Etta's Classic Crab Cakes 4.000
May 31, 2006

Don't be put off by the long list of ingredients. This is a terrific crab cake: It's crunchy (no squishy interior here) and flavorful (bell peppers and onions), but nothing drowns out the unmistakable crab taste. If you don't have fresh thyme, substitute 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme.

Of the 50 recipes in Tom Douglas's new book, this is his personal favorite. Named for Douglas's daughter Loretta, it's a top seller at his restaurants. Being based in Seattle, Douglas makes these with Dungeness crab, but he acknowledges that blue crab makes the best-textured crab cakes. We agree.

Serve with tartar or cocktail sauce and coleslaw on the side.

Servings: 4 - 6
  • 4 to 5 slices white sandwich bread with crust, torn into pieces
  • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 pound lump backfin crabmeat, picked over and lightly squeezed if wet
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Lemon wedges, for garnish


Place the bread pieces in a food processor and pulse them to a fine crumb. Transfer to a baking dish. Without cleaning the food processor, pulse the parsley until finely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of it to the bread crumbs and reserve the rest. Cover and refrigerate.

In a food processor or a blender, pulse the egg yolk, lemon juice, Worcestershire and hot pepper sauces, mustard, paprika, thyme, celery seeds and pepper. With the motor running, slowly add the oil to form a mayonnaise. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the onion and bell peppers with the remaining (about 1/4 cup) parsley. Add the reserved mayonnaise and the crabmeat and mix lightly, then add 1 cup of the bread crumb-parsley mixture, taking care not to overmix. Gently form 8 patties, about 3 inches wide and 1 inch thick. Lightly coat the patties with some of the remaining bread crumb-parsley mixture. If you have time, cover the crab cakes with plastic wrap and chill for an hour to further firm them up.

Using 2 large nonstick skillets over medium heat, melt 2 1/2 tablespoons butter in each pan. Add 4 crab cakes to each pan. Gently fry until hot through and golden brown, about 4 minutes per side or until an instant-read thermometer registers 155 degrees. Serve with lemon wedges.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from "I Love Crab Cakes!" by Tom Douglas (William Morrow, 2006),

Tested by Marcia Kramer.

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