Christmas Crab Cakes


Crab cakes are a special dish that go perfectly with celebrations.

Christmas Crab Cakes
Photo: Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Emily Nabors Hall; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis
Active Time:
25 mins
Chill Time:
1 hrs
Total Time:
1 hrs 25 mins

Every holiday spread needs a grand centerpiece. Usually it takes the form of a massive roast or a shiny glazed ham. These impressive (and often expensive) proteins are treats—it's not every day that you sit down to a prime rib supper—which is why they are seasonal mainstays. At my house, though, it's crab cakes that bring everyone to the table.

I'm a Florida native, so it's not that surprising that I'd choose seafood for Christmas dinner over beef or pork. My Italian roots may also play a part, though my family is so small that we've never been able to justify a Feast of the Seven Fishes celebration (way too many leftovers). There are a lot of reasons why I love crab cakes. You can assemble them ahead, dress them up with sauces, and pair them with just about any side dish. Some of my favorite sauces to serve these with are Herbed Creme Fraiche, Spicy Pepper Sauce, and Creamy Dijonnaise. There is a flavor for everyone to enjoy. You don't have to take their temperatures, they won't smoke up your kitchen, and you don't have to go through that nerve-racking internal debate over whether to carve them in the kitchen or at the table. They feel just as special as any large cut of meat and require way less angst.

I've learned a few things about them over the years. The best ones are made with a mix of fresh-picked jumbo lump and regular lump crab. Don't bother with the stuff in cans—it's Christmas, after all. These two types work together to form patties that hold their shape and still have decadent chunks of seafood throughout. Keep the flavorings simple. You've paid good money for that crab, so let its delicate sweetness shine. Cook the patties in a mixture of butter and olive oil.

My last piece of advice is to make a few extra, if possible, and hide them in the back of the fridge. That way, you can enjoy crab cakes topped with poached eggs for breakfast the next morning or put one in a soft, squishy potato bun for lunch. Consider it a Christmas gift to yourself.


  • 12 ounces fresh jumbo lump crabmeat, drained and picked over

  • 12 ounces fresh lump crabmeat, drained and picked over

  • 1 ¼ cups panko breadcrumbs

  • 2 large eggs, beaten

  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish

  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest plus 2 tsp. fresh juice (from 1 lemon) and lemon wedges for garnish

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 

  • Herbed Crème Fraîche

  • Spicy Pepper Sauce

  • Creamy Dijonnaise


  1. Combine crab, panko, beaten eggs, mayonnaise, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, parsley, and lemon zest and juice in a large bowl. Using your hands or a rubber spatula, gently fold the ingredients until combined, being careful not to break up the crab. Cover and chill at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

  2. Preheat oven to 200°F. Place a wire rack inside a large rimmed baking sheet; set aside.

  3. Heat butter and olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium. Gently form the chilled crab mixture into 10 (2-inch) balls. Do not squeeze mixture. Place balls in skillet in batches. Do not overcrowd the pan. Cook until golden brown on one side, about 4 minutes. Flatten slightly with a spatula before gently flipping over; cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer cooked crab cakes to the prepared rack, and place in preheated oven to keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining crab mixture.

  4. Transfer hot crab cakes to a serving plate; sprinkle with parsley. Serve with desired sauces, and garnish with lemon wedges.

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