Air Fryer Imitation Crab Cakes With Chipotle Sauce

I remember making
 imitation crab cakes when my kids were young that I really enjoyed. Let's face it, crab cakes made with REAL crab are much better, but the cost is way higher. The imitation crab option worked great for our budget and the kids didn't care.

While shopping in mid-December for things to make while my daughter was here over the holidays, I saw a package of imitation crab and decided to try them again. Unfortunately I couldn't find that amazing recipe I used so many years ago.  What to do?  Why a Google Search of course!

I was instantly drawn to the idea of an air fryer recipe and this one by Maya Ferrante for Food Network rose to the top. Below I am sharing the original with my notes added so anyone who want to can use real fresh crab meat.  Could I just substitute the imitation product?  I had no idea but it was worth a try. I also was going to mix them up, freeze them, and then pull them out while my company was here. Make ahead meals are always a good idea for company

The final product taste
d great, but didn't hold together very well  The shred was too large no matter how much I tried.  When I make it again I will need change my prep - chopping perhaps or maybe a few pulses in the food processor before shaping the mixture into patties. I also cooked the crab cakes in the air fryer from frozen and had to guess at the timing. I went a little too long. 

Instead of the sauce they created, I used the Culinary Treasure's Chipotle Aioli, bought in a two-pack at Costco.  Just a dollop on top did the trick.  I have included the original recipe's sauce below as it's super easy. I have made something like it  before, but subbed yogurt for the sour cream.  You could also just add fresh dill and maybe a squeeze of lemon to the mayo/sour cream mix. 


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Air Fryer Imitation Crab Cakes 

Ingredients -

Crab Cakes:
1                     Large egg
1/3 C              Mayonnaise
1/2 C              Finely diced red bell pepper (about 1 small bell pepper)
2 T                 Chopped fresh chives
2 T                 Chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp               Grated lemon zest plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tsps             Dijon mustard
2 tsps             Seafood seasoning, such as Old Bay
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound fresh lump or jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
            NOTE - I subbed 1 pound of imitation crab meat
3/4 C              Panko breadcrumbs
Nonstick cooking spray, for the air-fryer basket and crab cakes
Lemon wedges, for serving

Chipotle Sauce - 
NOTE - I used Culinary Treasure's Chipotle Aioli instead of making my own
1/2 C               Mayonnaise
1/4 C               Sour cream (could sub yogurt for less calories)
2                     Chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, finely chopped
2 tsps              Adobo sauce

Instructions - 

For the crab cakes: 
Whisk together the egg, mayonnaise, bell pepper, chives, parsley, lemon zest and juice, mustard, seafood seasoning, 1 teaspoon salt and several grinds of black pepper in a large bowl. With a rubber spatula or large spoon, very gently fold the crab (or imitation crab) and panko into the mixture. Try to avoid breaking up lumps of crab as much as possible. 

Cover the crab mixture with plastic wrap and allow to rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day. This will allow the panko to absorb more liquid and help bind the crab cakes together better. To freeze I prepared a cooking sheet and dropped large mounds onto it, covered them with plastic wrap and then placed in the freezer. When frozen, I moved them all into a Ziploc Freezer bag so I could pull out a few at a time. 

For the chipotle sauce: (I used store bought!)
While the crab mixture is resting, stir together the mayonnaise, sour cream, chipotles and adobo sauce, chives, parsley and lemon zest and juice in a small bowl until combined. Season with salt and black pepper and set aside. (The sauce can be refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap, up to 1 day.)

Cooking - Original recipe:
Just before cooking, divide the crab-cake mixture into 4 portions. Lightly compact each portion to form a patty (about 3 1/2 inches in diameter) with your hands to ensure they hold their shape while cooking and place onto a large plate.
Preheat the air fryer to 375 degrees F and spray the basket with cooking spray. Place the crab cakes into the basket and spray the tops with cooking spray. Cook until deep golden brown and crisp, flipping halfway through and spraying again with cooking spray, about 16 minutes. Serve warm with chipotle sauce and lemon wedges.

Cooking - From Frozen:
I preheated the air fryer to 350 (chose a little lower temp as I was cooking from frozen) and sprayed the basket with cooking spray.  I pulled 4 cakes from the freezer and placed in one layer in the basket.  I cooked them for 10 min., checked them and cooked more.  How much longer you cook them really depends on the size of the crab cakes and how dense. My imitation ones were less dense, so they seemed to cook faster than those above. AND they weren't dense enough to flip, so had to stay on the same side.  Again, I will update this when I get to try them again.