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Gluten-Free Keto Crab Cakes

These are the best Gluten-free and Keto Crab Cakes out there. They are easy to make and are made with real claw crabmeat and no breadcrumbs which usually is a filler ingredient that makes up at least 50% of other crab cakes.

Crab Cakes

My husband has been making them for 30 years and has agreed that I can share this recipe with you. The great thing is they are low carb and gluten-free!

Did you ever go to a restaurant and order an appetizer of crab cakes and be disappointed because you really felt like eating crabmeat and you could barely taste any or find any inside the crab cake? Then the bill came and you said to yourself “Why did I even order those crab cakes? They were a disappointment and they cost so much!”

Have you then gone to another restaurant and figured you should try to order them again, figuring the last time it was just a fluke? Because you love crab cakes so much you figure you would try, but unfortunately, the same thing happens again and again and again. 

I know because it has happened to me so many times. It’s also so hard to find low carb crab cakes out in a restaurant that I just never order them anymore and instead I only eat them at home.

What are Crab Cakes?

Crab Cakes

Crab cakes originated in the Chesapeake Bay area in Baltimore Maryland, which is a big seafood area and has a long history of making them using fresh crab meat. In 1930 a chef wrote a cookbook where he introduced the first written recipe for Maryland-style crab cakes. To this day New England thinks they have the best crab cakes but Maryland begs to differ… 

The main ingredient in crab cakes is obviously crab meat along with other ingredients of choice, in this case, peppers, scallions, eggs, spices, all put together and forming a patty of elegance.

Maryland-style vs Louisiana-style Crab Cakes

Let’s compare 2 different styles of crab cakes, Maryland-style and Louisiana-style to see the difference between the two.

Maryland style crab cakes feature Old Bay seasoning and tartar sauce to dip it in. The old bay is a unique flavor from a seasoning that originated in Baltimore Maryland and is not present in the Louisiana style crab cakes.

The Southern version uses hot sauce and cajun seasoning in them which is slightly different than the Maryland version.

Can You Eat Crab Cakes on a Keto Diet?

Crab Cakes

Normally, crab cakes would not be on the Keto diet because flour or breadcrumbs are typically used in them and that will bring the carb count up. Eat 2 or 3 of them, along with other things during the day and it starts pushing you over the number of carbs you can eat in a day. After all, even veggies have a few carbs so every one of them counts toward your total.

Our Keto/low carb crab cakes are not made with any flour or breadcrumbs so it means that the only ingredients are crab, eggs, and veggies. This makes them only 0.7 NET Carbs per crab cake.

So you can have these crab cakes, guilt-free, for an appetizer, main meal or salad topper.

How Many Carbs are in Crab Cakes?

If you buy premade or packaged crab cakes they can have 6-10 carbs each. What makes that worse is that one crab cake is not ever enough for an appetizer or a meal.

I checked some other low carb websites and they average about 2 carbs per crab cake. Ours come out for less than 1 carb each, to be exact, 0.7 NET Carbs! Do you know how many of these scrumptious treasures you can eat without feeling guilty??!!! The answer is a lot!

What Ingredients are in Keto Crab Cakes?

Ingredients for Crab Cakes
  • Crabmeat – Your choice of style and type but fresh is best if you can find it.
  • Parsley – Curly parsley is best.
  • Bell Peppers – Any color will do but if I have my choice I like red or orange because they stand out the best.
  • Scallions – These little green onions give off a lot of flavor without the strong taste of onions.
  • Eggs – These serve as a binder to hold the crab meat together.
  • Old Bay – The secret ingredient for Maryland-style crab cakes.
  • Salt – Just use a little because Old Bay has salt in it.
  • Black Pepper – This adds just enough kick.
  • Garlic – Fresh, jarred or powder
  • Bacon Grease – Adds some great flavor and helps to bind the mixture together.

Types of Crab Meat

Crab meat in a bowl
  • Lump – Off white is the color of this meat and comes from the body and is very flavorful, which makes it a good choice for any crab cakes.
  • Jumbo Lump – This meat is off white in color and comes from the crab’s swimmer fin muscles, and it takes a lot of meat to make up a serving, so it’s the most expensive. It belongs on top of a salad where you can really taste its value. 
  • Claw – This meat is darker in color than the lump version and is very flavorful but some people say it’s not as sweet. I think the flavor is really good in spite of it costing less too.
  • Backfin – it’s also off white and comes from the body but it is flakier than the others, a bit more shredded than chunky.
  • I use whichever one of them is on sale. Sometimes you can get the most expensive cuts for the price of the cheaper ones. 
  • My favorite type to use in crab cakes is a combination of 2 or 3 if I can get them because that way you get a couple of color variations which make for an interesting look, plus with several flavor variations, I feel the taste is the best.

What Kind of Crab Meat is Best for Crab Cakes?

Since now you know that there are several types of crab meat to choose from, now I can explain how you can choose to buy it, canned, frozen, and fresh. No matter which one you choose, it takes a lot of crabs to make crab cakes.

Canned – Lots of types of crab meat comes in cans, the same place in the store where you buy other canned seafood like tuna fish.

Frozen – The only frozen crab meat that I see in the store are king crab legs and snow crab legs. They either sell them in the frozen food section of the store or at the seafood counter, with a sign that says previously frozen. 

Fresh – My favorite type of crab meat to use in crab cakes is fresh meat that is sold in cans in the refrigerator section near the seafood counter. It’s fresh but also in a can so it lasts a while, and it’s really good quality crab meat that comes in 3 types.  lump, backfin, and claw.

King crab – This is my favorite crab in general but also super expensive. If I am going to pay so much money for these legs I am not going to make a crab cake with them, I will eat them whole.

Can I Use Imitation Crab?

Do NOT use imitation crab! If you can’t afford to buy the real thing then don’t make them at all. You have to have the real crab meat in order to get the true flavor.

Imitation crab meat has sugar and wheat flour in it, hence the reason for the 11 carbs per half-cup. It’s definitely not Keto or gluten-free for that matter.

Crab Cake Fillers

Crab Cakes

Some fillers are usually used in forming crab cakes. The reason people use fillers is to stretch the crab meat since it is not cheap to make these delicious treats.

Fillers are usually made from bread crumbs, cracker crumbs or similar. They are also used in crab cakes to help hold them together.

If you are making Keto/low carb crab cakes or gluten-free crab cakes then these breadcrumbs are not a filler that can be used because they are full of carbs. That means you need to make crab cakes without bread crumbs.

If you would like to fill them with some extra veggies, like more scallions or peppers…etc they can be considered to be fillers that you can eat.

But the best advice coming from someone who has been eating these delicious crab cakes for years is not to overload them with any type of fillers that will overpower the delicious flavor of the crab meat.

What to Use for Filler without Breadcrumbs?

Traditional Breadcrumbs are not an option for Keto crab cakes. People think that crab cakes need all these fillers to hold them together, besides the fact that by using fillers it keeps the cost down.

But what you may not know is that you don’t need the bread crumbs to hold the cakes together. 

Eggs are a common ingredient in crab cakes and they act as a binder, whole eggs, or just the yolks.

Some recipes even call for ground-up pork rinds and some have almond flour. Both of these will work on a low carb diet.

My husband’s recipe uses eggs but does not use either of the other 2 ingredients. He does use whole eggs and says that they help hold the crab cakes together well.

Old Bay is the Key

This is the flavor that makes this recipe taste just like Maryland crab cakes. It is a blend of herbs and spices that is marketed by McCormick and Company and was created in Baltimore Maryland and has been around since 1939.

It was named after the Old Bay Line, a passenger ship that plied the waters of the Chesapeake Bay from Baltimore to Norfolk Virginia.

It consists of celery salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and paprika. It is mainly used to season crab and shrimp but also used to season other foods from french fries, potatoes, corn on the cob, popcorn, fried chicken…and the list goes on.

Is It Better to Fry or Bake Crab Cakes?

Crab Cakes

If you have ever been to Maryland and eaten blue crabs then you know the sweet, succulent, and unforgettable flavor that you can only get there. It’s the best place to eat those delicious seafood patties. That could be why you like crab cakes and order them in different places, hoping to find a duplicate.

So if you want your crabcakes to taste at all authentic then you need to fry them. You can bake them but they just don’t taste the same as when you fry them. 

How to Make Low Carb Keto Crab Cakes

Now that you know where crab cakes came from and what goes into them, we can show you how to make this delicious seafood appetizer.

Mixing the Crab Cakes

Low Carb Crab Cakes Ingredients

The first thing to do is to gather all of your ingredients.

Get a large bowl and the first thing that goes in that bowl is the crabmeat. 

Bowl of Crabs

The next thing to add are the eggs.

Crab Cakes

Put the spices, the salt, pepper, and old bay seasoning in the bowl next.

And the last thing is to add the peppers, scallions, parsley, and garlic.

Once all of your ingredients are in the bowl you can take a large fork or spoon and mix it up completely until everything is thoroughly mixed.

Crab Cakes

After that, melt the bacon grease in the microwave and while it is hot you can pour it all over the mixture and blend well.

The next step is making up the low-carb mixture into patties. Place them on a plate or platter and refrigerate them for at least 30 minutes before cooking which will help hold them together better during the frying process.

Cooking

Get your favorite frying pan and put enough oil into the pan to cover the crab cake halfway up because it’s hard to fry something if the pan doesn’t have enough oil.  

Crab Cakes

Turn on the stove to medium heat and place each crab cake patty in the oil.

Crab Cakes

Fill the frying pan with as many crab cakes as will comfortably fit in it.

Crab Cakes

Fry them on one side for about 5-7 minutes and then flip them over with a spatula to the other side. Flip them to the other side carefully so they won’t fall apart. Now cook them on the second side for about another 5-7 minutes.

Crab Cakes

You want them to fry up to a golden brown on both sides, but don’t cook them on high because you do not want them to burn.

Crab Cakes

After they are cooked on both sides, drain them on paper towels, and serve.

Crab Cakes

What is a Safe Internal Temperature for Crab Cakes?

After the crab cakes looks like they are completely cooked, you can put a thermometer inside and test the inside. A safe internal temperature for crab cakes is when the thermometer reads 145 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Best Tips for Low Carb Crab Cakes

Crab Cakes

Here are a few tips that I find to be very helpful when making my homemade low carb crab cakes:

  • When mixing up the ingredients you can feel free to mix them one at a time or all at once, it’s your choice. It won’t affect the taste or texture of these Keto crab cakes either way.
  • Do not overmix because you want to make sure that your larger pieces of lump crab stay whole and not broken up into small pieces in the mixing process. If you wanted shredded crab meat you would’ve saved money and bought shredded crab meat at a fraction of the price of the 
  • When forming the crab cakes into patties you can decide what size to make them depending on the amount of mixture that you have or how many people will be eating these low carb crab cakes. We have made them all sizes, small, medium, and large, but keep in mind you need to flip them and they may be too big to turn so keep them a comfortable size for turning over, at least until you have made them a few times and feel comfortable.  
  • Check for Cartilage – Whichever crab meat you choose to use, even if it is labeled fresh-picked or handpicked, it’s a good habit to always check it for cartilage even though they have already done that for you before you bought it. Finding a piece of cartilage is like finding bones in fish and you want to avoid choking on it.
  • If you use canned crab meat, even the fresh kind you may have to drain the excess liquid off of it. It will be easier to make them stick together if they are not too wet.

How Do You Make Crab Cakes Stick Together? 

Crab cakes can fall apart if there is nothing in them to hold them together. That’s why people put a lot of breadcrumbs in them thinking that is the only way to hold the crab cake together, when in fact that’s not true.

In our gluten-free crab cakes, we don’t use any breadcrumbs or almond flour or pork rinds, but instead, by putting enough eggs, which are a binder, in them it helps hold them together. 

Plus we add a small amount of bacon grease which adds flavor but also helps low carb crab cakes stick together better.

After forming the mixture into patties refrigerate them for at least an hour and the chilling process will also help hold them together.

We make these crab cakes all of the time and from my experience, all of these steps will make them stick together. If you make them and have a hard time keeping them together then try adding another egg or chilling them up a while longer before frying them. 

Getting Them Crispier

Crab Cakes

The key to cooking the best-fried crab cakes is to make them juicy on the inside but crispy on the outside. There are a couple of things to keep in mind….

  1. Chill the patties first before frying them, that way they will hold together better when frying them. They are delicate so be careful. Chilling them will allow the outside to crisp up easier.
  2. Also, make sure that you have enough oil in the pan otherwise it will be harder to get that crispy texture.
  3. For best crispy results use a cast iron or nonstick frying pan.

Can I Make this Recipe Vegan?

Sometimes you can transform recipes into other types of diet plans by substituting one ingredient for another, but in this recipe, there are no approved substitutes because seafood is not an approved food, along with meat, dairy, eggs….etc.

Also, if you are trying to make these crab cakes low carb, imitation crab won’t work because of the high carb count.

Different Variations of Crab Cakes

Crab Cakes

If you want to change up this recipe a little bit, some people use a few different ingredients. You could add some dijon mustard or mayonnaise into the crab mixture before cooking it. A few sprinkles of lemon juice if also refreshing and adds some zest.

You can make crab cakes out of any other seafood. Just use the same ingredients and cook them the same way but just substitute the crab meat with something else like salmon, scallops, lobster, white fish…etc. They are just a little different but similar and all of them are tasty.

Other Diets This Recipe is Good For

Gluten-Free – As long as you don’t put crackers or breadcrumbs in the crab cakes they are gluten-free because the only other ingredients are eggs, crab, and veggies. A lot of crab cakes use Worcestershire sauce which has gluten in it so I omit it when making them because some of my friends have a gluten allergy.

Paleo – These crab cakes are perfectly acceptable for the paleo diet plan because they can eat seafood, eggs, and veggies.

Best Sauce for Crab Cakes

Crab Cakes

When my husband makes Keto crab cakes he also makes a sauce to go along with it, which I can also share with you too. 

It’s a sauce made from only 3 ingredients:

  • Mustard – The best one for this sauce is stone-ground mustard if you have one. Yellow mustard is not good with this dip. The taste is totally different.
  • Mayonaise – The best mayo is Hellmans, with the best taste and texture and it’s rich and creamy.
  • Dill – Fresh is always better but if you don’t have fresh you can also use dried.

Just blend 1 cup of mayo and ½ cup of mustard until evenly blended and add 1 teaspoon of dill at a time to taste.

What to Serve with Crab Cakes?

  • Crab cakes can be served as an appetizer, on top of a salad or as a main dish.
  • As an appetizer, you can eat them by themselves or serve them with other appetizers.
  • You could also take some of your crab cake mixture and stuff it inside of raw mushrooms and then bake them in the oven.
  • They are really good on top of a green salad.
  • As the main course, they go well with just about anything that you serve alongside other meat or fish, like for instance any roasted vegetables, like roasted broccoli with garlic or green beans with bacon.
  • And you may be surprised to know that you could also eat them leftover for breakfast with an over-easy egg on top…yum!

Can I Make Crab Cakes Ahead of Time?

You can definitely make your crab cakes ahead of time and in fact, it’s better to refrigerate them at least 30-60 minutes before cooking anyway which will make it easier to fry them, and will hold them together better.

I wouldn’t make them a day or two ahead because you are dealing with seafood which you want to eat right away.

How to Store Crab Cakes

Crab Cakes

Once the crab cakes are prepared, store them wrapped properly in the refrigerator.

You don’t want to keep them around too long, seafood should always be eaten ASAP. Cooked crab cakes can be kept in an air-tight container for up to 3 days, but don’t risk any longer than that.

What Can You Do With Leftovers?

If you have leftovers reheat them the next day either in the oven or the microwave and serve hot.

They can also be eaten cold if you want. They are very good on top of a green salad or just cold, dipped in the leftover sauce as a snack.

How to Reheat

Take your low carb crab cake out of the refrigerator and take the chill off of it for about 15 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Place the cakes on top but do not crowd them in the pan. Heat for about 10-15 minutes.

Or you can heat them in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, covered with a paper towel. 

Can You Freeze Crab Cakes?

You can definitely freeze crab cakes before cooking them and it is so easy to do.

Once you form them, place them on a lined baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and freeze them until solid enough to wrap them individually, which will just take a few hours. Wrap them in plastic wrap or sandwich baggies and then store them in a large plastic Ziploc bag or a large plastic container.

When you want to make them take out as many as you need to at one time. Place into the refrigerator overnight and then pan fry them according to previous instructions.

Crab Cakes

More Keto Appetizer Recipes

If you’re in the mood for some other Low Carb Appetizers then try our:

They all are Keto-friendly and low carb, and will be a hit at your next party!

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Crab Cakes

Gluten-Free Keto Crab Cakes


  • Author: Leigh Oskwarek
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10-15 minutes
  • Total Time: 25-30 minutes
  • Yield: 20 Crab Cakes (1 Crab Cake Per Serving) 1x
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Description

These Gluten-Free Keto Crab Cakes are closest thing to Maryland crab cakes that you can cook at home. Easy to make and delicious to eat, they will become one of your favorite things to eat for an appetizer, a main meal or even for breakfast!


Ingredients

Scale

Crab Cake Mixtures:

  • 32 oz Crab Meat – preferably claw meat
  • ½ cup Parsley
  • ½ cup Bell Peppers
  • ½ cup Scallions
  • 4 jumbo Eggs
  • 2 tsp Old Bay
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 2 tsp Pepper
  • 2 Tbsp fresh or jar Garlic
  • ¼ cup Bacon Grease 

Sauce:

  • 1 cup Mayonnaise, preferably Hellmans 
  • 1/2 cup Mustard, brown or stone-ground
  • 1 tsp Dill, fresh or dried (use more if desired)

Instructions

Mixing the Crab Cakes

Cooking

Notes

0.7 NET CARBS PER CRAB CAKE

Do not overmix the crab cakes so much so that it breaks apart the big chunks of crab meat. After all, you paid extra for lump crab meat, not shredded crab meat.

You can make your crab cakes small, medium, or large. I usually gear the size according to if they are going to be an appetizer I make them small so they go farther. 

If they are going to be on top of a garden salad then any size will work.

If they are being served to more people then also make them small.

If they are going to be eaten for dinner with a veggie then make them medium/large.

If you don’t want to fry them, you could also bake them.

Check the crab meat for cartilage.

Fresh crab meat is always the best…the ones in the cans like tuna are shredded and almost tasteless.

If you use canned crabmeat make sure to drain off the excess liquid so it will be easier to make them stick together when they are not too wet.

  • Category: Appetizers
  • Method: Frying
  • Cuisine: American

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