We love crab. Every kind of crab and in the hundreds of recipes and applications. Crab really is quite versatile. One of our favorites is crab cakes. These Cajun Crab Cakes are perfect to enjoy by themselves, as an appetizer, as Crab Cakes Benedict for brunch, and as a crab cake sandwich!
We have had crab cakes in various places that claim crab cakes are their specialty. And they really have been wonderful, from Baltimore to Charleston, Savannah and Seattle to name a few places we have tried these jewels.
Some crab cakes have sauce, some are served plain and some have relish. They can be served on a plate or bun, can be deep fried, pan fried, broiled, baked or even grilled. Given our love of crab, we decided to make our own version of crab cakes through trial and error and based on what we prefer in a crab cake.
What is in a crab cake?
Crab cakes are generally nothing more than lump crab meat, breadcrumbs, eggs, a condiment (usually mustard or mayonnaise) and spices. Vegetables are common and optional. Just based on that ingredient list, you can see that the possibilities are numerous.
What type of crab is best for crab cakes?
So, let’s break it down…crab first. What type of crab should you use? Generally, blue crab is the most popular on the east and gulf coasts and Dungeness on the west coast. We’ve not had or made crab cakes with king, snow or stone crabs but you certainly could and I’m sure some people do just that.
We opted for blue crab for this Cajun Crab Cake recipe as it is readily available and has a sweet taste that works perfect for crab cakes.
What about the filling?
The next thing to consider is what to mix in with the crab. You of course want the crab to shine, but the cakes need to hold their shape when you cook them.
The most important achievement with crab cakes, in our opinion, is that the crab is the star and shines through the spices. If the crab cakes are bread-y it just doesn’t work. The egg and breadcrumb ratio is the primary thing holding this crab cake together, so it is necessary, but you just want it to be delicately bound. Once this is achieved, everything else added to the crab cake will be about flavor profiles that you desire.
We chose to use sourdough breadcrumbs with spectacular results, but panko works great for these also. Panko also has a gluten free option if that is necessary for you. Feel free to experiment with various bread crumbs to make these work for you.
Our crab cakes have the breadcrumbs inside only, but you will often find that crab cakes are coated or breaded as well. We prefer to have the bread mixed inside the cake in small amounts – we are looking for the crab to shine without being "bread-y" or "dough-y."
We really wanted these crab cakes to have a ton of flavor with each bite. So we opted for chopped onions and red bell peppers as the main fillers. It was also important to us that these had the heat we were craving, so chopped serrano peppers were a must.
The red bell was selected for its sweetness and color, the serrano for its spice (and predictable spice versus the common jalapeño), and the sweet onion for the onion flavor and amazing taste when it caramelizes. A shallot can deliver here as well.
If you want a more mild bite, opt for jalapeños, although the inconsistent range of heat makes them a wildcard.
As for the condiments, we found less is more – but that is our preference. Again, we are looking for a little flavor and binding help more than anything. What we chose as our favorite was Dijon mustard. It’s smooth in both texture and taste and compliments our other chosen ingredients.
These are Cajun Crab Cakes, so they needed to live up to their name!
As for spices, we chose to use our own Cajun seasoning blend as follows:
Our Homemade Cajun Seasoning
Here's what you need:
- 4 tsp Cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp Kosher salt
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 2 tsp sweet paprika
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tbsp dried mustard
- 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp garlic powder
You can surely use your favorite blend. There are so many options for Cajun seasoning and most are very good, but you could also make your own if you wish like we do.
Additionally, the use of Worcestershire is traditional and works very well in rounding out and deepening flavors.
We also chose to use Louisiana hot sauce for a little added flavor and to complement the Cajun seasoning blend. Our strong opinion is that Louisiana hot sauce (like Crystal) is much better here than Tabasco.
How do you cook crab cakes?
The final consideration is how to cook these Cajun Crab Cakes and how to serve it. To us, this was the easiest to find a clear winning formula.
As for how to cook them – pan fry with a little butter easily won out over other methods. Achieving that deep brown color on the exterior of the crab cake is necessary in our opinion, and extra flavor is gained as the butter browns.
Do you need to have a sauce?
As for sauces and relishes, that is also personal preference.
A slaw on the side, corn relish, mango salsa, a remoulade, an herb-infused aioli or, if you insist on never growing up, ketchup can all be used. Seriously, please refrain from eating these with ketchup, or at least don’t tell anyone.
The bottom line is that almost anything can be served with or on a crab cake, but remember – everything you add should complement the crab rather than cover it up or be the dominant taste on the plate.
We love a good spicy herb aioli with these cakes, so we included a recipe below if you are interested in making one to go with this. We obviously love heat, so this is not for the faint of heart!
Storing the Crab Cakes
This recipe makes about 8 crab cakes. For a dinner serving, you will likely want 2 cakes per person served with a side, or one per person if serving as an appetizer.
So you may be wondering what to do with 8 cakes if you are only making these for two people like us!
Well, we like to take full advantage of our crab cake making so we always make a full recipe and set two aside for Crab Cakes Benedicts for the next morning, and freeze the rest to easily enjoy whenever we are in the mood!
The important thing here is to refrigerate the cakes BEFORE pan frying if you plan to eat them for tomorrow's brunch. This way, the cakes taste freshly made when you pan fry them the next day.
Same goes for freezing. Place your pre-cooked crab cakes on a sheet pan and place in the freezer for about an hour. This allows the contents to begin to freeze making them more durable for storing. After an hour, remove the cakes from the freezer and place in a freezer safe bag or container. We prefer using vacuum sealed bags for freshness and to prevent freezer burn.
When you are ready to make these, simply remove from the freezer to defrost in the fridge overnight, or at room temp for a few hours. Then pan fry as usual!
We hope you enjoy this recipe! If you give it a try, leave a comment below or tag us @cooking_with_wine on Instagram!