The Best Sauces for Crab Cakes

These crab cakes are a Maryland classic. They are made with fresh lump crab meat and just enough filler to hold it all together.

Chesapeake blue crabs and crab cakes are so good that they’re almost religious in Maryland. My family is a dedicated devotee. Our favorite crab shacks are all along the Eastern shore and in the area. Every summer, we go to all of them to enjoy the view of the bay and the sand between our toes.

I’d never attempt making steamed blue crabs at home. Big steamers with live crabs? Eww! But I often make crab cakes, which taste just as good and are easier to make (and eat). The key is using fresh lump crabmeat and just enough filler to bind the crabmeat together. I love them with tartar sauce, but you could also serve them with lemon wedges or cocktail sauce. Don’t forget the peel-and-eat shrimp, hush puppies, and cornbread.

Crab cakes are a delicious meal that can be served as an appetizer or entree. Finding the right sauce to complement these tasty crab patties is key. The sauce not only adds moisture and flavor, but also provides a contrast in texture. I tested out some of the most popular sauces paired with crab cakes to determine the best options.

Tartar Sauce

Tartar sauce is a classic pairing with crab cakes and seafood. It has a creamy base of mayonnaise or yogurt combined with chopped pickles, onions, herbs, and spices. Some versions add a bit of lemon juice as well. The tang from the pickles and acidity from the lemon cut through the rich crab perfectly. Tartar sauce provides a cool, creamy contrast to the hot crisp exterior of crab cakes.

One of my favorite tartar sauce recipes came from Once Upon a Chef. It has just a few simple ingredients: mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, sweet relish, minced onion, and lemon juice. The relish and Dijon mustard give it a nice tangy flavor. I loved the crunch from the onion paired with the crab cakes. This is my go-to easy homemade tartar sauce for serving with crab cakes.


Remoulade is a condiment similar to tartar sauce that hails from France. It contains mayonnaise, mustard, capers, herbs, pickles, and anchovies. Remoulade has a creamier consistency compared to tartar sauce. The capers and anchovies add a briny, seafood flavor that pairs perfectly with crab. The acidity in the lemon juice and spiciness of the mustard cut through the rich crab cakes beautifully.

My favorite remoulade recipe for crab cakes comes from Hungry Huy. Their recipe uses Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, sweet relish, capers, green onions, parsley, lemon juice, hot sauce, and Cajun seasoning. It came together quickly in the blender. The remoulade was full of bright, bold flavors – a little spicy and tangy with some crunch from the onions and relish. It complemented the crab cakes flawlessly.

Cocktail Sauce

Cocktail sauce is a standard condiment found at seafood restaurants. It contains ketchup, horseradish, and lemon juice. The ketchup provides creaminess while the horseradish adds a spicy kick. The acidity of the lemon brightens up the rich crab flavors. Cocktail sauce is quick and easy to prepare. I simply combine ketchup, prepared horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, hot sauce, and black pepper. The spiciness of the horseradish and acidity of the lemon cut through the fattiness of crab perfectly. It’s a simple sauce that pairs well with crab cakes.

Lemon Butter

For a richer, more elegant sauce, I love pairing crab cakes with lemon butter Melted butter provides a luxurious richness. Fresh lemon juice adds brightness and cuts through the heavy creaminess of the crab and butter. To make lemon butter, I simply combine melted butter, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper Whisk together and serve warm over the crab cakes. The butter soaks into the crab patties, keeping them moist and adding flavor. This indulgent sauce feels decadent drizzled over top notch lump crab cakes.


Aioli is a garlicky mayonnaise sauce that originated in the Provence region of France. Traditional aioli contains lots of raw garlic, olive oil, and egg yolks. Many modern versions use garlic powder and lemon juice added to mayonnaise. The garlic flavors pair amazingly with seafood like crab cakes. The richness of the mayonnaise helps counterbalance the briny crab. I make a quick lemon garlic aioli by combining mayonnaise, lemon juice, garlic powder, parsley, and lemon zest. The bright, garlicky flavors cut through the crab cakes wonderfully. It can be prepared in just a few minutes.

Old Bay Aioli

To give aioli even more of a Maryland flare, I add Old Bay seasoning. If you aren’t familiar, Old Bay is a spice blend containing celery salt, mustard, cloves, allspice, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, paprika, ginger, mace, cardamom, and cinnamon. It was created specifically for crab and seafood. The seasoning already contains mayonnaise, so combining it with aioli makes for one incredibly crab-friendly sauce. My recipe contains Old Bay, mayonnaise, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. The zesty, spicy aioli pairs fabulously with a classic Maryland crab cake recipe.


Rémoulade is a condiment with origins in France that is often compared to tartar sauce. However, rémoulade contains a wider variety of ingredients including anchovies, capers, chervil, cornichons, green peppercorns, herbs, mustard, and olive oil. It has a creamier, pastier texture compared to tartar sauce. The cornichons, capers, and herbs give it a strong, bright pickled flavor that contrasts wonderfully with rich crab. I especially like rémoulade with crab cakes because the cornichons and capers mimic the briny seafood flavors. The mustard, herbs, and olive oil cut through the heavy crab perfectly.

Hollandaise Sauce

For an indulgent, elegant sauce for crab cakes, hollandaise is a delicious option. This classic French sauce contains egg yolks, melted butter, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. It has a rich, creamy, buttery texture that pairs decadently with seafood. The tartness of the lemon cuts through the richness. Making hollandaise can be tricky since it requires carefully warming the egg yolks over a double boiler. However, hollandaise made with a blender is more fool proof. The key is slowly pouring the hot butter into the eggs while blending. I love treating myself to restaurant-quality crab cakes smothered in this luxurious hollandaise.

Mustard Sauce

Mustard sauce is a quick, easy condiment that pairs excellently with crab cakes. Different styles of mustard sauce exist, but my favorite contains Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, dill, honey, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper. The mustard and cayenne provide a tangy spice that cuts through the richness of the crab. The dill and lemon mimic the bright, coastal flavors of seafood. The honey mellows out the acidity. Mustard sauce comes together quickly by whisking together all the ingredients. It’s simple to make and compliments crab cakes wonderfully.

What I Recommend

After testing out all these sauces, tartar sauce, remoulade, and mustard sauce are my top recommendations for crab cakes I suggest having at least one of these three sauces on hand when serving crab cakes Tartar provides a cool contrast with its creamy pickled flavors. Remoulade has a similar flavor profile but with a broader range of briny, spicy ingredients. Mustard sauce is quick and easy to prepare while still offering great tangy, spicy flavors. For special occasions, I also recommend an indulgent lemon butter or hollandaise sauce. When eating out, cocktail and aioli are classic restaurant sauces for crab cakes. Any of these sauces pair fabulously with hot, crispy, golden crab cakes for dipping and drizzling.

what sauce for crab cakes

Make the Crab Cakes

To begin, combine the eggs, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire, Old Bay, salt, celery, and parsley in a bowl.

what sauce for crab cakes

Mix well to combine.

what sauce for crab cakes

Add the crab meat (be sure to check the meat for any hard and sharp cartilage) and panko.

what sauce for crab cakes

Gently fold the mixture together until just combined, being careful not to shred the crab meat.

what sauce for crab cakes

Shape into 6 large crab cakes (about ½ cup each) and place on a baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. This is really important to help the crab cakes set.

what sauce for crab cakes

Preheat a large nonstick pan to medium heat and coat with oil. Put crab cakes in the pan when the oil is hot. Cook for about 3 to 5 minutes, or until golden brown.

what sauce for crab cakes

Flip and cook 3 to 5 minutes more, or until golden. Be careful as the oil may splatter.

what sauce for crab cakes

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