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Look no further for the best Vegan Crab Cakes! Made with plant-based ingredients and topped with vegan homemade red pepper aioli, they are hearty and filling and come together quickly in just 20 minutes for a delicious appetizer, side dish, or main course!

overhead of vegan crab cakes displayed on a white plate against a brown background

This recipe was originally published on February 4, 2022. It was updated with new photos and recipe information on April 7, 2024.

This veggie crab crakes recipe is so good that even non-vegans love it – my hardcore crab crake-loving family in Maryland can attest! They are chickpea and hearts of palm crab cakes mixed with creamy mayo, tangy sweet plum vinegar, a hint of Dijon mustard, bread crumbs, and seasoned with classic Old Bay. 

Pan-fried to perfection, the inside of each vegan crab cake is flaky and moist with a crisp outer crust. The creamy, rich red pepper vegan aioli adds a sweet and tangy flavor drizzled on top of the chickpea crab cakes or served as a dipping sauce. You can prepare this dish as an appetizer for your next group gathering, over a bed of greens for a light meal, as a filling for sandwiches or wraps, or as a main course paired with sides. For more vegan seafood-inspired recipes, try my king oyster mushroom vegan scallops, lion’s mane crab cakes, or vegan carrot chickpea tuna melt.   

Closeup on inner flaky texture of vegan crab cakes

Ingredients

overhead of vegan crab cakes ingredients on brown countertop

Chickpeas: Use canned chickpeas for the easiest prep, and stick to unsalted beans so you can better control the seasoning of the recipe.

Heart of Palm: This vegetable is harvested from palm trees and serves as a great vegan crab meat. You can find it in the canned vegetable aisle of most grocery stores. 

Jalapeño: Adds a spicy kick to the vegan hearts of palm crab cakes. Be sure to remove the seeds before mincing so the cakes aren’t too spicy. 

Vegan Mayonnaise: Creates a rich base for the plant-based crab cakes. Use your favorite brand, though I prefer Just Mayo.

Old Bay – This versatile spice mix is iconic to many seafood-based recipes and adds a savory aromatic flavor. You can find it in the dried spice section of your local grocery store. 

Umeboshi Plum Vinegar – A tart and tangy condiment made from the brine of pickled Japanese plums that perfectly replicate the taste of the sea, providing plant-based seafood flavor. You can find this product at Whole Foods, Amazon, and most specialty grocery stores. 

Panko Bread Crumbs: Panko bread crumbs are flakier and larger than classic breadcrumbs, creating a crispy outer coating on the crab cakes. Use unflavored crumbs for the best results. 

Red Bell Pepper: You will need a whole seeded and roasted bell pepper to make the sweet aioli sauce. Roast your red peppers or purchase bottled roasted red bell peppers.

Red Wine Vinegar: Adds a bright and acidic flavor to the crab cake sauce that balances the other flavors.

How to Make Vegan Crab Cakes

  • Prepare crab cake batter. Place the chickpeas, hearts of palm, and jalepeño into a food processor and pulse until combined to reach a pulsed but still crabby texture. You do not want it completely smooth. 
  • Add seasonings. Scoop the chickpea mixture into a large bowl and add the rest of the crab cake ingredients, saving ½ cup of the bread crumbs to set aside in a shallow dish. Stir well to combine.
  • Form crab cakes. Shape the “crab” mixture into small patties about ⅛ inch thick–making sure to pack the mixture tightly, and then coat each crab cake on all sides in the breadcrumbs in the shallow dish. 
  • Pan-Fry. Heat an oil-coated skillet on medium-high heat on the stovetop. I prefer a heat-safe oil such as avocado or canola oil. Pan-fry each crab cake for 3 minutes on each side then transfer to a plate covered with a paper towel. Repeat this process with the remaining batter. These may also be made in the air fryer. See instructions in the recipe card.
  • Prepare aioli. Mix all red pepper aioli ingredients in the food processor until smooth and creamy.
  • Serve. Pair the freshly cooked crab cakes with the aioli sauce and enjoy!

Recipe Pro-Tips

  • Properly prepare the chickpeas and hearts of palm. Drain the canned beans and hearts of palm, rinse them under cold water, then pat them dry with a paper towel or dry dish cloth to remove excess moisture. This will prevent the crab cake batter from becoming watery. 
  • Don’t overmix the crab cake batter. Be careful not to over-process the crab cake batter in the food processor – slowly pulse instead of continuously blending. You want a meaty, slightly chunky texture instead of a smooth batter so the patties will hold their shape and most closely resemble traditional cakes.
  • Evenly space the crab cakes in the skillet. I usually fit 4 or 5 crab cake patties on the skillet at a time with space between them so they do not stick together. The amount of patties you can fit in the skillet will depend on the size of the pan and the patties.  
  • Use a nonstick skillet. Also, use enough oil to completely cover the bottom of the pan to prevent the patties from sticking. This will also help them form a crispy outer layer. A high-heat oil such as avocado, canola, or vegetable is the best bet for this recipe; oils such as olive oil with a lower smoke point can burn, adding an undesirable flavor to the cakes. 

Recipe Variations

Below are a few different ways you can alter and enhance this vegan crab cake recipe. 

  • Swap hearts of palm with artichokes: substitute with equal parts of canned or defrosted artichoke hearts for a similar crab meat texture in this vegetarian crab cake recipe. 
  • Pair with a different dipping sauce: try a vegan tartar sauce, chipotle aioli, sweet chili sauce, or an avocado cilantro lime sauce for alternative flavors. 
  • Add sugar to the aioli: this is optional, but including 1 teaspoon of cane sugar in the crab cake sauce gives it a deliciously sweet flavor that balances the spiciness of the vegan crab cakes.
  • Make this recipe gluten-free: use gluten-free panko breadcrumbs. 

Serving Suggestions

These crab cakes are a great vegan appetizer recipe simply served with the aioli sauce or paired with other dishes for a heartier meal like some of our favorite recipes below. 

Vegan crab cake on a white plate with fork

Storage Directions

  • Refrigeration: Allow the crab cakes to cool completely to room temperature before storing them in an airtight container for 3-4 days. 
  • Reheating: Warm in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, flipping halfway through until crab cakes reach your desired temperature. Or heat in the oven at 350ºF for 10-15 minutes until heated through. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make this recipe ahead of time? 

Yes! You can prepare the batter for the hearts of palm cakes and refrigerate the uncooked patties in an airtight container for up to 5 days before cooking. Or you can freeze the uncooked patties in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Pan-fry them from frozen until thoroughly cooked, cooking them on medium heat if needed to prevent them from burning.   

Do I have to cook the cakes in a skillet? 

I recommend pan-frying the crab cakes for the ultimate comfort food, but you can also air fry or bake them in the oven.
Air fry: To air fry, place the panko coated patties in a greased air fryer. Grease the top of the patties with an oil spray, and cook at 350° for 10 minutes. Flip and air fry for another 5 minutes.
To bake: Bake them at 375ºF on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 20-25 minutes, flipping halfway through, until golden brown and crispy. You can also cook them in the air fryer at 375ºF for 8-10 minutes, flipping halfway through. 

How do I roast red bell peppers? 

To make homemade roasted red bell pepper for the aioli sauce, first wash and deseed the bell pepper, then cut it into large pieces. Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Place the prepared pepper pieces, skin side up, on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper in a single layer. Roast for 15-20 minutes, flipping halfway through, or until the skin is blistered and charred in spots. Place the roasted pepper in a bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Remove the wrap, allow the peppers to cool, and then remove the skin.

More Vegan Seafood Recipes

4.43 from 19 votes

Best Vegan Crab Cakes

By: Jenné
These hearty Vegan Crab Cakes with homemade red pepper aioli make the perfect party app, side dish, or main course meal. They are packed with flavor and only take 20 minutes to prepare!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 6

Equipment

Ingredients 

  • 1 14 oz can of unsalted chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 14 oz can hearts of palm, drained and chopped into large pieces
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • ¼ cup vegan mayonnaise,
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tsp ume plum vinegar
  • 1 tsp smooth Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs, divided
  • avocado oil, use avocado oil spray if air frying or baking
  • lemon slices

Red Pepper Aioli

  • 1/2 cup vegan mayo
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp cane sugar, optional
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Instructions 

  • Place the chickpeas, hearts of palm, and jalapeño into a food processor and pulse to combine and create a shaggy mixture. Be careful not to over process the mixture; you want to retain a crabby texture.
  • Scoop the chickpea mixture into a large bowl and add the vegan mayonnaise, Old Bay seasoning, plum vinegar, Dijon mustard, and 1 cup of panko bread crumbs. Stir well to combine.
  • Place the remaining ½ cup of panko bread crumbs in a shallow dish.
  • Working with 1/3 cup portions, form the “crab” mixture into small patties, packing the mixture tightly. Turn each patty in the shallow bowl of breadcrumbs until coated.
  • Add enough canola or vegetable oil to coat the bottom of a large skillet. Heat the skillet over medium-high heat under the oil shimmers.
  • Add the cakes to the skillet of hot oil and pan fry for 3 minutes on each side or until golden and crisp. Remove the cakes from the skillet and drain on a paper towel-lined dinner plate or baking sheet.
  • Cook the remaining cakes, being careful not to crowd the skillet as you cook them. Add more oil to the skillet as needed and heat until shimmering before adding more cakes.

Air Fryer Cooking Instructions

  • Grease the air fryer basket.
  • Place the panko crusted patties into the air fryer basket, and grease the top of the patties with oil spray.
  • Cook for 10 minutes at 350°, then flip and cook another 5 minutes until golden brown and crispy on the outside.

Baking Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Place the panko crusted patties onto the baking sheet and coat the top of the patties with oil spray.
  • Bake for 25 minutes, flipping 15 minutes in, until golden brown and crispy on the outside.

Red Pepper Aioli

  • While the cakes are cooking, make the red pepper aioli. Add the mayo, red pepper, chopped fresh dill, red wine vinegar, cane sugar (if using), and freshly ground black pepper to a blender or food processor. Blend until creamy and serve with hot crab cakes and lemon slices.

Notes

Storage Directions
  • Refrigeration: Allow the crab cakes to cool completely to room temperature before storing them in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
  • Reheating: Warm in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, flipping halfway through until crab cakes reach your desired temperature. Or heat in the oven at 350ºF for 10-15 minutes until heated through.
Recipe Pro-Tips
  • Don’t overmix the crab cake batter. Be careful not to over-process the crab cake batter in the food processor – slowly pulse instead of continuously blending. You want a meaty, slightly chunky texture instead of a smooth batter so the patties will hold their shape and most closely resemble traditional cakes.
  • Evenly space the crab cakes in the skillet. I usually fit 4 or 5 crab cake patties on the skillet at a time with space between them so they do not stick together. The amount of patties you can fit in the skillet will depend on the size of the pan and the patties. 
  • Use a nonstick skillet. Also, use enough oil to completely cover the bottom of the pan to prevent the patties from sticking. This will also help them form a crispy outer layer. A high-heat oil such as canola, vegetable, or avocado is the best bet for this recipe; oils such as olive oil with a lower smoke point can burn, adding an undesirable flavor to the cakes.
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

About Jenne

I’m a Georgia Peach living in Los Angeles (by way of NYC), with an insatiable love of sweet potatoes, travel, animals, and cooking. On Sweet Potato Soul you’ll discover hundreds of delicious and easy-to-make vegan recipes.

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29 Comments

  1. Yes!

    Red Pepper Aioli
    ½ cup vegan mayo
    4 roasted red peppers (from jar, and dried off)
    1/4 cup dill, fresh
    1 tbsp red wine vinegar
    1 tsp black pepper

    Blend ingredients in blender until smooth.

  2. It’s unbelievable how authentic these “crab” cakes taste!! You’re a genius 😉 However, I did mess them up when cooking and I’m not sure what I did wrong. I used canola oil.= to pan fry them. However they just began to fall and crumble apart the more I cooked them, especially when I flipped them over. One side seem to brown a little more effectively, but the other side just turned to mush. Maybe I didn’t process the mixture enough (I was indeed a little scared to over process as per your instructions lol) Maybe too much oil or not enough oil?

  3. I made the crab cakes last night and they rocked! I did over-process the hearts of palm + chickpeas — even though you warned us NOT to, LOL — but even so, the cakes were terrific. Next time I would just leave that the hearts of palm a bit chunkier. I found the combination and amounts of ingredients to be just right for my taste. I squeezed lemon on top and served a Caesar-ish salad on the side — great dinner. Thanks again for this recipe. Crab cakes were a favorite of mine before I went vegan; now I can kind of have them back in my life again. 🙂

    1. Mmmmmm, sounds so good with the lemon on top and over that salad!! I’m so glad you can still have your crab cakes 😉 xo

  4. Hi Jenne and happy new year! I’m so glad you mentioned Just Mayo; I looked it up online and it sounds like the vegan mayo I’ve been wishing for. And I can buy it locally (I’m in IL). By the way, there’s a recipe on the Just Mayo site that’s right up your alley (haha): https://www.hamptoncreek.com/just-mayo/recipes/sweet. Anyway — I’m going to make these crab cakes as soon as I get some Old Bay. Thanks for the great idea.

    1. Happy New Year Lisa!
      Wow, that Just Mayo recipe does look delicious 🙂 I’ll have to give it a try. Thanks for sharing!
      Let me know how you like the crab cakes!!
      xo

  5. I just made these and they are really good. I did find them on the salty side so I am going to reducing the Old Bay Seasoning and I will allow more time for the hearts of palm and beans to drain as my patties were moist but fell apart a little. I will definitely be making these again!!!! It’s a great recipe for carnivores too. Thanks!!

  6. Hi Dilska! So sorry. I stopped adding corn. It’s great, but without it they feel more authentic. If you use corn add 1/2 cup fresh or frozen.
    The umeboshi plum vinegar can be found online if you can’t find it at a store. It is a Japanese condiment. An alternative would be rice vinegar. Enjoy!

    1. Thank you! I had the same question about an alternative to the plum vinegar. I am making these tomorrow.

  7. Hey there!! So sorry! I fixed it. I stopped adding corn. It’s great, but without it they feel more authentic. If you use corn add 1/2 cup fresh or frozen. Enjoy!

  8. Hey Paula!! sorry! I fixed it. I stopped adding corn. It’s great, but without it they feel more authentic. If you use corn add 1/2 cup fresh or frozen. Enjoy!