An addicting recipe for Crab Cakes with cilantro, lime zest and jalapeno served with a sweet and punchy Red Pepper Vinaigrette.

These zesty crab cakes are made with fresh crab, lime zest, cilantro and jalapeño, served up with a red pepper vinaigrette. Makes 6 large crab cakes, or 12 small appetizer crab cakes. 

Here’s another catering recipe I thought I’d share… Crab Cakes! This recipe can be served as a main course or an appetizer depending on the size of the cakes.

WhaT I Love about these Crab Cakes!

They are light, heavenly and flavorful!

Made with very little “filling”, the fresh crab cakes are infused with lime zest , cilantro and a hint of jalapeno (or just as easily could be made more classically with lemon zest and parsley) with the lightest panko crust.

Serve with a big leafy green salad and a drizzle of Red Pepper Vinaigrette and prepare to be dazzled.

Ingredients in Crab Cakes

Ingredients in crab cakes- with fresh Dungeness Crab

Ingredient Notes

  • Crab: for the best flavor use fresh Dungeness Crab meat if possible. Fresh lump crab meat will work too. It comes cooked and refrigerated, not canned. Costco often has the BEST deals.
  • Panko: use panko instead of bread crumbs for the lightest filling and best crust. Breadcrumbs will make them heavy and stodgy.
  • Lime zest: a different spin on crab cakes, enlivens them- or sub-lemon zest
  • Cilantro: or sub-flat-leaf parsley
  • Jalapeno– gives a nice little kick, optional, but delicious!
  • Ghee I love to sear these in ghee but feel free to use a mix of butter and olive oil.
  • See the recipe card for full recipe details .

How to make Crab Cakes

Mix wet ingredients together in a bowl. Egg, mayo, mustard, along with herbs, zest and seasonings.

Mixing wet ingredients in a bowl.

Whisk until well combined.

Wet ingredients in a bowl- whisked.

Drain and strain the crab meat, pressing out any liquid. Fold in the crab meat, breaking apart any extra large pieces which can make it difficult for the crab cakes to stay together. The crab meat should smell pleasant like the ocean, and taste sweet.

Folding in the fresh crab into the whisked ingredients in a bowl.

Fold in the panko bread crumbs.

Adding panko to the bowl.

Stir until combined. Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.

Crab cake mixture in a bowl.

While this is refrigerating, make the Red Pepper Vinaigrette.

Our Chipotle Mayo would also be tasty here!

Red Pepper vinaigrette

Shape the crab cakes. Divide and press into cakes, compressing with your hands. For entree-sized cakes, make 6-8. For appetizer-sized crab cakes make 12.

Twelve hand-formed crab cakes on a sheet pan.

Lightly coat the outside of the cakes with panko.

Dredging crab cakes in panko bread crumbs.

Pan-sear in a skillet, using ghee (or a mixture of butter and olive oil) then finish off in a 375F oven.

The cakes require delicate handling because we are using less “filler” here, but once cooked all the way through the egg will really help bind them.

Using a thin metal spatula, a gentle hand, and not crowing the pan really helps!

Searing the crab cakes.

Finishing them off in the oven, allows the egg to cook through without over-browning the cakes, and keeps them warm if you are cooking in batches.

Serve them as an appetizer or as a main course.

Dungeness Crab Cakes over a Red Pepper Vinaigrette on a white plate.

Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to three days (or frozen)- and can be deliciously repurposed into the tastiest sandwich (use toasted brioche buns and a crisp coleslaw with chipotle mayo) or even made into breakfast- make a crab cake benedict! Yum.

What to Serve with Crab Cakes

Recipe Faqs

Can you bake crab cakes?

Yes, feel free to shape, coat and place on a parchment-lined sheet pan, coated in olive oil or melted butter, and spray the tops with spray olive oil. Bake in a 450F oven for 13-15 minutes, or lightly golden brown.

What prevents crab cakes from falling apart?

Using a binder (egg, mayo and panko), breaking apart any large pieces of crab, and refrigerating the crab mixture for 30-60 minutes, and cooking the crab cakes all the way through, will all help prevent the crab cakes from falling apart.

What oil is best to cook crab cakes?

Using a mixture of butter and olive oil, or using ghee, gives the crab cakes the best flavor while raising the smoke point (of just using butter alone).

Can crab cakes be made ahead?

Feel free to mix the crab cakes ahead and refrigerate either in the bowl or formed into cakes, covered, for up to 24 hours.

How to store cooked crab cakes?

Leftover crab cakes will keep in the fridge for up to three days- or feel free to freeze.

More recipes you may like

On the homefront: We are spending the winter in Bend, Oregon this year. It’s been cold but sunny! The sky is big here, and brilliantly blue. Since we’ve been here, the sun has peeked out almost every day! Mornings are filled with brisk long walks with Lumi, exploring new territories, with the healing sunshine in our faces. It feels good to experience someplace new, and Bend has such a vibrant friendly vibe.



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Crab Cakes with Cilantro, lime and jalapeño with a red pepper Vinaigrette

Crab Cakes with Cilantro and Lime

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 6 reviews
  • Author: Sylvia Fountaine | Feasting at Home
  • Prep Time: 60
  • Cook Time: 20
  • Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Category: main, appetizer
  • Method: stovetop
  • Cuisine: American


These zesty crab cakes are the best! Made with fresh crab, lime zest, cilantro and jalapeño, served up with a red pepper vinaigrette. Feel free to use lemon and parsley instead. Makes 6 large crab cakes, or 12 small “appetizer” crab cakes. 


Units Scale
  • 1 lb fresh, cooked Dungeness crab meat (or fresh lump crab), strained, drained WELL.
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • zest from 1 large lime, finely chopped, 2 tablespoons (or sub-lemon zest)
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1/21 tablespoon fresh jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard (or ground mustard)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (or sub-flat-leaf parsley)
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, very finely chopped,
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup panko– plus 1/2 cup to 1 cup more for dredging. (Panko is MUCH better than breadcrumbs here) Feel free to use GF panko. as needed for searing.
  • 23 tablespoon ghee (or a blend of olive oil and butter) for searing.

Garnishes- lime wedges, cilantro or microgreens

Red Pepper Vinaigrette (or make our Chipotle Aioli) 

  • 1/2 cup pickled red cherry peppers- Peppadew or Juanita (or sub roasted peppers in a pinch). These are easily available in the grocery aisle near pickles & olives, or often in an “olive bar”.
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar (or AC vinegar, or champagne vinegar)
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 garlic clove, quartered
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes (optional, to taste)


  1. Place the crab in a strainer over a bowl, and let it drain, pressing out any excess liquid. Feel for shells or cartilage and discard. Tear any extra-large pieces into smaller pieces so crab cakes hold together better. The crab should smell fresh and taste sweet and like the ocean. 
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, mayo, lime zest, lime juice, jalapeno, mustard, salt and pepper until smooth. Stri in the cilantro and red bell pepper.  Fold in the crab. Then stir in the 1/2 cup panko. Refrigerate in the bowl for 30-60 minutes.  
  3. Make the Red Pepper Vinaigrette ( see notes)  or Chipotle Aioli.
  4. Preheat to the oven to 350F.
  5. Place a piece of parchment paper on a small sheet pan. Place 1/2-1 cup panko in a bowl or on a plate ( for dredging). Divide crab mixture into equal portions  (6 x 1/2-cup portions for entree-sized, 12 x 1/4-cup portions for appetizer-sized) and then compress with your palms into balls, about 1 1/2 inches-2 inches thick, slightly flattening them. Carefully dredge the balls into the panko, again pressing them together. 
  6. Heat ghee in a large skillet over medium heat. Using a delicate hand, working in small batches, carefully sear each side for 3 minutes, or until perfectly golden, and place on the sheet pan in the oven to keep warm and cook the egg all the way through (which will help them bind even more). A small thin metal spatula works wonders here. 
  7. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until puffed, and internal temp is 145F. 
  8. Plate and serve with the Red Pepper Vinaigrette or Chipotle aioli, a wedge of lime, and a cilantro sprig. 


Red Pepper Vinaigrette: Place all ingredients in a blender and blend. If using roasted peppers instead of pickled peppers- taste and perhaps add a little more vinegar and honey. The dressing should taste sweet, and tangy with a little kick of heat. I often add more chili flakes. If you like smoky flavors, add a 1/4 teaspoon of smoked paprika. You can also use this to dress salad greens. 


  • Serving Size: ½-cup serving of crab cake (no sauce)
  • Calories: 250
  • Sugar: 1.7 g
  • Sodium: 620.4 mg
  • Fat: 13.1 g
  • Saturated Fat: 4.1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 15 g
  • Fiber: 1.4 g
  • Protein: 17.3 g
  • Cholesterol: 118.4 mg

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  1. You can get peppadews by the olives at Whole Foods. We also found them at Amazon. We think the peppadews make a big difference!

  2. These came out GREAT! I used lump crab because I couldn’t find dungeness (don’t wait until Valentine’s day to search for your Valentine crab cake ingredients…)! Our Safeway did not have the pickled red cherry peppers for some reason so I made the chipotle mayo and it was delicious! Will be making these again but this time I’m going to hide in the pantry and eat them all myself 🙂

  3. My husband and I made this last night. He’s been wanting to make crabcakes for a while. This was awesome! The peppadews in the vinaigrette added the perfect flavor! Thanks for another great recipe!

  4. This recipe was AH-mazing! The vinaigrette was the perfect accompaniment to the cakes, served with a big green salad with poppyseed dressing & a dry white wine. Perfection!

    1. Awesome Christina- glad you gave these a go. The red pepper vinaigrette here makes it!

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