Northern Neck Crab Cakes

Northern neck crab cakes.

Crab cakes.  Meaty.  Tender.  Crispy.  With a hint of Old Bay seasoning.  These Northern Neck Crab Cakes are the real deal and they’re easy to assemble if you’ve got a can of lump crab meat. Make some tonight. 

live blue crabs.

Northern Neck crab cakes

I like mine with a scoop of cole slaw on the side — as if it’s more of a down-home treat than a $20/pound delicacy.  

But lets face it – real back-fin lump crab meat is more of a luxury item than an every day staple. Unless you happen to live on the Northern Neck of the Chesapeake Bay and unless you happen to have a few baited crab pots tied up to the dock – or better yet, some string attached to a chicken neck, a patient hand and a dipping net.  Like we did when I was a kid.

lump crab meat

I can remember helping my Dad and Uncle Buck (everyone should have an Uncle Buck) haul loaded crab pots from the water (still dripping with the remnants of stinging nettles), shaking the crabs free from their cages and into a huge metal pot.  They’d carry the pot across the long dock and up the hill, give them a quick rinse with the hose and a liberal dose of Old Bay — and cook them.  Live.

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sautéing vegetables.

I’d be standing nearby, listening to the crabs moving inside the pot, futilely  trying to escape their steamy end.   While they cooled, my brother and I would cover the picnic table with newspaper and carry out the cups full of melted butter and lemon (for dunking).  And the crab pickin’ would commence.

an egg to help bind the ingredients.

Pull back the apron on the crab – flip off the top shell, scrape out the oozy green insides and remove the grey “lungs”, then fold the crab in half and begin the slow assault on the jewels of meat tucked inside the cartilage.   Occasionally, I’d manage to extract the back-fin meat completely intact and raise it for everyone to inspect and laud over.  Then, I’d swish it in the lemon butter and devour my prize.  By the end, everyone’s chins and hands were slick with the remnants of the feast.  Good times.

crab cakes ready to chill.

This is a much more sanitary way to eat crab.  I can’t say that it’s better.  It’s not.  I much prefer the former, but since I’m not at my grandmother’s house on the Northern Neck nearly as much as I’d like to be, these crab cakes are the best alternative.  And they don’t suck!

Frying crab cakes in a cast iron skillet.

Tips for making crab cakes

My trick for making crab cakes — and having them stay (mostly) together is three-fold.  First, chill the seasoned crab mixture before and after forming the cakes.  Second, make the crab cakes in small batches — no more than two cakes at a time.  Third, use a thin, pliable spatula and your hand (rested on top of the cake) to flip them quickly and carefully in the pan.

crab cakes resting on paper towels.

Set them on some paper towels to soak up any excess oil and serve (preferably with the aforementioned cole slaw and maybe some corn muffins).  Heaven!

Northern Neck Crab Cakes with tartar sauce and lemon.

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4.56 from 9 votes

Northern Neck Crab Cakes

This crab cake recipe is based on my Grandmother’s recipe and is a favorite use for lump blue crab meat. These Maryland style crab cakes are straight from the Chesapeake Bay and they’re the best.
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword crab
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 4


  • 1 pound lump crabmeat picked over, any shells or cartilage removed
  • 1 stalk celery minced
  • ¼ cup onion minced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Old Bay seasoning or Chesapeake Bay seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon worchestershire
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon parsley minced
  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • a few drops of hot sauce to taste optional
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup Wondra flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • canola oil and butter for frying


  • In a small skillet, heat two teaspoons olive oil over medium heat. Add celery, onion and salt. Cook until the liquid has evaporated and the celery and onions are translucent.
  • In a medium bowl combine celery mixture with fresh breadcrumbs. Toss to combine. Add Old Bay, worchestershire, parsley, mayonnaise, egg, hot sauce and lemon juice. Toss lightly to combine.
  • Add crabmeat and very carefully using your hands so as not to break apart the lumps of crab, combine with the breadcrumb mixture. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. (Refrigerating helps the mixture to stick together a little better).
  • Remove crab mixture from the refrigerator. Divide the mixture into six equal portions and carefully form each into individual cakes, about 3/4″ thick. Place crab cakes onto a clean sheet pan (that will fit into the freezer). Transfer the sheet pan to the freezer for 20 minutes — again to help the crab cakes hold together.
  • Add the Wondra flour, salt and pepper to a shallow bowl. Place a crab cake in the flour and lightly press into the flour to create a coating (try NOT TO COAT THE SIDES) flip and press flour onto the other side.
  • Heat a cast iron skillet or heavy pan over medium heat. Add a small pat of butter and a teaspoon of canola oil for each batch of crab cakes. When the butter starts to foam, swirl the mixture around in the pan so the bottom is well coated. Add 2 crab cakes at a time to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes per side. Do not fuss with the crab cakes. Once you put it in the pan avoid the temptation to poke, prod or otherwise mess with it. When crab cakes are fragrant and browned, use a thin, pliable spatula (I use a fish spatula) and place one hand on top of the crab cake, while you swiftly lift the cake with your spatula. Flip the crab cake onto the uncooked side into the pan. Repeat for the other cake. Cook an additional 3-4 minutes. Transfer (carefully) crab cakes to a paper towel lined (2-3 paper towels thick) sheet pan.
  • I make a big deal about flipping because this is an expensive ingredient and you don’t want the cakes to fall apart.
  • Repeat the process with the remaining crab cakes.


To make fresh breadcrumbs, tear 2 slices of bread into chunks and transfer them to the bowl of a mini food processor. Pulse until medium crumbs are formed.
I cook my crab cakes in a small cast iron skillet, doing two at a time. This is so that I have better control over my cooking. Crab cakes are fragile and by crowding too many in a skillet, you run the risk of burning them, or having them fall apart or crumble. Take your time and cook them in batches.


Calories: 482kcal | Carbohydrates: 85g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 52mg | Sodium: 1597mg | Potassium: 293mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 80IU | Vitamin C: 28.5mg | Calcium: 70mg | Iron: 8mg



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  1. 5 stars
    Hey Lisa, these look great!! I was wondering where the flour came in at.

    1. Hi Bill! Nice catch! I’ve fixed the recipe – so thank you for that. The Wondra is for a thin coating before frying the crab cakes. It gives it a nice crust.

  2. These look so yummy! I definitely need to try them out!!
    xo, Amanda

    1. Thank you, Lucy! These are one of my favorites!

  3. coralgableslove says:

    Those look so yummy! Who does your photos? they look gorgeous!

    1. Thanks Paola! I take the photos myself – glad you like them!

  4. Loving these and your pics! Can’t wait to try one of your recipes (but I’m so lazy)

    1. Glad you like the photos, Yined! Nothing wrong with lazy — sometimes you need a little lazy in life!

  5. I’ve always wanted to have crab cakes….. I’m used to having crabs just the way my mother makes it… simmered in a fragrant coconut curry….

    1. Ooooh – that sounds Amazing! I shared MY recipe — now you have to share yours!

  6. Oh man.. this made me SO HUNGRY!!! Sadly, it’s late.. and I know there’s no crab in my fridge. I’ll just keep staring at your photos haha.

  7. Oh, brother! I’ve been craving crab cakes and here they are. I’ve picked many, many crabs and your description is right on target. Now, I must make crab cakes RIGHT NOW!

    1. Are you from the Chesapeake Bay area, Jackie?

  8. This makes me want to cry that I have all the ingredients except the crab meat!!!! Added to the grocery list πŸ™‚

  9. Hi Lisa, These crab cakes look sooo good! Family recipes are the best …so many wonderful memories associated with the recipes. Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

    1. Oh, wow! You’re missing out Suchi! You must try them if you’re a fan of crab!

  10. Everyday Sarah Jane says:

    I absolutely LOVE crab cakes!!! And thanks so much for those tricks to help keep them together … that’ll definitely make my try at this recipe successful πŸ™‚

    1. My daughter dove right into these when I was finished. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

    1. Glad you like them Sara! My Uncle Buck is the best!

  11. I have family in Alaska and get fresh alaskan crab legs when were there in season…. so I can really appreciate how amazing it was getting that crazy fresh crab when you were with your Uncle Buck. That being said, I can’t wait try this .. I always enjoy trying different crab cake recipes with different regional tastes! Thanks for sharing… and ps…. your photography is stunning! πŸ™‚

    1. Wow – Alaskan crab was your norm? How lucky is that? I love different regional flavors too — who are we kidding, I like to eat! I’ve been working on my pix, so thank you for that!

  12. Your carb cakes look packed full of flavour and cooked to perfection! I have tuna patties on my blog this week – love them with mayonnaise too!

    1. I’m glad you like them. I’ve never tried tuna cakes before… Do you use fresh tuna or canned?

  13. Betty Burdick says:

    Oh Lisa, this post made me just a bit homesick for the Hampton Roads area of Virginia (my home for 13 years) and wanting a crab cake – yes at 8:45am! Just seeing your beautiful photography and reading the description and recipe I know I could eat and enjoy one of these babies even at this early hour. I have not made crab cakes since moving to Huntsville but I think it may be time for me to attempt to bring that taste of Virginia to my home in Alabama.

    1. I didn’t mean to make you homesick, Betty! But a dash of Old Bay will cure all!

      1. J. Michael Johnson says:

        5 stars
        Thanks for the recipe! I lost my grandmothers recipe (or my mother did) but this has all the ingredients that I remember. Grew up in the Northern Neck and there’s nothing like spending the day in the Potomac and dipping crabs off the fishing nets staked in the river and then inviting the neighbors over for a feast!
        Pretty sure I had an uncle Buck!!

        1. Hi Michael, I agree — nothing like a day on the water (we were on Carter’s Creek a tributary of the Chesapeake) and dipping for crabs. Thanks so much for your comment. I hope you enjoy the crab cakes!