These crab cakes get their crunch from the air fryer instead of traditional pan-frying, which makes them lighter and healthier than the typical version. Topped with spicy aioli and lemon vinaigrette they are as appropriate for date night as they are for an easy yet elegant weeknight dinner.
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Growing up near the ocean I've always liked seafood and crab cakes are a long-time favorite of mine. Many people seem to reserve them for something they have at a restaurant but I assure you, they are easy to make at home.
And with the use of an air fryer making them gets even easier! There is no splatting of oil, no big mess to clean up. Just great tasting, crispy crab cakes. This is an easy and elegant main dish that's still ready in just about 30 minutes.
In my mind, the key to good crab cakes is good crab meat. You want to use lump crab meat which gives you high-quality crab meat with the right consistency to form the cake. These days crab is pretty pricey but totally worth the occasional splurge for something this tasty.
Why you need an Air Fryer
Like a lot of people I've talked to, it has taken me a while to get on the air fryer bandwagon. I thought "do I really need another kitchen gadget?" Especially one that takes up so much room. I'm not gonna lie - this one does take up some room but if you have the storage space and like crispy foods, I think an air fryer is totally worth it!
An air fryer is essentially a supercharged mini convection oven that uses ultra-hot air to cook food and give it a nice crisp finish. It's ideal for those who don't have a convection feature on their oven but still want to achieve the crisp results you get from frying food without the hassle of actually frying.
The best part is since it uses hot air to cook, most models require little to no oil which means less mess and healthier food. Win!!
Making crab cakes in your Air Fryer
You'll start by combining all of the ingredients and forming the cakes. To make them easier to handle and get in and out of the air fryer you'll want to make them a bit smaller than the usual crab cake. This recipe makes 10-11 cakes which will serve 2-3 people as a main course.
After you form the crab cakes spray them with a bit of avocado oil. This helps to get them extra crispy and holds the edges together a bit better.
Depending on the size of your air fryer you'll probably need to make these in two or three batches. You want to create a single layer of crab cakes in the air fryer each time. They only need to cook for 10 minutes so they are ready in a snap.
And since you don't have to flip the crab cakes when using an air fryer they are less likely to fall apart, though you may be a few small pieces that break off when you place them in the air fryer basket.
But I don't have an Air Fryer!
How to pan-fry crab cakes
Well, if you don't have one I'd recommend you get one! See the link below for my recommendation. But regardless, you can still make these in a skillet.
- First, you'll want to chill the crab cakes in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before cooking them. This helps to keep them from falling apart when you cook them.
- Next, add 2-3 tablespoons of avocado oil to a large non-stick skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add the chilled crab cakes and cook for 4 minutes. Carefully flip the crab cakes and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes or until golden brown. Repeat if all the crab cakes didn't fit in the pan the first time.
- Remove the crab cakes from the pan and place on a paper towel-lined plate to absorb any excess oil.
For more easy seafood recipes....
things you might want for this recipe
Philips Air Fryer - If you've got the room in your kitchen and you like crisp, crunchy foods I really do think an air fryer is worth the investment. There are lots of different options out there but this is the model I've been using and I'm really happy with it.
Air Fryer Crab Cakes with Spicy Aioli + Lemon Vinaigrette
For the crab cakes
- 16 ounces lump crab meat
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped red or orange pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
- 2 tablespoons olive oil mayonaise
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
- ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- avocado oil spray
For the aioli
- ¼ cup olive oil mayonaise
- 1 teaspoon minced shallots
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
For the vinaigrette
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, about 1 ½ lemons
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups of baby arugula
- balsamic glaze, to taste
- Make the crab cakes. Combine the crab meat, red pepper, onion, mayonaise, dijon, panko and ground pepper in a large bowl. Mix well. Add the egg and mix again until combined. Using about a ¼ cup of the crab mixture form into cakes that are about 1" thick. Lightly spray them with avocado oil.
- Cook the crab cakes. Arrange the crab cakes in a single layer in your air fryer. It's likely you'll need to cook them in 2-3 batches depending on your air fryer. Cook at 375°F for 10 minutes. Remove from air fryer and keep warm. Repeat if necessary.
- Make the aioli. Mix the mayo, shallots, vinegar, dijon and cayenne pepper. Set aside until ready to serve.
- Make the viniagrette. Mix the white wine vinegar, honey, lemon juice and lemon zest in a small jar. Add the olive oil and mix again until combined.
- Serve. Divide the arugula between two plates. Top with crab cakes. Drizzle with aioli and vinaigrette. If desised add a small drizze of balamic glaze.
- See the notes in the blog post for directions on how to pan fry these crab cakes if you don't have an air fryer.