Happy Crab Cakes

Happy crab... get it? The crab is happy because it's being left alone. Sure, I could call it an artichoke heart cake but that doesn't sound as fun, does it? And quite honestly, it tastes like a crab cake. So I'm sticking to the name. 

Everything about this recipe is very close to the traditional one, but instead of crab meat, I use shredded artichoke hearts (one of the main go to seafood replacements for vegans and non-seafood eaters). For some reason, the fibrous texture of the artichoke hearts works really well for mocking crab meat and with the added bonus of not having to use a highly processed vegan protein. The panko bread crumb coating provides these cakes with a mega crisp and crunch factor, while the filling is succulent, juicy, and packed with flavor. It's precisely what you want when biting into a savory cake of any kind. By using the classic combination of seasonings like Old Bay, dried thyme, and fresh garlic mixed with the holy trinity (celery, bell peppers, and onions), you are left with what seems like the perfect crab cake, just without the crab.

 This recipe is nut free and can be soy free.

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MAKES 16 CAKES (FOr 8 cakes, Halve everything)

INGREDIENTS

2 and 1/2 cups artichoke hearts, drained but not squeezed (glass jarred or canned)

1/4 cup green onions, sliced thinly

1/2 cup sweet onion, minced

2 tablespoons garlic, minced

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 cup Panko breadcrumbs (or homemade)

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon vegan sugar 

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

2 tablespoon chopped parsley

1/4 cup red bell pepper, minced

1/4 cup green bell pepper, minced

1/4 cup celery, minced

3 tablespoons vegan mayo (use soy-free mayo if need be)

1 teaspoon whole grain mustard

1 cup cooked chickpeas, rinsed, drained and mashed (canned or home-cooked)

1 teaspoons dried thyme, crushed

1/4 teaspoons paprika

LET'S GET STARTED

Once you have gathered all of your ingredients and prepped all of the veggies and herbs, combine everything into a large bowl and mix well. Here a few tips to making this mixture perfect. (Shout out to my girl @Purely_Rose for helping me get all these tips figured out!)

1) When mashing the chickpeas, use a potato masher or a fork. Do not over mash or you will end up with hummus. No way, Jose! Keep the texture thick and somewhat chunky. This mash will give the cake some body while also helping to keep it together.

2) When slicing the artichokes, cut them long ways so that you are going in grain with the fibers. This will give you the stringy texture similar to crab meat. 

3) When straining the artichoke hearts, do no rinse or squeeze them. You want all of the juice inside of them to give the mixture moisture, helping it all stick together. 

4) Mix well and let it sit. I would recommend after mixing this mixture well to let it sit in the fridge for at least 1 hour (or overnight) so that all of the juices absorb into the breadcrumbs. This allows everything to combine thoroughly and will help prevent the cakes from falling apart. 

 

I like to assemble all of the ingredients one at a time so I can see everything and make sure I'm not missing anything. It also looks really cool, which is a plus. 

I like to assemble all of the ingredients one at a time so I can see everything and make sure I'm not missing anything. It also looks really cool, which is a plus. 

MIX AND SCOOP:

One everything is mixed thoroughly, use an ice cream scoop to scoop the mixture into mounds on either a cutting board or clean counter top. I recommend an ice cream scoop with a dispenser latch (or whatever you call it!). This is the best thing to use for measuring mixtures like this and especially for baking. It helps to execute recipes easily and ensures that size will be consistent. (I have a set of three different sizes y'all!) When filling the scoop, make sure to pack it full and then scrape the top off to an even level, like you would with a cup of flour. This ensures that they are all the same size and makes the perfect size cake for an individual serving.

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COATING

1 and 1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs

1 teaspoon old bay

1 teaspoon nutritional yeast

1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper

(1/2 cup of olive oil if baking)

SHAPE

Ok, now you need to form these mounds of mixture into cakes. I suggest wetting your hands first with a splash of water so the mixture doesn't stick. Next, roll the mound with both of your hands and squeeze it into a tight ball. Next, press as many breadcrumbs as you can on the exterior of the ball and begin to shape it into a cake, flattening it slightly. You can (and should) apply more breadcrumbs as you go along to make sure you are sticking a good amount on the exterior. This gives the happy crab cakes a super crunchy and crispy exterior, which if you're like me, you live for. Once shaped, set them aside until they are ready to be fried or baked. These can be wrapped and kept in the fridge for a few days or you can freeze them. (I wrap them individually when freezing to save space.) If you are making these for a party, I would recommend making them smaller, so that they are bite size. (Think slightly smaller than a golf ball.) 

TIME TO FRY

You will need:

One large cast iron skillet (or deep fryer)

2 cups vegetable oil (or necessary amount for fryer/fry daddy)

If you are using a skillet, you will need to cook the cakes on each side for 2-3 minutes so that they are fried all around, as they are not being deep fried. Make sure not to cook more than 3 at a time, even in a large pan, as you want them to not be crowded and you don't want to overwhelm the hot oil. It can be finicky!

Once the oil is heated to 350 degrees F you can begin to fry. I recommend using a thermometer or at least test the oil with a few breadcrumbs to make sure it's good and ready. If the oil is not hot enough, the cake will take too long to cook and will become super greasy. Using a thin spatula, gently place the cake in the oil and fry on one side for 2-3 minutes, until golden brown. Then flip the cake gently with the spatula and brown on the other side. If you are using a deep fryer, it should be set at 350 F as well. Gently place the cakes in the basket, and fry the whole cake submerged in oil until golden brown all around, about 4-5 minutes.

Place fried cakes on a plate with a paper towel to absorb excess oil before serving.

OR BAKE

Ok, I'm not going to lie; these are way better fried. But I get it- sometimes you want the healthier option. So if you would like to bake them, be my guest. But you will need to incorporate the breadcrumbs with some olive oil to give them some richness and flavor since they are not being fried. (My friend Isa Chandra taught me this little trick. Thanks Isa!). Once the cakes are formed, place them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake them for 25 minutes. Flip them with a thin spatula and bake them for another 25-35 minutes until they reach your desired crispiness. If they feel too soft to pick up, cook them longer. They should hold their shape once they are thoroughly cooked while still being delicate inside. These are best served immediately and storing them in the fridge after they are baked dries them out, so be aware of that. Or better yet, just don't do it. (wink)

 

REMOULADE (creole dipping sauce)

Now, I know this one looks like a doozy but it's really good! I wanted to combine some of the classic ingredients to the sauce like celery, garlic, and mustard while adding some capers for depth of flavor and horseradish for a slight kick. You'll see the other usual suspects that I love to use like lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and onion powder. Now you can certainly eat these cakes by themselves or with a more simple dressing like vegan mayo mixed with any freshly chopped herb and a splash of lemon juice. But you should give this a go if you want to be cool like me. You can make this a few days in advance and it will keep in fridge for up to a week.

MIX INTO A LARGE BOWL

1 cup vegan mayo (use soy free if need be)

2 teaspoon capers, chopped

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon nutritional yeast

2 teaspoons horseradish

2 tsp lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon Sriracha (or similar hot sauce)

3 teaspoons celery, minced

1 and 1/4 teaspoon paprika

1 tsp sugar

2 tablespoon parsley, chopped fine

2 teaspoon shallots, minced

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced

2 teaspoons whole grain mustard

Mix well and add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for a few hours to let all of the flavors marry for best results.

PLATING

Serve these bad boys immediately! Drizzle the remoulade on top and garnish with sliced green onions, freshly chopped parsley, and a wedge of lemon to squeeze on top. I sprinkled some baby marigold petals on mine for their citrusy flavor and because I have an obsession with edible flowers. Fresh herbs will work too! If you notice below, I dusted some paprika on top of the sauce for an extra pop of color, which is optional. 

OPTIONS

You can make these a few days before you eat them and just store them tightly covered in the fridge. Just fry them up when you are ready to serve. You can also freeze them but be aware that they need to defrost before frying or they might crack...it happened to me!

These cakes work really well in wraps or on top of salads. You can also make them bite sized for parties or events (I've done this for a small wedding and it was perfect).  

I truly hope that you enjoy this recipe. Please let me know what you think and remember to take pictures and tag me on Instagram. I wanna see what you come up with!