ultimate paleo crab cakes

I suppose it’s not exactly crab season, but Summer seems like as good a time as any to enjoy a crab cake–one that’s not too heavy, but still has good crabby (ha!) flavor. I’ve had a few really good crab cakes in my day. The best outsides all had a light crunch, and the insides had a moist center with big stringy lumps of crab. The worst ones were soggy and tasted like gloopy crab flavored mayonnaise. That’s kind of gross to even think about. Here, I’ve taken a tried and true recipe for amazing crab cakes which uses the more easily accessible canned crab meat rather than fresh, and I’ve removed all dairy and bread products and substituted coconut this or that. I was really impressed with the results as were the others who tried them. To top it off, I made a lightweight, slightly acidic avocado cream sauce (sans cream, of course) which I think pairs very nicely with the crab cakes. Enjoy.


crab cakes

  • 1 lb. jumbo lump crabmeat. I used Blue Star brand, which is available at Costco.
  • 1 cup + 1/4 cup coconut milk, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 medium celery ribs, chopped. If you have enormous celery, consider using just one.
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
  • 4 ounces raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and de-tailed
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 4 + 1 tablespoons coconut oil

avocado cream sauce (blend everything together)

  • 1 ripe Haas avocado
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 drops worcestershire sauce
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed


  1. Place crabmeat and 1 cup of coconut milk in bowl, making sure crab is totally submerged. Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Place shredded coconut into a non-stick skillet and toast over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer coconut to shallow dish and stir in ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Wipe out skillet.
  3. Pulse celery, onion, and garlic in food processor until finely chopped, scraping down bowl as needed. You want about an 1/8″ pieces. Transfer vegetables to large bowl. Rinse processor bowl and blade and reserve. Melt 1 tablespoon coconut oil in now-empty skillet over medium heat. Add chopped vegetables, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened and all moisture has evaporated, 4 to 6 minutes. The moisture evaporation is key if you don’t want soggy crab cakes. Return vegetables to large bowl and let cool to room temperature (put them in the freezer to make quick work of this). Rinse out pan and wipe clean.
  4. Strain crabmeat/milk mixture through fine-mesh strainer. Remove as much coconut milk as you can with the back of a spoon, but be careful not to break up the lumps of crabmeat.
  5. Pulse shrimp in food processor until it becomes a fine paste. Add remaining 1/4 cup coconut milk and pulse to combine, 2 to 4 pulses, scraping down bowl as needed. Transfer shrimp puree to bowl with cooled vegetables. Add mustard, hot pepper sauce, lemon juice, and Old Bay seasoning; stir until well combined. Add crabmeat and fold gently with rubber spatula, being careful not to overmix and break up lumps of crabmeat. Divide mixture into 8 balls and firmly press into 1/2-inch-thick patties. Place cakes on rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 45-60 minutes.
  6. Coat each cake in the shredded coconut, pressing firmly so that the coconut really sticks. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in non-stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Place 4 cakes in skillet and cook without moving them until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Using 2 spatulas, carefully flip cakes, add 1 tablespoon oil, reduce heat to medium-low, and continue to cook until second side is golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer cakes to platter. Wipe out skillet and repeat with remaining 4 cakes and remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Serve immediately with the avocado cream sauce and some greens.


toasted coconutToasted coconut

shrimp and coconut milk pasteShrimp and coconut milk paste

paleo crab cakes before pressing into ballsCrab cakes before they are pressed into “patties”

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