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Real Maryland Crab Cakes – No Bread Crumbs

These crabs cakes are made with no bread crumbs, lots of real jumbo lump crab meat and some classic spices like Old Bay to zest things up.

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These crabs cakes are made with no bread crumbs, lots of real jumbo lump crab meat and some classic spices like Old Bay to zest things up.

I was born and raised in Annapolis, Maryland. Ate plenty of crab cakes growing up. I recognize that some families make crab cakes differently. This is how my family makes them. With just a few saltines instead of breadcrumbs.

We catch or buy our own crabs, cook them and pick the meat to use.

Not everyone has this luxury so I have tips below for sourcing crab meat for people who aren’t able to easily access Maryland crabs.

I also explain why we use a small amount saltines instead of loading our crab cakes with breadcrumbs.

A true Maryland crab cake is made without bread crumbs.

If you’re not from Maryland and have ordered a “Maryland Crab Cake” off of the menu somewhere else, it may have been full of breadcrumbs instead of being mostly crab meat. This isn’t how it’s done in Maryland.

Real Maryland crab cakes don’t taste like filler because instead of using bread as a binder the crab cakes are made almost completely out of crab meat.

Our family uses saltine cracker instead of bread crumbs to act as a binder. We use just enough to hold the crab together to form a cake.

Why is using saltine crackers better than bread crumbs?

Crab Cakes made with saltine cracker, no bread crumbs

The difference is, bread crumbs are typically made with bread flour which has more protein and more gluten. This gives bread it’s chewy texture but that same chewy texture is not really desirable when you’re talking about putting it into a crab cake. Crackers, on the other hand, are typically made with all purpose flour which produces a less chewy, more crisp taste in this case.

Less starch. More meat.

As I mentioned, you only want to use what you need to bind the crab meat together to form a patty. The crab should be the hero here. The crackers are only doing a job and should not necessarily be tasted.

Many places fill crab cakes with bread crumbs or other fillers because it’s cheaper than filling them with actual crab meat. You really only need a small amount of starch though, in order to form a lovely crab cake.

What happens if I just leave out the saltines all together?

Well, since crab does not naturally bind with itself like other more fatty meats, it’s helpful to have some amount of starch plus an egg. The crab cake will likely fall apart without any starch at all but if you are OK with that, then you can go ahead and leave out the saltines. This might be the way to go if you are seeking a gluten-free option.

Another Option for Gluten-free

If you are looking for a recipe without bread  crumbs because you’re seeking a gluten-free option, you could try gluten-free substitutes like gluten-free saltines.

If you’ve tried this, please leave a comment below for other readers who are curious.  I do not have a gluten intolerance so I have not tried this recipe with gluten-free crackers.

Just for fun, here are some ways to spot a fake “Maryland” crab cake.

If you’re at a restaurant and you’re just not sure if you should opt for the crab cakes or not, here are some ways to help you decide.

It’s most likely not a real Maryland crab cake if:

  1. It’s called a “Maryland Crab cake.” Ha! Trickery. It’s like if it’s trying to hard to be the real deal, it’s probably not the real deal.
  2. It tastes more like breadcrumbs than anything else. – Sadly, this only happens after you order.
  3. You can’t see big, lump pieces of white crab meat.
  4. There’s an orange skin on your crab (Oh no! That’s imitation crab meat).
  5. It’s priced less than $9.99. Real lump crab meat is $$$.

If you didn’t know. Now you know.

What’s the best type of crab to use for a crab cake?

The most delicious crab cakes are going to be made from jumbo lump crab meat from freshly picked crabs. Hands down.

You can buy a bushel of crabs, steam them, invite your friends and family over and feast! Pick the leftover crabs for that yummy fresh meat and make yourself a crab cake!

Do this after your friends leave or they will want you to make them one too. ? Or if you have enough, you could be nice and share. 😉

If you don’t want to go to the trouble of cooking your own crabs but you have access to a seafood market that sells Maryland crabs, chances are, you can purchase cooked lump crab meat from then in a small container. This is also an excellent option. It’ll be expensive but obviously a big time saver.

Pan-fried Crab Cakes

Can I use canned crab meat?

If crabs aren’t in season or you don’t live anywhere remotely close to a place that sells crabs or fresh seafood, fret not. You still have options. You can opt for canned crab meat.

I no longer live in Maryland sadly. We are up in Pennsylvania now and fresh crabs aren’t available on the side of the highway like they are in Maryland. So, I actually use canned crab meat. It’s OK. It’s better than imitation crab for sure, but it’s no comparison to freshly hand-picked Maryland blue crabs. It also tends to have shells.

Also, not all canned crab meat is create equal.

The best canned crab meat is available in the seafood section of your grocery store. It costs about $20 per can and will be refrigerated and labeled “lump crab meat.” If you’re lucky, you can sometimes find it on sale for half the price. Whenever I see it on sale, I grab up a few cans to make crab cakes and one of my favorite appetizers, this crab dip.

Of course fresh crab meat is just better.

With canned crab meat, you may not get big, flaky chunks of white crab meat like you would if you buy or pick your crabs fresh. Also, the meat will have lost some of it’s flavor after being packed into the can and sitting for awhile and, as I mentioned, I think it must be machine picked because I always notice a few shells.

If you’re a stickler for the best quality but don’t have access to fresh seafood, then another option is to order fresh crab meat online. Just make sure when you order, that you’re getting real crab meat from a place located in Maryland. It’s not going to be cheap.

So, since real crab cakes are made up of mostly crab meat…

The quality of your crab will affect it’s flavor.

Now that you know the difference between fresh crab meat, canned crab meat and imitation crab meat, you can make an educated choice and what type to use for this recipe.

Also, now that you know Maryland crab cakes are made without bread crumbs and just a small amount of saltines, you can see why starting with the best crab you can get is very important because that’s where all the flavor comes from.

I hope this helps you make the best tasting crab cakes!

What do you serve with crab cakes?

Lemon Squeeze over crab cake

A lemon wedge is a must! Lemon and seafood go hand in hand and when it comes to crabs, this is no exception.

You truly don’t need a bun for crab cakes. They are amazing by themselves! You can add a bun though, if you’d like a heartier, more filling meal.

I love the combination of fresh corn and crabs. Fresh scraped corn, or corn on the cob, with a little butter and old bay is just perfect! If you want to step it up, you can make a corn medley like what you see in the photos. Use corn, pimentos or red bell peppers, red onions, and Old bay. Saute everything together in a pan until onions are soft and translucent.

Spinach also goes really well with crab cakes. A spinach strawberry salad makes a great side dish, or try fried spinach if you want to get fancy!

Love crabs?

Then you will love my crab dip pretzel! It’s one of my favorite family recipes!

You might also like my Easy Salmon Patty recipe.

These Maryland crab cakes were featured on Wow Me Wednesday and South Your Mouth and Meal Plan Monday!

Maryland Crab Cakes (no bread crumbs)

Real Maryland Crab Cakes - No Bread Crumbs

These crabs cakes are made with no bread crumbs, lots of real jumbo lump crab meat and some classic spices like Old Bay to zest things up.
Author: Angela G.
4.3 from 20 reviews
Read Comments
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Skill Level: Easy
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4 Servings
Yield: 4 crab cakes


  • 16 oz fresh jumbo lump Maryland crab meat
  • ¼ tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • ¼ tsp ground mustard
  • 4 saltine crackers crumbled
  • 4 tbsp mayonnaise
  • ½ tsp lemon zest


  • Mix all ingredients together in a bowl then form in 4 individual patties, tightly packed and pressed flat to about 1" thick.
  • Lightly brown for 5 minutes on each side in a buttered pan over medium heat.
  • Serve hot on a bun or over a bed of confetti corn.


Nutrition Facts

Calories: 233kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 151mg | Sodium: 1221mg | Potassium: 254mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 170IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 68mg | Iron: 1mg
Want more easy recipe ideas?Follow @MightyMrs on Pinterest

Leave A Comment

Rate this recipe:

smith Joan

Tuesday 16th of November 2021

Just the BEST crab cake recipe.

Angela G.

Wednesday 17th of November 2021

Thank you, Joan! So glad you enjoy it.


Tuesday 12th of October 2021

@Angela G.,

Reinah D

Wednesday 15th of September 2021

For gluten free low fat cakes I use potato chips or grated potato if I have time and egg whites as binders. Its not authentic due to the bread missing but the result is a crab cake that seems like it is 100% crab meat.

Angela G.

Wednesday 15th of September 2021

Hi Reinah, Thanks for the tips on making this gluten free!

Marc Tweedy

Saturday 11th of September 2021

I'm from baltimoe living in texas. Lots of crabs on this gulf coast. Real crabcakes arent a thing. The supermarket self frozen crabs to make crab soup. I make crabcakes for people and they are always impressed because I make them authentically using this recipe.

Angela G.

Saturday 11th of September 2021

I’m glad you’re showing the good folks in Texas what a good crab cake tastes like! :)

Mary R Majka

Tuesday 7th of September 2021

@Larry Dawson,