Jumbo Lump Maryland Crab Cakes

These Maryland Crab Cakes have been in my family for generations. I’ve never had a better crab cake in my life, and I’ve tried countless versions!

This Maryland Crab Cake recipe has been in my family for generations. I've never had a better crab cake in my life, and I've tried countless versions!

I’ve lived in Maryland for my entire life and I can tell you one thing for sure: we love our crabs. Steamed, boiled, fried, soups, dips, pretzels, 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 family has been having steamed crab get togethers forever. It’s what we do. And 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.

A photo of crab meat in a bowl, surrounded by the other ingredients for the crab cake recipe.

A photo of the crab cake ingredients being stirred in a bowl.
A photo of jumbo lump crab cakes being formed.

Notes Regarding Crab Cakes

First things first: for BEST results, you need fresh, good quality jumbo lump crab meat for this recipe. Preferably from Maryland, but North Carolina and Louisiana have good quality meat as well. I know that jumbo lump meat cab be 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 best, authentic Maryland crab cake experience, you need to go for the best ingredients.

My parents buy their lump crab meat from Sea King, a shop attached to a seafood restaurant that sells nothing but fresh seafood prepared in house and the standard fixings: coleslaw and potato salad. It’s a bit too far from me now, but I have them pick me up some when we’re all getting together. There’s a good seafood market near me as well (gotta love Maryland). I realize that many areas will not have shops like this but do what 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 the 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. At the end of the day, 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.

Other Crab Cake Ingredients

My family always uses the exact same brands for certain ingredients, though I’m a bit more flexible (with the exception of Old Bay). Old Bay, Spice Island’s Fines Herbs (yes, that’s how it’s spelled), Grey Poupon Dijon Mustard and Progresso Italian Bread Crumbs are my grandma’s top picks. I’m not saying any old breadcrumb or dijon mustard will cause the recipe to fail but these ingredients are tried and true. I definitely use various dijon mustards and store brand Italian bread crumbs (they must be Italian style!). However, if you use my grandmother’s brands, I guarantee this recipe will live up to its full potential of awesomeness. This is how I’ve been eating them for over 30 years. This is how my mom makes them. This is how my aunt makes them.

Fried, Broiled or Baked Crab Cakes?

We always broil our crab cakes. Fried crab cakes are tasty, but broiling them truly allows the flavors and textures to shine through. Broil on the lower setting, and do not give in to any temptation to flip the crab cakes. 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 flip 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 when it comes to crab cakes.

How to Store Crab Cakes

Also worth noting: these crab cakes freeze very well. Like everyone else in the family, I tend to make a double recipe and then freeze the leftovers (wrapping them individually). They reheat in a couple of minutes and are a perfect meal. They make a great sandwich.

What is a Good Crab Cake Sauce?

Personally, 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. Here’s a basic recipe:

Tarter Sauce
Barely adapted from Ina Garten

Yield: 3/4 cup

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (preferably full fat)
    2 tablespoons cornichons (small-diced pickles may be substituted)
    1 tablespoon capers
    1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
    1 teaspoon coarse-grained mustard
    Pinch kosher salt
    Pinch ground black pepper

Add the ingredients to a food processor and pulse several times until the pickles are finely chopped and all the ingredients are well combined (but not pureed). Store in the refrigerator.

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 in things like dips and potato latkes. To me, a good crab cake MUST include Old Bay.

Here are a few variations on the recipe:

5 from 10 votes
These jumbo lump crab cakes are my grandma's recipe, and they've been in our family for generations. I've never had a better crab cake in my life, and I've tried countless versions!
Print
Maryland Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
25 mins
 

These crab cakes are my Grandma Zelda's recipe, and they have been in our family for generations. I've never had a better crab cake in my life, and I've tried dozens!

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6
Calories: 258 kcal
Author: Jennifer Farley
Ingredients
  • 16 ounce 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
Instructions
  1. Set the oven to low broil and place the oven rack near the top.

  2. 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. 

  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and then add in the mayonnaise until combined.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. Carefully form 5-6 crab cakes.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. If you want the tops a bit more golden, switch the broiler to the high setting for the last minute or so.

  10. When the tops are golden brown, remove the pan from the oven and allow the crab cakes to cool slightly before serving.

  11. I recommend serving them with Saltine crackers and dijon mustard. They also make a great sandwich.

Recipe Notes

I personally like to serve these with saltine crackers and some dijon mustard. That's it.

 

There are recipes online for making Fines Herbs from scratch, but my grocery store sells the blend from Spice Island, which is what I've always used. 

The BEST Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes you'll ever try. My grandmother's recipe!

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  • Thank you SO much for a recipe that doesn’t have peppers in it!!! And it looks easy enough even for me, the cooking challenged. I’m glad you included this in your year end blog post. Now to find good crab in Minnesota.

  • I am from ireland but I spent 2 wonderful summers in the mid 80s working in Ocean City MD and remember Crab Cakes so well. OMG, When ever we went out for dinner I had crab cakes. I even get old bay sent to me when I can from my friends in the US or pick it up when Im over there.!. lovely post full of memories for me.

  • I made these tonight exactly as directed and they are delicious! I’m a Maryland girl and your recipe was perfect! Thanks for sharing your family recipe. :)

  • Yummmm….. A great Valentine’s dinner thanks to this recipe!! My husband says “better than Timbuktu!!!” I followed the recipe and served with a homemade lemon aioli!! Thank you SOOOO MUCH for sharing!! These will forever be in my recipe book!! Cheers!!!

  • My mom’s from Sykesville, Maryland. Spent many happy summer afternoons & evenings there at my grandmother’s, either picking steamed crabs around a table with my relatives, or eating the crab in crabcakes or soup. The gal who posted the recipe from the restaurant in Brooklyn? Well, that’s much closer to what I’m used to – crab, a touch of mayo, Saltine crumbs, salt & pepper; maybe a touch of Old Bay. I’m sometimes amazed by the recipes that are supposed to be “THE authentic Maryland crab cake”. What I’m coming to realize is that authentic varies, depending on whatever we grew up with. BTW, my family on that side is from Maryland back to at least the mid-1800s. Thanks!

    • Fines Herbs is a dried spice blend. Several brands sell it, but I typically use the one from Spice Island, which is available at my local grocery store. If you have trouble locating it, it’s available for sale online. But it’s made from very basic spices, so you might be able to just make your own! I’ve never tried this, but I’ve seen lots of recipes for it online.

  • FROM BALTIMORE MD TOO MAKE CRAB CAKES TOO, BUT OMIT THE WORCHESHIRE SAUCE.. THANKS FOR YOUR RECIPE I EAT THEM THE SAME WAY AS YOU

  • I like what I have just seen, the crab cakes, and would like to be included on your list to see more great ideas from you!

    Thank you,
    Jean

  • I live in Plymouth Massachusetts. Yes, we have lobster but I CANNOT find good lump crab. Do you know of any places down where your from that ship?

  • We ((Maryland) have the best crab cakes !!! I use the
    Recipe on the Old Bay can but use crackers instead of bread and no
    Milk. No fine herbeds or Italian bread crumbs. They ch
    Change the flavor.

    • Most ovens have broilers with two settings: low and high. Does yours only have one setting? If so, I’d use a rack toward the bottom, maybe 1/3 of the way up, and keep a close eye on them to make sure they don’t burn. Low broil still cooks them from above but with a less intense heat.

  • Can’t wait to try these. How do you freeze and then cook them. Do you thaw them first or cook them straight from the freezer?

    • Hi Barb! I recommend cooking them first, wrapping individually, and then freezing, as opposed to freezing them raw (which I think is what you’re asking). They reheat so easily in the microwave. I’d try 1 minute at a time, covered, until they’re at a temperature you’re happy with. I’m not sure how well the raw egg would freeze.

  • Wow these recipes sound amazing!!! You don’t look that old , how did you come up with these holy moly!!! I must try one day !!! There’s another lady on here her name is Jean and her recipes are amazing too , how come I can’t cook like this and I’m an old lady darn it!!! Thank You

  • I love crab cakes and yours look delicious. Your recipe is very similar to mine with the exception of the mayo and mustard. I’m going to try your version. Thanks for sharing.

  • I grew up in Texas, and we went crabbing armed with stew meat on a string and a net for hauling them in. My Mom made the best crab cakes!!! Unfortunately, I never saw her useee and a recipe for any of her delicous dishes – even hot rolls, pies and cakes!!! I fully intend to try your recipe as it looks delicious. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, (God willing, I will be 93 in Dec.), but I am going to prove them wrong by trying this recipe. Thanks for sharing!!!

  • Greetings! A fellow Maryland Girl living in a Virginia world here! You are so right about your recipe. My parents and grandparents were born and raised in Baltimore and depending on where you lived (Baltimore itself, the Metropolitan area, Eastern Shore, Southern or Western Maryland) Crab Cake recipes can differ greatly by region and by family. It’s all in what you were raised with, use this and not that and so on. The only ingredient that everyone agrees with is the necessity of Old Bay. I remember The Baltimore Spice Company when it was located near the Inner Harbor and they still made Old Bay (since they were the original makers of Old Bay before McCormick’s bought them out and acquired the recipe). My mother’s Old Bay tin had so many recipes on it for seafood, shellfish, poultry, beef and salads. Trust me she made them all and they were always wonderful. I have been attempting to collect family recipes that were never written or passed down so they are never forgotten. This is incredibly difficult when those members of your family are no longer available to ask, so here I am searching the internet and I found your wonderful recipe. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful recipe! I can close my eyes and smell them cooking in my grandma’s tiny rowhouse kitchen as I type this. If only I could get the recipe from the Sisters at St. Michael the Archangel for their kielbasa and pierogies. Then my kids and eventually grand kids will know what kielbasa is really supposed to taste like!!!

  • Many Thanks to Grandma Zelda! These were better than any East Coast crab cake I’ve ever had! As I’m in Ohio I had to make my own Old Bay seasoning and Fines herbs but beyond that, really easy and totally delicious! Thanks again!.

  • I followed the recipe exactly and the result was pure perfection. Hate to brag about my own cooking but damn! Thanks for the recipe!