Indulge in Chesapeake Bay crab cakes with succulent blue crab meat and minimal filler. A classic dish with irresistible flavor and perfect blend of seasonings.

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Top down side view of multiple prepared Chesapeake Bay Crab Cakes on a plate with a few lemon wedges in the middle for garnish.

About Chesapeake Bay Crab Cakes

Are you a seafood lover looking for a new dish to try? Look no further than Chesapeake Bay crab cakes!

Made using succulent blue crab meat, these crab cakes are known for their large, luscious lumps of crab meat and minimal filler ingredients. The delicate blend of herbs and spices in these crab cakes creates a unique and unforgettable flavor experience.

Whether you are a seafood lover or just looking to try something new, Chesapeake Bay crab cakes are a must-try dish you’ll totally want to dive into!

What are Chesapeake Bay crab cakes?

Chesapeake Bay crab cakes are a beloved regional dish that hails from the Chesapeake Bay area on the East Coast of the United States. These crab cakes are traditionally made using blue crab meat, which is native to the Chesapeake Bay region, and are known for their large, succulent lumps of crab meat and minimal filler ingredients.

The crab meat is mixed with a binder made of saltine crackers, breadcrumbs, or other similar ingredients, and may be seasoned with a variety of herbs and spices, such as Old Bay seasoning, mustard, or Worcestershire sauce. The mixture is then formed into patties and cooked using a variety of methods, such as frying, broiling, or baking.

Chesapeake Bay crab cakes are typically served as a main dish or appetizer and are often accompanied by a variety of sauces or garnishes, such as lemon wedges, tartar sauce, or cocktail sauce. They are a classic dish that has been enjoyed by locals and visitors alike for generations, and have become a staple of the Chesapeake Bay culinary scene.

What’s in Chesapeake Bay crab cakes?

To make your own batch of delicately crunchy crab cakes, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • Blue crab meat – The star of the show! You can technically use any type of jumbo lump crab meat in these cakes, but you’ll need blue crab meat for them to fit the traditional Chesapeake Bay style. It is also recommended that you get the crab meat from the deli or in a sealed container with an expiration date; using canned crab meat is not recommended.
  • Saltine crackers – These are crushed up and form the base of the breading that holds the crab cakes together. And in typically Chesapeake Bay-style, it’s a minimal amount of breading.
  • Chives, mayonnaise, and egg – For adding flavor and to help bind the ingredients together.
  • Dijon mustard, Old Bay seasoning, and Worcestershire sauce – Classic ingredients associated with the flavor of Chesapeake Bay-style crab cakes.
  • Canola oil and salted butter – Used for frying and for giving the crab cakes a crispy top.

Can you use canned crab meat?

Technically, yes, you can use canned crab meat – but it’s not recommended due to the salt content. This recipe is written to be used with fresh crab meat – which should be free of any additional seasonings – and canned crab meat is almost always stored with salt as a preservative aid. So if you use canned crab meat in this recipe, the resulting cakes may turn out very salty.

You can try to reduce the excess salt in canned crab meat by doing the following:

  • Completely drain the canned crab meat.
  • Fill a bowl with cold water and allow the crab meat to soak in it for 10-15 minutes.
  • Drain the water and repeat this process two more times – drain the meat, soak in cold water, then repeat.
  • After the final soak, drain the water and pat the crab meat completely dry with paper towels.

While the above method may not eliminate all of the excess salt, it should go a long way in helping reduce it and keep the flavor profile correct for these crab cakes.

Top down view of a table with a plate full of prepared crab cakes and lemon wedges, bowls of garnish, a separate plate with a crab cake cut into with a fork, and chopped chives for garnish.

How long are crab cakes good for?

For best results, I highly recommend enjoying crab cakes when they’re freshly made. This will ensure the cakes are still moist inside with a delicate crunch on the outside.

However, these cakes can still be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days, with 24 hours being the optimum storage time. For best results, wrap each individual crab cake in plastic wrap or aluminum foil to preserve the moisture.

Can you make crab cakes ahead of time?

Certainly! Crab cakes can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours, both before or after baking. Just follow these steps:

  • To store before baking: Follow the recipe instructions up until the mixed ingredients are chilled in the refrigerator. You can either extend this chilling time from thee hours to 24 hours OR you can wait the three hours, form the six crab cakes, and then refrigerate them for another 21 hours.
  • To store after baking: Once the crab cakes have baked and cooled, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

When you’re ready to serve, reheat the cakes using your favorite method (or bake the raw crab cakes per the recipe instructions) and enjoy!

Can you freeze Chesapeake Bay crab cakes?

Yes, you totally can!

Once prepared and cooled, wrap each crab cake in aluminum foil and store in a sealed container or freezer bag for up to three months.

When ready to eat, simply thaw the cakes in the refrigerator overnight and reheat them using your preferred method.

How to reheat crab cakes

When ready to reheat leftovers, allow the crab cakes to sit on the counter for 10-15 minutes to come to room temperature, then use the following guidelines for bringing these crab cakes back to their original tastiness:

  • In the oven: Preheat to 325 degrees F and arrange crab cakes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spacing them about one or two inches apart. Heat for 10-15 minutes. TIP: To reawaken the crispy topping, add a small sliver of unsalted butter on top of each crab cake.
  • In the microwave: Arrange crab cakes on an oven-safe plate and cover them with a damp paper towel. Heat crab cakes for 30-second intervals until heated through to your liking.
  • On the stovetop: In a skillet, heat a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil over medium heat, then fry the crab cakes for two or three minutes on each side.
  • In an air fryer: Preheat to 375 degrees F. Add the crab cakes to the air fryer basket, leaving some space so they’re not touching. Heat for 5-7 minutes, flipping halfway through the cooking time.
A single prepared Chesapeake Bay Crab Cakes being held up to the camera on a wooden spoon.

What can you serve with crab cakes?

Crab cakes are a versatile dish that can be served as an appetizer, main dish, or side dish. And no matter how you choose to enjoy them, there are plenty of tasty options to complement their delicious flavor. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Sauces – A simple sauce can go a long way when it comes to crab cakes! Try serving them up with a side of tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, or a flavorful aioli.
  • Coleslaw: A classic side dish for seafood, coleslaw is a refreshing and crunchy complement to the rich flavor of crab cakes.
  • Roasted Vegetables: Roasting vegetables like asparagus, carrots, or brussels sprouts is a great way to add some color and nutrition to your meal.
  • Flavorful rice: A simple rice pilaf or cilantro lime rice can be a satisfying side dish that helps balance out the richness of the crab cakes.
  • Garlic Bread: A slice of garlic bread can be a delicious addition to any meal, especially when paired with the buttery flavor of crab cakes.
  • Various salads: A light and fresh mixed greens salad (or even themed salads like broccoli salad, cucumber salad, or 3 bean salad) can be a great way to add some variety and balance to your meal.
  • Cold spirits: Nothing beats eating delicious east coast seafood with a cold beer or a chilled white wine!

What else can you add?

While Chesapeake Bay crab cakes are delicious on their own, you can also jazz them up with different flavors and ingredients to create your own unique twist on this classic recipe. Some popular additions include diced peppers or chopped scallions. You can also substitute the saltine crackers for an equal portion of breadcrumbs or cornmeal to create fun new flavor themes.

notes & tips for these Chesapeake Bay style crab cakes

  • If you don’t already own a trusty piece of cast iron, I highly recommend picking one up for recipes like this. A good piece of cast iron will last you ages. I still use (and love!) this reasonably priced 10-inch cast iron skillet.
  • Many will tell you that cast iron is hard to take care of, but I think the biggest challenge is just knowing how to do it. This post about the truth about cast iron has some great tips and tutorials!
Close up side view of a single crab cake and lemon wedge, sprinkled with chives, with the cake cut with a fork, showing off the filling in the middle.

More deliciuos seafood options

How to make Chesapeake Bay crab cakes

This next part is only a photo tutorial of the recipe steps. If you’re looking for the full recipe measurements and instructions, scroll down to Recipe Details.

Step 1 – Grab a large bowl and mix together the crab meat, crushed saltine crackers, and chives. In another bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, egg, Dijon mustard, Old Bay seasoning, and Worcestershire sauce. Pour this mixture over the crab meat mixture and stir to combine.

Step 2 – Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the mixture chill in the fridge for three hours.

Step 3 – When you’re ready to cook, preheat your oven to broil on high, and make sure a rack is placed 6-8 inches from the top. Add canola oil to a 10-inch cast iron skillet and warm it up over medium heat.

Step 4 – While the skillet heats up, remove the crab cake mix from the refrigerator and mix the crab meat one last time. Then, scoop out and form six large crab cakes.

Step 5 – Add the crab cakes to the skillet and cook until the underside is golden brown, which takes about 5-8 minutes. Make sure to check each crab cake every minute or so to ensure they cook evenly.

Step 6 – Remove the pan from the heat and place 1 piece of sliced butter on top of each crab cake. Then, put the pan in the heated oven on the top rack.

Step 7 – Broil!

Step 8 – Allow the crab cakes to rest for five minutes before serving.

Step 9 – Serve and enjoy!

Recipe Details

Top down side view of multiple prepared Chesapeake Bay Crab Cakes on a plate with a few lemon wedges in the middle for garnish.
4.85 from 20 votes

Chesapeake Bay Crab Cakes

15 minutes prep + 16 minutes cook + 3 hours Chilling Time
285 kcal
Yields: 6 crab cakes
Indulge in Chesapeake Bay crab cakes with succulent blue crab meat and minimal filler. A classic dish with irresistible flavor and perfect blend of seasonings.



  • In a large bowl, add crab meat, crushed saltine crackers, and chives, then gently toss to mix.
    1 pound blue crab meat, 20 saltine crackers, 1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, egg, Dijon mustard, Old Bay seasoning, and Worcestershire sauce.
    1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1 large egg, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning, 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
  • Pour sauce over crab mixture, then use a spatula to thoroughly mix and coat until incorporated.
  • Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill crab cake mix in the refrigerator for 3 hours.
  • When ready to cook, preheat oven to broil on high. Make sure there's a rack placed 6-8 inches from the top of the oven.
  • In a 10-inch cast iron skillet (or other oven-safe skillet), add canola oil and warm over medium heat.
    1/4 cup canola oil
  • While skillet heats up, remove crab cake mix from the refrigerator. Mix crab meat a final time, then scoop out and form 6 large crab cakes.
  • Add crab cakes to skillet and cook until the underside of the crab cakes are golden brown, about 5-8 minutes. Make sure to check each under each crab cake every minute or so to ensure none are cooking too fast.
  • Remove pan from heat. Add a piece of sliced butter on top of each crab cake, then place pan in the heated oven on the top rack.
    1 tablespoon salted butter
  • Broil crab cakes for 6-8 minutes or until the tops are browned to desired level. Keep a close eye on them; crab cakes can burn quickly.
  • Allow crab cakes to rest for 5 minutes.
  • Serve immediately.


Serving: 1crab cake | Calories: 285kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 72mg | Sodium: 877mg | Potassium: 213mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 163IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 51mg | Iron: 1mg

I do my best to provide nutrition information, but please keep in mind that I’m not a certified nutritionist. Any nutritional information discussed or disclosed in this post should only be seen as my best amateur estimates of the correct values.

Author: Chrisy

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Recipe Rating


    • Carrie Ann Campbell

    Just follow the directions on the Old Bay can. NEVER add peppers or onions EVER!! Most people eat with yellow mustard and saltine crackers, on a sandwich or as the main meat with Maryland corn.

    • Iron
    • 5 stars

    I went out and got some saltines so I could follow the recipe exactly. This is the best recipe I have made in a long time. Absolutely delicious.
    Too bad lump crab is so darned expensive. At $25 a pound that’s $4 per crab cake. I suppose its still cheaper than a restaurant and these are just as tasty! Thank you.

    • Danielle
    • 5 stars

    Whenever I make crab cakes, I ALWAYS get the fresh jumbo lump crab from the deli. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it. And still cheaper than ordering them in the restaurant. I also like to use saltines, but panko breadcrumbs are good too. Less filler is always the way to go. Just enough so your crab cakes don’t fall apart. I absolutely LOVE the buerre blanc sauce recipe – it sounds delicious!

    • Kristina

    What is the measurement for the saltines? I was thinking of substituting Panko breadcrumbs

      • Chrisy

      Hey Kristina! The 20 saltines in this recipe end up being a tad less than 3/4 cup, so you could use that much panko breadcrumbs as a substitution.