These vegan crab cakes are made with chickpeas, hearts of palm, zucchini and old bay. They’re super flavorful, crisp on the outside and perfectly moist on the inside.
Do you even believe me when I say these crab cakes are vegan?! I mean the pictures make them look like the real deal! To be honest, I don’t eat crab cakes often (they’re usually a special treat when dining out) but after I created this version they’ll be on regular rotation in our home. They’re inexpensive, packed with vegetables and so delicious.
I know it might seem a little odd to have a vegan meal based off of a fish-based recipe but I know there are plenty vegans that used to eat meat/fish and miss some foods! This recipe is actually inspired by Isaac’s mom who started making vegan crab cakes using this recipe from the Hallmark channel. She made them for us while we were at the beach and now we’re hooked! I added chickpeas to my recipe for a protein boost.
panko bread crumbs – make sure they’re finely ground!
nori powder or kelp granules – these seaweed seasonings are optional, but highly recommended because they’ll give the cakes more of a seafood flavor and add a little salt. If you don’t want to buy a full container for this recipe, you can simply pulse nori sheets (or seaweed snacks) in a blender or food processor until they’re a fine powder and use that instead. This is what I did!
mayonnaise – use vegan mayo to make these 100% vegan.
spices and seasonings – Old Bay seasoning, sea salt and pepper. You can find Old Bay at most grocery stores but you can also make your own!
sauce for serving
What are Hearts of Palm?
Hearts of palm are considered a vegetable. It’s harvested from the inner core of certain palm trees! When shredded, they really do have the texture of shredded meat. I’ve used them as a sub for shredded pork in vegan bbq sandwiches and they work as a sub for shredded crab meat too. They are low in calories and fat but have a good amount of zinc, potassium and vitamin C. They are very mild in flavor so take on the flavor of the recipe… very similar to actual crab!
How to Make Vegan Crab Cakes
Process chickpeas in a food processor and add to a large bowl. Add all remaining ingredients and put in the fridge for a few minutes to firm up.
Once the mixture is cool and firm, form patties with your hands.
Warm a large sauté pan on medium high heat. Add a tablespoon of cooking oil and heat until it shimmers in the pan. Cook the cakes one at a time until golden brown – about two minutes each side.
Put in the oven to keep warm before serving and enjoy!
What to Serve With Crab Cakes
As a main dish: I’ve made this recipe several times and we’ve always eaten them as a main dish paired with roasted veggies (like roasted squash and zucchini), rice and/or a salad.
On a salad: These crab cakes make a great topping for salad. Start with a bed of leafy greens, add any vegetables you like (fresh or roasted would work perfectly!), add 1-2 vegan crab cakes and top with a dressing of your choice. This lemon vinaigrette would be perfect!
As an appetizer: You can also serve the crab cakes as an appetizer. For this, I’d probably make the patties a bit smaller and top with a vegan sauce (see ideas above).
How to Store Vegan Crab Cakes
I will say these are best served immediately but we have stored these in the fridge for later and they’re just as delicious! Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days. I haven’t tried freezing them so not sure if the consistency would change. When you’re ready to enjoy, reheat them in a toaster oven or conventional oven until heated throughout and crispy on the edges.
Add chickpeas to a food processor and pulse 3-4 times or until chickpeas are mashed apart, but not turning into mush/hummus. Transfer chickpeas to a large bowl.
Using your hands, shred hearts of palm until it’s the consistency of crab meat.
Grate zucchini and squeeze out liquid, if it feels wet. I didn’t find squeezing necessary.
Add chickpeas, shredded hearts of palm, zucchini, onion, celery, old bay, mayo, Dijon mustard, panko, nori powder, nutritional yeast, parsley, lemon zest, pepper and salt into the large bowl and mix until everything is combined. Place mixture in the fridge to chill for about 1 hour.
Once mixture has chilled, use your hands to form patties. Make larger patties to serve as a main dish or smaller patties to serve as an appetizer.
Heat a large sauté pan with 1 Tablespoon of avocado oil over medium high heat.
Once oil is hot, place cakes in one at a time and cook until golden brown and warm throughout, about 2 minutes each side.
Place in 300°F oven to keep warm while you cook the remaining patties. Serve crab cakes warm with sauce of choice. I used a vegan tartar sauce.
Store leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Make your own nori powder: If you can’t find nori powder or kelp granules, you make your own nori powder by blending seaweed snack sheets in your processor. This is what I ended up doing and it worked great.