Crab Cakes

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Nothing makes me crabbier than ordering crab cakes in a restaurant and getting a couple of oily lumps that tastes like breading and mayonnaise. It’s the kind of experience that sends a cook to the kitchen.

Thus I came up with my own version of a traditional crab cake, seasoned with fresh thyme, Old Bay Seasoning and lemon zest. I keep the mayo out of the cakes so as not to cloud the crab flavor, and use it as the base for a creamy sauce. The cakes are delicate so take care in forming them and putting them in the skillet. The payoff is later, when you taste a cake that is….simply crabby.

I use Dungeness crab for my cakes which is found from the Aleutian Islands in Alaska to south of San Francisco. It gets its name from the town of Dungeness, Washington, now called Old Town Dungeness in the Olympic Peninsula where the first commercial harvesting of the crab was done.

You can make variations, too. Often I make an Asian version, swapping out the Old Bay, thyme and parsley seasoning for freshly grated ginger and cilantro. I serve those with a Thai-inspired dip made with lime juice, rice wine vinegar, sugar, crushed garlic, crushed red pepper and finely shredded carrot. A nice side is brown Jasmine rice.

Once you try making your own crab cakes, you may never order them in a restaurant again.

Sustainability Note: Dungeness crab is considered a “best choice” by the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program.

Buying Tip: The best deal I’ve found for Dungeness crab meat is the 1-pound tubs sold at Costco warehouse stores at their weekend seafood stalls. They are freshnes- dated and I’ve always found the quality excellent. The friendly fishmonger at my local Costco claims it’s the best seafood deal they offer.

Nutrition Note: Crabs are a nutrient- and protein-rich food. A 100 gram serving, about 3 ½ ounces, has 110 calories, 22 grams of protein, about a gram of fat and is a good source of B vitamins, including B12 and folate, and the minerals copper, magnesium, potassium and zinc.

Crab Cakes

You may need one or two eggs, depending on the moistness of your breadcrumbs and crab. Since they contain raw egg, I pop them in the oven for a few minutes after browning to make sure they are cooked through.

1 to 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
3/4 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon lemon or lime zest
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/3 cup thinly sliced green onion
1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper, celery or grated carrot
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 pound fresh lump crabmeat, picked over to remove any pieces of shell and patted dry on paper towels

To Sauté:
2 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil

Lemon-Caper Sauce:
½ cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 tablespoons drained capers
1 tablespoon thinly sliced green onion
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
Dash of Tabasco sauce, optional

Combine ingredients for sauce. Cover and chill until serving time. Preheat oven to 350°. Break 1 egg into medium bowl; whisk to blend. Whisk in parsley, thyme, Old Bay, zest, black pepper and Tabasco. Stir in onion, bell pepper, bread crumbs and crab. Blend well. If mixture appears too dry to form into cakes, add another egg white or whole egg, lightly beaten. Form into 8 (3-inch) patties. Swirl oil into large nonstick skillet and place over medium heat. Sauté cakes in 2 batches, turning once, to brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to oiled baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until piping hot throughout. Makes 8 cakes.

Copyright © Lorelle S Del Matto 2011

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.


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