Crab cakes are one of my favorite appetizers, but since having to go gluten-free I haven’t been able to have them. Recently I was thinking about recipes that I wanted to create for the foods I love but can’t have anymore, and crab cakes were at the top of my list!
Here on the West Coast Dungeness crab is king, but any crabmeat will work. Use whatever is local to your area. While freshly caught crabmeat is the best tasting option, it isn’t always in season or easy to find. When that happens, go ahead and use canned crab. Look for those that are packed in water and don’t have a lot of added ingredients. Rinse and drain well before using.
And gee, while I’m at it, why not design a crab cake that is a little exotic. I love the Thai flavor profile; the combination of seasoning is intoxicating. Lemongrass, cilantro, chiles, ginger, basil, and garlic are found in most Thai recipes. Lemongrass may be challenging to find in some areas, but Gourmet Garden’s Lemon Grass and other flavors are readily available in most grocery stores. Look for them in the produce section. I love that I can keep the tubes in my freezer and have fresh herbs available all year long.
The usual binder for crab cakes is breadcrumbs, so I had to find a gluten-free alternative. Schar’s GF breadcrumbs are really good, so that part was easy. I store them in my freezer to keep them fresh for occasions just like this. You can also make your own from gluten-free bread – let it dry out a little on the counter and then pulse in a food processor.
Trying to find a crispy, crunchy substitute for panko breadcrumbs was a little trickier until I realized that GF crackers would come close. Tossing those into a heavy-duty plastic bag and using a rolling pin to crush them makes an easy gluten-free crunchy topping or breading for many dishes. There are many brands on the market including Glutino, Absolutely, Nut Thins, etc. Look for any that have a neutral flavor for this recipe.
Another crunchy breading option is from Mary’s Gone Crackers. The company utilizes imperfect crackers that would otherwise be thrown away to make a flavorful product called Just the Crumbs, a gourmet breadcrumb alternative. These would be fabulous in many dishes, but because they include seasonings that might overwhelm the delicate crabmeat, I decided to go with the crushed crackers for this dish.
In order to be healthier and have less fat in my diet, I often will choose baking over frying. But this is one case where frying in oil is the best method. It gives the crab cakes their beautiful crispy exterior in a way that baking just can’t replicate. Remember, when the oil is hot before adding your foods, less is absorbed giving you crispy food that isn’t oily or greasy.
This sauce is beautiful. Creamy, luxurious and packed with flavor, it was fantastic with these crab cakes. The Artist and I both agreed that it would work with grilled vegetables or tossed with pasta for a different spin. And I think that once it is chilled, it would make a delightful dressing too. When you make this sauce, take a taste and see if you can come up with even more ways to enjoy it!
If you want to simplify this meal, leave out the salad topping. But I really like the touch of sharp acid that helps cut through the richness of the crab and sauce and the crunchiness it adds. You could also use regular lettuces and serve a salad on the side if that is easier for you.
These make a lovely appetizer for a dinner party or you can make the crab cakes a bit larger and serve them as an entrée. You could also take these crab cakes and sauce and make them into Eggs Benedict! They all would make me happy – I’m just thrilled to be able to eat crab cakes again!
- Gluten-Free Crab Cakes
- 1 lb crabmeat
- 2 tbsp minced red bell pepper
- 2 tbsp minced yellow bell pepper
- 2 shallots, peeled and finely minced
- 3 tbsp gluten-free dry breadcrumbs *
- 2 tbsp crushed gluten-free crackers *
- 5 to 6 tbsp mayonnaise, or more if you like them moister
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tsp Gourmet Garden Lemon Grass
- 1 tsp Gourmet Garden Cilantro
- 1/2 tsp Gourmet Garden Chile Pepper, or more if you want it spicy
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Pinch kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup canola oil, plus more if needed
- Creamy Lemongrass Sauce
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 shallots, peeled and minced
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 oz (1 tube) Gourmet Garden Lemon Grass
- 2 tsp Gourmet Garden Chile Pepper (or more if you want it spicy)
- 1 tsp Gourmet Garden Garlic
- 1 tsp Gourmet Garden Ginger
- Kosher or sea salt and freshly grated black pepper, to taste
- Zest of 2 lemons, finely grated
- 1/2 cup (1 stick, 2 oz) cold butter, cut into 1 tbsp pieces
- Microgreens, baby arugula, watercress, or similar tender greens
- Lemon vinaigrette or other lightly flavored dressing
- Halved cherry tomatoes
- Additional red and yellow bell pepper, minced very finely
- Lemon wedges
- Prepare Crab Cakes: Spread the crabmeat out onto a baking sheet. Pick through and remove any bits of shell and cartilage. Place crabmeat into a wire sieve and rinse well under cold running water. Shake to remove most of the water and then set aside to drain any remaining water, pressing gently to help release the liquid.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the bell peppers, shallots, breadcrumbs, crushed crackers, mayonnaise, egg, cilantro, chili pepper, lemon zest and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Mix until evenly blended and smooth. Add the crabmeat and gently fold into the mixture. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.
- Make Lemongrass-Cilantro Sauce: In a small skillet, heat oil over medium heat. When rippling, add the shallots and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring often, until softened. Remove from the heat before they start to brown. Set them aside to cool slightly.
- In a medium saucepan, bring half-and-half and cream to just below a boil (little bubbles will appear all around the edges of the pan, wisps of steam will be rising and a skin may form) over medium-high heat. Add the lemongrass, cilantro, chile pepper, ginger, shallots, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon zest and leave to steep for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Form the Crab Cakes: Using a small spring-loaded scoop, portion out the crabmeat mixture into balls about 2 to 3 tbsp each. Gently form each into rounded, slightly flattened patties. Place the cakes on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate to firm up, about 15 minutes.
- Finish the Sauce: Set a fine wire sieve over a bowl and pour the cream sauce through it, straining out the solids. Discard solids. Return strained sauce to the pan and heat over medium heat to just below a boil again. Add butter, 1 tbsp at a time, whisking until the butter is melted and fully incorporated before adding the next piece. When all the butter has been added, taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Reduce heat to very low and keep the sauce warm while you cook the crab cakes.
- Cook the Crab Cakes: Preheat the oven to the lowest setting. Line a baking sheet with brown paper (from grocery bags) or paper towels and place a wire rack over the paper. Set baking sheet next to your stove.
- In a 12-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Using an offset spatula, gently slip about half the chilled cakes into the oil. Cook in batches so the pan won’t be crowded. Cook until the crab cakes are golden brown and warmed through, about 2 minutes per side. Use a slotted spatula to transfer crab cakes to the prepared baking sheet to drain. Keep warm in the oven.
- For Serving: In a small bowl, toss the microgreens and tomatoes with a little of the vinaigrette, dressing them very lightly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and toss again.
- Whisk the sauce until smooth and silky and spoon a little onto each plate. Top the sauce with 4 crispy crab cakes for a generous appetizer portion. Garnish the tops with a pinch of the microgreens and tomatoes. Sprinkle the minced bell peppers around the plate and garnish with lemon wedges. Serve warm.
- Make Ahead: Crab cakes are best eaten the day they are made. You can keep uncooked cakes, covered tightly, in the refrigerator for several hours if needed. The sauce can be made ahead to the point before the butter is added and held in the refrigerator in an airtight container up to a day. Rewarm and whisk in the butter as directed.
- Yield: about 24 mini crab cakes, 6 appetizer servings of 4 crab cakes each
- * If you do not need to be gluten-free, you can substitute 1/3-cup panko breadcrumbs in place of the gluten-free breadcrumbs and crushed cereal.
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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I received compensation and products for recipe development.
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