Made with chickpeas, fresh dill, Old Bay, and a surprising ingredient to add flaky texture, pan-fried until crispy, these vegan crab cakes hit the spot!
I’ve spent most of my adult life living in Baltimore, so I’ve seen my fair share of both non-vegan and vegan crab cakes. And I’d definitely consider myself an Old Bay aficionado. They sell it by the gallon at Costco here!
Over the years I’ve seen different “fishy” ingredients and seasonings in vegetarian crab cakes. Jackfruit, hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, and even zucchini (a variety available as a vegan entree option at a fancy local restaurant here). Tried them all, love them all.
I discovered a new-to-me ingredient recently, though: banana blossom. I had learned of allegations that banana blossom is being used as a vegan fish substitute. However, I had quite difficulty actually finding any example recipes and even more difficulty finding information on how to prepare the canned banana blossom for consumption. So I forged ahead on my own and I will be sharing my findings, with step-by-step pictures, in the recipe below.
Don’t fret, for I realize this is a rather rare (at least for now) ingredient and I tested these vegan crab cakes with artichoke hearts as an alternative, which are much more commonly available. I also tested these with gluten-free breadcrumbs instead of gluten-ous, and can report that they were a little more crumbly but still worked just fine.
A lot of vegan “fish” recipes seem to use various types of seaweed to add an oceanic flavor. Personally, I don’t miss eating fish, I just miss eating delicious little flaky fried cakes. So I haven’t made an effort here to make these “taste like fish”. I did add oodles of fresh dill, Old Bay seasoning (which is based on paprika and celery salt), some dijon mustard and of course, a nice helping of vegan mayo to add richness and creaminess. The traditional dish is often served with remoulade, pictured is Just Thousand Island dressing
These vegan crabless cakes are also made with chopped up chickpeas to add a little bit more heartiness, since the banana blossom and/or artichoke hearts don’t have much in the way of calories. The result is a satisfying, crispy, tender, nicely seasoned vegan cake with a little flakiness and lots of flavor. No it does not taste like actual crab. Calibrate your expectations and go forth!
Vegan Crab Cakes with Chickpeas and Dill
No crabs were harmed in the making of these vegan crab-less cakes! Chickpeas, fresh dill, Old Bay, and breadcrumbs come together with banana blossom (or artichoke hearts) for a crispy, flaky, rich and delicious plant-based cake.
This recipe requires a food processor.
- 1 18 oz. can banana blossoms in brine (drained weight 9 oz.) (or use artichoke hearts, see notes)
- 1 and 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (drained from one 14 oz. can)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 shallots thinly sliced (or use 1 small yellow or white onion)
- 4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
- 1/4 cup finely-chopped fresh dill
- 2 tbsp vegan mayo (or use 1 and 1/2 tbsp olive oil)
- 2 tsp prepared mustard
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs (gluten-free if needed)
- neutral oil for pan-frying (or use olive oil, see notes)
Rinse and drain the canned banana blossoms well. Also, rinse and drain the chickpeas and set aside.
Separate the different parts of the banana blossoms: the long, thin floret pieces (bottom left); the petals (top left); and the hearts (right).
Finely chop the different banana blossom pieces. Remove and discard any particularly sinewy petal and floret pieces that don't cut easily. Chopping the different parts separately helps achieve consistent results.
Warm the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the sliced shallots and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened (turn down the heat if starting to brown). Add the Old Bay and cook for 30 seconds more, or until fragrant. Immediately remove from the heat and transfer to your food processor.
Add the chickpeas and chopped banana blossoms to the food processor. Pulse until everything is broken into smaller pieces, about the size of a dried lentil. Stop to scrape down the sides as needed. Transfer to a mixing bowl.
Stir in the fresh dill, vegan mayo, mustard, and finally the breadcrumbs. Taste and add more salt, pepper, and Old Bay as desired.
Turn on your kitchen fan if you have one. Clean out your frying pan from before and heat 1-2 tablespoons of neutral oil over medium heat. Measure out 1/4 cup of the vegan crab cakes mixture and use your hands to squish it into a cake shape. Drop the formed vegan crab cakes into the heated oil, repeating until the pan is filled but not crowded. (I can fit 4 at a time in mine). Crowding the pan will stop them from getting crispy, so don't do it!
Every stove and pan is different, so when first making these pay careful mind to the bottoms burning. Pan-fry the vegan crab cakes for about 3 minutes per side, or until nicely browned on both sides and hot throughout. Serve hot, with vegan remoulade or other sauce/dressing of choice. (I also enjoy them with just ketchup).
OLD BAY: Old Bay is good on most everything and I happily stock it in my pantry. However, if you don't want to buy it just for this recipe, substitute 1/2 tbsp paprika and 1/2 tbsp celery salt for something that's sort of similar.
ARTICHOKE HEARTS VERSION: If you can't find banana blossom, instead use one 14-oz. can of artichoke hearts in water, drained and chopped.
OLIVE OIL: I don't recommend olive oil for pan-frying just because it smokes easily and neutral oils are generally cheaper for this purpose. However, you can use olive oil (and I have in the past too), just be careful not to get it too hot or you'll be scrambling to remove the batteries from your smoke detector.
NUTRITION: Nutrition facts do not include the oil used for frying, which can vary depending on cooking heat and amount.