These broiled Maryland crab cakes have been in my family for generations. This is my grandma’s recipe! It’s truly the best crab cake recipe I’ve ever had, and I’ve tried countless versions!
You should also check out my Jumbo Lump Crab Cake Sliders as well as my Jumbo Lump Mini Crab Cake Bites!
I’ve lived in Maryland for my entire life and I can tell you this: we love our crabs.
Steamed, soups, crab cakes… it’s what’s for dinner.
When I have friends visit from out of town, they always want to go out for crabs and beer. It’s a tradition!
My grandma, Zelda, has been making these jumbo lump crab cakes for as long as I can remember.
I can tell you with complete certainty: these are the BEST crab cakes you’ll ever have.
All jumbo lump meat, very little filler, no unnecessary ingredients. This recipe is legit.
If you think you’ve had better, all I can say is this: don’t knock ’em till you’ve tried ’em. And be sure to check out all of those 5 Star ratings below.
How to Make Crab Cakes
What type of crab meat is best?
For BEST results, you need fresh, good-quality jumbo lump blue crab meat for this recipe. I know that jumbo lump meat is ridiculously expensive, but there’s a reason for that.
I’m not saying the flavors won’t still be good here with less expensive crab, but if you want the most authentic Maryland crab cake experience, you need to go for the best ingredients.
I realize that many parts of the country/world will not have access to jumbo lump crab meat, so do the best you can.
Ask around. Ask your local seafood restaurant for recommendations.
Some people like to mix in backfin crab meat because it has a bit more flavor than lump meat. You can do this if you like! It’s just not how my family does things.
Give me all lump meat, all day long.
If you can help it, I strongly recommend avoiding national chain brand crab meat.
More likely than not, it’s not even blue crab meat; it’s probably from Asia. No flavor at all.
What are Fines Herbs?
Fines Herbs refers to a dried spice blend used commonly in French cuisine.
It’s sold by many brands, but I’ve always used the one from Spice Island since it’s available at my grocery store.
If you can’t find it at the store or online, you can make it at home.
It’s made from a mix of commonly used herbs: parsley, chives, tarragon, and chervil.
Google around and you’ll find plenty of recipes.
What is Old Bay?
Old Bay is a seasoning that’s considered a staple in many Maryland homes, including mine.
It’s amazing on many seafood dishes, especially steamed crabs!
I also use it in things like dips and potato latkes.
To me, a good crab cake MUST include Old Bay.
If you can’t find it at your local grocery store, you can always buy it online somewhere like Amazon.
How To Broil
For my money, the best crab cake recipe is broiled crab cakes, hands down. We always broil our crab cakes.
Fried crab cakes are tasty, but broiling truly allows the flavors and textures to shine through.
Broil on the lower setting, and do not flip them.
The meat is already cooked; you are simply cooking the egg and solidifying the filling.
These crab cakes are delicate because of that beautiful lump meat. Flipping them might cause them to fall apart.
The low broil will give them a nice golden color, but you can adjust the setting to high for the final 30-60 seconds for an even deeper caramelization if you’re willing to watch them like a hawk.
Baking will technically work, but you won’t get that crisp, caramelized top. Broiling is truly the way to go here.
How to store
Store the crab cakes covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
If you’re not going to use them within a few days, these freeze very well.
Like everyone else in the family, I tend to make a double recipe and then freeze the leftovers (wrapping them individually).
The crab cakes reheat in a couple of minutes and are a perfect meal.
They make a great sandwich.
What is a good crab cake sauce?
I like crab cakes with dijon mustard (and Saltines) but many prefer tarter sauce.
You can purchase jarred varieties at the store, but it’s easy to prepare at home.
Check out this basic tarter sauce recipe from Ina Garten.
What can I serve with crab cakes?
I always recommend keeping it simple and serving these babies with Saltines and Dijon or yellow mustard.
A lot of people like serving them with tartar sauce. Serve them on bread for an amazing sandwich.
For a classic side dish, I recommend coleslaw!
More Crab Recipes
If you liked this recipe, I definitely recommend checking out my Hot Crab Dip Recipe! It’s perfect for parties!
Maryland Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes
- 16 ounces fresh jumbo lump crab meat
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup regular mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
- 1/8 teaspoon fines herbs (I like the one sold by Spice Island, see notes)
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Set the oven to low broil and place the oven rack near the top.
- In a medium-sized bowl, carefully pick through the crab meat to remove any shells. Try not to break up the lumps. Be as thorough as possible.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and then add in the mayonnaise until combined.
- Add the breadcrumbs and stir to combine. Add the Old Bay, fines herbs and garlic powder. Add the mustard and Worcestershire sauce, stir until well combined.
- Gently stir the wet mixture into the crab meat, one spoonful at a time. This part takes some patience because you really want to avoid breaking up the lump meat as much as possible.
- Carefully form 5-6 crab cakes.
- Lightly grease the bottom of a baking sheet (cooking spray works well for this) and place the crab cakes on the sheet. Place a small piece of butter on top of each crab cake.
- Broil on low for 12-15 minutes, keeping a close eye to make sure they don’t burn. Don’t flip them, just allow them to cook on one side the entire time (the lack of filler makes them very delicate). If the tops seem like they’re going to burn, lower the oven rack. You’re not cooking the meat but you want the filling to solidify and the egg to cook through.
- If you want the tops a bit more golden, switch the broiler to the high setting for the last minute or so.
- When the tops are golden brown, remove the pan from the oven and allow the crab cakes to cool slightly before serving.
- I recommend serving them with Saltine crackers and dijon mustard. They also make a great sandwich.
Please read my full post for additional recipe notes, tips, and serving suggestions!
For immediate help troubleshooting a recipe, please email me using the form on my contact page. I’ll try to respond to urgent questions as quickly as possible! For all general questions, please leave a comment here :)
Just want to say, I have been researching crab cake recipes for the past week as I was planning on cooking for my wife, mother, and mother in law for Mother’s Day. I followed this recipe and for my first time making homemade crab cakes, I think they turned out perfectly! Everyone seemed to genuinely enjoy them and commented on how great they tasted multiple times. Thank you Jennifer for sharing this recipe. I WILL be making them again in the future!
Roxanne Gump says
Jennifer My mother who lived till she was 97 plus a few months. She had always made her owned crab cakes too. She actually used a recipe very similar to your family recipe! One difference was she used dry mustard instead of the Dijon mustard. These were the very best crab cakes. Thank you for sharing all your special recipes with us.
Jennifer Farley says
Thank you so much for the kind words!
Paul Reeder says
Well, I also am from Maryland. (I am 65 years young) I have never had a “Lump” crab meat crab cake that was made from Chesapeake Bay blue crab.. I and my family members have always made our crab cakes with fresh steamed Chesapeake bay blue crabs. There is hardly ever any “LUMP” meat when you crack open a blue crab from the Chesapeake bay! You get the most scrumptious crab meat directly from the steamed blue crab. No substitute will do .As far as I can tell in my experience, when you crack a freshly steamed blue crab, there is no such a thing as “Lump” meat. Blue crab is actually quite small when it comes to the crab world. Even the biggest crabs do not yield much “Lump” meat. The male versus the female crab is so different. I prefer the male crab to the female crab. I can promise you that the person stating “LUMP” crab meat is not referring to the actual Chesapeake Bay blue crab. Therefore calling it a “Maryland” style crab cake. I cannot stress enough that a “REAL” Maryland crab cake, Not a Maryland “Style” crab cake, are so much not the same thing.
The best way to tell the difference is in the texture of the crab itself. Chesapeake Bay blue crab is very stringy but delicious. If there is any kind of “LUMP” crab meat, then it is not a Chesapeake Bay blue crab. Even the claws, in my opinion, do not represent “Lump” crab meat.
I apologize for being an actual Maryland Chesapeake Bay crabber! From Fort McHenry to the Annapolis Naval Academy, I have crabbed my life. I certainly hope this enlightens people to what an actual Maryland crab cake is all about. Sorry I cannot reveal the actual ingredients, but trust me. I know what I am talking about. If there is “Mustard” mentioned, then it is not my idea of what an actual Maryland crab cake is about.
To many people claim to make Maryland style crab cakes. Until you actually have a “REAL” Maryland crab cake, you will never know.
Jennifer Farley says
Hi Paul! There’s absolutely no need to apologize! I love getting this kind of feedback from an actual Maryland crabber. I’m always up for learning more. My family (and my grandmother especially) can be as firm as they want with what they consider facts, but I guarantee none of them have ever gone crabbing. I certainly never have.
That’s excellent info, and I’ll quote you on this in the post when I get some time. I have a follow up question for you. I’ve always suspected that some of the Chesapeake Bay restaurants might be loose with the info on their menus, especially in the last several years when there has been such a shortage. Are there any restaurants in the region that serve the crab cakes you’re describing? I’d love to try one, and we’re planning at least one more visit this summer.
I am also from Maryland and have had Chesapeake Bay blue crab my whole life and I beg to differ. Chesapeake Bay blue crabs do have “ lump “ meat in them however, it isn’t exactly called “ lump crab meat “. It actually comes from the back fin section of our crabs therefore it is called “ back fin “ crab meat versus “ lump “
Jennifer Farley says
My tubs of jumbo lump crab meat always say “jumbo lump crab meat,” but back fin crab is also an excellent option and many people prefer it :)
Agree with the response above. Back fin on a MD blue crab is lump jumbo (whatever else you want to call it) crab meat. And all blue crab is better than the canned imports. Blue crabs are small, but if picked carefully (and that’s why it’s expensive) you can find nice lump meat for cakes. I mix it all, lump, back fin and claw for perfect cakes.
The recipe above is a good one. My only recommendation is to go light on all those ingredients for a less filler, more crab, result. Cheers – Tom
Roxanne Gump says
I agree 100%. There is a major difference between
Jennifer Vitkauskas says
Born and raised in MD, years crabbing, eating crabs & making crab soup and crab cakes (i LOVE your recipe! There are a few restaurants that serve broiled crab cakes, similar to your recipe (G&M, Hellas, Romanos, Timbuktu, etc.).
I was just looking at a local circular, and they have lump crab meat $11.99, jumbo lump $19.99, MARYLAND lump $24.99 & MARYLAND JUMBO LUMP for $36.99.
I pick my own crab meat for crabcakes and crab soup. Once the crab is broken in half down the middle, then each half split in half should have a large lump (that’s jumbo lump, one on each “half”, or “two quarters), & then theres smaller lumps (simply “lump”, or backfin). So, once you divide the crab into quarters, 2 quarters are typically meat that is in smaller amounts (not great for jumbo lump crab cakes), and the other two quarters are where you’ll find the jumbo lump, and lump crab meat.
The only way you would not get jumbo lump crab meat from a maryland crab is if you don’t cook it right and/or are unable to pull the jumbo lumps out delicately.
So two jumbo lumps per crab, & having to make sure not to break up the lumps, there’s a reason why maryland jumbo lump crab meat is so much more expensive! (But so worth it!!)
Many crab places around here will ship crabs, and i know the restaurant G&M ships crabcakes. The thing is, 99% of the restaurants in MD use out of state crab meat. You should definitely order steamed crabs from a local MD place & try them! I know quite a few people who have left MD (most to FL, because the cost of living here is outrageous!)& they have done so & were satisfied! (Just wait until may/June…crabbing season starts in April, but, there’s a chance they will be light/”muddy”!
I can assure you, MD crabs DO have “lump”(aka backfin), AND jumbo lump crab meat, & using my own crab meat, picked from local MD crabs, & your recipe, i haven’t met a crab cake that comes close to mine! Lol
My family is small, so for thanksgiving, i make crabcakes, steam shrimp & get snow crab clusters. I start picking for my crab cakes in late may/early june. It takes quite some time, & quite a lot of crabs, but it’s SO worth it!
Wow Paul…if you crab and catch Chesapeake crabs and they don’t have “LUMP” meat, I’m not sure what you are catching!
I have been crabbing for years here….and yes, Jennifer is correct. The “LUMP” as you have talked about repeatedly is the “back fin.” Chesapeake crabs have plenty of that!
This recipe looks great and I can’t WAIT to try it as it has minimal filler.
I gave it 5 stars b4 trying because it’s almost identical to how I have been making them forever!
Paul Reeder says
I apologize, I kinda was missing the whole “Lump crab” meaning. Yes, the backfin I guess could be categorized as “Lump”. I, somehow, just don’t like that word for some reason. Kinda makes it sound imitation to me.. I don’t know why, it just does. Just so everyone will know, I no longer live in Maryland. I am no a permanent resident of South Carolina. Yes, we do have blue crab down here. However, most restaurants don’t know how to prepare it the “Maryland” way. Some do give it the old noble effort. I even think that Sea Pak Maryland style crab cakes are much better than restaurants. Just add some Old Bay and voila, you have some pretty good crab cakes. Please don’t knock it until you have tried it. I have gotten too old to go crabbing anymore. Yes, we can buy locally caught blue crab. And sometimes we do and steam our own crab. Sure brings back memories. But anyways, I just wanted to apologize to all of the Maryland crabbers out there! Good fishing and be safe. Paul
Tricia L. says
I’m 40 years old and have lived in Maryland all my life. My dad and I have crabbed many times in the Wye River. There is definitely lump crab meat in Maryland crabs. I’ve picked them since I was 4. I’m making crabcakes today and sat here and picked crabs to get the meat which includes about a pound of lump crabmeat. Took a lot of time but did it. This crabcake recipe is one of the best, the flavor was great and very very little filler, just enough to hold it all together pretty good.
So many recipes to experiment with … but what I love and appreciate about this recipe is the BROILING. These cakes, mostly crab meat, are luscious and delicate. A low broil (not as close to the broiler) and then finish at a high broil (closer to the broiler) give you the perfectly cooked crab cake with a beautiful crust. LOVELY!
Paul Busman says
I’d had crab cakes before when we lived in upstate NY, but when we moved to Maryland about 3 years ago I knew I had to make my own. I came across this recipe and they blew my wife and me away. Confession– as a retiree I can’t spend the $$ on the fancy schmancy crab so I use lesser grades. No worries, they’re still great.I haven’t seen broiling and the pat of butter in any other recipes but they make all the difference.
I’m a recipe tinkerer and it occurred to me that scallop cakes ought to be good too so I made them last night,using chopped up bay scallops. Success!! They were terrific and now I’m thinking of making cakes from other fish too. Thanks for this gem of a recipe.
Great recipe! I did change mustard to dry mustard. As a Maryland native I also increased the Old Bay. This recipe is the closest to the best – my Mom’s ! Family loved the crab cakes.
Jim Husband says
I am from and live in Md..
I had never tried to cook these. I went to Cambridge, bough the ingredients including Jumbo lump crab meat.
I must say, they were and some still are, excellent.
Blue crabs have 2 sections that yield what is referred to as jumbo or jumbo lump. If picked properly the piece of meat is roughly the size of the end of your thumb. Because there are only 2 per crab is why jumbo lump is so expensive. You have a nice recipe. The only difference in my family’s is that we use crushed saltines instead of bread crumbs.
I’m a Maryland boy through-and-through, so I’ve naturally eaten more crab and more crab cakes than most people can fathom. Unfortunately, I was not blessed with a family recipe, so I’ve been trying out recipes for a while, and this one is a winner.
The first time I made this I followed the recipe (almost) to a T- I used fresh parsley and chives from the garden but no tarragon or chervil. My family loved it and so did I!
The most important part of crab cakes is the ratio of crab meat/mayo/breadcrumbs, and this recipe has a perfect ratio. Letting them refrigerate for an hour is good; longer is better. I will say in subsequent iterations of following this recipe I’ve been adding 1/2 tsp of stone ground mustard, and doubling the the amount of Old Bay (I am a Marylander after all).
I have a question about freezing the crab cakes. Do I have to broil them first to freeze. My concern is the raw egg. Can I freeze the crab cakes without cooking them?
Jennifer Farley says
I recommend broiling first, wrapping them individually, then freezing. They’re very easy to defrost in the microwave.