Ever wondered how to make The Best Crab Cakes? I have the answer here! Perfectly seasoned, big pieces of crab, with ingredients that let it shine as the star of the show. Paired with my homemade tartar sauce, this recipe is a show-stopper for your family, friends, or special guests.
I’m currently living my east-coast-best-life in Nova Scotia, and the seafood is beyond inspirational. King crab legs were on sale, so, we bought a few pounds! It would be a crime to pass up. While they are dreamy dipped in warm, melted garlic butter, you guys don’t really need instructions for that. Today I have the tastiest crab cakes made so easy with a homemade tartar sauce.
You can’t make these gorgeous crab cakes and pair them with any old bottle of sauce for the store. No, they deserve better than that. Just look at the ingredients! Chop, mix, and it’s ready to serve. I even have tips for customizing the flavor of your tartar sauce to make it perfect for you.
Click “Jump to the Recipe” at the top of the page or keep on scrolling down to the recipe card for ingredient amounts and full recipe instructions. Below I have extra detail, substitutes, tips, and tricks to ensure your crab cakes turn out perfect.
- Crab – I used fresh King Crab legs. You can use any type you have handy! Even canned (and drained).
- Egg – You can add an extra egg if you’d like.
- Panko – This Japanese style breadcrumb is coarser than Italian breadcrumbs and perfect for crab cakes. You should be able to find it at most grocery stores. You can use regular breadcrumbs instead.
- Mayonnaise – For both the crab cakes and the tartar sauce.
- Dijon – If you don’t like dijon, you can just yellow mustard.
- Worcestershire – You can use more or less as you like.
- Old Bay – This is a mixture of celery salt, paprika, pepper, cayenne, dry mustard, and a few aromatics such as nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, etc. When I can’t find any Old Bay, I substitute it with cajun/creole seasoning.
- Herbs – Fresh parsley and dill.
- Hot sauce – Any type you like best.
- Olive oil – For pan-frying the crab cakes. Other types such as vegetable, safflower, cornflower, canola, avocado, or sunflower oils will work too.
- Pickles – I used dill pickles. Use whatever your favorite type is!
- Shallot – Can’t find any? Use a mild sweet onion or finely sliced green onion instead.
- Lemon – Juice for the tartar sauce and wedges to serve.
- Salt & pepper – Season to taste.
How to make the best crab cakes
- Sauce: Mix the tartar sauce ingredients together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in the fridge.
- Mix: Add the crab, egg, breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, dijon, Worcestershire, Old Bay, parsley, hot sauce, salt, and pepper to a large mixing bowl. Stir until well combined and let the mixture stand for 10-15 minutes.
- Form: the mixture into 8 equally-sized pucks. Make them as thick or thin as you prefer. Preheat a large skillet for 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat.
- Cook: Add a few tbsp of olive oil to the skillet, enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Carefully place the crab cakes into the pan, working in batches if needed, and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 3-5 minutes per side, until golden brown. Allow the crab cakes to cool for a few minutes before serving with tartar sauce and lemon wedges.
How to make crab cakes in the oven
You can make these just a bit lighter by baking them in the oven rather than pan-frying! To do this, follow the recipe as instructed until you get to the cooking stage.
- Preheat the oven to 450F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place the formed crab cakes on the baking sheet. Spritz with some baking spray or brush with a bit of butter.
- Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until browned to your preference. Let the crab cakes cool for a few minutes before serving.
How to cook crab
The beauty of crab cakes is that they are fantastic no matter what type of crab you use! Whether it’s canned or fresh, this recipe will taste amazing. The only downside to using fresh crab is that you’ll have to prep it if it’s not already cooked. I have some simple instructions here for the most popular types of crab:
King crab: This type is best if you just use the legs. Add the legs to a large pot of boiling water, making sure they are fully submerged. Boil for 12-14 minutes before transferring to an ice bath to cool them down for faster use in your crab cakes.
Dungeness crab: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the crabs, whole, to the pot. Cook for 20 minutes with the lid on. Transfer the crabs to an ice bath to cool them down for faster use in your crab cakes.
Click here for a fantastic resource that will show you, step-by-step, with photos, how to clean a Dungeness crab and get as much meat as possible from it.
Snow crab: Much like the King crab, you’ll just use the legs here. Boil the legs, fully submerged, for 6-8 minutes. Transfer the legs to an ice bath to cool them down for faster use in your crab cakes.
Tips for making the best crab cakes
- Whether you’re using fresh or canned crab, make sure to get any excess moisture out. Gently squeeze the crab to get water out which will hinder the structure of your cakes.
- Vary the size of the pieces of crab. Don’t shred it all up completely! Leave a few nice, chunky bites in there.
- Let the mixture sit for a little bit before shaping and cooking. This will allow the breadcrumbs to soak up the moisture and provide much-needed structure.
- Don’t lift the crab cakes to check them extremely often; they will fall apart. Really let them sit and cook properly before flipping. The less flips the better.
- Make sure you let the crab cakes cool down for a few minutes before serving.
How to serve crab cakes
This recipe is something that you can serve as a starter, or you can have them as a main dish for dinner. As a starter, you can make the crab cakes a little smaller, if you’d like. Serve with a wedge of lemon and a dollop of tartar sauce.
We had these for dinner served with a nice big salad of tossed greens with a simple balsamic vinaigrette. These little guys are surprisingly filling, and a bright salad was the perfect accompaniment!
How to store and reheat crab cakes
Transfer your leftover crab cakes, fully cooled down to room temperature, to an airtight container. They will last 3-5 days in the fridge or 6-8 months in the freezer.
To reheat refrigerated crab cakes, transfer them to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake at 350F for 10 minutes or until warmed through.
Reheating frozen crab cakes works best if you let them thaw fully overnight in the fridge, then follow the directions detailed above. If you want, you can reheat straight from the freezer. Place the crab cakes on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake at 325F for 15-20 minutes or until warmed through.
Loving this easy recipe? Try these:
- Bacon Wrapped Scallops
- Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus
- Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes
- Homemade Salsa
- Watermelon and Feta Salad
The Best Crab Cakes
- 1 lb lump crab fresh (and cooked) or canned
- 1 egg
- 2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
- 2 tbsp parsley freshly chopped
- 1 tsp hot sauce
- 1/4 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/2 tsp pepper or to taste
- olive oil for frying
- lemon wedges to serve
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2-3 tbsp dill pickles finely diced
- 1 small shallot finely diced, about 1 tbsp
- 1 tbsp dill freshly chopped
- 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1-2 tbsp lemon juice to taste
- 1/4 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/4 tsp pepper or to taste
- Mix the tartar sauce ingredients together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in the fridge.
- Add the crab, egg, breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, dijon, Worcestershire, Old Bay, parsley, hot sauce, salt, and pepper to a large mixing bowl. Stir until well combined and let the mixture stand for 10-15 minutes.
- Form the mixture into 8 equally-sized pucks. Make them as thick or thin as you prefer. Preheat a large skillet for 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat.
- Add a few tbsp of olive oil to the skillet, enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Carefully place the crab cakes into the pan, working in batches if needed, and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 3-5 minutes per side, until golden brown. Allow the crab cakes to cool for a few minutes before serving with tartar sauce and lemon wedges.