These gluten-free, Whole30, & keto crab cakes are a healthier version of the classic Maryland favorite. Features 3 dipping sauces, & oven, or air fryer cooking options!

This post was originally published on December 16, 2019 and updated with new photos and copy on March 24, 2022!

low carb crab cakes that are gluten free with lemon

This post is a long time coming! After living in Maryland for the last 20+ years (minus a brief stint in Charleston, SC), crab cakes have become one of my favorite foods. Crab cakes & football – it’s what Maryland does!

The Eastern Shore is the ONLY place to get a good crab cake. I’ve ordered them in other cities (pre-Celiac diagnosis), and nothing compares! If you’re missing the Eastern Shore, love crab cakes, or just have a hankering to try an unbelievably good recipe, this one is it!

What Makes This Maryland Crab Cake Recipe so Great?

Since having to eliminate gluten from my diet, it’s been tough to find a crab cake that I can actually eat. Most are made with bread or bread crumbs, which help to bind everything together. I decided to create a recipe that is not only gluten-free but completely Whole30 compliant, Paleo, and Keto-friendly, too!

These crab cakes are still as delicious as our favorite Maryland ones, but without the filler, gluten, and carbs! Also, if you’re looking for sauces with your crab cakes, I’ve got you covered! This recipe features three crab cake sauces: Cocktail Sauce, Tartar Sauce, and Lemon Garlic Aioli! Yum!

four keto crab cakes on a white plate with a silver fork

What Type of Crab Should I Use for These Crab Cakes?

This is definitely going to depend on where you live and what is available at your grocery store! Make sure to look for “hand-picked” or “fresh-picked and use the freshest crab meat you can find. For my Maryland crab cakes I use a combination of lump crab and backfin, which I found in a plastic container at the seafood counter (at Safeway).

Jumbo Lump: The most expensive crab meat. It comes in larger chunks of crab meat, but is pricey because it’s more scarce on the crab and requires many crabs to get the most meat.

Lump: Moderately priced crab meat. It is smaller chunks of crab than jumbo lump, but still holds together very well.

Backfin: the least expensive of the three crab meats. Has a finer texture, but is still great for crab cakes!

Many people ask about using canned crab meat for crab cakes, but I would not recommend it, unless it is the type that is refrigerated at the seafood counter. I also wouldn’t recommend any fake or imitation crab meat for this recipe.

ingredients to make healthy crab cakes

How To Make Keto Crab Cakes

Ingredients

  • Crab meat: lump, or backfin – the most important ingredient and star of the show! I love getting my crab meat from Costco or the seafood counter at my local grocery store.
  • Egg
  • Mayo: My favorite Whole30 compliant brand is Sir Kensington’s Avocado Oil Mayo. I get a big jar at Costco.
  • Fresh parsley
  • Old Bay Seasoning or Primal Palate New Bae Seasoning
  • Dijon mustard
  • Coconut aminos
  • Almond flour: You can also sub coconut flour – just use 1 tbsp.
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Ghee or Vegan Butter

Instructions

3 photos showing how to form crab cakes

Prep

  1. Whisk the egg, mayo, old bay seasoning, lemon juice, coconut aminos, dijon mustard, and parsley in a large bowl. Add crab meat and almond flour and use a spatula to gently fold the mixture together. You want to be careful not to break the crab pieces apart. 
  2. Chill the mixture in the fridge for minimum 20 minutes (up to overnight) – this will ensure it stays together when you form the cakes!

Oven Method Crab Cakes

  1. Preheat the oven to broiling. Line a baking sheet with foil for easy clean up. Brush 1/2 of the melted ghee onto the baking sheet.
  2. Use a 1/3 measuring cup to scoop the mixture into 6 cakes and place on the baking sheet. Use your hands to shape them/gently press down and secure any loose pieces of crab. Mine were about 1.5 inches thick and 3.5 inches wide. Brush the top of each one with the remaining melted ghee. 
  3. Broil for 9-11 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and the sides are crispy. Serve with a wedge of lemon and my homemade crab cake sauce (also Whole30!).

Air Fryer Crab Cakes

  1. Place cakes in the air fryer basket (you may need to do this in batches depending on the size of the air fryer).
  2. Spray the tops of the crab cakes with oil.
  3. Cook at 375 for 10-12 mins – no flipping needed!

Check out this Crab Recipe too!

Maryland Crab Soup | Whole30

Paleo Crab Dip

The BEST Sauces for Crab Cakes

Dipping crab cakes into sauce makes them even more delicious! There are a few types of sauces that work well with crab cakes, but these three below are my absolute favorite.

Pick one (or all three!) and enjoy your crab cakes with sauce!

two photos showing tartar sauce ingredients and then one with them all mixed together

Homemade Tartar Sauce

  • Mayo
  • Hot sauce
  • Pickles – I love Grillo’s! They are Whole30, too.
  • Apple cider vinegar

Combine all tartar sauce ingredients and mix well. Can be made 1-2 days ahead of time and will keep well in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Whole30 Cocktail Sauce

  • 1/2 cup compliant Ketchup (make sure to find Whole30 compliant ketchup!)
  • 1 tbsp prepared horseradish
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp coconut aminos
Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Serve with crab cakes. Store in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Lemon Garlic Aioli

  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Combine the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. You can also make this up to 24 hours in advance and store it in the fridge for 3-4 days.

crispy crab cakes on a plate topped with lemon wedges next to a bowl of dipping sauce

Mary’s Tips & Tricks

Batter: It’s important to not over-mix your batter. You want the lump crab to remain intact so you get those delicious juicy chunks in every bite!

Chill: The crab mixture is best to work with when chilled. It forms the best patties. Chill the mixture for at least 20 minutes, or overnight for best results.

Appetizer: To make these crab cakes as an appetizer, spoon the mixture out to form 12 smaller crab cakes. These will take less time – keep an eye on them until the tops are browned and crispy.

topping a crab cake with cocktail sauce

FAQs

Can I freeze these crab cakes? Yes! To freeze, place the uncooked crab cakes on a baking sheet in the freezer just until firm, about 2 hours. Wrap each cake in plastic wrap and place in a plastic freezer bag. Freeze for up to 1 month. Defrost the crab cakes in the refrigerator overnight before cooking.

Is it better to bake or air fry crab cakes? It’s really just preference! These keto crab cakes turn out super crispy and delicious with either method.

Are these crab cakes keto and low carb? Yes! With only 3 net carbs per crab cake, this is a great low carb keto food. You can also serve your crab cakes with sauce, because all the sauces are also low carb!

Is this crab cake recipe Whole30 compliant? Yes! All of the ingredients in this recipe are compliant. As always, make sure to check labels or look for the Whole30 logo!

Great Crab Cakes Sides!

Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Baked Potato Wedges

Lemony Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus

Cilantro Lime Coleslaw

Mexican Street Corn and Tomato Salad

Soy Glazed Brussels Sprouts

Everything Roasted Potatoes

Or, if you’re looking for another delicious seafood meal, try my Pan-Seared Chilean Sea Bass with Lemon Caper Butter!

Pin this Post!

pinterest image for keto crab cakes

*This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something using one of my links, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting Mary’s Whole Life!

Whole30 + Keto Maryland Crab Cakes

These gluten-free keto crab cakes are a healthier version of the classic Maryland favorite. Features 3 dipping sauces, & oven, or air fryer cooking options!
4.98 from 34 votes
Leave a Review »

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fresh lump crab meat, look for hand-picked at your seafood counter/refrigerator section.
  • 1 large egg
  • ¼ cup mayo, I like Sir Kensington's avocado oil mayo
  • 1 tsp Primal Palate New Bae Seasoning , or Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp coconut aminos
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tbsp almond flour, can sub 1 tbsp coconut flour for nut free
  • 2 tbsp ghee, melted

Whole30 Cocktail Sauce

  • ½ cup compliant Ketchup
  • 1 tbsp prepared horseradish
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp coconut aminos

Whole30 Tartar Sauce

  • ½ cup mayo
  • 1.5 tbsp hot sauce, I like Frank's Red Hot
  • 2 pickle spears, diced fine
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Instructions
 

  • Whisk egg, mayo, seasoning, lemon juice, coconut aminos, dijon mustard, and parsley in a large bowl. Add crab meat and almond flour and use a spatula to gently fold the mixture together. You want to be careful not to break the crab pieces apart.
  • Chill the mixture in the fridge for minimum 20 minutes (up to overnight) - this will ensure it stays together when you form the cakes!
  • A few minutes before you are ready to bake the crab cakes, preheat the oven to broiling. Line a baking sheet with foil for easy clean up. Brush 1/2 of the melted ghee onto the baking sheet.
  • Use a 1/3 measuring cup to scoop the mixture into 6 cakes and place on the baking sheet. Use your hands to shape them/gently press down and secure any loose pieces of crab. Mine were about 1.5 inches thick and 3.5 inches wide. Brush the top of each one with the remaining melted ghee.
  • Broil for 9-11 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and the sides are crispy. Serve with a wedge of lemon and Whole30 cocktail sauce, if desired. Enjoy!

Whole30 Cocktail Sauce

  • Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Serve with the crab cakes. Store in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Homemade Tartar Sauce

  • Mix ingredients together in a small bowl. Can be made up to 24 hours ahead of time and stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Notes

I recommend using fresh, jumbo lump crab meat for best results!
For nut free, you can substitute regular flour (not gluten free), or 1/3 the amount of coconut flour.
It's important to not over-mix your batter. You want the lump crab to remain intact so you get those delicious juicy chunks in every bite!
The crab mixture is best to work with when chilled. It forms the best patties. Chill the mixture for at least 20 minutes, or overnight for best results.
To make these for an appetizer, spoon the mixture out to form 12 smaller crab cakes. These will take less time - keep an eye on them until the tops are browned and crispy. 
To freeze, place the uncooked crab cakes on a baking sheet in the freezer just until firm, about 2 hours. Wrap each cake in plastic wrap and place in a plastic freezer bag. Freeze for up to 1 month. Defrost the crab cakes in the refrigerator overnight before cooking.

Nutrition

Serving: 1crab cake, Calories: 224kcal, Carbohydrates: 4g, Protein: 16g, Fat: 15g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 79mg, Sodium: 1087mg, Potassium: 190mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 192IU, Vitamin C: 9mg, Calcium: 56mg, Iron: 1mg