Tomato Cucumber Salad
- Wedge Salad
- Mashed Potatoes
- Tuna Pasta Salad
- Baked Potato Salad
- Corn Chowder
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- 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
- 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.
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I originally shared this recipe August 2018. Updated December 2021 with new photos and a video tutorial.