Good old Old Bay. It’s what lends the distinctive taste to crab cake burgers as it does to fresh blue crabs from the Chesapeake Bay. Simple. Honest. Spectacular.

And less is more, both in terms of the amount of Old Bay as well as the type of crab you use. And don’t bother splurging on the pricier lump crabmeat, it will only cause the crab burger to fall apart during cooking.–David Leite

Crab Cake Burger FAQs

What should I do if I only have salted saltine crackers?

If all you have on hand are salted saltines (and really, who can blame you?!), then go ahead and use them and simply cut back on the amount of kosher salt you use in the recipe to no more than 1/2 teaspoon.

Can I make these crab cakes ahead of time?

Yes, you can make the crab cake mixture a few hours before cooking, with the exception of the cracker coating. Combine the ingredients and shape the patties. Store in the fridge until just before cooking, and coat them in the crushed saltines at that point.

How do I flip the crab cakes without breaking them?

These flakey crab cakes can be delicate. To avoid breaking them when flipping them, use two spatulas to gently turn them over.

What should I serve with these crab burgers?

Load them up with your favorite toppings like lettuce, tomato, and tartar sauce. On the side, some homemade baked fries, raw veggies, or potato chips would all be great.

A platter with several crab cake burgers topped with tomato in a soft roll.

Crab Cake Burgers

5 / 3 votes
These crab cake burgers, made with plenty of crab, pimento, Old Bay seasoning, and a little egg, mayo, and crackers to bind, are an enduring summer classic.
David Leite
Servings4 crab cake burgers
Calories415 kcal
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time45 minutes


  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped jarred pimientos, patted dry
  • 10 no-salt saltine crackers, crumbled (4 to go in the crab cakes, 6 to coat the crab cakes)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1 pound crabmeat, picked over for shell slivers and cartilage and patted dry
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons mild vegetable oil, for frying
  • 4 store-bought or homemade white rolls or burger buns, sliced and toasted
  • Four thick tomato slices, (optional)
  • Tartar sauce, for serving


  • In a medium bowl, combine the egg, mayonnaise, pimiento, 1/3 of the crumbled crackers, salt, Old Bay, and parsley and mix well.
  • Gently fold in the crabmeat. The mixture will be wet.
  • Using your hands, gently shape the mixture into 4 patties, being careful not to press them too compactly. Cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours.
  • Gently coat the crab cakes with the remaining crumbled crackers, sprinkling some of the cracker crumbs over the crab cakes and then turning and repeating.
  • Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add at least 2 tablespoons oil and heat until hot but not smoking.
  • Add 2 crab cakes to the skillet and cook until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes per side, gently turning the crab cakes once with a thin metal spatula. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining crab cakes, adding more oil if needed.
  • Place a crab cake on each bun and top with a tomato slice, if using. Serve with tartar sauce on the side.


Serving: 1 burgerCalories: 415 kcalCarbohydrates: 32 gProtein: 31 gFat: 19 gSaturated Fat: 3 gMonounsaturated Fat: 4 gTrans Fat: 0.1 gCholesterol: 161 mgSodium: 1268 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 6 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2004 Rebecca Bent. Photo © 2004 Ben Fink. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This crab cake recipe made a delicious crab burger.

When I formed the patties, I wrapped them securely in plastic wrap to help hold and compress the mixture before I refrigerated them for 4 hours. I did not coat them with the cracker crumbs until just before I cooked them. I had no trouble with them falling apart in the skillet, although I took great care to handle them very delicately.

I used all the good stuff to take the crab cakes over the top. I toasted and buttered a soft potato roll, garnished with lettuce, tomato, and tartar sauce. I would make this again, except I might substitute finely chopped red bell pepper next time instead of the pimentos, as I like just a little bit of crunch in the mixture. I also took note of the saltine flavor coming through and I really enjoyed that!

One important note about salt, though. I used regular saltines as I wasn’t about to buy a box of unsalted crackers. I couldn’t imagine that using eight small salted crackers would make that much difference. But I found the crab burger to be a bit salty.

Once I checked the Old Bay seasoning ingredients I found that it contains salt as well. So, fair warning, if you are using salted saltines make sure to dial back on the 1 teaspoon of kosher salt called for. I also used Dungeness crab instead of lump crab.

These crab cakes are quite good and make a very good burger or they can be served without the roll on a plate with sides as a main course.

The mixture is quite wet and may be difficult to handle. Using 2 spatulas for handling the cakes will also help with setting them in the pan and flipping them over.

Also, there is a large amount of mixture which could be made into 6 slightly smaller easier to handle cakes rather than 4 large ones. And you could brown them on the stovetop for a couple of minutes on each side and then finish them in a preheated oven for about 10 minutes at 350°F. This will help finish cooking without burning them.

I suggest adding a full tablespoon of Old Bay rather than the 2 teaspoons to amp up the flavor.

I’d like to think that sailing on the Chesapeake for 12 years makes me a pretty decent judge of a good crab cake, and I’ve tasted plenty. These are the epitome of what a crab cake wants to be with one exception.

These delicious crab cakes were chocked full of sweet lump crab meat with very little filler beyond some mayo, pimientos, fresh parsley, and the requisite Old Bay seasoning. The crab flavor came through perfectly! They developed a beautiful golden crust and remained wonderfully tender inside.

The challenge came when trying to make patties out of a pretty wet crab mixture. They definitely needed the cracker crumbs on the outside, but the scant amount of crumbs inside just wasn’t enough to hold them together once they hit the skillet. I had to use two spatulas in order to flip them since they were so fragile.

They wouldn’t hold up to serving them on a bun, which isn’t a bad thing, since we didn’t need the extra carbs anyway, so I served them simply on tomato slices with a dollop of homemade tartar sauce and an arugula salad on the side. An excellent crab cake dinner!!

I’ll definitely be making these again. Next time, I’ll add a bit more cracker crumbs to the mixture (just enough to form a cake), and then refrigerate the cakes for an hour before frying, which is a little trick I learned years ago to help hold the crab mixture together a little better.

I served my crab cakes on tomato slices with a dollop of homemade tartar sauce.

This crab cake burger recipe was a quick winner for us. We liked that there were only a few ingredients in this recipe, so the crab was able to shine through. The Old Bay provides a nice amount of seasoning without being overbearing, and the parsley and pimentos both added a bit of flavor and looked pretty in the finished product.

We found these to be very filling. I liked the tomato on the crab cake and would definitely include this in the future, along with the tartar sauce, which rounded out the taste. This was my first time making crab cakes, and I was pleasantly surprised to find it much less intimidating than I thought it would be.

Super Simple! The reason these are so good is there is very little cracker crumbs and they are just all crab meat.

I was initially skeptical using so few crackers, but it was really enough. I added an additional half teaspoon of Old Bay and felt the flavor was great. Personally, I think a little dry mustard and some cayenne would have really put them over the top.

My husband and I were so happy with how this crab cake burger turned out. No filler, all crab, crispy on outside, tender on the inside.

You do have to handle these babies gently because they are quite moist and delicate, but I found flipping them with 2 spatulas while cooking did the trick.

The Old Bay gave me a taste of home, and while I did make tartar sauce to accompany the crab cake (my husband like the addition of the pickles to the tartar), I also added some peach habanero hot sauce to my roll. Yum! Freshly sliced heirloom tomatoes were also a great complement.

There are surely as many crab cake recipes as fish in the sea, but this one stands out for its purity, lightness, and no-fuss technique. I appreciated that it’s all about the crab here, with minimal interference from other fanciful ingredients. The “burgers” were incredibly light, delicate, and crab-forward—all good things, in my book.

A few tweaks. Old Bay seasoning includes celery salt, so adding more for flavor can also set the sodium balance off-kilter, so caution should be used. We are generous salt shakers in my house, but these crab cakes tasted ever-so-slightly too salty after my addition of more Old Bay per the recipe’s suggestion. Also, I would use a few more saltines to sprinkle over the crab cakes before cooking.

The crab cakes did hold together during cooking, much to my surprise!

Finally, I liked the casual serving on burger buns or rolls, especially for a summer dinner, and I might even suggest that these could be made half-size and placed on smaller slider buns for a fun and different approach.

However, taking the purist appreciation one step further, I would argue that these would be equally nice served bread-free as a more elegant entrée with any number of sauces on the side. The airy texture and nearly unadulterated crab flavor would really shine without the distraction of the bready book-ends!

This crab cake burger recipe makes very good crab cakes that are quick and easy. I will be making them again by request of the family.

The mixture is very wet so it needs to be handled very gently; however, once in the frying pan, the cakes stayed together. I had all the ingredients but the pimentos so I did use the same amount of fresh red bell pepper and the crab cakes were very tasty. I made the homemade tartar sauce.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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  1. This recipe sounds wonderful. For those who might not have crabmeat in their budgets during this pandemic time, and knowing that the flavor and texture would suffer a bit, could surimi be substituted for part or all of the crab?

    1. Rita, we appreciate you asking that question as no doubt others are wondering the same. We haven’t tried it that way, and suspect it would be fine, although in my experience surimi can be a touch more watery than crab and also fall into longer strips rather than flakes, so be certain to squeeze it dry and know that it may not hold together quite the same as crab. And if you do try it, kindly let us know how it goes!