There's nothing like these Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes using colossal lump crab meat with little filler. They're absolutely addictive. Serve them as an appetizer or the main event and enjoy watching them disappear. Easy to whip up and can be made ahead and frozen!
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In full disclosure, since spending basically my whole life on the east coast, I consider myself well versed when it comes to crab cakes. I order them constantly when out and traveling, and have experimented diligently in the kitchen. This recipe is the culmination of all those experiences to develop an undeniably delicious crab cake.
And, if you love crab as much as we do, you have to check out this Grilled Romaine Lump Crab Salad & Green Goddess Dressing (one of the best salads ever!), Mini Crab Puff Pastry Quiches (brunching just got tastier), Party-Pleasing Hot Cheesy Crab Dip (heaven sent) & this Spicy Pasta & Crab Carbonara with Burrata (mic drop).
Key Ingredients & Substitutions
The key to great crab cakes is to have flavor enhancers that still let that succulent lump crab meat shine through. A couple veggies and fresh herbs work beautifully here along with lemon juice and a blend of Dijon and Creole mustard for some kick.
Best Crab Meat to Use - As you can tell from the recipe title, jumbo lump crab is the top choice. Lump crab has the same taste, just the pieces are smaller and will still work. Both can be found in the refrigerated section in the seafood dept. of most grocery stores. My go-to is Phillips Jumbo Crab sold by the pound at Costco. A little pricey but so worth it.
Vegetables - Keeping it simple with some chopped roasted red peppers, which add a little moisture for binding, along with green onion. Minced shallots could also play a part here or replace the green onions.
Herbs & Spices - If you're looking to change things up from the traditional route of putting Old Bay seasoning on everything crab, this recipe has you covered. Here I focused on the accenting flavor fresh thyme, dill and tarragon brings to the table. Sometimes I find Old Bay dominates the crab flavor and wanted to avoid that. But by all means, add it if you like along with a pinch of cayenne or hot sauce for more heat.
Binders - Crab cakes need binding ingredients to keep them together, aka filler. The goal is to strike the right balance between wet binders like mayo, mustard, egg and lemon juice with dry binders, like whole wheat panko (light and airy Japanese-style breadcrumbs) I used here.
You can substitute regular or homemade breadcrumbs for the panko and even use crushed crackers, potato chips, or a blend of all the above! Just go easy on the salt if you include crushed crackers or potato chips.
This recipe is really easy to pull together and has minimal chopping. It's simply a matter of combining the crab cake ingredients and forming them into patties. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- The very first thing I do is drain the lump crab meat and place on a paper towel to remove excess moisture and carefully go through the pieces to remove any lingering cartilage. Usually there's none but it's good practice. No one wants to chew on something that doesn't belong.
- All ingredients are combined except for the panko and crab meat. They are gently folded in last and be careful not to break up the lumps of crab very much.
- I used a little over a ¼ cup to form each patty for appetizer size, but you can make them larger for an entrée.
- Once formed, build in chilling time in the fridge! Otherwise you risk them falling apart. No fun.
When your patties are nicely chilled, heat a high smoking-point oil (options are provided in the recipe) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the crab cakes when the oil is glistening hot.
Be sure not to overcrowd the pan! They shouldn't touch one another and overcrowding will bring down the temp of the skillet. Cook in batches for best results.
Cooking these smaller size patties takes just 3 minutes per side for mouthwatering bites. If you decided to go with a larger version, they'll take 4-6 minutes on each side depending on the size and thickness.
How do you tell if crab cakes are done?
The exterior will be crispy with a golden brown crust and the inside should be tender with an internal temperature of around 150-155 degrees F when using an instant-read thermometer.
Is it better to fry or bake crab cakes?
Naturally everyone has their own opinion and after using various methods, I highly recommend pan searing or sautéing crab cakes. It uses very little oil compared to deep frying but still gives you that crispy, golden exterior the oven doesn't quite achieve. Plus that outside sear keeps the crab cakes from falling apart.
How to bake or broil if you choose
Nonetheless if you prefer using the oven over the stove, bake the crab cakes in a preheated 425 degree F oven for about 10 minutes until golden and heated through. Should you decide to broil, preheat on high and broil each side 2-3 minutes. Don't stray too far though. Things can burn very quickly under the broiler.
Sauces for Crab Cakes
Not that these crab cakes even need a sauce, it's just that I come from a sauce-loving family and they can put whatever you're making to a whole other mouthwatering level.
The 4-ingredient sauce here combines dry white wine (one thing always in my fridge), shallots, cream and juice from a Meyer lemon (a cross between a lemon and mandarin orange). Here's some more background on Meyer lemons if interested.
Everything reduces in a saucepan, concentrating flavors and finishes with fresh herbs. You can make it while the crab cakes are chilling out in the fridge or even the day before. It's fabulous on fish and chicken too!
Crab meat to Avoid for Crab Cakes
Stick with crab you find in the refrigerated section of your grocery store. While more economical, the canned crab in the same aisle as tuna fish is stringy, high in salt and cholesterol, and will significantly alter the crab cakes' taste and texture.
And, avoid using 'imitation' crab for this recipe. It's highly processed, pulverized pollock made into a paste that's piped into molds then painted with orange food dye to resemble the meat from crab legs. So this fake crab doesn't come close to the taste or texture of real lump crab meat.
Remember to Chill!
One of the primary reasons crab cakes fall apart no matter the recipe is they're put in the oven or skillet as soon as they were formed. They need time to firm up in the refrigerator for the best chances of staying whole.
Best Cooking Oil to Use
When pan searing, you're cooking these delicious patties at relatively high heat so you need an oil that can tolerate high-temperature cooking without burning. Light olive oil, canola and avocado oil are good choices that are widely available. Avoid cooking crab cakes with extra-virgin olive oil or butter. Their smoking points are too low.
Preheat Your Skillet
Make sure your cast iron or other heavy skillet is hot before adding the crab cakes. The oil should sizzle when you flick a few water drops in it. If the pan isn't hot enough the crab cakes will absorb the oil and get soggy rather than cook and sear.
Parchment Paper PSA
Be aware that parchment paper will begin to burn at 451 degrees F. I mention this because if you decide to bake your crab cakes at a temperature close to this you risk having some pretty charred patties. AND, NEVER line a baking sheet with parchment when broiling anything! You'd definitely need a fire extinguisher handy.
How long will leftovers last?
Should you have any leftovers, simply store them in an airtight container and refrigerate up to 5 days. Rewarm in a 375 degree F oven for about 10 minutes, or microwave if short on time. If they're not going to be eaten in that timeframe, freeze as instructed just below.
How to Freeze & Reheat
To freeze uncooked and already cooked & cooled crab cakes, just place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until firm, about 2 hours. Wrap each patty in plastic wrap and pop into a freezer bag. They'll last in the freezer up to 3 months.
For uncooked crab cakes, thaw completely and pan sear as instructed in the recipe. For cooked crab cakes, thaw and reheat in a 375 degree F oven for 10-12 minutes.
To reheat already cooked but still frozen crab cakes, bake at same temperature for 20-25 minutes until heated through. They shouldn't fall apart in the oven since they were already pan-seared.
Unfortunately, yes! The crab is already cooked so you're cooking to make sure the egg in them is properly done and heated through. Overcooking will make the crab meat rubbery and the patty can get greasy and end up falling apart.
They may not have been properly chilled before cooking. Refrigerating a good 2 hours helps them firm up. If there wasn't enough filler, making them too dry, they won't stay together. And if they're too wet, they can end up soggy and fall apart. Striking the just-right Goldilocks scenario is key.
It's a good idea to cook 1 or 2 as 'testers' to see how they hold up. If they fall apart in the skillet try chilling them a little longer to get firm. Or if they seem dry, add more filler ingredients, reform them and refrigerate.
What else to Serve for Dinner
Here are some delicious ideas to round out the menu along with this Gingered Peach & Blueberry Mojito to kick things off! Hope you enjoy!!
Grilled Filet Mignon (if you're feeling that surf n' turf vibe!)
The BEST Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes (with little filler)
- 1 large egg , slightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon whole grain or creole mustard
- 1 Meyer lemon, zest and juice
- ¼ cup green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 4- ounce jar roasted red peppers , drained, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh dill , minced, plus extra for garnish
- 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon , minced, plus extra for garnish
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme , minced, plus extra for garnish
- 1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat , go through and remove any cartilage
- ⅔ cup whole wheat panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- Kosher salt and black ground pepper
- 4 tablespoons canola, olive or avocado oil , divided
- Freshly chopped chives and Meyer lemon wedges, for garnish
- 1 ½ cups Chardonnay or other dry white wine
- ¼ cup chopped shallots
- ¾ cup whipping cream
- 1 Meyer lemon , zest and juice
- Freshly chopped chives
- Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Whisk first 5 ingredients together in a large bowl.
- Stir in green onion, roasted peppers, dill, tarragon and thyme. Season mixture with salt and pepper.
- Gently mix in crabmeat and panko, breaking up large pieces of crabmeat slightly. Let stand 10 minutes.
- Form crab mixture into sixteen 2-inch-diameter patties, using about ¼ cup for each.
- Cover patties with parchment paper and chill at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Working in batches, cook the crab cakes until golden brown, about 3 minutes on each side. Add more olive oil as needed.
- Transfer crab cakes to paper-towel-lined plate to drain excess oil.
- Serve crab cakes with warm sauce and garnish with herb sprigs and chives. Enjoy!
- While the crab cakes are chilling, you can make the sauce. Boil wine and shallots in heavy medium saucepan until mixture is reduced to ¾ cup, about 10 minutes.
- Add cream, reduce heat to medium and simmer until reduced to sauce consistency, about 20 minutes.
- Stir in Meyer lemon zest and juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about 1 cup.
- Sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Press plastic wrap on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Cover and chill. Rewarm over medium-low heat before serving.
- Store any leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate up to 5 days.
- To Freeze uncooked and already cooked/cooled crab cakes, just place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until firm, about 2 hours. Wrap each cake in plastic wrap and pop into a freezer bag. They'll last in the freezer up to 3 months.
- To Reheat uncooked crab cakes, thaw completely and follow cooking instructions above. For cooked crab cakes, thaw and reheat in a 375 degree F oven for 10-12 minutes. To reheat frozen crab cakes, bake at same temperature for 20-25 minutes until heated through. They shouldn't fall apart in the oven since they were already pan-seared.
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