Pacific Rim Crab Cakes with Sweet Chili Sauce

As fortunate West Coast anglers, we’re set up with a tremendous variety of what we can catch, where and how. From fresh to salt to brackish waters, there’s no shortage of choices. There are folks that scour local lakes for bass, trout, and crappie. There are old timers that love their traditional deep-sea fishing on party boats. There are little kids creeping through our backwaters hunting elusive corvina. And there are the shellfish gurus, from free divers tracking lobsters to kayaker anglers hoop-netting for crab. It’s no wonder that our California/Baja coastal stretch is one of the most prolific, attractive fisheries on the planet. The options are truly wide open.  

Me, personally? I love it all… literally everything. And up until last week I had done just about every type of fishing possible, except for the last mention – crabbing from the kayak. As one of the original kayak fishing guides starting in the early-mid ‘90s, one of the things I taught was a lobster hoop netting clinic. As phenomenal as it was and still is, it’s the Dungeness I’ve missed out on; unfortunately, they just don’t make it to our Southern California zones. Up until now, I’ve bitten the bullet and just spent my hard-earned money buying the “Dungies” from local fish mongers. The dense crab meat is considered some of the sweetest and worth every penny. 

The solution? Phone a friend. I called to check in on my old partner in crime – Dennis Spike, founder of Coastal Kayak Fishing. With our friendship pushing three decades, we’ve kayak fished spots within 1,300 miles of coastline… from Fort Ross to the East Cape of Baja. “Spike” is now a 10-year expat of sorts living just outside of Bodega Bay, CA where he guides salmon, rockfish and crab trips from the kayak. It was the latter that I was focused on, and it unveiled a solid excuse to get the band back together. Saving the story for next week, I’ll just say that we hauled enough crab for multiple recipes, so here’s the first. And if you can’t make the trip north to find the crab, support your local fish monger and enjoy making this unique dish. Part 2 on how we got ‘em coming next week… stay tuned. 

Check out Dennis Spike prep/clean a Dungeness Crab for cooking.
crab cake recipe ingredients
crab cake ingredients

Next Recipe: Crunchy Yellowtail Tacos with Passionfruit and Lime

crab cake binder ingredients
crab cake binder ingredients
crab cake mix
crab cake paddies
cooking crab cakes
dungeness crab cakes


Recipe: Pacific Rim Crab Cakes with Sweet Chili Sauce


  • 2 live Dungeness Crabs (more depending on guests)
  • Large pot filled with 1 inch of water
  • Colander to fit the entire base of the pot
  • 1 - 1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
  • Salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder to taste
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 TBSP mayonnaise
  • 12 sprigs of fresh cilantro, minced
  • 6 sprigs of fresh mint, minced
  • 2 long green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 finger of fresh ginger, minced
  • ¼ habanero or 1 Thai chili, finely minced
  • 1 TBSP sesame oil (for cooking)
  • 1 TBSP butter (for cooking)
  • Your favorite sweet chili sauce and garlic chili sauce
  • 2 fresh limes cut into wedges
  • Additional fresh mint and cilantro, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Start by filling your large crab/lobster/stock pot with 1 inch of water, place a colander in the bottom of the pot, and bring water to a boil.
  2. Carefully drop the crabs in without tilting the colander over and cover for 17 minutes (for 4 or more crabs I recommend 20-22 minutes).
  3. During the steaming process, prep all your binder ingredients.
  4. When the crabs are done, remove and allow to cool (a cooler of ice will expedite the process). Follow the video of Spike breaking down the crab. Carefully remove all the meat, while thoroughly sifting through to remove all shells and cartilage. Your guests don’t need to leave with a cracked tooth, so spend a few extra minutes on the process.
  5. In a large pan add sesame oil and butter and sauté the green onions, ginger, and hot pepper for 3-4 minutes. Put into a large mixing bowl and let cool.
  6. In the same mixing bowl add all remaining binder ingredients and mix thoroughly by hand, adding the crab last.
  7. Form the mixture into spheres with the size a little larger than a golf ball. Place on a cookie sheet and lightly press with your palm, creating a patty. If the patty falls apart, add another tablespoon of mayonnaise OR another beaten egg to the mix.
  8. Add sesame oil and butter back to the pan and drop the crab cakes in over medium heat, laying the pieces away from you to avoid getting burned.
  9. Cook until golden brown and cooked through; about 4 minutes a side, depending on the size of the crab cakes. Remove carefully, lay on paper towels to drain and immediately season (lightly) with kosher sea salt.
  10. Plate on a large serving tray, squeeze fresh lime juice over the top, add your cilantro/mint, and drop a combo of sweet chili sauce and garlic chili sauce.

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