Vegan Crabcakes Even a Marylander Can Love

Not long ago, I was fortunate enough to meet and receive first-hand advice from “The Conscious Cook” author, Tal Ronnen, during his private visit to Tokyo. Chef Tal mentioned that tempeh was his preferred meat analog, and that the secret for making tempeh flavorful was braising for a really long time.

Although I wanted to try the Old Bay Tofu Cake recipe from Tal’s cookbook, I already had tempeh and all the other ingredients necessary to make the Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes from “Vegan Brunch”.

Following Chef Tal’s advice, I braised the tempeh for about an hour (vs 12-15 minutes in the original recipe). As a result, I noticed the consistency and taste were closer to those of real crab cakes, compared with my previous attempts.

In place of separate spices used in the Vegan Brunch recipe, I substituted a homemade Old Bay seasoning recipe whose authentic taste triggered childhood memories of eating Chesapeake crabs at the seashore!



8 ounces tempeh

1 cup water

1 T soy sauce

1 T olive oil

1 bay leaf

3 T vegan mayonnaise

1 T whole-grain mustard

2 T bay seasoning (see below for recipe, or use original packaged mix)

1 T hot pepper sauce

1 T red wine vinegar

1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs (preferably whole-wheat)

1 finely chopped nori sheet or 1 T kelp granules

oil for panfrying


Crumble tempeh in a saucepan. Add water, soy sauce, bay leaf, and oil. Cover and bring to a boil, and continue for 1 hour, or until most of water has evaporated, stirring occasionally.

Transfer contents to mixing bowl and mash with a fork. Let cool for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When almost cool, add vegan mayonnaise, mustard, hot pepper sauce, vinegar, bell pepper, and Bay seasoning, and mix well. Add panko and nori (or kelp granules), if using.

Scoop about 1/4 cup batter and form a ball, then flatten and shape into ten 2 1/2-3 inch patties.

Press them into panko to coat lightly, and place 5 patties at-a-time into a skillet preheated with a small amount of oil.

Fry 4 minutes on one side, then flip and fry 2 minutes on the other side, draining on a paper towel when done.

Panfry the second batch of 5 cakes and serve with lemon wedges and remoulade

Remoulade sauce

2 T vegan mayonnaise

1 T whole-grain mustard

1 T hot pepper sauce

2 t capers (drained)


Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.

Bay Seasoning:

2 T bay leaf powder (I ground up several bay leaves in the blender until fine-may take 2-3 minutes)

2 T celery salt

1 T dried mustard

2 t fresh ground black pepper

2 t ground ginger

2 t paprika (smoked paprika, if available)

1 t fresh ground white pepper

1 t ground nutmeg

1 t ground cloves

1 t ground allspice

1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 t ground mace

1/2 t ground cardamon

1/4 t ground cinnamon


Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

2 thoughts on “Vegan Crabcakes Even a Marylander Can Love

  1. Jim Dunlop

    Hey Will,

    Thanks for the crab cake recipe. Definitely on the “gotta try” list… But listen. Dude. I’m craving shrimp!!!! Specifically, shrimp cocktail…. Ugh! Right?

    I found a nice cocktail sauce recipe… which is easy enough (and vegan) but what the hell am I going to do with vegan cocktail sauce with no shrimp??? So I’ve been doing a bit of research to see if there’s a vegan alternative. Turns out there is, but only if you live in the U.S., and even then, THEY import it from Taiwan.

    So I’ve been thinking…. Maybe I can MAKE some imitation shrimp… The commercially available stuff is pretty simply ingredients-wise. Seems that the main ingredient is konnyaku flour (a.k.a. こんにゃく粉) along with gluten, potato starch, sugar, and spices. So I’m thinking…. I’m going to try and make some. Shouldn’t be SO hard, right? I’ve sourced some konnyaku flour; there’s even a local manufacturer of it here in Yamanashi. And the rest of the ingredients should be available in just about any supermarket. Anyway, have you ever attempted such a thing? If so, let me know so I don’t make any dumb mistakes. Lol.


  2. william Post author

    What specific quality of shrimp is it that you miss? Having not eaten seafood (meat, chicken, etc) for 6 years, I had reached the conclusion that it was seasonings and sauces that give dishes their characteristic taste. For example, the Chesapeake bay seasoning, Remoulade sauce, and fresh lemon used on these tempeh crabcakes.
    It shouldn’t be too difficult to make something that resembles shrimp using konnyaku (yam) flour, as you suggested, but you may have to refrain from real shrimp some time before you will be satisfied with the taste of vegan renditions.
    At least that’s how I was with non-dairy cheese substitutes, until I gave up “real” cheese a few months. Similarly, I can enjoy a tofu scramble more than I ever enjoyed scrambled eggs. Or sushi made of plant-based ingredients as much as any toro (fatty tuna).
    My first thought for “making shrimp” was to use seitan (recipe below), but the flavoring (kelp) is the same for scallops, fish, clams AND shrimp so it’s just a texture and shape analog.
    This recipe for vegan shrimp paste uses Marmite, so you may want to experiment with that, or try some other cultured soy or nutritional yeast products, for the shrimpy smell.
    I’m sure food scientists have developed chemical compounds that taste exactly like shrimp (watch this 60 Minutes clip “Tweaking tastes and creating cravings” to see how) but you’d be healthier eating real shrimp.
    Good luck, and let me know how you go!

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