Recipe: Crab cakes with garlicky aïoli

We’ve spent this new year’s eve in, both recouping from week-long trips – me from the Caribbean, and R from his parents’ home. Our favorite thing to do for NYE are bubblies and hors d’oeuvres. We usually choose two per person; this year, R chose potato skins and a cheese ball, and I chose his garlic-parmesan crostini and crab cakes.

Crabs, one of my favorite seafood items, are not the easiest (nor the best) to come by in Boston, the regional crustacean of choice being lobster. The crab cakes I’ve had in the area are usually dense pucks of bready stuffing, similar to what would be used for baked haddock, with stringy bits of crab mixed in throughout. I’ve always dreamed of making crab cakes with decadent, juicy chunks of crabmeat, with just the right amount of flavorful binder needed to hold them together, and without Old Bay seasoning, which I am not fond of. For New Year’s Eve, I’ve decided to splurge on a nice can of crab meat to give it a try, and it was worth every bit.

The recipe makes a good amount of aïoli, but there’s so many delicious ways to use aïoli that you may even consider doubling the recipe! It is tasty with thin fries, frittata, Spanish omelette, raw or roasted vegetables, potato or chicken salad, roasted potatoes, deviled eggs, crostini, or as a sandwich spread.

Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence and Serious Eats


Crab cakes (makes about 6 cakes)

  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil + another 1/4 cup, more as needed for frying
  • 1 lb super lump crab meat
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (I used dried dinner rolls and processed until fine in my mini food processor)
  • 3 tbsp garlic aïoli
  • 2 egg whites
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Aïoli (makes about 1 cup)

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper



Aïoli (do this first)

  1. Using a stick blender, blend the egg yolks. This is an absolute must to have the dressing emulsify.
  2. While the stick blender is going, add the oils SLOWLY in a thin stream, little bit at a time. This is an absolute must, otherwise the aïoli will not thicken and will be thin and runny. When you’ve added about half the oil, add in the garlic.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.

Crab cakes

  1. In a small frying pan, saute garlic and onion over medium heat with olive oil, until lightly browned.
  2. Add this and all ingredients (except for crabmeat) in a bowl and mix very well. Adding crab meat in now will break up the nice chunks.
  3. Gently fold in crab meat until just blended, being careful not to break up the lumps any more than necessary.
  4. Shape into 5-6 fat cakes. Place on plate, cover with cling wrap, and chill for at least two hours. Skipping the chilling step will cause the crab cakes to fall apart.
  5. Heat remainder of olive oil in large saute pan, over medium heat. Ensure that there is a generous amount of oil in the pan, at least 1/4 inches. Heat until oil shimmers. Cook crab cakes, about 3 minutes on each side.
  6. Serve with aïoli.