The third part in my Summer Crab series goes back to basics with the ultimate Maryland delicacy: the crabcake.
Click here for the full recipe and nutritional information, or keep reading!
As you’ve seen from my recipes for cream of crab soup and Chesapeake Bay Cobb salad, I’m a big fan of Gardein crabless cakes. However, I know that there are many people who don’t have access to them as well as people who would prefer to make them themselves. Honestly, I’ve been thinking about this for some time, too. I like the idea of making my own, with my spices I want (ie, Old Bay to the EXTREME) and the size that I want. I am far from the first person to make a vegan crabcake, and I have taken inspiration from the vast number of recipes online. This is, in my opinion, as authentic of a Maryland-style crab cake as you can get… without actually having any crab in it. Here is my version of a vegan crabcake!
There are lots of options for crab substitute, artichoke hearts and chickpeas being among the most common. I’m using canned hearts of palm, drained, rinsed, boiled for 10 minutes, and rinsed again. I like hearts of palm for various reasons, not least of which being that I happened to have it in my pantry with no idea what else to do with it. I think artichoke hearts would be great, too, though NOT marinated artichoke hearts as they have too distinct of a flavor. Whatever else you choose, pulse it in a food processor until it’s the texture of crabmeat. Boiling the canned hearts of palm for about 45 minutes means it should shred easily by hand, as well as giving the palm a more tender, less vegetal texture. The longer you boil it, the better.
Now to flavor and hold it all together. I prepare a flax egg (1 tablespoon of freshly ground golden flaxseeds + 3 tablespoons of water) and set that aside to gel. Old Bay, as I’ve mentioned, is essential. A touch of Worcestershire sauce and Dijon mustard are great, too. It is also important to get some sort of “oceany” flavor in your mix, too. I grind together a blend of this Braggs sea kelp seasoning and nori that I use for all kinds of recipes, including mock tuna salad and carrot lox.
Give this sauce a taste – you want it to be just slightly on the too salty side as everything else is very bland. If it’s not salty enough, add more Old Bay or Worcestershire sauce. The final ingredient is a tiny touch of sweetness. Remember, real crabmeat has a slight sweetness as well as a strong saltiness, and moderation is the name of the game here. For a recipe this size, a teaspoon of agave nectar is plenty.
Stir the shredded hearts of palm into this mixture until thoroughly coated. Now stir in your breadcrumbs. You may have at some point seen someone make crab cakes, and they may have used panko breadcrumbs. That’s fine, and I’m sure it’s delicious, but that’s not how an authentic Maryland crab cake is made. Any sort of fine breadcrumb is… fine, but the truest binder of crab is crushed saltine crackers. I personally like to use the ones with unsalted tops so that I can better control the flavor, but either will do. Make sure you’ve crushed them into a fine powder before adding them to your crabcake mix. DO NOT USE TOO MUCH! A true crabcake has the smallest amount of binder possible, just barely holding the crab together. We need to add extra elements to our cakes, so your mix look like 80% “crab” and 20% binder.
On to formation of the cakes. Maryland crabcakes are as spherical as possible. Unless you’re planning to put these on a sandwich (and honestly, even if you are), they should really look more like cupcakes than pancakes. This is partially because you are using so little binder. Think mound rather than patty. This can be difficult if you’re frying your cakes, but I’m choosing to broil them, which is much easier. Spray or butter a parchment-line baking sheet generously. Using your hands, form a ball of crab mix in your hand. It really doesn’t have to perfectly stay together, but it shouldn’t be soupy or completely falling apart, either. If so, add a bit more crushed cracker. I made five crabcakes, but you can make them as big or small as you like. I’ve done this recipe and just made two large crab cakes. And you can definitely do tiny hors d’oeuvre sized ones, too. If you’re happy with the size and shape, carefully place to on the sheet. Once they’re all lined up, give the tops another generous coating of spray, or slice a sliver of vegan butter on top of each one.
Broil these until heated through and golden brown, around 15 minutes.
It’s very common to dip picked crabmeat in some combination of clarified butter, lemon juice, and hot sauce. My version is a delicious aioli by blending equal parts vegan mayo, hot sauce (I like Texas Pete), and lemon juice in a small blender. I also like to serve these with lemon wedges, a sprinkling of Old Bay and parsley, and a super simple mix of about 1 part yellow mustard to 3 parts vegan mayo. (The printout version of the recipe just includes the crabcakes, no sauces. If anyone asks, I’ll make a printable version, but like I said, it’s just three ingredients.)
I have to say, I really love these. The flavor, in my opinion is on point. The texture, even after boiling the hearts of palm for an hour (which really does help), still has a bite that crabmeat doesn’t have, but they’re still great, low fat, and best of all, vegan and cruelty-free!
Please give this recipe and try, and do let me know how it turns out!
Maryland-Style Crabcakes (+Spicy Lemon Aioli) | Printable Version
Makes 5 crabcakes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15-60 minutes
1 14oz can hearts of palm, drained and rinsed
1 T Old Bay (preferably reduced sodium)
1 T ground flaxseeds (+3 T water)
1 T Braggs Sea Kelp Seasoning (or 1 T ground nori)
1 T Dijon mustard
1 t agave nectar or maple syrup
1 t vegan Worcestershire sauce
¼ c crushed saltine crackers (preferably unsalted)
Cooking spray or vegan butter
2 T vegan mayo
2 T hot sauce of your choice)
2 T lemon juice
- If desired, boil hearts of palm in a medium saucepan for 45 minutes, or until very tender. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- Prepare flax egg by mixing ground flaxseed and water in a small bowl and set aside.
- Break up the palm with your hands until in small, crabmeat-like shreds.
- Combine the crabcake ingredients (including the flax egg) with the shredded palm.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray or butter paper generously. Form large egg-sized balls (or the size of your choosing) and place on the parchment paper. Top with more cooking spray or a small sliver of vegan butter.
- Broil for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
- In a small blender, combine aioli ingredients and serve with crabcakes.