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Dungeness Crab Cakes

February 25, 2020

Dungeness crab cakes

Dungeness Crab Cakes

Growing up on the East coast, I've traveled and eaten seafood all across the mid-Atlantic states. For the first twelve years of our relationship, my husband and I made it a yearly tradition to go crabbing for blue crab every September. The mid-Atlantic is famous for its blue crab and crab cakes made from blue crab meat. Not much beats a crab cake in flavor and texture. Maybe a clam cake is a close competitor. 


Five years ago, we moved to the mid-west. The mid-west is landlocked, and high-quality seafood is hard to come by. I've had to become quite the label reader when it comes to buying quality frozen seafood. I've even ventured into the online seafood market for higher-quality than I can find near me. 

Last year, we had the opportunity to travel to Seattle for a wedding. I am not kidding when I tell you that when given a chance to travel, the availability of seafood is one of the primary points we consider when discussing whether to go or not. We've said yes to the U.S Virgin Island and Seattle because of wanting to eat fresh seafood for days. 


When arrived in Seattle, our first stop was the Pikes Place Fish Market. I wanted to see them throwing whole fish around, like you see on television. 

What surprised me about Seattle was the fame of crab cakes. I thought crab cakes were Maryland's thing! What I didn't realize is that the Pacific Ocean is home to a very particular and very delicious type of crab. Dungeness crab cakes were ALL over Seattle! 

I had to know more. Crab cakes are one of my favorites, and I was very familiar with Maryland Style Crab cakes. Seattle introduced me to a whole new variety of crab, Dungeness Crab!  


Where Does Dungeness Crab Come From?

Dungeness crab is a species of crab that comes from the cold waters off of the west coast of the United States. Dungeness crab is caught off of the coast of Northern California, Oregon, and Washington State. 

Early Native Americans fished for Dungeness crab off the west coast, going as far back as the 1600s. Commercial fishing for Dungeness crab has been around since the late 19th Century. I was shocked I had never tried Dungeness crab before. 

On the east coast, it's hard to find Dungeness crab for sale near me. While staying Seattle, I ate as much Dungeness Crab as I could fit in my belly, and I learned more about this west coast seafood delicacy. 

Dungeness crab gets its name from an area in Northwest Washington state. The Dungeness Spit in Northwest Washington state is one of the largest natural habitats for the Dungeness crab. 


Dungeness Crab Cakes


Where to Buy Dungeness Crab

If you live on the west coast, you can find Dungeness crab live. Dungeness crab is for sale at most seafood markets in the North West. Dungeness Crab is freshest during crab season, which starts at the end of November and early December. I was in Seattle in early January which was a perfect time to try Dungeness crab.

When buying Dungeness crab fresh, you want to check the crab for movement. Fresh Dungeness crab won't move as quickly as live lobster or blue crabs, but it will move. The faster the Dungeness crab, the fresher and healthier they are. Pick the fastest Dungeness crabs you can find. 

Dungeness crab is available frozen. Whole Dungeness crab is steamed or boiled and then frozen to maintain the best taste and texture. Dungeness crab legs are also available for purchase frozen. Dungeness lump crab meat is available frozen as well. Be sure to check the label, Dungeness crab comes from the west coast. If your label doesn't show the source of the crab, you may not be getting the best quality.  

After I left Seattle, I made sure to check online for buying and shipping frozen Dungeness crab. I don’t want to wait until I travel to the west coast again to eat the best Dungeness crab cake recipes. 

The Dungeness crab market price can vary depending on whether you buy cooked or live Dungeness Crab. Cleaned and cooked Dungeness crab will run you about $8.99/lb. where live Dungeness crab will cost around $6.99/lb. 

Dungeness Crab Vs. Blue Crab

Dungeness crab meat is slightly sweeter than blue crab meat. Dungeness crab has a fresher taste and is much less notoriously "fishy" than other crab varieties. Not that crab is all that "fishy." Dungeness crab meat is also firmer in texture than blue crab. 

Dungeness crabs are larger than blue crabs. The average weight of Dungeness crab is around 2-3 pounds. The average weight of a live blue crab is about 1/3 of a pound. Dungeness crab is going to give you larger chunks of meat while the backfin meat of the blue crab is classically tender and delicious. Both types of crab have their place in the seafood hierarchy. If you haven't had the opportunity to eat Dungeness crab, I suggest you fix that immediately. 


Dungeness Crab Cakes


How to Eat Dungeness Crab

Dungeness crab recipes suggest that Dungeness crab is best served in a variety of ways. 

Dungeness Crab Recipes: 

  • Dungeness Crab Cakes
  • Grilled Dungeness Crab
  • Boiled Dungeness Crab 
  • Oven Roasted Dungeness Crab
  • Steamed Dungeness Crab
  • Stuffed Dungeness Crab
  • Dungeness Crab Boil
  • Crab Cake Salad

How to Clean Dungeness Crab 

When dealing with whole cooked Dungeness crab, you want to clean out and remove the gills before reheating or serving cold. 

Steps to Cleaning and Cracking Dungeness Crab: 

  • Flip the whole crab over on its back
  • Remove the triangular-shaped "apron" on the middle of its belly. 
  • Turn your crab over and remove its top shell by firmly pulling it off. 
  • After you remove the top shell, take out the gills. These are spongy in texture and won't be delicious. 
  • Rinse the inside of the crab under cold water to remove any silt or debris. 
  • Crack the entire crab in half. 
  • Twist off the claws and legs. 
  • Crack the legs at each joint. Doing this makes it easier to remove the leg meat.  

How to Clean Dungeness Crab Before Cooking

If you clean out the inner organs from the Dungeness crab before cooking, you will get a better flavor and texture to your meat. Live cleaning should only be done immediately before cooking. If your crab is dead long before cooking, enzymes in the meat break down the texture of the crab meat. 

  • Pin the crab down by the legs and claw
  • Pull off the top shell.
  • Remove the triangular-shaped apron.
  • Using a sharp knife, cut the crab in half. 
  • Remove the gills
  • Scrape out the organs and innards. 
  • Rinse the crab under cold water to remove sand and debris.

After you've cleaning and gutted your live Dungeness crabs, you're ready to boil them. Dungeness crab cooking time can vary by size and if you are cooking live or previously-cooked crab. You want to steam or boil a live whole 3lb Dungeness crab for approximately 20 minutes. If you are reheating previously-cooked Dungeness crab, steam, or boil the crab for 5-7 minutes. 

Simple Crab Cake Recipe:

This west-coast style crab cake recipe uses lime, cilantro, and fresh garlic to create a light and fresh crab cake. You may want to plan on doubling the recipe because these crab cakes won't last long at your dinner party. 

These crab cakes can be made ahead of time and frozen. Take a few out of the freezer at a time for a light seafood meal. Make large batches ahead of time in preparation for a party. These crab cakes work perfectly as a main dish or an appetizer. 

Ingredients for Dungeness Crab Cakes: 
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • 1 Minced Onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds of Dungeness crab meat
  • 1 1/2 cups of bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise. *You made need more if your crab cakes are a little on the dry side*
  • 1 large egg white
  • Juice from 1/2 a lime
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves. Leave aside some whole leaves for a garnish. 
  • Salt and pepper to taste. 
  • Garlic Aioli sauce for crab cake recipeSee the recipe below.  
Ingredients for Garlic Aioli: 
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced. 
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon of celery seed
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup of EVOO
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped chives. 

To Make Garlic Aioli: 

-Place the ingredients in a small boil and stir until combined. Season with salt and pepper as needed. 

Steps to Make Dungeness Crab Cakes: 

*These crab cakes will need time in the refrigerator to firm up before cooking in the oil. * 

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of EVOO in a frying pan over medium heat. 
  • Add minced onion to the pan and cook over medium heat until slightly golden brown. 
  • Add minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Be careful not to burn the garlic. 
  • Allow onion and garlic to cool slightly. 
  • Place cooked onion and garlic into a medium-sized bowl.
  • Gently fold in the crab meat, breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, egg white, lime juice, and cilantro. Fold together gently. 
  • Season with salt and pepper
  • Form crab mixture into six large-sized crab cakes.  
  • Place crab cakes on a plate and chill for 1-hour

Cooking Crab Cakes:

  • Heat 1-2 tablespoons of EVOO in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. 
  • Add crab cakes and cook for 4 minutes per side. You want a lovely crisp crab cake with a golden-brown color. 
  • Serve crab cakes immediately with fresh lemon wedges and garlic aioli. 

Enjoying Dungeness Crab Cakes:

 These Dungeness crab cakes will please any seafood eater. These crab cakes are lightly pan-fried, which helps to reduce the crab cake caloriesThe calories in a crab cake are approximately 260 calories per crab cake. Crab cake nutrition can vary depending on the ingredients used. 

You can substitute low-fat mayonnaise and low-fat sour cream to improve the nutritional value. 2-3 crab cakes make a hearty meal or enjoy one crab cake as an appetizer.  

When you order frozen Dungeness crab, it is shipped over dry ice to ensure they arrive at your door still frozen. 

How do you like to enjoy Dungeness crab? 

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