Western Tex-Mex Crab Cakes with Lemon Aioli

Just about everyone’s heart flutters a little when they hear the words “crab cake,” but most people don’t classify these crispy seafood patties as comfort food.

Vertical image of a stack of cooked and breaded patties on a wooden cutting board next to a yellow sauce, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

Well, folks, I am anything but most people. And today, I’d like to talk about comfort food.

We all have our own personal favorites and variations on this category of cuisine, but when these words are mentioned, hungry minds are all typically routed in the same direction.

That first and final stop? We’re talking about ooey-gooey, pants-popping, make-you-want-to-curl-up-inside-of-a-meatball type of food.

Classics include lasagna, Thanksgiving green bean casserole, meatloaf, mac and cheese, and the like.

The list of classic comfort foods goes on and on, and just thinking about it, I am now much hungrier than I was five minutes ago…

Vertical image of two breaded and browned patties with fresh herbs on a plate with lemon wedges on a wooden table.

So what am I even doing, talking about all of these hearty, belly-busting dishes when the topic at hand is crab cakes?

Pull up a lemon wedge, and let’s chat.

For me, there’s something wildly soothing about the fusion of savory spices and sweet, tender meat, sizzled until it’s crisp.

Though my dad made plenty of other memorably comforting dinners (roast chicken with garlic and rosemary and Hungarian stuffed cabbage with sweet-and-sour tomato sauce, to name a few), his crab cakes were a force to be reckoned with.

We ate them for birthdays (right alongside birthday cake!), anniversaries, coming-home-from-college gatherings, and average Tuesdays.

I’ll never forget the first time I was tasked with the responsibility of preparing my family’s crab cakes solo. My parents were stuck in traffic, and no one was there to supervise as I timidly dropped fronds of dill into the mix and wondered if I had overused the Old Bay.

Vertical top-down image of crab cakes on a white plate and a wooden cutting board next to a bowl of yellow sauce and a serving fork on a yellow towel next to fresh herbs.

As I gently chopped, folded, and formed the patties, it occurred to me that I had spent the majority of my life playing sous chef to my dad. I had peered over the counter countless times, watching him prepare this very same recipe.

The Chief Crab Cake Officer in me instantly kicked in, and before I knew it, I was dicing leeks and zesting lemons without a care in the world. The meal was a masterpiece, and this dish, as I knew it, would never be the same.

As a present-day crab cake aficionado, I now find pleasure in tinkering with my dad’s original recipe. This Western-inspired version is a perfect example of exactly that.

Though you still get light, citrusy notes from the tangy lemon aioli, the lumps of seafood are swimming with warm, earthy flavors.

Vertical close-up image of a stack of breaded and browned patties with fresh herbs on a wooden cutting board next to a bowl of yellow dip and a white plate.

Nutty cumin adds depth and complexity, paprika adds smoke and vibrant color, cayenne adds a twinge of heat, and plenty of fresh, grassy herbs like cilantro and parsley perfume the dish with brightness.

Whether your comfort food of choice is velvety chicken pot pie, mouthwateringly messy sloppy joes, or lemon-sprinkled crab cakes, at the end of the day, we all put our pants on one leg at a time.

And if you’ve done it right, those pants will be tighter.

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Horizontal image of a blue plate with two breaded and browned rounds with fresh herbs next to lemon wedges and a yellow towel.

Western Crab Cakes with Lemon Aioli


  • Author: Fanny Slater
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings (12 small crab cakes) 1x

Description

Give ordinary crab cakes a creative spin with earthy cumin, fragrant fresh cilantro, and a tangy lemon aioli drizzle.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 pound canned lump crabmeat, drained
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs, divided
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 6 tablespoons minced fresh chives, divided
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley 
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro 
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil (such as vegetable, sunflower, or grapeseed)
  • Lemon wedges, for serving
  • 1 cup lemon aioli

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, gently fold the crabmeat together with 4 tablespoons of the panko, the mayonnaise, 4 tablespoons of the chives, and the parsley, cilantro, paprika, cayenne, cumin, salt, and pepper. Season to taste with additional salt if necessary.
  2. Gently fold in the beaten egg. Set aside.
  3. Add the remaining panko to a shallow bowl and place a clean plate nearby. To form the patties, use a 1/4-cup ice cream or cookie scoop and shape the mixture into about 12 equally-sized, tightly packed flattened rounds. Carefully coat the outside of each patty in panko, and set aside on the plate.
  4. Refrigerate the patties for at least 30 minutes, or up to 1 hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 250°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  6. Add the butter and oil to a large skillet and place over medium heat. When the butter has melted, swirl to coat. Without crowding the pan, add a few crab cakes and cook until golden brown, 2-4 minutes per side. Transfer the cooked crab cakes to the prepared baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while you cook the rest in batches.
  7. Divide among plates, garnish with the remaining chives, and serve with lemon wedges and lemon aioli.
  • Category: Crab
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Seafood

Keywords: crabcake, seafood, aioli

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Chop the Herbs and Make the Seafood Mixture

Horizontal image of chopped assorted herbs on a wooden cutting board table.

Mince the chives, and chop the parsley and cilantro.

In a large bowl, gently fold the crabmeat with 4 tablespoons of the panko, the mayonnaise (try it homemade!), 4 tablespoons of the chives, and the parsley, cilantro, paprika, cayenne, cumin, and freshly cracked salt and pepper.

Horizontal image of assorted chopped and measured ingredients in a metal bowl on a wooden table.

Since there’s no raw egg in the mixture yet, now is a good time to taste for additional seasoning.

Step 2 – Fold in the Egg and Form the Crab Cakes

Gently fold in the beaten egg.

Place the remaining panko on a shallow bowl, and place a clean plate nearby.

Horizontal image of a hand holding a formed patty with a meat and herb mixture over assorted bowls and a white plate.

To form the patties, use a 1/4-cup ice cream or cookie scoop and shape the mixture into about 12 tightly packed flattened rounds of equal size.

Step 3 – Coat in Panko and Chill

Horizontal image of breaded uncooked patties on a blue and white plate.

Carefully coat the outside of each patty with panko breadcrumbs, and then place them on the clean plate.

Refrigerate the patties for at least 30 minutes, or up to 1 hour. This will “set” the cakes so they hold together better when they’re cooking.

Step 4 – Cook until Golden Brown

Preheat your oven to 250°F. These won’t be baked, but we will use the oven to keep the crab cakes warm while we cook the rest in batches.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or set a wire rack inside.

In a large skillet, melt the butter and heat the oil over medium heat.

Horizontal image of searing small patties in a skillet with oil.

Make sure the oil is hot enough before you start cooking, or the breading will absorb the oil and become soggy.

You can test if it’s hot enough by dropping in a few pieces of panko breadcrumbs. If the oil is ready, the panko will gently sizzle immediately. If the panko vigorously bubbles, the oil is too hot.

Without crowding the pan, add the crab cakes a few at a time and cook until golden brown, 2-4 minutes per side.

Transfer the cooked crab cakes to the prepared baking sheet, and keep warm in the oven while you cook the rest.

Step 5 – Garnish and Serve

Horizontal image of a blue plate with two breaded and browned rounds with fresh herbs next to lemon wedges and a yellow towel.

Divide the crab cakes among plates, and garnish with the remaining chives. Serve with lemon wedges and lemon aioli, either on the side for dipping or drizzled on top.

Nothing to Be Crabby About

These Tex-Mex-inspired crab cakes are a surefire way to turn a hungry frown upside-down. And allowing the patties to take a chill pill in the fridge for a bit before cooking is a fantastic way to keep them together in the pan.

Want to save yourself some cleanup?

Horizontal image of a stacked and shingled browned seafood cakes on a white plate and on a wooden cutting board next to a bowl of yellow dip, herbs, and silverware on a yellow towel.

Prep, form, and refrigerate the cakes in the morning, so the kitchen is clear and all that’s left before dinnertime is popping the patties in the pan to cook them up.

Using canned crabmeat makes this dish a snap. To continue to curate your crab education and create even more delicious seafood dishes, read these articles next:

After you try this recipe, why not put your own spin on crab cakes by switching up the flavor profile? Ginger, lemongrass, and shallots are next on my list, for an Asian twist.

How will you transform these patties to your palate’s idea of perfection? Share your collective crab consciousness in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.

Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Lorna Kring on June 10, 2015. Last updated on January 3, 2020.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Fanny Slater

Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”

28 thoughts on “Western Tex-Mex Crab Cakes with Lemon Aioli”

  1. These sound succulent, and perfect for a light Summer lunch or dinner. I’ve heard of aioli, but have never made it, so I’m glad you included that recipe as well. Although the list of ingredients is long, the preparation seems quite easy, and I look forward to making these soon.

    Reply
    • These are great for a light summer meal, and the recipe is very straightforward. Let us know how they turn out for you.

      Reply
  2. Although the season in California ends in April, Trader Jobs has lump meat in stock all year round. Since I can eat my weight in crab meat, these are definitely on the menu tonight. My herb garden is not going to know what hit it! To me, the long list of ingredients denotes a complex flavorful cake. Some might add some side dishes but I see this as a one dish meal.

    Reply
    • Full of flavor for sure, and the fresh herbs really stand out with the zesty aioli… let us know what you think.

      Reply
  3. This recipe does look so very appetizing and healthy too! I love crab, there is just nothing like it. I am going to check that I have all the ingredients and plan to make these one night in the week. I will add a few other options to it to make the meal a little larger or it will not be enough for my family.

    Reply
  4. These look so good! I’ll definitely be looking for the ingredients for these next time I’m out shopping. They look like the perfect starter for fried salmon darnes that have been marinated in a soy and garlic sauce. Thank you for sharing this!

    Reply
    • Oh, your salmon sounds wonderful… the crab cakes will work great with them. Let us know how they turn out for you.

      Reply
  5. Yum! This looks incredible! I really like using panko so I’m definitely trying this. My family has this aioli recipe in which we use “calamansi” and not lemon and it’s still really good. People think it would taste the same since “calamansi” has kind of like a sour citrusy taste as well but to me both have different flavors. Will try the lemon one though!

    Reply
    • The crunch of the panko crumbs is a nice contrast to the smooth texture of the meat, it really works well. And really, I think any citrus fruit would turn out well in an aioli with seafood cakes. Enjoy!

      Reply
  6. That is a long list of ingredients but I bet it tastes yummy. I don’t have all the herbs and hot pepper jelly in the pantry; it still looks doable. I believe that I’ll have a go at these this weekend.

    Reply
    • It is a big recipe Futro, but very straightforward. And a wee bit of citrus marmalade with chili flakes makes a good alternative for hot pepper jelly if you don’t want to buy a jar for one recipe. let us know how they turn out for you.

      Reply
  7. Thanks for linking to the crab cleaning article, it sprung to mind as soon as I saw the recipe title and I’d made a mental note to search for it!

    I’ve never purchased anything other than pre-prepared meat before which I know is a bit lame but I’ve just never know how to prepare it safely before.

    Reply
    • A lot of dishes are difficult to prepare if you’re not sure how to go about it. And there’s nothing wrong with prepared crab meat, but you do miss out on the satisfaction of successfully tackling a live crab for its delectable meat… have fun!

      Reply
  8. Those cakes have my name on it. This looks like a good change up if you are tired of eating the same old stuff. I wish I could cook like this.

    Reply
    • I can see ‘Jasmine’ etched into the side of one of them…. give them a try, and you’ll be cooking up new dishes in no time. It just takes a bit of practice.

      Reply
  9. Crab meat is so good I love the sweetness of it. My husband and I enjoy seafood. We buy lots of goodies like crab legs,shrimp, lobster and of course crab meat to make either crab cakes or crab salad. Once a month we will have a seafood feast the kitchen smells so good while it cooks. I would love to give these a try thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  10. I’m always so skeptical of seafood. I’ve never been a fan at all. I tried crab cakes once when I was a kid in school, but I thouht they were good. If I ate any seafood, this would be it.

    Reply
  11. I really need to learn how to make my own crab cakes. I Always like to order them at the restaurant but never really tried finding out how it’s made. Maybe now I can try it on my own.

    Reply
    • If you enjoy them Zhen, you’ll like how simple they are to make at home! Just be patient with them in the skillet and don’t have the heat too high.

      Reply
  12. This is an excellent recipe and may win an award for the single recipe with the most items I can use from my garden. (6). Crab cakes are one of my favorite foods to cook and this receipt has enough flavorings going on to where you can get great results even with using normal store{bought crab rather than fresh. My normal recipe is much plainer, so requires fresh crab or you really taste the difference.

    Reply
    • Fresh garden ingredients would certainly add to the flavor! And you’re so right, Azrile, fresh crab really is a must…

      Reply
  13. I have never tried a crab cake! I know in parts of the US they are a very highly-regarded dish, but they are not so popular in England. I’d love to try them, just to see if I do enjoy them – I’ve only actually eaten crab a couple of times and I only eat the white meat as it’s not as strong as the brown. I guess I’m kind of fussy about fish!

    Reply
  14. I have eaten crab cakes at a restaurant before and they were so delicious.
    I would have never thought that you could make them so easily.
    Thanks so much for sharing.
    I will make this the next time I have some friends over for dinner.

    Reply

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