These Spring Veggie Crab Cakes are FULL of lump crab meat, barely any filler and tons of spring veggies! They’re easy, healthy and perfect for entertaining!
I can’t remember the first time I tasted a crab cake, but I know I’ve been in love with them for a majority of my life. In fact, one of my earliest cooking memories, at eight or nine years old, was when I whipped up crab cakes at my parent’s Christmas party, like they were made-to-order omelets.
So, as you can imagine, even as a young kid, I was very well aware of the difference between a good crab cake and a bad crab cake, which has led to me being extremely persnickety about them as an adult. Any time I see them on a menu, especially if I’m near the coast, I’m tempted to order a batch, but I always have some preliminary questions the poor waiter must answer correctly before I go ahead and order.
For those of you who may not realize the difference – a bad crab cake is full of filler, barely resembles crab in the slightest, and is basically a fried, greasy mess. It’s decently hard to mess it up, but man, I’ve seen it poorly executed more times than I can count.
I can even excuse a few arbitrary shells lingering around, because hey, it happens, but if you set something in front of me that barely resembles the sweet shellfish, my eyes just may well up with tears before I choke it down.
On the contrary, a good crab cake is stuffed to the brim with lump crab meat, has just enough breading to gently hold the pieces of crab together, is crispy on the outside and soft as butter on the inside.
I’ve tasted dozens of different versions across the country, and while I’ve had some incredibly delicious and memorable bites, I haven’t really come across a version that’s super unique. Because of that, I’m always playing around with flavor combination at home, and these Spring Veggie Crab Cakes are my latest and greatest version.
I’ve been slightly obsessive about turning all of my favorite dishes into green-hued spring delicacies, not only because it makes me happy to see the bright color sprinkled throughout everything I eat, but because it really seems to lighten up even the heaviest of dishes. Crab cakes, by nature, aren’t necessarily heavy by any means (if they’re made correctly), but the addition of sweet leeks, peas, and zucchini seems to lighten them up even more. Plus, it’s just so darn pretty.
Aside from the veggies, the base makeup is the same – lump crab meat, a little bit of mayo, Dijon mustard, an egg and just enough bread crumbs to hold everything together. And that approach doesn’t just apply to the breadcrumbs, it also applies to the mayo and mustard. The whole being of a crab cake exists because you want to taste crab, so you only want to add things to the meat that will enhance or compliment it’s flavor, not mask it.
Now, when it comes to crab, the jumbo lump crab you find in the seafood section is your best bet, but since it can be fairly expensive, I like to do part jumbo lump and part regular lump crab to help even out the cost – especially if you’re doubling the recipe or serving a large crowd. Feel free to go with a hundred percent jumbo lump crab if you wish, just be prepared to spend upwards of $40 to buy it all.
Contrary to what the picture looks like up there, I recommend mixing your mayo, mustard, seasoning, and egg together in a small bowl before adding it to the veggies, crab and breading to avoid breaking up the crab too much. Also, after you form the crab cakes, I find it helpful to chill them in the fridge for 15 minutes or so to help them hold together during the cooking process.
A quick fry in canola or olive oil finishes each crab cake up, and I serve them with a super easy lemon garlic Greek yogurt and plenty of finely chopped chives.
I think even my eight-year-old self would approve of these guys…
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 1 cup sliced leeks (1 leek)
- 1 cup spiralized zucchini squeeze of all excess moisture and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- ½ cup frozen peas
- ¾ tsp. salt, divided
- 3 Tbsp. light mayo
- 3 tsp. dijon mustard
- 2 tsp. lemon zest
- 1 egg
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- 1 lb. lump crab meat
- 4 Tbsp. olive oil
- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
- 3 tsp. lemon juice
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. minced chive
- 1 tsp. minced fresh dill (or dry, but if you don't have either, don't worry about it)
- Heat a medium saute pan to a medium heat. Add butter. Once butter melts, add leeks and zucchini. Saute until leeks and zucchini are soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, frozen peas and ¼ tsp. salt. Saute another 1-2 minutes. Cool completely.
- Add remaining salt, mayo, dijon, lemon zest, and egg to a medium bowl. Whisk until combined. Add crab, breadcrumbs and vegetables. Use a spatula to gently mix until the ingredients are combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Use a ¼ measuring cup to scoop the mixture out. Form into patties and line up on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. Chill for 15 minutes. Make the yogurt sauce while they chill
- Heat a large non-stick skillet to a medium-high heat. Add 2 tbsp. of olive. Add half of the crab cakes to the pan and fry in the oil until golden brown on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining olive oil and crab cakes.
- Serve with yogurt sauce.
- Mix yogurt, lemon juice, salt, chive and dill. Season to taste with salt and pepper.