Maryland Crab Cakes

just-broiled crab cakes

My only goal for my week in Virginia Beach was to eat a good crabcake. Thanks to Dockside, I did. Broiled, lightly seasoned, meaty, the Dockside crabcake embodies everything I hope for in a crabcake.

Finding myself dreaming about this delicacy upon returning home, I called Dockside to find out the details, which they so graciously offered: crabmeat, mayonnaise, panko bread crumbs and Old Bay seasoning. They keep it pretty simple, which came as no surprise. Had they told me they used nothing but crabmeat, I wouldn’t have questioned them.

Recreating the Dockside crab cake was surprisingly easy. Because the cakes are broiled — as opposed to pan fried, which (and sorry for stating the obvious) involves flipping — the cakes can (and should) be delicately and loosely formed. In fact, if your cakes are almost falling apart as you’re placing them on your broiling pan, it’s probably a good sign. A nearly falling-apart crab cake will ensure that the mayonnaise and panko (or pulverized Saltines or bread crumbs or whatever you are using) are doing their job as binders but nothing more.

These cakes broiled for five minutes and disappeared in two. They were delicious.

Final note, crabmeat is expensive. Like, pit-in-your-stomach expensive. Like, oh-shit expensive. Like, how-can-I-rationalize-this-purchase expensive. But, it’s worth it. A good crab cake starts with good crab. The rest is simple.

crab meat

unbaked crab cakes

ready for the broiler

just-broiled crab cakes

Maryland Crab Cakes
Yield = 8 cakes, serves 2 to 3

Note: This crab cake recipe is inspired by the crab cakes served at Dockside in Virginia Beach. Dockside uses Old Bay seasoning in their crab cakes, but I could barely taste it and because I’m not a huge fan of it anyway, I just omitted it. If you like Old Bay, go for it, but don’t over do it — the crabmeat is so tasty on its own. Also, I used tarragon mayonnaise (because I had it on hand), which I feared might be overpowering, but which definitely was not. The tarragon adds a lovely flavor. If you don’t feel like making the tarragon mayonnaise, however, some freshly chopped tarragon or other herb — parsley or chives, perhaps — would be a nice addition to the crab cake mix.

1 lb. jumbo lump or backfin crabmeat
kosher salt
1/4 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade with tarragon
6 tablespoons (1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) panko bread crumbs
squeeze of lemon (less than half of a lemon, so maybe a teaspoon)
a couple of tablespoons of freshly chopped tarragon, parsley or chives (see note above), optional

melted butter, for brushing

lemon wedges, for serving
tartar sauce (recipe below), for serving, optional

1. Place crabmeat in a large mixing bowl. Being careful not to break up the lumps too much, spread out the crabmeat into a single layer in the bowl. Season lightly with salt. Add the mayonnaise, panko, lemon juice and herb (if using). Gently fold all of the ingredients together using your hands or a spatula. The mixture should barely hold together when formed into a cake.

2. Preheat the broiler. (Rack should be about 4 inches from the heat source.) Lightly grease a sheet pan with butter. (Note: Before doing this, take a look at your broiler and make a visual note about where the burning elements will line up with your pan. For instance, I have two coils in my broiler, so when I greased my sheet pan with butter, I greased only the parts where I was planning on placing the crab cakes, which would eventually line up with the two heating elements in the broiler. Hope that makes sense.) Portion your crab mixture into 8 cakes. I used my 1/4 cup measuring cup as a portioner and used my hands to gently form the cakes. Place cakes on sheet pan and chill in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes.

3. Brush each cake with melter butter. Broil five minutes. Serve with lemon wedges and tartar sauce on the side if desired.

Tartar Sauce

I didn’t measure — sorry! — but you kind of can’t mess this up. Also, this can be made days in advance. It tastes better with each passing day.

1/4 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade with tarragon
8 cornichons, minced
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 small shallot, minced
pinch kosher salt

1. Place all ingredients in a bowl. Stir. Taste. Adjust accordingly.

tartar sauce

just-broiled crab cakes


  1. says

    This recipe kind of made me do a faceplant — so simple! Why add all that other stuff? Let the crab shine. Golly, your descriptions and photos are wonderful, as always. I’m dying to eat these!

  2. says

    You’ve been featuring all my favourite foods lately – I love crab cakes! Yours look much better than the ones typically served in restaurants – they’re simple, bursting with crab, allowing the natural sweet flavours to shine through. Yum! Your photos are fantastic as always.

  3. Suzanne JohnsonPeggy Suzanne Johnson says

    Oh my… Those look wonderful and so easy! Crabcakes, salad with some chewy french bread…. Dinner’s ready!

  4. says

    I love dropping by to drool over your latest creations and today I’m featuring this post in Food Fetish Friday (with a link-back and attribution). I hope you have no objections and it’s always a pleasure following you…

  5. says

    Just stumbled upon your blog (at the suggestion of one of the readers from my blog) and with the first recipe being crab cakes I am instantly in love!

    Trader Joes and Costco both surprisingly have good crab meat that is the lump kind, but doesn’t break the bank.

    Excited to try your recipe!

    • says

      Shut Up & Cook — I have heard very good things about the Costco crabmeat. And oh how I miss having a Trader Joe’s nearby. The closest is about 45 min from me. Thanks so much for writing in with the tips!

  6. says

    I’ve never tried crab cakes before… they look and sound delicious, though. I’m from a land-locked city myself and crab is gasp-worthily expensive!

    Oh, and your photographs are amazing. Thank you for sharing.

  7. says

    i have made these before and they are better then some restuarants. Most places, their crab cakes have more filler and hardly any crab in it. I like to see the big pieces of lump crab. Great for football parties!!!!!! thanks

  8. debbie says

    Thank you!! These turned out great i did add some stuff tho, wortcestershire, old bay & djon mustard !!! Delicoius, thank you :)

  9. Missy says

    Thank you! Tomorrow is the Super Bowl, with two crab-centric cities playing each other. I’ve been searching for a great recipe for broiled crab cakes and yours is perfect! Thank you!
    Go Niners!

  10. Vicki Josue says

    I just made these and I eat at Dockside all the time….. these are better…perfect recipe best crab cake I’ve ever had or made. There’s a resturant in the outer Banks I’d like to have their crab dip recipe I asked they won’t give it to me —-maybe could you try sounds like your persistant. Thanks for the recipe…

    • says

      Vicki — I’m so happy to hear this! I can’t wait to get out to Virginia Beach this summer again. I miss seafood. And what is the name of the restaurant? I’d be happy to give them a ring!

  11. Vicki Josue says

    It’s Basnight’s Lone Cedar Resturant it’s on the Outer Banks and has some great seafood but the crab dip is to die for !!

  12. says

    I made these for the second time this weekend, Alexandra! So killer good! I bought my crab at Trader Joe’s for an incredibly reasonable price ($8 for a 1-pound can, and some pretty good-sized chunks in there). I actually bought two cans this time because I was feeding 6 people, but I didn’t expect everyone to only eat one or two cakes each. Because I eat like five at a time, personally! :) The first time I made them I thought the panko was just a bit too crunchy, if that is possible, so this time I crushed Ritz crackers insetad, and let them sit a bit in the mixture to soften. Everything else is sublimely wonderful about these cakes! So simple and delicious.

    I even made my own mayonnaise – my first time! I was a little nervous, but your instructions were perfect. The only thing I would do differently next time is to not use olive oil, which I thought made the mayonnaise a little bitter. I will use the more neutral oils next time as you suggested. Thanks for making me look good on another family occasion 😉

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