Like us, you’ve probably eaten a lot of crab cakes in your time. Sadly, this typically involves eating a lot of bad crab cakes: rubbery, filled with starchy fillers like breadcrumbs or mashed potato. It’s a sad truth that some cooks try to stretch a bit of expensive lump crabmeat by bulking out with extraneous stuff. These are different. They’re pretty much pure crab, bound with a little aioli, with a light coating of panko—Japanese-style breadcrumbs, now widely available—for a crispy coating. Make a batch of our Homemade Mayonnaise for the aioli before you begin, or pick up some high-quality store-bought mayo.

Make-ahead note: You can prepare these crab cakes ahead of time and reheat just before serving. To freeze, cook as instructed, cool completely, then freeze uncovered until firm. Wrap the frozen cakes well, seal in zipper-top freezer bags, and return them to the freezer. To reheat, set the frozen crab cakes on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven and cook until heated through.

We featured these crab cakes in our Valentine’s Day All-Star Recipes photo gallery. For more, check out our Mini Cornbread CrabcakesHot Crab Dip, and Corn Fritter recipe.

  • Yield: 10 (2-1/2-inch) crab cakes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Total: About 1 hr

Ingredients (19)

For the aioli:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • Finely grated zest of 1 medium lemon (or 1 teaspoon packed)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the crab cakes:

  • 1/3 cup finely diced celery
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over for shells, pulled into bite-size pieces, excess water squeezed out (do not rinse)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups panko
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 medium lemon, cut into wedges, for serving


For the aioli:

  1. Mix all the measured ingredients in a small bowl until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper; set aside.

For the crab cakes:

  1. Place 1/4 cup of the aioli, the celery, chives, and cilantro in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Fold in the crabmeat and season with salt and pepper as desired.
  2. Using a 1/4-cup measuring cup, scoop 10 portions of the crabmeat mixture and place on a large plate or baking sheet. Wet your hands with warm water and gently pack each portion into 3/4-inch-thick disks (about 2 1/2 inches in diameter).
  3. Place the flour, eggs, and panko in 3 separate shallow bowls for dredging the cakes. (Keep in mind that without a binder, the cakes will fall apart as you work with them. But don’t worry; do your best to re-form them as you go.) First coat the cakes in flour, shaking off any excess. Next coat them with egg, and finally coat them with panko, placing each back on the baking sheet as it is dredged.
  4. Line a plate with paper towels; set aside. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to just coat the bottom of the pan. Place half of the cakes in the pan and cook until golden brown and crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to the prepared plate. Repeat with the remaining cakes, adding more oil to the pan as needed.
  5. Place 1 or 2 cakes on a plate and top with a spoonful of the remaining aioli. Serve immediately with a lemon wedge.