There are crab cakes, and then there are these babies. Insanely good.
This dish is popular on so many seafood and fine-dining restaurant menus around the world, but, especially in the New England region of the U.S. (non-spicy) and in Louisiana (a little spicy). This version has a little bit of kick, but not too much, and is truly crab-forward. Meaning, the crab is the absolute star.
How To Make Southern-Style Crab Cakes
There are a few tips and tricks that will ensure you produce the most delicious crab cakes. We’ll show you what works for us.
But probably even more important than the technique of preparing them, is the quality of the ingredients and balancing them just right to achieve crab perfection. We’ll review that, too.
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The Ingredients You Will Need
Again, the key ingredient for this dish is the crab. See below for our recommendations.
Here’s What You’ll Need to Have on Hand
Lump Crabmeat – We recommend seeking our Blue Crab. It’s from the Gulf of Mexico and is sweet and not overly “crabby” tasting. It’s a bit pricey, but so worth it. However, any type of regular lump crabmeat will work. We don’t recommend jumbo lump crabmeat
Butter – Unsalted
Onion – Finely chopped
Poblano pepper – Finely chopped, can also substitute fresh jalapeño or serraño, but be sure to remove the seeds for less heat. Poblanos are mild and jalapeños and serranos carry much more heat.
Garlic – Minced
Seasonings – Chili powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper, salt
Mayonnaise – Our favorite is Dukes, but whatever your favorite is will work
Mustard – Stone ground (or whole ground) is fantastic, but again, any kind will be great
Hot sauce – Such as Louisiana, Crystals, or Tobasco – Add more or less, depending on your desired spice level
Scallions – Green and white parts, thinly sliced
Parsley – Fresh, Italian (flat-leaf), chopped
Lemon juice – Preferably fresh, from half of one lemon
Breadcrumbs – We remove the crusts from a demi-baguette and then pulverize it in our food processor. We love the texture of fresh breadcrumbs, but store-bought will work, too. Regular or Panko are both fine choices
Oil – Vegetable is perfect for lightly frying the cakes, but canola and peanut oil will work wonderfully, as well
Dipping sauce – Jalepeño remoulade is spectacular. See the ingredients below and in the recipe card
Tips for Perfect Southern-Style Crab Cakes
Quality Crabmeat – The crab cakes are really as good as the quality of the crabmeat. This could be considered one of those “special occasion” dishes. In our eyes, it’s worth it to spend a little more on the best crabmeat available. Gulf Coast blue crabmeat is our favorite and can be found a food markets like Whole Foods or online. Ask your fishmonger for a good recommendation.
Allow the Cakes to Chill – This is very important. The crab cake mixture is intentionally somewhat loose. This allows the crab to really be the prominent ingredient and component. Forming the cakes and then letting the chill for at least 30 minutes allows them to firm up and makes cooking them easier. It’s okay if they break apart somewhat when frying them. The taste is worth it.
Serve with a Sauce – These cakes are spectacular on their own, no doubt. But the addition of a remoulade honestly puts them over the top. More on that below.
How To Serve
These are definitely best served fresh off the griddle. You can form the cakes up to 2 or 3 hours before cooking them but wait until just before serving to fry them up.
Frying them in batches may be necessary. If that’s the case, keep cooked cakes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper in an oven that has been preheated to 275°F.
Serve them with the traditional accompaniments. Sliced lemon is a must. Louisiana hot sauce is strongly recommended. And a good remoulade (or sauce) puts them over the top. Our favorite is the Jalepeño Remoulade. Simply mix the following together in a bowl and chill for 30 minutes or overnight:
Jalepaño Remoulade Ingredients
A small jalepeño, seeded and finely diced
A small onion, finely chopped
1 scallion, finely sliced
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
EXPERT TIP: We use our English muffin rings to form the cakes. However, use whatever you have on hand. A 1-cup measuring cup works wonderfully! You can help shape them with your hands, too, before placing them in the refrigerator.
Other Classic Seafood Dishes To Try
We love all kinds of seafood dishes, and here are some of our favorite recipes we think you’ll enjoy, too.
Sautéed Soft-Shell Crabs
Jumbo Lump Crab Au Gratin
Almond-Crusted Cod with Orange Sauce
Parmesan Cod with Romesco Sauce
Mediterranean Baked Red Snapper
Seared Tuna Steaks with Tomatoes and Olives
Veracruz-Style Shrimp Enchiladas with Pumpkin (Pepian) Sauce
Spanish Shrimp with Garlic
Cajun Baked Shrimp
Grilled Swordfish Steaks
Classic Fish ‘n Chips
These are all amazing. But aren’t you craving these right now? Yum!
If you like crab cakes, and you like just a little bit of kick, then these Southern-Style Crab Cakes are going to rock your world. And everyone you serve them to.
They make for a wonderful appetizer or even as a main course. You can easily freeze any of the crab cake filling that you don’t use.
If you’re looking for a crab cake that isn’t heavy and gets lost in too much breading and other ingredients, this is the recipe you’ve been looking for. Every bite is a true taste sensation.
Ready to make the best crab cakes this side of the Gulf of Mexico? Go for it!
And when you do, be sure to take a photo of them, post it on Instagram, and tag @HowToFeedaLoon and hashtag #HowToFeedaLoon!
Southern-Style Crab Cakes
- 1 lb lump crabmeat Preferably blue crabmeat
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- ¼ cup onion finely chopped
- ¼ cup poblano pepper stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ½ tsp chili powder
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper more for extra heat, less for little heat
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- ⅓ cup mayonnaise
- 1 tsp whole-grain mustard
- Louisiana hot sauce several dashes
- 2 scallions white and green parts, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp Italian parsley chopped
- Juice from ½ lemon about 1 tbsp
- ¾ cup bread crumbs divided, fresh, if possible. See NOTES
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil plus more as needed
- 1 small jalapeño pepper stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
- 2 scallions white parts only, thinly sliced
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 tsp red wine vinegar
- Juice of 1 lime
- Place the crab meat in a large mixing bowl and carefully pick through for shells, then set aside.1 lb lump crabmeat
- Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.1 tbsp unsalted butter
- Add the onion, poblano, garlic, salt, chili powder, black pepper, and cayenne and cook, stirring, until the veggies are soft - about 4 minutes.¼ cup onion, ¼ cup poblano pepper, 2 cloves garlic, ½ tsp chili powder, ½ tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp salt, ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- Transfer the veggie mixture to a mixing bowl and set aside to cool for about 15 minutes.
- In a large bowl, gently mix together the crab, cooled vegetable mixture, egg, mayonnaise, mustard, hot sauce, scallions, parsley, lemon juice, and ⅓ cup of the breadcrumbs.1 egg, ⅓ cup mayonnaise, 1 tsp whole-grain mustard, Louisiana hot sauce, 2 scallions, 2 tbsp Italian parsley, Juice from ½ lemon, ¾ cup bread crumbs
- Using a 1-cup measuring cup, form the mixture into cakes, packing gently; they should resemble hockey pucks (in size) - about 2 inches thick.
- Cover the cakes and chill for 30 minutes, or overnight (covered with plastic wrap).
- When you are ready to cook the crab cakes, place the remaining breadcrumbs on a plate.
- Dredge both sides of each cake in the crumbs, shaking off the excess.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.2 tbsp vegetable oil
- When the oil is hot, but not smoking, fry the crab cakes for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown.
- Don't overcrowd the pan - fry in batches if necessary, adding more oil if needed.
- Serve immediately - with Jalapeno Remoulade!
- Whisk together all the ingredients in a mixing bowl.1 small jalapeño pepper, 2 scallions, 1 cup mayonnaise, ½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp ground black pepper, ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes, 2 tsp red wine vinegar, Juice of 1 lime
- Cover and place in the fridge until needed...or for at least 30 minutes.
POST UPDATE: This recipe was originally published December 2014, but was updated with new tweaks to the recipe with new photos and tips and a fabulous new video in May 2024.
NOTE: This recipe is adapted from the brilliant Chef Donald Link.