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.
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.
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…
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, 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.
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.
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.
And if you’ve done it right, those pants will be tighter.Print
Give ordinary crab cakes a creative spin with earthy cumin, fragrant fresh cilantro, and a tangy lemon aioli drizzle.
- 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
- 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.
- Gently fold in the beaten egg. Set aside.
- 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.
- Refrigerate the patties for at least 30 minutes, or up to 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 250°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- 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.
- 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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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?
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:
- Crabs: Ultimate Guide to Buying, Preparing, and Cooking
- The Best Pots for Crab, Clams, Crawfish, and Lobster
- Crab and Mango Stuffed Avocado Halves
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.”