Vegan Crab Cakes
Vegan “crabless” cakes are now available in the frozen section of most supermarkets due to the ingenuity of the Gardein food band. I had an opportunity to try these a few days ago, and have to say they were pretty darn tasty after having been crisped up for a few minutes in my air fryer. I have to admit I was impressed by the crispy texture and authentic “crab-like” flavor. While they are vegan, I still consider these to be a convenience fun food, as they are processed and contain quite a few ingredients that are difficult to pronounce.
The question became whether or not I could make such delicious vegan “crab” cakes at home using whole food ingredients. When I’ve reviewed recipes in the past, most used either canned artichoke hearts or hearts of palm, as each has a bit of a briny “sea” flavor and a texture that is similar to crab meat when pulled apart. In fact, I’ve made a recipe with artichoke hearts on a few occasions that were quite good.
If you’re not familiar with them, hearts of palm is a vegetable harvested from the inner core of certain palm trees. They can be found in the canned section of almost any supermarket, and are actually pretty nutritious. A one cup serving contains nearly 4 grams of both fiber and protein, as well as a good amount of vitamin c, folate, iron, and magnesium.
When I was searching for recipes, I came across one that also incorporated garbanzo beans as an interesting twist. I found this intriguing and wondered if it might make the texture of the “crab” cake too dense. On the plus side, the beans provide a more satiating cake, as they are loaded with plant protein and fiber. It turned out to be a great addition, resulting in a fluffy cake with a crispy outside. One other trick to this recipe was the inclusion of kelp granules or pieces of nori (seaweed used to wrap sushi) to enhance the “ocean-like” flavor. While these sound like exotic ingredients, both can be found at most specialty health food stores or even Asian grocery stores.
This recipe is easy to prepare and makes a great family meal or party appetizer. I promise you’ll be impressed with the taste and texture, and it will be so much more nutritious and delicious than what you would purchase in the freezer section.
Recipe Adapted from Vegan Huggs
- 1 15-oz can garbanzo beans, drained (save 1/4 cup liquid) and rinsed
- 2 14-oz cans hearts of palm, drained, rinsed, and cut in half
- 1/4 cup garbanzo bean liquid
- 1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce (or substitute low-sodium soy sauce or tamari) (non-vegan Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies and is okay to use if you consume seafood)
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice (can add more to taste, I used about a tablespoon)
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup green onion, sliced (I used slightly more, and included both the white and green sections). Can slice extra of the green sections for garnish
- 2 teaspoons kelp granules (these can usually be found in a specialty health food store). Alternatively can break up a small piece of nori (the green stuff used to make sushi rolls). Either will add a bit of “seafood” flavor
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley (can also substitute a few tablespoons fresh parsley)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning (I used 1 tablespoon because I love the flavor. Add more to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (more to taste)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs (and more for coating)
- Oil for pan-frying (I used avocado. Could also bake in the oven on parchment paper or use an air-fryer to keep oil-free)
- In a food processor or high-speed blender, add garbanzo beans and hearts of palm. Pulse a few times (do not over-blend or the mixture will become more like a hummus). Alternatively, mash ingredients gently with a fork or potato masher in a large bowl (I prefer this method as it allows you to create a “flaky” texture that better resembles crab
- In a large bowl, add garbanzo liquid, and whisk until foamy (I used a mini whisk)
- Add mayonnaise, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and dry seasonings, and whisk to combine well
- Stir in bread crumbs, green onion, hearts of palm and garbanzo bean mixture and fold gently (I used a rubber spatula)
- Place in the freezer for 20 minutes (or in the fridge for an hour to overnight). This helps hold the mixture together when forming patties
- Place 1 cup of breadcrumbs in a shallow dish or bowl
- Take roughly 1/4 cup of “crab” mixture and form a patty. Dredge in bread crumbs to coat evenly. Repeat until all of mixture is used
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat and brush lightly with oil. Once pan is hot, cook 4-5 patties at a time, flipping after a few minutes (when bottom is golden brown). Alternatively, could try to bake at 350 degrees on parchment-lined baking sheet for 10 minutes, flipping half -way through, and quickly broiling to make golden brown or using an air fryer (I have not tested either of these methods
- Serve plain or with a side of vegan aioli. Garnish with lemon and green onion slices