Maryland Crab Cakes with Creamy Special Sauce

Fish & Shellfish  |  Published Jan 11, 2021  |  Updated Jan 10, 2021  |  By Tawnie

crab cakes on a white plate with arugula

A Maryland staple, these Maryland Crab Cakes are going to make you feel like you’ve been transported to the Chesapeake (if you don’t already live there).

Made from fresh lump crabmeat, scallions, and Old Bay, they are flavorful and so easy to prepare. Paired with a savory and tangy flavored sauce, it’s a match made in heaven!

This post has been sponsored by the Seafood Nutrition Partnership. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep Kroll’s Korner running!

crab cakes on a plate with creamy special sauce on top garnished with chives

What are Maryland Crab Cakes?

Maryland Crab Cakes tend to use Old Bay Seasoning, lots of fresh lump crab meat, some mayo, very little filler, Worcestershire sauce, fresh herbs, a dash of hot sauce for a little kick and mustard.

Though typically eaten in the summer, I still enjoy making them in the colder months too because they are truly irresistible!

Plus, as you may know, I am pregnant! It is important to me to include seafood in my diet during pregnancy and I’ll tell you why.

crab cakes on a baking sheet

Seafood & Pregnancy

Eating seafood during pregnancy is a great way to not only get the nutrients I need, but for baby too! Fish and shellfish are the only foods rich in a healthy oil called omega-3 DHA and EPA, which are essential to baby’s brain and eye development.

Crab specifically is a good source of zinc which is essential for baby’s brain development.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends pregnant and breastfeeding women eat 1-2 servings of fish per week, with sustainably caught or raised fish and shellfish.

crab cakes on a plate with creamy special sauce on top garnished with chives

During my pregnancy I’ve loved making these crab cakes and enjoyed salmon and shrimp on a regular basis.

Seafood really is the whole package, providing zinc, iron, choline, folate, iodine, selenium, vitamins A, D, B6, and B12, and omega 3 fatty acids that are all essential during pregnancy and early development.

You’ll love these Maryland Crab Cakes because:

  • They’re versatile! Make them as a main dish, appetizer or as a sandwich on a toasted bun.
  • They’re juicy & flavorful
  • They have a crispy golden-brown exterior and delicately soft interior.
  • They are loaded with fresh flavors: scallions, red bell peppers, parsley & tarragon
  • They are irresistible with the creamy special sauce!
crab cakes on a white plate with arugula

This recipe makes ~ 10, 3 oz. sized crab cakes which makes a great size for a main meal. But you can always shape them smaller into mini crab cakes for a delicious finger food appetizer too!

If enjoying as a main dish, crab cakes go well with a side of corn on the cob, steamed or grilled vegetables, dinner rolls, or roasted or baked potatoes.

For a lighter feel, I like to pair it with salad. If serving as an appetizer, keep it simple and serve with a couple of lemon wedges, chopped chives and the special sauce.

Ingredients you will need

ingredients needed to make crab cakes divided into small bowls
  • Jumbo Lump Crabmeat: It’s important to use high quality crab meat. Be sure you are sourcing jumbo lump crab meat from a purveyor you trust. It’s worth the splurge!
  • Scallions: only the white parts are used.
  • Red bell pepper: including bell pepper is perhaps controversial, but I love it in these crab cakes!
  • Parsley: fresh parsley
  • Fresh tarragon: or you can sub with fresh dill. It’s important to highlight the crab and not overpower it with too many herbs and seasonings so I recommend 1-2 herbs is plenty.
  • Cracker crumbs: I’ve found using Saltine crackers is best. Pulse them in your food processor until you get crumbs.
  • Egg: helps act as a binder for the crab cake
  • Seafood seasoning (We love Old Bay Seasoning)

Step by Step Directions

photos of how to make crab cakes
  1. Gently combine the crab meat with the saltine crumbs, scallions and minced bell pepper.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the special sauce.
  3. Gently fold mayonnaise mixture into crab.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  5. Shape the crabmeat mixture into 3 oz. crab balls.
  6. Roll each crab cake into more saltine cracker crumbs. Flatten and place on a baking sheet or parchment paper while you form the rest.
  7. Heat olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat and cook crab cakes for 3-5 minutes on each side.
  8. Transfer to plates and serve with the special sauce, lemon wedges and chopped chives.

Best Crab Meat for Crab Cakes

Whichever crab variety you use, make sure you purchase crab meat labeled “fresh-picked” or “hand-picked” which means that the crab meat has been picked through for cartilage and shells.

The fresher the crab meat, the better the crab cake will taste. For the absolute best crab cake, I prefer using jumbo lump crab meat. Lump crab meat guarantees those big mouthwatering bites of crab.

Tips and FAQs

  • Make crab cakes in advance. Prepare the crab cake mixture and form the cakes to the size you’d like. Place the cakes on a parchment-lined baking sheet or tray, cover and refrigerate until ready to prepare. Don’t have time to shape the cakes? No problem! After preparing the crab cake mixture, leave the mixture in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and refrigerate.
    • Pro tip: This resting period allows all the flavors to meld in together and firm the mixture.
  • Mix crab meat as gently as possible: This helps prevent your lumps from coming apart.
  • Go light on the filler: The mayonnaise mixture and egg helps to bind the crab cakes together and a light-bread filler is all you need. We want more crab than breading! I like using saltine crackers for my cracker crumbs because they add more flavor than plain bread crumbs.
  • Use an ice cream scoop or cookie scoop to shape your crab cakes. If they’re all the same size, they’ll cook in the same amount of time. I use a 3 oz. scoop for dinner sized portion crab cakes. Use a smaller scoop for an appetizer portion.
  • Chill the crab mixture: chilling the crab meat after you mix in the mayo mixture helps the crab cakes maintain their shape when frying/sautéing.
  • Frying or baking? I’ve found frying them on the stove creates a crispy crust and delicious interior. You do have to be more cautious and gentle when flipping, but it’s worth it.
crab cakes with special sauce on a white plate with arugula and

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crab cakes on a bed of arugula
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Maryland Crab Cakes

Maryland Crab Cakes made with jumbo lump crab meat, saltine crackers and Old Bay Seasoning. Paired with a creamy special sauce takes these crab cakes to the next level!
5 from 7 reviews
Prep Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings: 10 crab cakes (3 oz. each)
Calories: 297kcal


For the crab cakes

  • 1 lb. jumbo lump crab meat
  • 30 saltine crackers (divided), pulsed into crumbs. (20 saltines go into the crab cake mixture, 10 for rolling)
  • 2 scallions, white parts only, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. red bell pepper, minced
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh tarragon, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Worcestershire
  • 2 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
  • 3-5 dashes hot sauce (Tabasco)

For the special sauce

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 Tbsp. sour cream
  • 1/4 cup dill pickle relish
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh chives, minced
  • 3/4 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar


  • Gently combine the crab meat with the saltine crumbs, scallions and minced bell pepper in a medium sized bowl.
  • In another bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, lemon zest, parsley, tarragon, Dijon mustard, egg, Worcestershire sauce, Old Bay Seasoning and hot sauce.
  • Gently fold mayonnaise mixture into crab.
  • Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. You can make the special sauce with the crabmeat chills. Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl and place in fridge until read to serve.
  • Shape the crabmeat mixture into 3 oz. crab balls. I like to use a cookie scoop or ice cream scoop to create uniform crab cakes.
  • Roll each crab cake in the saltine cracker crumbs. Flatten each ball into a ¾ inch thick disk and place on a baking sheet or parchment paper while you form the rest.
  • Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. (Don't let it get too hot). Cook the crab cakes in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan. Add in the crab cakes and cook for about 3-5 minutes on each side or until golden and crusting on both sides. Work gently, you should only turn them once.
  • Transfer to plates and serve with the special sauce, lemon wedges and chopped chives.



  • Chill the crab mixture: chilling the crab meat after you mix in the mayo mixture helps the crab cakes maintain their shape when frying/sautéing.
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Serving: 1crab cake with sauce | Calories: 297kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 52mg | Sodium: 754mg | Potassium: 165mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 249IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 52mg | Iron: 2mg

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1 year ago

The recipe sounds fabulous, however definitely not a Maryland crab cake! Maryland crab cakes only have mayonnaise, egg, saltines, parsley, French’s mustard, Worcestershire sauce, Old Bay and obviously jumbo bump crab meat… Born and raised in Baltimore, and am currently a chef. I’ve literally made thousands of Maryland crab cakes and would never change the recipe. However, I would just call these crab cakes….😁

Amanda Wren-Grimwood
2 years ago

I absolutely adore crab cakes and I love your sauce recipe too. Perfect!

Sadia Malik
2 years ago

I love the crispiness on these cakes, I find if you make the oil really hot before putting the cakes in than it stops the cake from breaking

2 years ago

These look so delicious and tasty! My daughter and I are going to love these! Can’t wait!

Chenee A Lewis
2 years ago

So glad I found this recipe! I’ve been looking for a great crab cake recipe for a while!

Marie-Charlotte Chatelain
2 years ago

there is something about crab cakes and spring! these look so amazingly crispy

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