Soft-shell Crab Cakes



By Cat, Jul 2010 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

See also: 1. Thousand Island or Crab Louis Dressing

I’ve always loved crab, but growing up in Montana, it was a rare luxury. Then I moved to Portland Oregon and could have it every day. My favorite preparation is the Crab Louie, a wonderful salad with greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, hard-boiled eggs, topped with crab meat and a special Thousand Island or Crab Louis Dressing (mayo with red chile sauce, minced scallions, horseradish and optional green chile peppers). The first time I had this was at Dan and Louis Oyster Bar in Portland, 1971.

So about 2001, on a trip to Baltimore to attend a seminar, and knowing about Maryland’s reputation for being crab-crazy, I looked forward to a Crab Louise. But to my amazement, none of the restaurants there had heard of the salad. All recommended I try their crab cakes, the state specialty. They really were delicious, but still, nothing compares to a Louie.

While in Baltimore, I also tried soft-shell crab; I think it had been either baked or pan-fried. I loved this too, but have not been able to find soft-shell crab here in Montana. As the crab grows, it periodically sheds its exoskeleton (shell), then grows a new one. After molting, and before the new shell gets hard, the crab is a “soft-shell.” All Recipes (4) has a good recipe for fried soft-shell crab. See Chow (5) for video on cleaning the soft-shell crab; this is done while the animal is alive, so is not for the faint-at-heart.

Maryland Crab Cakes

This recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking (1) magazine; originally by Susie Middleton. Here in Montana its hard to be picky about the variety of crab, so I just use what I can get. The original says to use fresh or pasteurized crab, but of course fresh is the best.

The original recipe specifies fresh breadcrumbs from soft white sandwich bread, such as Pepperidge Farm. Some recipes call for cracker crumbs. You don’t want to use a bread whose flavor will override the flavor of the crab.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • 1 lb fresh crabmeat (preferably jumbo lump or backfin lump crab)
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup homemade mayo
  • 1 ½ tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 ½ tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ tsp Wrcestershire sauce
  • Unrefined sea salt
  • 1 ¼ cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • lemon wedges (garnish)
  • Equipment
  • medium bowl
  • 2 small bowls
  • cast iron skillet



  1. Drain crabmeat (if necessary) and remove any pieces of shell. Put crabmeat in medium bowl and set aside.
  2. Chop parsley, crush bread to crumbs and mix with parsley in small bowl; set aside.
  3. Whisk egg, mayo, mustard seasoning, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and ¼ tsp salt in another small bowl. Scrape mixture over crabmeat and mix gently until well combined, breaking up any lumps with your fingers. Do not over-mix.
  4. Sprinkle crumb/parsley mix over the crabmeat mixture and mix in thoroughly but gently. You don’t want a mash; is should be somewhat loose.
  5. Cover (put bowl in plastic bag) and refrigerate for 1 – 3 hours.
  6. Shape mixture into 8 cakes about 1 inch thick.
  7. Heat butter & olive oil in skillet over medium heat. When butter is frothy, cook cakes until dark golden brown on underside, about 4 minutes.
  8. Reduce heat to medium low and continue cooking until other side is well browned, 4 – 5 minutes.
  9. Serve with lemon wedges on the side for squeezing over the cakes.

Assembly or Serving ideas

  • The original recipe recommends serving with a sauté of Corn, Sweet Onion & Zucchini with Fresh Mint (2), and finish the meal with Marinated Peaches (3).
  • Another excellent accompaniment is seared green beans and chopped garlic, and a green salad.


  1. Fine Cooking recipe:
  2. Fine Cooking recipe for Corn, Sweet Onion & Zucchini Salad with Fresh Mint ( )
  3. Fine Cooking recipe for Marinated Peaches (
  4. All Recipes fried soft shell crab recipe (
  5. Chow video: how to clean a soft-shell crab (

About Cat

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