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Texas Crab Ball Recipe

It is an unspoken rule that every Texan—young and old, transplant or native, will eventually find themselves spending Spring Break, Mardi Gras, or a long weekend in the sun-soaked beach town of Galveston, Texas.

While there are many famous seafood houses on the island, a cozy, corner side café with a charming tree covered patio has become a local favorite—and for good reason. Crab Balls.

A basket of crab balls dipped in tartar sauce

Crab Cake Balls

Shrimp n’ Stuff features insanely delicious, made from scratch seafood platters, fried crab balls, and po-boys for an excellent price, using local seafood caught daily from Galveston Bay. You really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu but there is one favorite that keeps people talking for months after their vacation and that is their crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, blue crab balls.

I like to describe fried crab balls as the Texas coast version of crab cakes.

They start with the same classic mixture as a typical crab cake recipe of lump crab meat, red bell pepper, green onions, and saltine cracker crumbs, held together with egg and cream.

Rolled crab balls on a baking sheet before breading.

In the southern United States, the crab mixture is rolled into round ball shapes and breaded with panko breadcrumbs, fried until they’re golden brown and served with tartar sauce. So, kind of the same flavor as a crab cake but a different eating experience. Truly one of my favorite appetizer recipes

If you have my cookbook, The Urban Cowgirl, you may remember reading about how I chose a 100-year-old, teeny tiny, fixer upper home on Avenue P, as our first home in Galveston, just to be close to Shrimp n Stuff. (Give me a break, I was pregnant and the whole street smelled like french fries and beignets.)

My copycat Shrimp n’ Stuff crab balls recipe appeared in my cookbook first, and today I’m sharing it with you! So, let’s get started with the main ingredient, the crab meat…

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Blue crab stacked on one another
Blue Crab Stacked

What kind of crab meat should I use in this crab ball recipe?

It’s likely that all of the restaurants in Galveston, Texas are sourcing their seafood locally and are using blue crab. Blue crab is found in the Gulf of Mexico and all along the east coast of the United States.

Crab meat comes in 3 options– jumbo lump, backfin, and claw meat.

Jumbo is the most expensive, followed by backfin and claw meat. I use a combination of backfin and claw meat when I can, but you can use whatever crab meat combination you can find that fits your budget.

You will need 16oz. of large lumps of crabmeat for the crab balls recipe.

How to Make Fried Crispy Crab Balls

A Note About Frying Crab Balls

Now that we have talked about the origin of this yummy recipe and what kind of crabmeat to use, it’s time to get busy putting our recipe together. They come together easily and use a deep fryer to form a light, crisp outside to contrast the creamy crab on the inside.

I have a countertop fryer (the Delonghi Fryer I talked about all the time) but if you don’t fry that often you can use a large stock pot filled halfway with any standard frying oil such as peanut oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, or whatever you liked to use.

A countertop fryer
A countertop fryer is great for frying, but a stockpot with oil works well too.

After creating the crab balls, we cook at 325-350 degrees, followed by draining well of any grease on paper towel-lined baking sheets.

For best results, the breaded crab balls should be slightly chilled, as room temperature balls fall apart easier. 

Ingredients For Crab Balls

  • Crab meat
  • Large eggs
  • Saltine cracker crumbs
  • Cream
  • Old Bay Seasoning
  • Butter
  • White onion
  • Green bell pepper
  • Red bell pepper
  • Celery
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Fresh parsley

Egg Wash:

  • Egg
  • Water

Batter:

  • Flour
  • Panko bread crumbs
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Accompaniments:

Lemon Wedges, Hot Sauce, Tartar Sauce or Other Favorite Dipping Sauce

Making The Balls

To make the crab recipe, we’ll start with the filling. Add the lump crabmeat into a mixing bowl and add a classic combination of saltine crackers (crumbs), milk, and egg into a large bowl as a binder.

A bowl of crab ball batter

Mix that well with your fingers. (I like to use gloves.)

Add all the veggies into a saute pan over medium heat and sweat them. They just need a quick warm-up in the butter. Let them cool slightly, then add them to the crab mixture. Place crabmeat mixture into the refrigerator and prepare for scooping.

I use my 1 oz. ball scoop to make the crab balls similarly sized. This tool works perfectly for everything from meatballs to cookie dough.

I portion out the scoops and form the balls by rolling them in my hands. Then I put them in the freezer for a bit on a parchment paper lined baking sheet while I prepare my fryer. They don’t need to freeze solid, they just need to cool a bit since may be warm from rolling around in your hands and this helps firm them up.

Crab balls being breaded in panko, in a dish.
Bread the crab balls in panko and chill before frying.

Breading The Crab Balls

For the breading and frying portion of this recipe, you will want to set up the standard breading procedure of 1 small bowl of all-purpose flour, 1 bowl of egg wash (combine egg with 1 tablespoon water or milk and whisk well), and a separate bowl of panko bread crumbs.

The crab balls should be removed from the freezer and rolled in flour, then rolled in the egg wash, and then dredged in panko bread crumbs. 

Afterward, transfer breaded crab balls to a sheet pan in a single layer until all of the crab balls have been breaded. I place them in the freezer on my cookie sheet anytime I am not working with them to keep them firm.

To fry the crab balls, I am using my Delonghi Deep Fryer. I bought this “used” on Amazon from a reseller but it arrived in mint condition–obviously never before used. I can’t say that will always happen but it was a pleasant surprise and I have found it is a great way to get a discount on appliances.

Fried crab balls in a fryer.
Fry crab balls to a golden brown.

Before I purchased the deep fryer, I fried my crab balls in a stockpot filled halfway with high smoke point oil (such as sunflower, canola, peanut) and this is a perfectly fine method.

If you are using the stockpot frying method you will love this inexpensive infrared thermometer which gives you a reading on the oil with just the click of a button.

Bring the fryer oil up to 325-350 degrees.

When it achieves that temperature, fry several balls until golden brown. Then place them on a plate lined with paper towels to drain the extra oil.

How to Store Crab Balls

If you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Reheat them in the air fryer for a quick crisping up when you have a craving.

Can Crab Balls Be Frozen?

Crab balls can be breaded and frozen on a baking sheet, when each ball is fully frozen transfer to a freezer-safe zip lock baggie. To cook, drop the frozen balls into the fryer at 350 degrees and cook until golden brown.

A crab ball being dipped in sauce.

This fun dish is perfect for a light meal or the perfect appetizer for a summer meal or date night at home. Game days are the perfect time for this party appetizer! They are so rich and delicious, you’ll feel like you’re visiting the shore when you pop one in your mouth!!

Have questions? Need help? Have an addition or a suggestion to a recipe? Drop me a comment below!

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A crab ball sliced in half on a black background with parsley and lemon
Yield: 20-24, 1 oz. balls

Texas Crab Balls Recipe

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

These crispy on the outside, feather-light on the inside, crab balls are a famous appetizer in the popular coastal city of Galveston, Texas! Make them at home using this easy recipe and learn how to batch-freeze plenty for parties and game day!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. crab meat (I use 8 oz. claw meat, 8 oz. back-fin)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 c. crushed saltine cracker crumbs
  • ¾ c. cream
  • 1/4 t. salt or Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1 T. butter
  • 1/3 c. white onion, very fine dice
  • ¼ c. green bell pepper, very fine dice
  • ¼ c. red bell pepper, very fine dice
  • ¼ c. celery (about 1 stalk), very fine dice
  • ¼ t. kosher salt
  • ¼ t. black pepper
  • ½ t. garlic powder
  • 1 T. fresh parsley

Egg Wash:

  • 1 egg
  • ¼ c. water

Batter Station:

  • ½ c. flour
  • 2 c. panko bread crumbs
  • 1-quart fresh oil for frying
  • Accompaniments:
  • Tartar sauce, lemons, hot sauce, etc.

Instructions

1. In a large bowl combine the whisked egg, crab meat, cream, and crushed saltine cracker crumbs. Season with 1/4 t. of salt or Old Bay seasoning, if desired.

2. Finely dice all of the veggies and heat 1 T. butter in a small saute pan. Add the onion, bell peppers and celery and cook over medium heat 4-5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper and garlic powder. Continue to cook the veggies until they are soft and wilted. Turn off the heat and set them aside to cool slightly.  

3. Mince 1 T. fresh parsley and add to the bowl of crab mixture along with the vegetables. Use your hands to mix and fold the mixture together. Using a 1 oz. meatball scoop or your hands scoop out balls of the mixture, roll between your palms until it is firm, and place on a lightly greased baking sheet.

You should have 22-24 balls. Freeze for 30 minutes to 1 hour. 

4. Pour the flour onto a plate, whisk the egg with the water in a bowl, and pour the breadcrumbs onto another plate, creating a breading station for the crab balls.

5. Pour the oil into a medium sauce pan and heat to 350 degrees. 

6. Slice any lemons and pour tartar or cocktail sauce into small bowls. 

7. When the balls are firm, remove them from the freezer. They should be chilled to a more solid-state, but not frozen. Take a crab ball and roll it first in flour, then dunk it in egg wash, then roll it in panko bread crumbs. Set aside and repeat with the remaining balls.  Chill in the freezer if soft.

8. Fry the balls, several at a time for about 4 to 5 minutes at approximately 350 degrees.

9. Remove the balls with tongs when they are golden brown. Drain over a cooling rack or on paper towels. Salt well and serve immediately. 

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