Not all Maryland Crab Cakes are created equal, but this Keto Crab Cake is going to become the house favorite for a few reasons. Most important being that it’s loaded with tender lump crab meat and has a perfectly balanced blend of seasoning. But it also clocks in at 1 net carb, holds it’s beautiful shape, and costs a literal fraction of restaurant cakes. “Best ever?!?” Maybe! If not, then pretty darn close…
Regional food snobbery is a time-honored tradition that I wholeheartedly support. Who hasn’t rolled their eyes at New Yorkers who rant about pizza? (We all know it’s best just south of the border in Jersey).
Or walked into the middle of a Texas vs. Kentucky vs. Tennessee vs. Western North Carolina vs. Eastern North Carolina barbecue debate and dropped a bomb by saying one time, you had really good pulled pork in Oregon ?
Or god forbid, suggested to a Californian that In-and-Out Burger wasn’t the pinnacle of fast food?
Once you go down that rabbit hole, you’re going to get sucked in even deeper. Buffalonians won’t bother defending that they’re the undisputed chicken wing champs, but just ask a native where in Buffalo the best wings are from, and they can spend a week arguing about it. And so it goes for Marylanders and crab cakes.
We have no use for anyone who suggests the best crab cake they ever had was in Florida; not worth our time. But you get a dozen Marylanders in a room and every one of ’em has some secret little run down roadside tavern “down the shore” that they fully know, in their heart of hearts, is the only place to go for crab cakes.
If you’ve got a road trip planned, listen to these people. They know what they’re talking about. But I am here to tell you it’s well within your power to not only recreate a classic Maryland Crab Cake at home, but to create a crab-packed, keto crab cake that is not an “approximation,” but is actually as good as, if not better, than the many sad excuses for crab cakes that exist in the world, including in Maryland. (Yeah, I said it.)
What Makes This Recipe Keto and Whole30 Compliant?
One, traditional crab cake filler is almost always breadcrumbs or crushed saltine crackers. We swap it for almond flour for a very low carb (1g net!) and Whole30 compliant keto crab cake.
Secondly, coconut aminos replaces Worcestershire sauce. Same umani flavor in a compliant package.
Third, mind your mayo. Depending on your restrictions, you should be able to find a compliant mayonnaise with little to no trouble at any grocery store – look for brands that use olive or avocado oil with no added sugars. You can easily make your own as well, using our Ranch Dressing recipe as a base (sans seasoning).
Let’s Talk Crab
Whatever you do, use fresh crab meat. Now, the fresher the better, I always say… but it takes about every last flake of meat on 6 large crabs (up to 8 depending on the actual size and how thorough you are) to get 1 lb. of crab meat. So, feel free to pick if you’re a pro, but most Marylanders would agree that it’s far from a cardinal sin to just buy the meat.
- Claw meat is certainly cheaper, but tougher, and better left to soups and stews.
- Special and/or back fin meat is usually comprised of much smaller flakes, typically best for finer fillings, like stuffed mushrooms or shrimp.
- Lump crab meat will more than suffice for this recipe – half the fun is getting a nice tender chunk every now and again. You gotta give the people what they want.
- Jumbo lump meat is more expensive, but worth it if you’re looking to splurge.
How to Cook Crab Cakes
The two most common ways to cook crab cakes are baking (or broiling) and pan frying. If you are here for pan-fried crab cakes, I am sorry to disappoint you – you want keto crab cakes, and you also don’t want them to fall apart in a vat of grease. Sometimes, you cannot have it “your way.”
Fried cakes rely on a strict and delicate balance of moisture and starch to bind them together enough to withstand boiling oil, and I got news for you… no starch to be found here. If you need a wee bit o’ crisp with your cake, you can always (under a watchful eye) switch to broil for the last minute or two.
Bottom line? Bake those cakes. Bake crab cakes at relatively high heat (450°F) for firm, golden brown crab cakes that hold their shape.
Tips for Making This Recipe Perfectly
- Chill the crab cake mixture prior to baking – this helps them set which, in turn, keeps them firmly packed together during cooking.
- Be sure to use compliant mayonnaise for your specific dietary needs (keto or whole30). Check your labels, and make sure there is no added sugar and no vegetable oils.
- Use almond flour, not meal – the finer texture better mimics traditional breadcrumbs or crushed saltines.
- Don’t over handle the mixture once you’ve added the crab meat – mix until just barely combined to avoid breaking up those delicious lumps of meat.
- Use the freshest, best quality crab meat you can source.
- Bake at high heat – 450°F. If you’re feeling bold and daring, switch to broil for the last few minutes to brown the tops and ever-so-slightly crisp some edges. Just keep a watchful eye.
- Pat your pickles! Soak up excess moisture with a paper towel so the tartar sauce isn’t runny.
Let’s Talk Tartar
It’s nearly impossible to find bottled tartar sauce that doesn’t have added sugar. Even low sugar store-bought tartar sauce is often WAY too sweet and competes with, not compliments, homemade crab cakes. Make your own. It takes 5 minutes and the flavor difference is remarkable.
Be sure to chill your sauce to help it thicken slightly; if it’s still too runny, add additional mayo 1 tbsp at a time until the consistency is to your liking.
What to Serve with Crab Cakes
More Recipes for Shellfish Lovers
- Maryland Crab Dip
- Keto Shrimp Scampi
- Black Bean Salsa with Crab and Mango
- Crab Omelet with Avocado and Herbs
- Lemon Butter Shrimp over Polenta with Wilted Greens
Did you make these Maryland Crab Cakes? I’d love to know how they turned out! Leave a comment and a rating below.
Maryland Crab Cakes (Keto, Whole30)Print Recipe Rate this Recipe Pin Recipe
- Medium Mixing Bowl
- Rubber Spatula
- 1 large egg
- ¼ c mayonnaise, compliant
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
- ½ tsp white pepper
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp coconut aminos
- 1 pound jumbo lump or lump crab meat, fresh or hand picked
- ½ c almond flour
- lemon wedges, for serving
- 10 tbsp (½ cup plus 2 tbsp) mayonnaise, Whole30 and keto compliant
- ¼ cup minced dill pickle, 3-4 spears
- 1 tbsp fresh dill
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp capers
- 1 tbsp coconut aminos, or Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ tsp mustard powder
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- Make the tartar sauce. Combine all ingredients except salt and pepper 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 coconut aminos in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the crab meat, then sprinkle the almond flour on top.
- Using your (clean) hands, gently fold the mixture until just barely combined. It will be wet. Place the mixture into the fridge to chill for 1 hour.
- Heat the oven to 450°F with a rack positioned in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Portion 6 mounds evenly spaced onto the baking sheet (about ½ cup each). There’s no need to flatten them, but you can if you’d like to.
- Transfer to the oven and bake 15-18 minutes, or until the crab cakes are firm and lightly golden brown.
- Sprinkle the crab cakes with lemon juice and serve with tartar sauce.