Recreate this restaurant-style favorite at home with less greasy mess! Easy Air Fryer Crab Cakes are totally worth the splurge. They’re perfectly crispy on the outside and perfectly tender on the inside. Serve up these “tasty cakes” of sweet, lump crab meat and our signature blend of seasonings for a truly fancy feast.
We only have two seasons here in Maryland: oyster and crab. We take both seriously. So seriously, in fact, that this is one of two crab cake recipes I’ve shared on this very site, the other being a can’t-believe-it’s-keto baked crab cake.
Anyway, if you’ve never experienced crab season in Maryland, you may not understand the particular combination of fear and joy when a steaming bushel of crabs, guts intact and coated in a thick layer of seasoning, are dumped on a table in front of you. It is JOY.
It also a meal like no other; and if you’re skilled, you can score a second amazing aftermath snack, like crab dip or crab stuffed mushrooms. That is, you can if you have the gumption to clean and pick the leftovers. And, of course, not snack on any of that sweet, succulent flesh in the process.
Thankfully, there are true heroes out there who not only pick crabs, but who are so skilled at keeping things intact that we can actually just purchase lump (and even jumbo lump) crab meat without the fear of repeated crabby stabbings.
Why the Air Fryer?
Baked crab cakes are good – really good. But when you go to a restaurant for Maryland crab cakes, I can guarantee the best ones are pan- or deep-fried. Both methods are messy and time consuming at home.
Thankfully the air fryer does a comparable job, giving you the results you want – crisp “fried” outside with a tender interior – with way less mess.
What’s the Best Crab Meat for Crab Cakes?
For most crab cake recipes, including this one, choose lump crab meat. You definitely want those tender, satisfying chunks! Jumbo lump meat is more expensive, but worth it if you’re really looking to impress.
If you’d rather hand pick your own meat (bless you, you adventurous friend) keep in mind that it takes every last flake of meat (claw and backfin included) from 6-8 large blue crabs to get the 1 pound of meat you need to make your own crab cakes. And, full disclosure, a couple of hours. But like most adventures in life, it’s really fun to do at least once.
Can Canned Crab Meat Be Used?
Absolutely! But with a caveat – when we say “canned” we mean refrigerated, pasteurized canned crab meat (usually procured from the seafood counter at your grocers), not the “shelf stable” crab meat you’d find in a center aisle next to cans of tuna fish.
How to Cook Crab Cakes in the Air Fryer
Air Fryer Crab Cakes are surprisingly easy to make and quick to cook – and even faster in the air fryer! Plus, they’re super crispy – no hot grease needed. Simply mix your batter, then fold in your lump crab meat with crispy panko bread crumbs to keep them bound together while “frying.” Serve with our homemade tartar sauce for a restaurant quality meal at home.
- Whisk egg, mayonnaise, mustard powder, Old Bay, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire in a large bowl until smooth.
- Add the crab meat, then sprinkle bread crumbs on top.
- Use your (clean) hands (they’re the best tool here) to very gently fold the mixture until just barely combined. Chill the mixture for at least 1 hour.
- Preheat the air fryer for 5 minutes at 400°F, whether or not the manufacturer instructions require it.
- Meanwhile, form half-cup portions of the filling into 3″ wide cakes that are roughly 1″ thick.
- Lightly mist the basket with olive oil, then arrange the crab cakes in a single, even layer, with a bit of space in-between – you may need to do this in 2 batches. Lightly mist the tops of the crab cakes with olive oil.
- Cook at 400°F for 5 minutes. Flip the cakes, then cook 3-5 minutes more, until the internal temperature reads 165°F.
- Use the best quality, freshest crab meat available to you.
- Don’t over mix once you’ve added the crab meat – just barely combine to avoid breaking up those delicious lumps of meat.
- Chill the crab cake mixture prior to baking – this helps them set which, in turn, keeps them firmly packed together when cooking crab cakes in the air fryer.
- Whether or not your machine requires pre-heating, always preheat your air fryer for this recipe – a hot environment will help the crab cakes cook evenly.
- For even less mess, use parchment paper air fryer liners in the basket. (Only use designated liners with precut holes for proper circulation!)
Bonus Recipe – Tartar Sauce!
We love homemade tartar sauce with crab cakes. You’ll find ingredients and instructions below in the recipe card. Our version is zesty and tangy, made with whole ingredients – without added sugar or preservatives – that you can adjust to taste. Just remember, it needs about 1 hour to chill in the fridge so it thickens.
Pro Tip: Pat your pickles dry! Soak up excess moisture with a paper towel to help your tartar sauce firm up faster.
What to Serve with Air Fryer Crab Cakes
Crab cakes are an incredibly versatile dish to build a meal around. We love them in the summer with seasonal vegetable sides like fresh tomato salad with bacon dressing, grilled corn on the cob, creamy cucumber salad, or white bean salad.
You also can’t go wrong with leafy green salads as a partner just about anything, and we’ve got those for any season too! Any simple salad will do, but we’re partial to a simple tossed Italian salad or butter lettuce salad to contrast the buttery flavor of crab cakes.
Can I Make Air Fryer Crab Cakes in Advance?
Yes, you can prep your crab mixture and form into cakes up to 24 hours in advance. Place on a flat surface (a plate or tray will suffice), cover with plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook your crab cakes in the air fryer.
How to Store and Reheat
Cooked crab cakes can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days in a sealed container. Reheat in the Air Fryer at 350°F for 3-5 minutes.
Cooked crab cakes can also be frozen. Place them on a parchment lined baking sheet, then place in the freezer until firm (about an hour). Transfer the frozen crab cakes to a resealable bag, press out the air, and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Cook from frozen at 400°F for about 8 minutes, turning once halfway through.
Did you try crab cakes in the air fryer? I’d love to know how they turned out! Leave a comment and a rating below.
- Medium Mixing Bowl
- Air Fryer
- 1 large egg
- ¼ c mayonnaise
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
- ½ tsp white pepper
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 lb jumbo lump or lump crab meat, fresh or hand picked
- 10 tbsp panko bread crumbs, (½ cup plus 2 tbsp)
- lemon wedges, for serving
- 10 tbsp ½ cup plus 2 tbsp mayonnaise
- ¼ cup minced dill pickle, 3-4 spears
- 1 tbsp fresh dill, patted dry
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp capers
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ tsp mustard powder
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- Make the tartar sauce. Combine all ingredients except in a bowl and mix until well combined. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt, pepper, or lemon juice until the flavor sings. Chill at least 1 hour to help thicken.
- Whisk the egg, mayonnaise, mustard powder, old bay seasoning, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the crab meat, then sprinkle the bread crumbs on top.
- Using your (clean) hands, gently fold the mixture until just barely combined. Place the mixture into the fridge to chill for 1 hour.
- Preheat the air fryer for 5 minutes at 400°F, whether or not your device calls for pre-heating (a hot environment will help the crab cakes cook evenly). Once pre-heated, lightly mist with olive oil.
- Scoop out half a cup of the chilled crab cake mixture into your hands. Form into a crab cake that is approximately 3" wide and 1" thick. Arrange crab cakes in the air fryer basket in an even layer with a bit of space in-between; you may need to do this in 2 batches. Lightly mist the tops of the crab cakes with olive oil.
- Transfer the basket to the air fryer and cook at 400°F for 5 minutes. Flip the crab cakes, then cook 5 minutes more, or until the internal temperature reads 165°F using an instant read thermometer.
- Remove from the air fryer and serve with lemon wedges and tartar sauce.