My crispy crab balls are crunchy on the outside, velvety smooth and packed with crab inside. A classic cocktail party appetizer that’s great for date nights in, and game day nibbling, too. These little mini crab cake bites are always a hit.
it’s no secret but the secret to a great crab ball is…
Lots and lots of crab. If you look closely you can see all the meaty bits of crab poking out from my little crispy bites. That’s a sure sign it’s going to be gooooood. When you pop one in your mouth it will fall apart like a great crab cake does. The recipe calls for just enough binders to hold together, without getting in the way of your enjoyment of the shellfish.
what you’ll need for baked crab balls
- crab meat ~ the type you buy depends on your taste and your budget. I bought a ‘crab cake blend’ in a can in the refrigerated fish section of my supermarket. That means it’s pasteurized and needs to be kept cold before you use it. For this recipe you’ll need a pound.
- bread or cracker crumbs ~ you’ll use these both in the crab mixture and for a final coating as well, which helps keep the balls intact. You have a lot of choices for these crumbs, so feel free to get creative. I used Ritz cracker crumbs, and Corn Flakes crumbs! Yum.
- Worcestershire sauce
- Louisiana hot sauce
- Old Bay seasoning ~ Old Bay is a blend of 18 herbs and spices, including celery salt, paprika, red and black pepper. The top secret recipe might or might not include cinnamon, allspice, ginger, cardamom, and clove. It’s a tasty mystery 🙂
- Dijon mustard
- lemon juice
- butter ~ I dab a bit of melted butter on each crab ball just before they hit the hot oven. This encourages that golden crisp crust that almost tastes like you’ve fried them.
the all important dip
You could use plain old tartar sauce, and that would be fine, but I like a zesty spiced mayo dip. The important thing is not to get too crazy with your dip, after all, it’s the crab that’s the star of this show. Keep all flavors in check so nothing competes. We want to enhance, not overwhelm.
Spoiler alert: the perfect dip for crab balls is nothing more than mayo mixed with a little hot sauce. Keep adding the hot sauce until it’s how you like it. I add a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon. It’s amazing how just an ingredient or two can transform plain old mayonnaise. People will beg for the recipe!
want perfectly round crab balls?
If you want really perfectly round crab balls, here are some tips. Add a bit more crumbs to your mixture so that it is not quite so wet. If your crab is at all lumpy you’ll need be sure to break it apart. Then, after forming and coating the balls, put them in the freezer for 10 minutes. Place them on a fresh baking sheet and dab with butter before baking.
more appetizers that go crunch!
- Beer Battered Fried Mushrooms
- Fried Green Tomatoes
- Fried Olives
- Baked Truffle Fries
- Zucchini Parmesan Crisps
Crispy Crab Balls
- 1 lb crabmeat
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise, I used Duke's
- 1 large egg
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp Lousiana hot sauce, or more to taste
- 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
- pinch salt, to taste
- 2/3 cup bread crumbs or cracker crumbs Note: I used Ritz crackers that I blitzed into crumbs in my food processor.
- 1 cup bread crumbs or cracker crumbs Note: use what you love, or get creative: I used Corn Flakes crumbs, but panko crumbs work well too.
- 4 Tbsp melted butter, for brushing
dipping sauce, optional
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise, I used Duke's
- 2 Tbsp hot sauce, or more to taste
- pinch salt
- squeeze of lemon juice
- If necessary, drain your crabmeat well. If it is very lumpy, break the larger pieces down gently with a fork, or your fingers. Note: while you would never do this for crab cakes, we need to break up any lumps of crab for these small balls.
- In a large mixing bowl, put the mayonnaise, egg, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, hot sauce, Old Bay, and salt and whisk together until well combined.
- Add the crab and breadcrumbs to the bowl and gently fold until everything is evenly incorporated. It will be quite wet and loose.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, but you can leave it longer if you like.
- Preheat oven to 450F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Put the coating crumbs in a bowl and melt the butter.
- Use a small scoop to portion out rounded tablespoons of the crab mixture and set them on the baking sheets. If your mixture is so wet that you cannot form it into little mounds, then go back and add a bit more crumbs to firm it up. You want a very moist mixture but it should be able to hold together loosely. When you are finished scooping all the crab, go back and roll each little mound into a round ball.
- Roll each ball in the crumbs to coat thoroughly. I like to use my left hand to move the wet crab balls and keep my right hand dry for coating them with the crumbs. You can re-roll the balls round as you coat them.
- Place back on the baking sheets. Use a pastry brush to dab some melted butter over the top of each ball.
- Bake for 15 minutes in the center of the oven. You may need to bake them in batches for best results. If your oven runs hot you may want to turn down the temperature by 25F or so.
- Serve the crab balls hot, with sauce and lemon wedges. They will be soft and delicate, so move them carefully.
- This recipe makes 36 crab balls, so at 3 per serving, this will feed up to 12 people. I’m guessing, however, that most hungry folks will down more than 3, so plan accordingly.
- Any leftovers can be gently reheated and served over salad for dinner the next night.