Of all popular American seafood dishes, the crab cake is arguably one of the most versatile. Few foods look as comfortable at a formal dinner party as they do on your lunch plate. They’re tasty and simple enough to rival hamburgers as the ultimate comfort food, yet they can be a complex mÃlange of flavors that will be a treat to the palette on special occasions.
These delicious little lumps of sweet, tender crab meat, breading, dressing, seasonings, and spices that are sauteed, grilled, baked, or fried just melt in your mouth. They don’t need a lot of fancy side dishes to impress— in fact, they are best when they’re the star of the plate and all your other side dishes act as supporting players.
Whether you’re looking for something for dinner, having a party, planning a holiday or wedding, consider serving crab cakes, and try some of these accompaniments.
Casual Crab Cake Side Dishes
One of the best ways to enjoy crab cakes is casually for lunch or an easy, breezy summer dinner on the patio. If you’re going to have a casual meal featuring crab cakes, you should keep your side dishes simple as well.
The first step is to choose a good bun— something slightly crusty on the outside such as a French roll is a great option. For a bit of a twang to your crab cake, go with sourdough bread.
Next, pick a sauce to top your crab cakes. Forget the ketchup! That’s just too casual; I know some of you love your ketchup, but that’s just wrong to do to crab cakes! Instead, go for a lovely tartar sauce, or try dolloping on some spicy shrimp cocktail sauce. Even better— mix those two sauces together!
French fries or onion rings make great companions to ‘dress down‘ your crab cakes and keep them feeling like casual comfort food.
Finally, you need to add something cool and crispy to balance out your palate. For me, nothing does the job better than coleslaw.
Buttermilk Cole Slaw– Perfect to Serve with Crab Cakes
- 1 lb shredded cabbage coleslaw mix
- 1/4 cup shredded carrot
- 1/4 shredded red bell pepper
- 3 stalks diced scallion
- 2 tbsp shredded fresh mint, Chiffonade cut is perfect
- 1 tbsp fresh basil, Chiffonade cut is perfect
- 2 tbsp sour cream
- 1 tbsp buttermilk
- 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
Instructions for Cole Slaw
- Mix the veggies and herbs in a large bowl.
- Mix the sour cream, buttermilk, and vinegar in a separate bowl to make the dressing.
- Pour the dressing over the veggies. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Chill and serve!
Creamy, Lemony Crab Meat Quick Sauce
This sauce is so easy–peasy but unbelievably tasty! The spices and bright lemony flavor really awaken your palate!
Put 1/2 cup of mayonnaise in a bowl. Grate the zest of one lemon over it, and mix in two tablespoons of lemon juice. Add one pouch of a powdered vegetable soup mix. Whisk ingredients to incorporate, and you have a delicious sauce fit for any seafood.
Something more Stylish for your Crab Cake
If you’re trying to have a nice dinner or impress a guest, you might want to dress up your plate a bit more. In this case, one of the most important elements for serving your crab cakes is a good sauce. A sauce that is delicious with seafood will help balance and bring out the flavors of your crab cake, such as the simple sauce recipe I include below.
Instead of putting your crab cake into a big old bun, a good option is to serve it on a bed of crisp, leafy greens. Boston lettuce is a soft, buttery loose-leaf lettuce with a wonderful texture. If you prefer something with a bit more of a bite to it, radicchio, with its peppery flavor, is a good choice; the bitterness of the leaves balances the sweetness of the crab cake.
Other ingredients you might include in a salad with crab cakes are crispy water chestnuts, toasted walnuts, and mandarin oranges. A few scallions or some chives will add a lovely, mild onion flavor.
Stick with a vinaigrette dressing, or just squirt lemon juice over the salad as a complement to the crab meat.
Fancy Crab Cakes Dinner
For a really fancy crab cake dinner, you’ll really want to dress up the plate to wow your diners. You can still put your crab cakes on top of leafy greens if you like, dressed with a vinaigrette, but instead of a sauce consider topping it with a lovely, perfectly poached egg.
Sometimes the clean, simple flavors of roasted or grilled vegetables are the best way to dress up a plate. They don’t compete with the star of the plate, and they offer a nice, crisp–tender, clean flavor. Asparagus is one of my absolute favorites for any special meal, and while they add an air of sophistication to the plate they couldn’t be easier to prepare.
You really need a great batch of asparagus to begin with— doesn’t matter if they’re white, purple, or green, they should be well hydrated, evenly colored, and have nice, intact tips. You want to avoid crumbly tips, spears that are limp and rubbery, or dried–out edges.
Cut off the bottom inch or two of the asparagus. Mix some diced garlic with olive oil and brush it lightly. Throw them on the grill or under a broiler for about 2 minutes per side. When they come out you can squeeze some fresh lemon on them. That’s all it takes to impress!
Finally, potatoes are always a great starch to serve at a formal or fancy dinner but don’t make your average, run–of–the–mill, everyday potato dishes. Consider a twice-baked garlic butter potato, potatoes au gratin, or sliced potatoes baked in a rosemary cream sauce.
Crab Cake: Keep it Simple
No matter how you slice it and dice it, crab cakes make for a great meal, and anyone who loves seafood is not going to complain when a steaming plate is set before them. They are going to steal the show, so just keep everything else simple and enjoy.