Homemade crab cakes with no filler! The combination of big hunks of tender jumbo lump crab meat, old bay seasoning, and pan-fried (not deep-fried!) are the secrets to delicious crab cakes that won’t fall apart! These are simple to make but are perfect for a seafood dinner no matter where you are!
This crab cake recipe is closely related to a Maryland Style Crab Cake, which focuses on the crab with seasonings, like Old Bay, Worcestershire sauce, and Dijon mustard. With only a few ingredients and a quick pan-fry, these fresh, jumbo lump crab cakes will be melting in your mouth in no time.
Southern Style Crab Cakes
There is no hard-fast rule to crab cakes, but I do not like a lot of filler. Most restaurants will stuff their version full of peppers and other stuff with very little crab flavor. This makes me…well, crabby.
In this dish, crab is the main focus with savory herbs and just a crumble of breadcrumbs to hold it all together. It’s basically like a crab burger. In fact, you could easily serve this as a sandwich.
Growing up near the Gulf Coast, I’m quite the seafood snob! I only go for the freshest seafood, and that means when we travel to the beach, I’m stocking up and bringing a whole cooler full with me.
We always make a pit stop at Shrimp City on Thomas Drive in Panama City, Florida. It’s a tiny blue seafood shop that sells only the best. They catch it, place it on ice and sell it fresh – never frozen. The exception to the frozen rule is crab meat, which is frozen in 1 pound containers, shelled, picked, and ready to cook with!
How to Cook Crab Cakes
As simple as this recipe is, it does take a little extra planning time. After you combine the crab mixture with all of the ingredients, patty them out, then place them in the refrigerator for at least an hour to set up.
If you do not chill your crab cakes for an hour or more, the crab cakes will fall apart.
Step 1: Drain crab meat and flake.
Make sure you are working with thawed crab meat that is drained well. Otherwise, your crab meat mixture will be soupy and not turn out well. It just needs to drain for a few minutes.
Using a fork, flake the crab meat, and check for any pieces of shell that was left behind. You don’t need to shred it into smaller pieces, but just separate them out so all of the seasonings can get all around each piece of meat.
While the crab meat is draining, gather the rest of your ingredients together.
Step 2: Crush the crackers, and mix ingredients.
Crush the saltine crackers in a zip-top bag or with your hands. It doesn’t have to be perfect, roughly crushed is fine. This will work as the binder for the rest of the mixure.
Add the crackers and the next 7 ingredients to the mixing bowl. Stir it all up!
Then, fold in the crab meat. Do this gently because we still want to keep those big, glorious chunks of crab meat intact.
Step 3: Make the Patties & Chill.
This is where things get a little messy! Use your hands to shape the mixture into about 6 patties. Place them in a casserole dish or on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Then, this is a very important step: Cover with foil and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
*Do not skip this step!
Allowing the patties to rest in the fridge will help them stay together.
After the patties have chilled, remove them from the fridge. You can even give them another dousing of Old Bay over the tops if you like.
Step 4: Cook the Crab Cakes
Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. I prefer a cast iron skillet. The butter should not burn but begin to appear frothy, like below:
When the butter is hot, add the crab cakes to the skillet and cook for 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
Be careful not to overcrowd the pan to get the nice brown crisp on the outside. It doesn’t take long for them to cook – about 5 minutes on each side.
As you are cooking, it’s tempting to want to check the bottom for color, but don’t! Place them in a pan with the butter, over medium-high heat, and don’t move them until you are ready to flip them at the 5-minute mark.
When each crab cake is done cooking, remove it from the skillet and place it on a plate. You can cover the plate with foil to keep warm. The crab cakes should read 165F with a meat thermometer when ready.
What to serve with crab cakes
You must have a really good remoulade sauce for dipping! This is the only sauce I serve with crab cakes, and it complements them perfectly.
Here are some great side dishes to go with crab cakes:
Tips for Crab Cakes (storing, leftovers, etc.)
This recipe makes six crab cakes. If you have leftovers, store them in a container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
You can have leftovers on a bun for a sandwich, deconstructed over pasta with a little olive oil, or with a salad.
FAQ for Crab Cakes
What kind of crab do you use for crab cakes?
Jumbo lump crab is the choice for those who are seafood purists! There are recipes that use imitation crab or canned crab meat; however, I have never used anything but fresh crab meat.
How do you make crab cakes from scratch?
Combine the ingredients in the recipe card below, then patty the mixture out into 6 patties. Place them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour. Then, following the instructions below, pan-fry them for 5 minutes on each side and serve.
What are crab cakes made of?
There are different styles of crab cakes. This particular recipe is crab forward with large lumps of crab meat with a few seasonings.
How do you keep crab cakes from falling apart?
Allowing them to “set” in the fridge, including the egg and the small amount of breadcrumbs keeps them from falling apart. It’s important to get them icy cold in the refrigerator. Don’t skip this step or your cakes will fall apart.
How do you know when crab cakes are done?
Crab cakes are finished cooking after pan-frying for 5 minutes on each side and a quick rest on a plate for 2-3 minutes.
Where does the crab meat come from?
The crab meat for this recipe comes from the legs, claws, and body of the crab. Depending on where you are located, you can find frozen, but fresh crab meat near the butcher section of your grocery store. It’s important to select wild caught, instead of farm-raised for sustainability and quality.
Is it better to fry or bake crab cakes?
Knowing how to cook crab cakes is half the battle. I prefer them pan-fried. Follow the steps above or in the recipe card below for pan-frying instructions. To do this, you’ll need a cast-iron skillet as mentioned above, butter, and prepared crab cakes using the recipe below.
Easy Homemade Crab Cakes
- 1 lb. Jumbo Lump Crab Meat (thawed)
- ½ cup Saltine Crackers (crushed (about 6-8 crackers))
- ½ cup Mayonnaise
- 1 Large Egg (lightly beaten)
- 1 tbsp. Dried Parsley Flakes
- 1 tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning (plus more as desired)
- ½ teaspoon Dry Ground Mustard ((see note 1))
- ½ teaspoon Black Pepper
- ½ teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
- 2 tbsp. Butter
- Rémoulade Sauce or Garlic Butter (for serving (optional))
- Working with thawed jumbo lump crab, Thoroughly drain crab meat in a colander, and flake with a fork to separate the large pieces.
- Gently stir and remove any bits of shell.
- Using your hands or a zip-top bag, crush the saltine crackers by giving them a quick squeeze. They do not have to be uniform in size. Place crackers in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
- Then, add the next 7 ingredients to the same bowl. Stir to combine.
- Gently fold in the drained crab meat and stir until ingredients are combined.
- Using your hands, shape the mixture into about 6 patties. Place the patties in a single layer in a casserole dish or on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Cover with foil and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Do not skip this step!
- After the patties have chilled, remove them from the fridge.
- Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat.
- When the butter is hot and begins to foam, add the crab cakes to the skillet and cook for 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Do not overcrowd your pan, allowing 1 inch of space between each crab cake.
- As each crab cake is done, remove it from the skillet and place it on a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess butter.
- Serve with Rémoulade Sauce or Garlic Butter for dipping.
- Ritz crackers or any multigrain cracker may be used in place of Saltines.
- Do not skip the refrigeration time for the patties. This prevents them from falling apart.
- Some like a dash or two of hot sauce to the crab meat mixture for extra heat.
- You can make these ahead of time (up to 3 days), then cook them when ready.
- Do not allow the patties to come to room temperature before cooking. Make sure you are ready to cook when they are removed from the refrigerator.