Maryland Crab Cakes without Old Bay Seasoning

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Close up of crab cakes with tartar sauce dripping down on a bed of lettuce

Crab cakes and football – that’s what Maryland does! There’s nothing better than a buttery, crispy crab cake that’s filled to the brim with fresh crab. In my opinion, a good crab cake can barely hold itself together because it contains so much crab. This Maryland crab cake recipe is light on fillers and comes with a super quick version of the traditional Old Bay seasoning.

Two crab cakes topped with tartar sauce on a white plate

Unidentified “Spices”

When you’re following a migraine diet, pre-made seasonings are typically out of the question. Old Bay claims there’s no MSG in their recipe, but since MSG goes by many different names, I find most companies can get away with claiming this. It’s the same reason we have to watch out for anything with “natural flavors”. Because of this, I rarely trust brands that don’t list out every item on their ingredient list.

Old Bay is a collection of spices that is honestly too long to try to fit into one recipe. There are many copycat recipes online so if you have the time, you could definitely whip up one of your own and replace all the spices in this recipe. Another option is to try out Primal Palate’s New Bae seasoning (yes, that’s actually the name). Primal Palate has a lot of great seasonings that are paleo/Whole30 friendly. Check out their onion-free taco seasoning! This is not sponsored, by the way. I just get really excited when I find Heal Your Headache safe products.

Tips & Tricks

The get the best results for this recipe, you want to use lump crab meat which usually comes refrigerated in a plastic container. I find canned crab meat just doesn’t taste as good and is less “lumpy” than I want it to be. This is a case where lumpy is a good thing. You also don’t need the “jumbo lump”, which is large chunks and typically more expensive.

A splatter screen is a wonderful thing and one of the best investments I’ve ever made. I also love to use it when searing fish or chicken. Makes for much easier clean up.

Don’t forget to pair this recipe with this Whole30 (and migraine-friendly) Tartar Sauce.

For more seafood recipes try:
Italian Grilled Shrimp
Seared Sea Scallops with Chive Oil
Seared Salmon with Creamy Garlic Spinach

Two crab cakes with a gold fork on a white plate

5 from 1 vote
Close up of crab cakes with tartar sauce dripping down on a bed of lettuce
Maryland Style Crab Cakes (without Old Bay Seasoning)
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
30 mins

Guaranteed additive and MSG-free, this recipe is packed full of lump crab meat and uses a simple mix of spices that are common in Old Bay seasoning. These also can be made gluten free, and are dairy free. Don't forget to serve with the Whole30 tartar sauce!

Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Crab Cakes, Maryland Style, MSG Free
Servings: 3 people
Author: The Dizzy Cook
  • 1 pound fresh, lump crab meat * I get mine from Whole Foods or Central Market
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons celery, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons good mayonnaise * I used Sir Kensington's
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard * I use Annie's or HEB
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour (can be gluten free)
  • 1/2 cup panko (can be gluten free)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed, canola, or avocado oil - you may need more or less depending on the size of your pan
  1. In a large skillet, add 1 tablespoon olive oil (or just more of whatever oil you want to use for frying) and saute the chopped celery and red pepper over medium heat until softened - about 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan and pat dry with a paper towel.

  2. Combine crab (watch out for rogue shells) with cooked pepper and celery, scallions, egg, mayo, mustard, spices, and flour. Cover a sheet or plate with parchment paper and shape into large pucks as best as you can (mixture will be a bit sticky). You should have 6-7 large crab cakes. Pop in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to an hour, which will help them hold together.

  3. In a bowl or deep plate, add your panko. Gently press each crab cake into panko, coating both sides. In a large, nonstick pan, add oil and heat over medium high. When the oil is hot, add the crab cakes and cook until golden brown, about 4-5 minutes per side. If you have a splatter screen, I highly recommend using it.

  4. Lay out paper towels on a sheet pan and place cooked crab cakes on top. If you're working in batches, you can place the drained crab cakes in a warm oven (about 200 degrees) until all are finished. Top with homemade tartar sauce.

Alicia was diagnosed with Chronic Vestibular Migraine in 2016 and has been able to successfully manage her symptoms through medication, supplements, lifestyle changes, and the Heal Your Headache Diet by Dr. David Buchholz from Johns Hopkins. She's the owner of The Dizzy Cook.


  1. Colleen

    Not sure if you are aware that celery seed and celery salt are very frequently a
    migraine trigger. They act like MSG. That’s why I can’t eat whole bay seasoning not because it has MSG in it but because it has celery seed for celery salt. Just thought you should be aware of that


    1. Alicia

      I am aware of nitrates that can occur naturally, however, they can exist in anything from lettuce to radishes. The ones that are recommended to avoid are the ones used in processed foods rather than natural foods. Obviously triggers are highly individual so almost anything could be a trigger for anyone, but for this particular diet it’s not required to be avoided. There can be so much food fear involved with a migraine elimination diet, I try my best not to add to it.


  2. Tory

    5 stars
    Thanks, Alicia! Great recipe! We really enjoyed it!


    1. Alicia

      Thrilled to hear that!


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