Chipotle Spiced Crab Cakes With Tomatillo-Avocado Sauce

A basic crab cake recipe is a terrific foundation on which a wide variety of flavor combinations can be built. Just by changing a few ingredients in the mixture and preparing a complementing sauce, you can create new, ethnically-inspired meals. This recipe combines a bit of smoky heat from chipotle peppers with a sauce made from citrusy tomatillos and creamy avocado, giving the dish an overall Mexican flair.

Chipotle Spiced Crab Cakes With Tomatillo-Avocado Sauce

Chipotle Spiced Crab Cakes With Tomatillo-Avocado Sauce

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These Mexican-inspired crab cakes are flavored with chipotle chilis and topped with a sauce of tomatillos and avocado.


  • 1 lb lump crabmeat
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons celery, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce, pureéd (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 to 2-1/2 cups panko crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, thinly sliced
  • 8 or 10 small tomatillos, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar, or sugar
  • 2 ripe avocados, cut into small cubes
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped


Prepare the crab cakes:

  • Place the crabmeat in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs, mayonnaise, celery, red pepper, sweet onion, cilantro, lime juice, chipotle pureé and salt. Combine thoroughly, then add the panko crumbs in 1/2 cup increments until the mixture reaches a consistency that will hold together when formed into patties.
  • To form the crab cakes, gently pack some of the mixture into a 1/3 cup measure that has been sprayed with nonstick coating. Turn it upside down and tap gently until the formed crab cake comes out; then, using your hands, gently firm the patty and place on a plate. Repeat with the remaining crab mixture and refrigerate the formed patties for 30 minutes to one hour. While the crab cakes are chilling, make the sauce.

Prepare the sauce:

  • Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and jalapeños and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatillos and salt and simmer until the tomatillos soften and break down and the mixture thickens (about 12 to 15 minutes). Transfer to a shallow dish and set aside to cool.
  • In a small bowl, toss the cubed avocado with the lime juice and 1 tablespoon of the cilantro and set aside.

Fry the crab cakes:

  • Heat the 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the crab cakes in a single layer and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to a serving platter and keep warm while cooking the remaining crab cakes.
  • To serve, combine the avocados with the tomatillo mixture, then spoon a small amount of the sauce on top of each crab cake. Put the the balance of the sauce in a serving bowl. Garnish the crab cakes with the remaining cilantro if desired.

Tips for Making This Recipe

Recipe Notes:

The quantity of chipotle pureé we used in this recipe lends a very mild heat and smoky flavor that doesn’t conflict with or overpower the flavors in the sauce. If you think you’d prefer a bit more heat, try adding a finely chopped jalapeño to the crab mixture rather than additional chipotle pureé in order to keep the dish in balance.

More crab cake recipes:

 Quick Baked Crab Cakes
 Pan-Asian Crab Cakes With Two Dipping Sauces
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