Learn how to make the best Old Bay crab cakes! Made with tender lump crab meat, old bay seasoning, and saltine crackers, this is an easy recipe made with no-filler ingredients for the perfect crab flavor in every bite. Tips for making crab cakes that don’t fall apart included.

dipping crab cake

If making crab cakes intimidates you, I’ve got some tips that will change your mind! Believe it or not, this delicious recipe is both easy and quick to put together. In fact, you can make these ahead the night before and pan-fry for dinner in less than 10 minutes!

This crab cake recipe is commonly known as a Maryland Style crab cake, which keeps the crab meat as the main focus. This means there are minimal filler ingredients and only includes ingredients that hold the crab patty together.

Why I love this recipe

Most restaurants stuff their crab cakes full of bell peppers, heavy bread crumbs, and other ingredients, which leaves this dish with very little crab meat per patty and over-powering flavors that mask the crab. In this dish, crab is the main focus with savory herbs and just a crumble of crackers to bind it all together.

crab cakes on plate

I love that this recipe is so easy to put together! You can make these ahead of time so they have plenty of “setting” time in the refrigerator, then pan-fry these for a few minutes on each side. Dinner is done in under 10 minutes!

Ingredient Notes

  • Crab Meat: This recipe uses lump crab meat. You can find this fresh from a seafood market, canned, or frozen. Be sure you are purchasing wild-caught seafood and not imitation crab meat.
  • Binder: While there are no filler ingredients, a binder of egg, mayonnaise, and crackers are used to bind the meat together.
  • Old Bay Seasoning: Old Bay Seasoning is a must for this recipe. You can’t make crab cakes without it! Try this homemade version of Old Bay!

How to Cook Crab Cakes

Old Bay crab cakes are simple and easy to put together, but this recipe does take a little extra planning time.


Before you begin assembling the crab cakes, you will need to make sure your crab meat is defrosted and drained well. Otherwise, your crab meat mixture will be soupy and will not form into a patty or hold their shape while cooking.

I prefer to add the crab meat to a strainer in the sink and press out the moisture with a fork. Fluff, then repeat. Allow the meat to continue draining while you gather the remaining ingredients.

flaking crab meat with fork

Next, flake the crab meat with a fork and check for any pieces of shell that was left behind. Be careful not to over flake as you want the lumps of crab meat to retain their shape.


Step 1: Make the Crab Meat Mixture

To a bowl, add the crushed saltine crackers, mayonnaise, lightly beaten egg, parsley, Old Bay, dry mustard, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Whisk to combine.

I like to crush the saltine crackers in a zip-top bag or crumble into the bowl with my hands. It doesn’t have to be perfect, roughly crushed is fine.

Then, fold in the crab meat. Do this gently to keep those big, lumps of crab meat intact.

Step 2: Make the Crab Meat Patties

Use your hands to shape the mixture into about 6 patties. These are usually about hamburger patty size. Place the patties in a casserole dish or on a baking sheet.

Step 3: Chill the Crab Cakes

Cover with foil and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. If you skip this step, the crab cakes will fall apart. The colder the patties are for cooking, the better!

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.

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.

Expert Tip

As mentioned above, chilling the crab meat patties is very important to avoid the crab cakes from falling apart. If you are short on time, place the crab patties in the freezer to help them firm up faster.

Cooking Tips

Choosing Crab Meat: Look for “lump crab meat” on the container. This is the most expensive grade of blue crab meat, but it is the best! When purchasing fresh (not frozen) lump crab meat, use within 2-3 days. Canned crab meat (unopened) will last in the refrigerator for several months.

Leftover Crab Cakes: Serve leftovers on a bun for a sandwich, deconstructed over pasta with a little olive oil, or with a salad.


Here are a few ideas to change up this crab cake recipe:

  • Use a deep fryer for extra crunch, an air fryer for a healthier “fried” version, or bake the crab cakes in the oven.
  • Instead of Old Bay, use different seasoning blends to your taste.
  • Try adding in different ingredients like scallions, herbs, and chopped shrimp.

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:

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.

Storing and Reheating

If you have leftovers, store them in a container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Cooked crab cakes can also be wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 3 months.

To reheat, place a crab cake in a skillet over medium-low until warmed through.

More Seafood Recipes and Tips

Old Bay Crab Cake Recipe

Learn how to make the best Old Bay crab cakes! Made with tender lump crab meat, old bay seasoning, and saltine crackers, this is an easy recipe made with no-filler ingredients for the perfect crab flavor in every bite. Tips for making crab cakes that don’t fall apart included.
Print Recipe
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Chill/Set Time:: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 6


  • 1 pound lump crab meat drained
  • ½ cup saltine crackers crushed (about 6-8 crackers)
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • 1 tbsp. dried parsley flakes
  • 1 tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning plus more as desired
  • ½ teaspoon dry ground mustard
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons butter salted

Optional for Serving:

  • Remoulade sauce
  • garlic butter


  • 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.


Please read the entire post for details, tips, and more!
  • 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.


Nutrition Facts
Old Bay Crab Cake Recipe
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat
Trans Fat
Polyunsaturated Fat
Monounsaturated Fat
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutritional values are estimates only. See full disclaimer here.
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  1. This is a very good recipe, which I will use, only with fresh crab meat. I never let the crab cake sit in the refrigerator. Iwill definitely try this.
    Thank you for sharing.

  2. I haven’t tried it yet but thanks for the refrigerated tip I never knew that my salmon croquettes would always fall apart while frying them

5 from 2 votes

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