Maryland Crab Cakes (Pan Fried) - Mighty Mrs | Super Easy Recipes (2024)

Maryland crab cake recipe made with saltines,nobread crumbs or excess filler, jumbo lump blue crab crab meat and Old Bay seasoning. Simple yet authentic recipe. Pan-fried in butter.

This post may contain affiliate links. As an affiliate, I earn a commission.

Jump down to Recipe

If you're looking for an authentic Maryland crab cake recipe, this is it!

I grew up in Maryland eating many crab cakes at local restaurants as well as catching and picking my own blue crabs and have made my crab cakes.

The recipe is simple and highlights the main ingredient which is delicious, jumbo lump crabmeat!

★ Why You'll Love this Recipe ★

These crabs cakes are made with just a few saltine crackers as a binder. No mushy bread crumbs. Using saltines is a little trick many Marylanders use.

These crab cakes are pan-fried so you get a nice crisp.

With this recipe, you'll enjoy big bites of real jumbo lump crab meat and lots of flavor including the quintessential Maryland spice mix, Old Bay.

These crab cakes are simple to prepare at home yet taste just like what you'd order at a Maryland restaurant.

Maryland Crab Cakes (Pan Fried) - Mighty Mrs | Super Easy Recipes (1)

I was born and raised in Annapolis, Maryland. Grew up swimming and boating in the Chesapeake Bay. Ate plenty of crab cakes. Lucky, I know.

This is how my family makes crab cakes. With just a few saltines instead of breadcrumbs. I recognize that some families make crab cakes differently. However, in my opinion, this is the best recipe for authentic Maryland crab cakes! I think you'll love how these turn out.

Made with Jumbo Lump Crab Meat

We catch or buy our own crabs, cook them and pick the meat to use. Or we purchase jumbo lump fresh crab meat from the grocery store when crabs are in season.

Not everyone has this luxury so I have tips below for sourcing crab meat for people who aren't able to easily access Maryland crabs.

I also explain why we use a small amount saltines instead of loading our crab cakes with breadcrumbs.

★ What is a Maryland Crab Cake? ★

A true Maryland crab cake is made with very little filler.

If you're not from Maryland and have ordered a "Maryland Crab Cake" off of the menu somewhere else, it may have been full of breadcrumbs instead of being mostly crab meat. This isn't how it's actually done in Maryland.

Real Maryland crab cakes don't taste like filler because instead of using bread as a binder the crab cakes are made almost completely out of crab meat.

Our family uses saltine cracker instead of bread crumbs to act as a binder. We use just enough to hold the crab together to form a cake.

★ Ingredients You'll Need ★

For this crab cake recipe, you'll need just a handful of ingredients. A delicious crab cake is surprisingly simple to make at home!

Here's everything you'll need:

Maryland Crab Cakes (Pan Fried) - Mighty Mrs | Super Easy Recipes (2)
  1. Jumbo lump Maryland crab meat. Fresh, jumbo lump crab meat is what makes or break a great crab cake. See tips below for sourcing the best crab meat.
  2. Egg yolks. Just the yolks is all you need. This acts as a binder and also add a bit of fat which enhances the flavor of your crab cake making it taste buttery and rich.
  3. Saltine crackers. These combine with the egg yolks and works to bind the crab meat and other ingredients together to form a patty.
  4. Mayonnaise. This also acts as a binder and adds a rich creaminess to your crab patties.
  5. Worcestershire sauce. This dash of flavor balances out the natural seafood taste of the crab meat nicely.
  6. Ground mustard. This further compliments the crab meat.
  7. Salt. You can use table salt or sea salt for additional flavor.
  8. Old Bay seasoning. This classic Maryland blend of spices is the finishing touch to all things crab.
  9. Lemon zest. A bit of a lemon rind adds a pop of flavor that brightens the crab meat perfectly.
  10. Butter. For frying. Real butter is best for a crispy outside layer. You could use oil in place of butter.

★ How to Make this Recipe ★

You can get the full recipe below but here are the basic steps:

Maryland Crab Cakes (Pan Fried) - Mighty Mrs | Super Easy Recipes (3)
  • Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
  • Form patties.
  • Fry crab cakes on each side in a buttered skillet.
  • Serve with a bun or with a side veggie.


★ FAQs and Tips ★

Why are saltine crackers better than bread crumbs?

Maryland Crab Cakes (Pan Fried) - Mighty Mrs | Super Easy Recipes (4)

You cannot make a crab cake that holds together without some sort of binder. So if you want to make a crab cake without breadcrumbs, saltine crackers are a great alternative.

The difference is, bread crumbs are typically made with bread flour which has more protein and more gluten. This gives bread it's chewy texture but that same chewy texture is not really desirable when you're talking about putting it into a crab cake. Crackers, on the other hand, are typically made with all purpose flour which produces a less chewy, more crisp taste in this case.

How to Make Crab Cakes Stick Together.

As I mentioned, you need a binder so that the crab meat sticks together to form a patty. You don't need much of a binder just enough to hold the patty together. The crab should be the hero. The crackers are only doing a job and should not necessarily be tasted.

Many restaurants outside of Maryland make crab cakes with a lot of bread crumbs or other fillers because it's cheaper than filling them with actual crab meat. You really only need a small amount of starch in order to form a lovely crab cake.

Is it better to pan fry or bake crab cakes?

Pan frying is better. You will get a nice crispy outside and you'll preserve more moisture vs baking. Pan frying sears the outside of your patty, locking in moisture.

Baking does not offer the same searing effect so the heat tends to draw out moisture leaving you with a dry patty.

When making crab cakes, remember you are starting with crab meat that is already cooked. So you don't want to double cook the meat. You want to cook your crab cakes just enough to form the patty and heat it through so you can enjoy it hot.

Can you leave out the saltines all together?

Since crab does not naturally bind with itself like other more fatty meats, you need to have some amount of starch plus an egg. This is what keeps crab cake from falling apart.

I have experimented and attempted to leave out the saltines all together but the crab cake just falls apart without any starch at all. So this recipe includes the minimum a amount of filler you need to bind the patties together.

A Gluten-free Option

If you are looking for a recipe without breadcrumbs because you're seeking a gluten-free option, you could try gluten-free substitutes like gluten-free saltines.

If you've tried this, please leave a comment below for other readers who are curious.I do not have a gluten intolerance so I have not tried this recipe with gluten-free crackers.

Just for fun, here are some ways to spot a fake "Maryland" crab cake.

If you're at a restaurant and you're just not sure if you should opt for the crab cakes or not, here are some ways to help you decide.

It's most likely not a real Maryland crab cake if:

  1. It's called a "Maryland Crab cake." Ha! Trickery. It's like if it's trying to hard to be the real deal, it's probably not the real deal.
  2. It tastes more like breadcrumbs than anything else. - Sadly, this only happens after you order.
  3. You can't see big, lump pieces of white crab meat.
  4. There's an orange skin on your crab (Oh no! That's imitation crab meat).
  5. It's priced less than $9.99. Real lump crab meat is $$$.

If you didn't know. Now you know.

What's the best type of crab to use for a crab cake?

The most delicious crab cakes are made with jumbo lump crab meat from freshly picked crabs. Hands down.

You can buy a bushel of crabs, steam them, invite your friends and family over and feast! Pick the leftover crabs for that yummy fresh meat and make yourself a crab cake!

Do this after your friends leave or they will want you to make them one too. ? Or if you have enough, you could be nice and share. 😉

If you don't want to go to the trouble of cooking your own crabs but you have access to a seafood market that sells Maryland crabs, chances are, you can purchase cooked lump crab meat from then in a small container. This is also an excellent option. It'll be expensive but obviously a big time saver.

Can I use canned crab meat?

Maryland Crab Cakes (Pan Fried) - Mighty Mrs | Super Easy Recipes (5)

If crabs aren't in season or you don't live anywhere remotely close to a place that sells crabs or fresh seafood, fret not. You still have options. You can opt for canned crab meat.

I no longer live in Maryland sadly. We are up in Pennsylvania now and fresh crabs aren't available on the side of the highway like they are in Maryland. So, I actually use canned crab meat. It's OK. It's better than imitation crab for sure, but it's no comparison to freshly hand-picked Maryland blue crabs. It also tends to have small pieces of shells.

Also, not all canned crab meat is create equal.

The best canned crab meat is available in the seafood section of your grocery store. It costs about $20 per can and will be refrigerated and labeled "lump crab meat." If you're lucky, you can sometimes find it on sale for half the price. Whenever I see it on sale, I grab up a few cans to make crab cakes and one of my favorite appetizers, this crab dip.

You do not need to rinse canned crab meat before using it.

Fresh crab meat is still your best bet.

With canned crab meat, you may not get big, flaky chunks of white crab meat like you would if you buy or pick your crabs fresh. Also, the meat will have lost some of it's flavor after being packed into the can and sitting for awhile and, as I mentioned, I think it must be machine picked because I always notice a few shells.

If you're a stickler for the best quality but don't have access to fresh seafood, then another option is to order fresh crab meat online. Just make sure when you order, that you're getting real crab meat from a place located in Maryland. It's not going to be cheap.

So, since real crab cakes are made up of mostly crab meat...

The quality of your crab will affect it's flavor.

Now that you know the difference between fresh crab meat, canned crab meat and imitation crab meat, you can make an educated choice and what type to use for this recipe.

Also, now that you know Maryland crab cakes are made without bread crumbs and just a small amount of saltines, you can see why starting with the best crab you can get is very important because that's where all the flavor comes from.

I hope this helps you make the best tasting crab cakes!

What do you serve with crab cakes?

A lemon wedge is a must! Lemon and seafood go hand in hand and when it comes to crabs, this is no exception.

You truly don't need a bun for crab cakes. They are amazing by themselves! You can add a bun though, if you'd like a heartier, more filling meal.

I love the combination of fresh corn and crabs. Fresh scraped corn, or corn on the cob, with a little butter and old bay is just perfect! If you want to step it up, you can make a corn medley like what you see in the photos. Use corn, pimentos or red bell peppers, red onions, and Old bay. Saute everything together in a pan until onions are soft and translucent.

Spinach also goes really well with crab cakes. A spinach strawberry salad makes a great side dish, or try fried spinach if you want to get fancy!

★ More Recipes You’ll Love ★

Love crabs?

Then you will love my hot Maryland crab dip and crab dip pretzel! It's one of my favorite family recipes! You'll also enjoy my crab and vegetable soup. It's easy to make and is very yummy!

You might also like my Easy Salmon Patty recipe.

Seafood lover?

Browse all my seafood recipes and be sure to pin your favorite for later!

These Maryland crab cakes were featured on Wow Me Wednesday and South Your Mouth!

Maryland Crab Cakes (Pan Fried) - Mighty Mrs | Super Easy Recipes (6)

Maryland Crab Cakes - Pan-fried

Author: Angela G.

Maryland crab cake recipe made with saltines,nobread crumbs or excess filler, jumbo lump blue crab crab meat and Old Bay seasoning. Simple yet authentic recipe. Pan-fried in butter.

4.4 from 23 reviews

Read Comments

Print Pin Rate

Course: Dinner

Cuisine: American

Skill Level: Easy

Recipe Type: Crab, Freezer-friendly, Healthy Choices, Kid-Friendly, Sandwiches, Seafood, Summer, Vegetarian

Prep Time: 5 minutes minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes minutes

Servings: 4 Servings

Yield: 4 crab cakes


  • 16 oz fresh jumbo lump Maryland crab meat
  • ¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon ground mustard
  • 4 saltine crackers crumbled
  • 4 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoon butter

Shop ingredients at Walmart.comAdd ingredients, then choose Pick Up or Delivery.


  • Mix all ingredients except butter together in a bowl.

    Form into 4 individual patties, tightly packed and pressed flat to about 1" thick.

  • Melt butter in a pan over medium heat.

    Lightly brown each side for 5 minutes. (Flip using a spatula)

  • Serve hot on a bun with arugula or butter lettuce.



Amount of butter may vary depending on pan. If using a cast iron skillet you may need more. If using a non-stick pan, you can use less.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1crab cake | Calories: 233kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 151mg | Sodium: 1221mg | Potassium: 254mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 170IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 68mg | Iron: 1mg

Follow Mighty Mrs. for more easy recipes!Find @MightyMrs on Pinterest

Related Posts:

  • Maryland Crab Soup
  • Hawaiian Fried Rice
  • Easy Fry Bread Tacos
  • Sweet Chili Chicken Stir Fry
Maryland Crab Cakes (Pan Fried) - Mighty Mrs | Super Easy Recipes (2024)


Is it better to pan-fry or bake crab cakes? ›

Are crab cakes better baked or fried? You can either bake or fry these crab cakes. My personal preference is to bake them because it's easier (no risk of them falling apart when you flip them) and they are less prone to drying out (it's easy to overcook the crab cakes when frying them in a pan).

How do I get my crab cakes to stick together? ›

Egg – The egg will act as a binder for the cakes, so the patties don't break apart. Mayonnaise – Not only will this mayo add some tang to our cakes but it will also help bind them together. You can make your own mayo using my recipe or store bought mayo will be fine as well.

Why do my crab cakes fall apart when I fry them? ›

While egg is a popular choice, it alone is not enough to make crab cakes retain their shape. A starch binder is also required. The key here is maintaining the proper balance, as too little binder means your crab cakes will fall apart, but too much will give your crab cakes an unfortunate texture.

What is the best way to cook pre-made crab cakes? ›

As a general guideline, bake them in a preheated oven at 375°F (190°C) for 10-12 minutes or until they are golden brown and cooked through. Monitor the cakes closely to prevent them from becoming dry or overcooked.

What is the best oil to pan fry crab cakes in? ›

I use a heavy-bottomed skillet with about 1/2″ of canola oil to fry them. Get your temperature to 350, then gently place 3 crab cakes in the skillet. After browning, gently turn them and continue to cook until evenly browned on all sides.

What is the best oil to fry crab cakes in? ›

Some chefs and home cooks do recommend using olive oil (even the extra virgin kind). Additionally, unrefined coconut oil can be fun to use if you are trying out an alternative crab cake recipe that also contains coconut or other complementary ingredients.

Is it better to fry crab cakes in butter or oil? ›

Ultimately, it is your decision how you choose to fry your crab cakes, as both oil and butter will work equally well depending on your taste and cooking preferences.

How do you keep crab cakes from sticking to the pan? ›

If this is your first time making crab cakes, try using a non-stick skillet, as it'll keep the cakes from sticking to the pan and falling apart. Flipping them will also be easier. If the mixture sticks to your hands while you shape the patties, try wetting your hands with water.

How do you tell if crab cakes are done? ›

Around 3 to 5 minutes per side in a frying pan. A little trick that I like is to cook them in butter not oil. You want to feel the middle of the crabcake by pressing down with your thumb. After a few times making them you will recognize the amount of springiness in the center that tells you that they are done.

Is it better to broil or pan fry crab cakes? ›

Broiling allows the flavor and texture of the lump blue crab meat to shine through. When broiling a crab cake, it's crucial not to flip it, as crab cakes are delicate and flipping them over may cause them to break apart.

Why are my crab cakes mushy? ›

Use too little filler and the crab cakes will fall apart. Too much, however, leaves them mushy and tasting like filler. Crab is something that should be treated simply. Don't over-season or add too many ingredients.

Are fried crab cakes bad for you? ›

It clocks in at a disturbing 340 calories and 14 grams of fat. “Crab cakes are getting a bad rap because most of them are fried,” said Liz Smith, a dietitian with Mercy Hospital's outpatient program. “And most people like to season them with Old Bay, which really adds to the sodium content.”

How do you cook premade Maryland crab cakes? ›

Cooking Instructions: Maryland-Style Crab Cakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Lightly brush crab cakes with olive oil and place on a baking sheet.
  3. Turn once during baking. FROZEN: Cook 25 minutes. THAWED: Cook 15 minutes.

Should I refrigerate crab cakes before cooking? ›

Refrigerate for 30 minutes: This is a key step in the recipe. Make sure the crab cake mixture is cold before you shape it into individual cakes. There is little filler in this recipe, so the cakes will fall apart if the mixture is not refrigerated before cooking. Grease baking pan & preheat oven.

Can you overcook crab cakes? ›

We've had the best success with the pan method using a little bit of melted butter mixed with the same amount of olive oil in a nonstick pan. (The oil seems to keep the butter from browning and burning before your cake is browned.) DON'T OVERCOOK YOUR CRAB CAKES!

Which cooking method is best for crab? ›

Best Way to Cook Crab Legs

Consequently, boiling is a quick and efficient method, perfect for snow crab legs, and grilling adds a smoky depth that complements the sweetness of king crab legs.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Francesca Jacobs Ret

Last Updated:

Views: 5784

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (48 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Francesca Jacobs Ret

Birthday: 1996-12-09

Address: Apt. 141 1406 Mitch Summit, New Teganshire, UT 82655-0699

Phone: +2296092334654

Job: Technology Architect

Hobby: Snowboarding, Scouting, Foreign language learning, Dowsing, Baton twirling, Sculpting, Cabaret

Introduction: My name is Francesca Jacobs Ret, I am a innocent, super, beautiful, charming, lucky, gentle, clever person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.