In my list of top 10 foods, crab cakes rank 4th and 7th. Yes, twice. Because there are lump crab cakes and then crab cakes made from crab meet fragments. Lump crab meat is exceptional, wonderful, and rivals gold in expense. Can those cans filled with little crab pieces offer you any truly great crab cakes? Yes.

My starting point is the book I Love Crab Cakes by Tom Douglas. It’s a lovely little book with 50 recipes offering all kinds of ideas. I used the book this time, not for a recipe, but for inspiration. I saw all the ingredients used in the 50 recipes, thought about the flavors I wanted and scanned my pantry.

Crab cakes are one of those flexible recipes where you can totally improvise. Literally, go to your pantry and your refrigerator. There are goodies there that you can combine into your own great recipe.

I found one of those small cans, 4.5 ounces, of shredded green chilies, the kind you find in the Mexican food section. These green gems have very complex flavors. There is no searing chipotle-like heat. Just a soft warmth, coupled with sweetness. It’s the perfect complement for the already sweet crab meat.

To serve these crab cakes, I made a green chili tartar sauce. The recipe follows, and it just a matter of using some of the ingredients you already have out for the crab cakes themselves.

Brian’s Green Chili Crab Cakes

Yield: 2 large crab cakes


  • 8 ounces crab meat, small pieces are fine
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • ½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 2 ounces of green chili, the shredded kind from a can
  • 1 egg
  • 8 Saltine crackers, crushed by hand


In a large glass or metal bowl, put in the crab meat, mayonnaise, red onion, Tabasco sauce, and green chili. Break the egg over the mixture. Using your hands, mix until thoroughly combined. The contents will be quite liquid or slippery.

Break the crackers over the mixture, and again mix with your hands until fully combined. If necessary add an additional cracker or two. You don’t want a dry mixture, but there should be no more free liquid.

Wash your hands.

Place the bowl in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to firm up.

Remove the bowl, and place the cake contents on a cutting board. Divide the crab mixture into two equal portions and shape into two cakes, each about the size of your palm and about 2 inches high.

Put 3 tablespoons of butter in a cast iron skillet. Turn the heat to medium, melt the butter. Adjust the heat to medium-high. Add the crab cakes to the skillet and cook for 4 minutes on each side. Turn only once, and carefully to avoid crumbling. The surface may blacken. That’s fine. It will be the best carbon you ever ate.

Remove from the skillet and serve immediately. This dish pairs well with mashed potatoes.

Source: Brian O’Rourke


Brian’s Green Chili Tartar Sauce

Yield: ¾ cup


  • 4 ounces of store-bought tartar sauce [yes, I’m cheating here]
  • 2 ounces of green chili, the shredded kind from a can
  • ½ red onion diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Place all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to mix.

Source: Brian O’Rourke