The perfect Dungeness Crab Cakes recipe is not much more than a big pile of crab and a few cracker crumbs, with a kicky little sauce on the side. With crab cakes, less is more.
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You can have your King and your Snow and your Chesapeake blues: I'll take the delicate sweetness of a Dungeness crab every time.
Dungeness crab... is sheer, unadulterated crab heaven.
The Theory and Practice of Cooking, James Beard
Dungeness crab are found found all along the West Coast from Alaska to California, Dungeness is known in scientific circles as Metacarcinus magister, or the “master crab,” and it is a title well-earned. (Dungeness crab was the favorite of both Julia Child and James Beard.)
DID YOU KNOW? The name Dungeness comes from the Dungeness Spit , the longest natural sand spit in the United States. Located on the Strait of Juan de Fuca in northern Washington State, it encloses Dungeness Bay, one of the most fertile habitats of this delicious little crustacean.
The Best Way to Eat Dungeness Crab
One of the best meals you will ever experience consists simply of a freshly cooked Dungeness crab, a container of equally fresh cocktail sauce, and a box of Ritz crackers – preferably eaten with someone special, while sitting on the sand watching the Pacific tide roll in and out.
The perfect crab cake recipe is not much more than that – a big pile of crab and a few crackers, with a kicky little sauce on the side.
With crab cakes, less is more.
The Perfect Crab Cake Recipe
Ironically, this crab cake recipe (as well as the accompanying Roasted Red Pepper Sauce) was inspired many years ago by a crab cake dinner in Maryland. Up until then, I’d only eaten “West Coast” crab cakes - which at the time were more cake than crab; so heavy with fillers that the flavor of the crab was nearly lost. (A lot has changed in the Left Coast food scene since the 80's, thankfully.)
When I took my first bite of my first Maryland crab cake, I was blown away by the clean flavor and those heavenly chunks of fresh crab. You could still taste the ocean in every bite. Those East Coasters definitely know how to serve up an amazing crab cake! (I loved the sauce they served with their crab cakes, too: fresh, warm red pepper sauce with just the right amount of kick!)
The only thing that could have possibly made those Maryland crab cakes even better was our buttery West Coast native crab. (Sorry, Blue Crab.) Once home, I set out to create a simple crab cakes recipe that put our favorite Pacific Northwest crab on center stage.
[Fast forward seven or nine test batches later...]
Eureka! I hope you enjoy these delicious little Dungeness crab cakes - the ultimate Crabby Patties - as much as we do!
Pacific NW Dungeness Crab Cakes (with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce)
- 1 pound Dungeness crab meat cleaned
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 large egg beaten
- ½ teaspoon honey mustard
- ½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ teaspoon hot sauce I use Sriracha
- ¾ teaspoon seafood seasoning [i.e. Old Bay®]
- 10 butter crackers [i.e.,Ritz or Keebler Club], finely crushed
- 1 cup fresh bread crumbs or more
- ¼ cup butter for frying
- Lemon wedges for serving
- In a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, egg, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, seasoning and cracker crumbs.
- Very gently the crab meat into the wet ingredient mixture, taking care to not break up the crab meat too much.
- Cover and chill for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.
- Using a ¼ cup measuring cup, shape the crab mixture into 8 lightly packed patties, each about ¾" thick.
- Coat each crab cake lightly with fresh bread crumbs. [See Note]
- In a heavy skillet, melt just enough butter to thoroughly coat the bottom of the pan. (Do not overheat the skillet or you run the risk of burning the butter.)
- Gently place the crab cakes in the pan and cook over medium heat until golden brown and heated through, 3 - 4 minutes per side. (Do not crowd the pan! It is best to fry the crab cakes in batches, adding more butter to the pan as needed.)
- Briefly transfer the crab cakes to a cooling rack to drain while you fry the next batch and/or prepare the plates.
- Sauce plates and arrange crab cakes on top, or serve cakes on a bed of greens with the sauce on the side.
Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
- Cut the red pepper in half and remove seeds and stem. Brush both sides with olive oil. Place on a foil lined baking sheet.
- Place oven rack 4-5" away from heating element. Place baking sheet in the oven and broil the pepper for 8-10 minutes, turning over about half way through. The pepper skin will char.
- Remove broiled pepper from oven and let set for a few minutes until it is cool enough to handle.
- Peel away as much of the pepper skin as possible. Don't worry if some remains, It's all going to get pulverized anyway.
- Place pepper along with the remaining ingredients into a small blender cup and process until smooth.
- Serve hot or cold. Keeps in fridge for about a week.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.
When and Where to Find Dungeness Crabs
Dungeness crab season in Oregon runs December through August. During that time, you can find fresh, whole crabs cooked and ready to go at just about any supermarket seafood counter or specialty seafood market throughout the Pacific Northwest.
PRO TIP: Our family has bought many of our crabs at Barnacle Bill's Seafood Market in Lincoln City for generations. Bill's has delicious in-house cocktail sauce, too. For additional information on Oregon crabbing, including more tasty recipes, visit the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission.
More Pacific Northwest Seafood Recipes
If you enjoy Pacific Northwest seafood, be sure to check out these recipes:
- Pan-Seared Sturgeon with Chanterelles & Baby Yukons (courtesy of Chef Andrew Garrison of Headlands)
- Grilled Halibut over Greens with Verjus White Truffle Vinaigrette (courtesy of Chef Steve Debaste of the New Leaf Café on Orcas Island)
- Grilled Honey Glazed Salmon (with Ginger & Orange).
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