Baked Crab Cakes – A Healthier Option

by Sally on August 16, 2011 · 5 comments

in Appetizers & Snacks, Fish & Shellfish

A plate of crab cakes with a big green salad and a glass of chilled rose wine make for a wonderful impromptu summer dinner.  To reduce fat, I bake my crab cakes instead of pan-frying them. Form crab cakes a few hours ahead and refrigerate. Bake and enjoy when you are ready. Make them larger sized for dinner or in a mini size for cocktail hour and easy entertaining. They are always a hit at my house and when I’m catering parties.

As I cook most every night we rarely eat out. When we do, one of our favorite places is Gulfstream in Newport Beach. They make fantastic crab cakes. While restaurants often use sweet pacific Dungeness crab, at $33-$43 a pound (when you can find it), it’s a little pricey for an every day dinner.

Pasteurized Crab – Affordable Option

For homemade crab cakes, I use jumbo lump pasteurized crab available in tubs and cans. It’s usually around $15-$16 a pound – a lot more affordable than Dungeness. For far less you can enjoy crab cakes at home whenever the mood strikes.

A pound of crab will make about 8-9, 2 ½ ounce crab cakes that will serve 2-4 people. It will also make about 18 mini-sized cocktail crab cakes for easy entertaining. Many recipes use Saltine crackers and I do too, but specifically the non-fat crackers. They do not contain any partially hydrogenated oils, a healthier choice.

For mayonnaise, I use Reduced Fat Vegenaise from Follow Your Heart products. I love the light, clean taste and the fact that it’s made with flaxseed and olive oils. Another healthier option.

In the spice category, Old Bay seasoning is traditional and Phillips Seafood Seasoning is good but not easy to find. I now make my own spice blend with smoked paprika, cumin, celery seed and other spices. The best thing about making your own spice blend is that you can adjust it to your taste preference. See links below for an Old Bay recipe as a starter to making your own.

Trick for Perfectly Shaped Cakes

To get perfectly formed and portioned crab cakes I use a metal ring mold. For dinner size use a 2 ¼” (5.7cm) across the bottom edge. For cocktail size, use a smaller one, about 1″ – 1 1/4”” in diameter. My cutter set has 16 concentric circles. You can get similar sets on Amazon or in kitchen and restaurant supply stores.

Pack the crab in the ring lightly but firmly. Put fingers in the center of the crab and gently lift off the ring. Place the crab cakes on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper.  Cover with plastic film and refrigerate until ready to bake. They can be made several hours ahead.

Bake the Crab Cakes and Make A Sauce

To bake, coat the crab cakes with toasted breadcrumbs gently pressing the crumbs on. Place on a rimmed baking sheet topped with a wire rack and bake. The wire rack provides air circulation around the crab cakes so they get crisp. Bake until golden brown and hot.

Serve with your favorite sauce; tartar sauce, cocktail sauce or make your own. I mix Vegenaise, finely chopped shallot, lemon zest and juice, capers, fresh chopped dill and parsley.

With a crisp exterior from toasted breadcrumbs and a tender interior, these crab cakes are hard to beat.

Baked Crab Cakes – A Healthier Option

For prefect crab cakes and portion control, use a ring mold to shape them. For entree size use a 2 ¼” (5.7cm) ring. For mini or cocktail size, use a smaller one, about 1″ – 1 1/4””. Inspiration to bake my crab cakes came from a Cooks Illustrated cookbook, The Best Make Ahead Recipes.

Yield: 8-9 entrée sized crab cakes or about 18 mini crab cakes


  • 3 slices each white and whole wheat sandwich bread
  • 2-teaspoons grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 1 pound pasteurized jumbo lump crabmeat
  • 6-7 tablespoons finely crushed non-fat Saltine crackers*
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
  • 1 table Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 large or extra large egg
  • 4 tablespoons reduced fat Vegenaise (or low fat mayonnaise)
  • 2-3 teaspoons Old Bay, Phillips Seafood Seasoning or your own spice blend
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Trim crusts from bread and tear into pieces. In a food processor fitted with steel blade, place bread and process to fine crumbs. Add 2 teaspoons oil and pulse to evenly combine. Place breadcrumbs on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and bake until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Cool.
  2. Drain any juices from the crab. Place crab in a medium bowl. Toss crab with Saltine crumbs and chives. Start with 6 tablespoons of cracker crumbs. If it seems wet, add another tablespoon.
  3. In a small bowl mix together Dijon mustard, dry mustard, egg, Vegenaise (or mayonnaise) and seasoning. Add to the crab and mix gently. Taste and add more seasoning if you prefer.
  4. With ring mold, pack in crab gently but firmly and smooth the top. Place crab cakes on a rimmed backing sheet lined with wax paper or parchment. Cover with plastic film and chill for 30-60 minutes, or several hours.
  5. When ready to bake, pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Gently coat crab cakes with toasted breadcrumbs. Place crab cakes on a rimmed baking sheet topped with a wire rack. Spray the rack with non-stick spray. Bake crab cakes until golden brown and hot, about 12 minutes.

*Note – to crush Saltines finely use a food processor or place in a Ziploc style bag and crush with a rolling pin.The non-fat variety do not have an partially hydrogenated oils.

Other links you might find helpful:

Follow Your Heart products, makers of Vegenaise

Recipe to make your own for Old Bay seasoning 

Homemade Tartar Sauce, from Simply Recipes

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 myFudo August 17, 2011 at 10:54 am

The crab cakes look great. Never tried this before. I can imagine the good taste it would leave in my mouth.. great pic


2 Madonna August 18, 2011 at 3:01 am

Thank you so much for this recipe. I live in Irvine and I should not have to worry about where to get good seafood, but for some reason I am not finding what I know is available. Thank you also for the details regarding baking them on a wire rack. I am really interested in the pans & bakeware used; it makes so much difference. Most of the time chefs/cooks leave out this important piece of info/photos. I guess they just assume we know. I finally quit burning my cookies when Ina said to use the proper baking sheet. Who knew?

I love your site and think it is one of the best out there – easy to navigate/visual/my type of food. Thanks.


3 Sally August 18, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Thanks Madonna for your comment! As you live in OC too, I buy most of my seafood at Bristol Farms in Newport Beach. Sometimes at Santa Monica Seafood in Costa Mesa. Both are the best options in OC in my opinion. On the cans and tubs of crab, you’ll find it in different places and at different price points but I do like the jumbo lump. If you make them let me know how they come out.


4 Julia February 23, 2012 at 5:00 am

I found these searching for ‘baked crab cakes.’ As Im reading, I realize we’re practically neighbors. We love Gulfstream too! Their wild rice salad, oh my word, it’s fabulous! And then I continue reading and realize you avoid partially hydrogenated oils too! I know I’ve come across your blog before, and I’ll for sure be back!


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