Maryland style crab cakes – not a spud in sight.

Maryland style US crabcakes

Crab has always been something of a luxury for me. And rightly so. Because I reckon the firm flavourful meat knocks the sweet and more bland subtle meat of its lobster cousin into a cocked hat. A rare treat here in the UK.

A rare treat, that is, until I went to Maryland where they seem to have crabs coming out of their ears. Tables groaning under the weight of spicy baked crustaceans. Smaller than the great Cornish monsters I was used to, but damn tasty. And then there were Maryland crab cakes. Swoon.

Up to that point I’d had a few crab cakes. bound with potato then baked or fried. The crab would be mixed into the spuds to the point of invisibility, its wonderful flavour smothered by the pillowy mash. But the US version? Not a potato in sight.

Fresh crab meat
Fresh white and brown crab meat

Firm lumps of crab held together, just, by a few breadcrumbs and egg. Some onion to add a little piquancy. And the seasoning, a spicy sharp heady mix that made the white meat sing. Complementing and not hiding the flavour. These were made with the minimum of handling and messing. Just as it should be.

I have of course had some fantastic potato bound crab cakes since then, but to be honest, that approach has never yielded the flavours and textures of Maryland crab cakes. And in my opinion potato works better with smokey fish than crab.

Crab meat mix
Gently mixed crab meat, onions, breadcrumbs, egg and spices

So if you are ever over the other side of the pond visiting the Chesapeake bay, then whatever you do, don’t leave without scoffing several of the eponymous crabby delights.

US style crab cakes
Makes four or five cakes, this recipe scales beautifully though

I can’t really call these Maryland crab cakes because I don’t have the proper seasoning Old Bay – see links below), but the mix of spices below does a pretty good job. And remember, don’t mix everything too rigorously, you want it to hold together, but only just.

It’s good to mix the white and brown crab meat here as well because the darker stuff adds a real sea-tinted pungency. If you prefer your crab cakes delicate then add more white meat and less brown.

Crabcakes ready to cook
Chilled out waiting for the pan

The recipe
250g crab meat (white or mixed white and brown)
Half a red onion – finely chopped
6 tblsp breadcrumbs
1 tblsp white flour
Qtr tsp chilli powder
Qtr tsp ground cumin
Half tsp paprika
1 tsp mixed herbs
Salt and pepper to season

Mix together the crab meat, spices and onion carefully with your hands to make sure the lumps of crab meat aren’t broken down. Fold in the bread crumbs, flour and egg very carefully with a spoon.

Shape the mixture into four or five patties and refrigerate for 45 minutes. Then heat some oil and fry for about four or five minutes a side until golden brown.

Edit 16 Apr 2012 – in response to mr Noodles’ comment below, some links to find the proper seasoning:
- Old Bay seasoning
- Old Bay Maryland crab cake recipe
- Buy Old Bay on Amazon UK

11 Responses to “Maryland style crab cakes – not a spud in sight.”

  1. Lizzie

    These look delicious. I always avoid fishcakes on menus as it is usually just potato filler with a few smatterings of fish, but this looks the perfect antidote.

  2. Mr Noodles

    I’m not sure if this proposal is heretical , but I reckon a teeny bit of crab roe would make it even better! BTW, what are the ‘proper’ seasonings for these bad boys?

  3. The Grubworm

    @Lizzie – thanks, i didn’t think they came out too bad either ;) I am so with you on the fish cake potato issue… It’s too often used as a way to bulk out the cake at the expense of the fish.

    @Mr Noodles – i reckon that would be an excellent addition (although the brown meat I got may have already had some in there – it was pretty strong stuff).

    As for the seasoning, you need to find Old Bay seasoning, which you happily find on Amazon. I have added a link to the post above.

  4. Vintage Macaroon

    I’ve never had proper USA style crab cakes and I’m not a great fan of the ones with potato either. I bet they were tasty as!

  5. shuhan

    “where they seem to have crabs coming out of their ears.” HUR HUR. I haven’t had crab in ages. I agree, its a rare treat. It just isn’t the cheapest of foods to get, and esp for these delicious looking maryland style crab cakes which are definitely more crab than potato/some other filler. Like lizzie, not a fan on those fishcakes that are more like potato cakes with a bit of fish added.

  6. The Grubworm

    @Vintage Macaroon – you should try, they’re ace! Uber-crabby.

    @shuhan – It isn’t cheap is it, but it tastes so good. Yay for crab and no potato

  7. Su-Lin

    I firmly believe that crab cakes shouldn’t have potato and I’m loving your recipe!

  8. Kathryn

    As my sister in Maryland makes the most wonderful crab cakes, I will pass on one secret of her receipt. To bind the crab so that it will just hold together, she uses mayonnaise. This would replace the breadcrumbs and flour. It might work with UK crab as well. I will go a long way for a Maryland crab cake and always eat lots when I do a family visit – fabulous!!

  9. The Grubworm

    @Su-Lin – thanks! Another in the no-potato camp ;)

    @Kathryn – mayo to replace the breadcrumbs…interesting. You would hace to so careful not to break the lumps of crab meat up, but the end result would be very light… I’ll have to give it a go.

  10. Magee_from_Maryland

    Absolutely Mayo! It helps bind the crabmeat together without adding tons of filler. It is almost a crime to put too much breading in a crabcake. You DEFINITELY don’t breadcrumb the exterior. When I order “Maryland-style” crabcakes anywhere outside of Maryland a perfectly formed, universally crumbed cake is usually the first clue that the establishment has no idea what Maryland-style means. Lumb crabmeat – the best you can find — is essential. Only put enough extra stuff in there to hold the crabmeat together. Old Bay is the key. (And it’s great on fries – chips for our UK friends). And the recipe on the can is universally considered to be The Real Deal — authentic Maryland Crab Cakes.

  11. Gail

    A bit late, but a UK contribution. The Rick Stein recipe I have uses crushed up crackers instead of breadcrumbs (UK cream crackers) and egg mixed with Mayo to bind. Just use part of the mixture. They are very yummy this wY.

Leave a Reply