This Maryland crab imperial recipe is a simple, no-fancy-ingredients, traditional recipe.
Crab Imperial is a wonderfully rich, creamy crab dish resembling a ‘crab casserole’ but baked and served in individual vessels.
By adding the rich and creamy elements of mayonnaise and cheese to the slightly sweet and savory flavor of fresh crab meat, and topping with crunchy bread crumbs, it’s clear why this is a popular dish.
Traditional Maryland Crab Imperial Recipe
I didn’t know this, but when I set out to find the best Maryland crab imperial recipe, I quickly discovered that there are several variations.
Just like with recipes for crab cakes, (and mine happens to be the best!) recipes for crab imperial are aplenty!
As a matter of fact, I actually made a different crab imperial recipe before I decided to make this one.
That recipe was perfectly fine, but it just wasn’t what I was looking for.
I wanted something that was rich, but not too rich, and flavorful, but not overpowering.
In addition, another criteria was that it had to live up to my husband’s idea of good.
Just typing that makes me feel like I’m a 50’s housewife.
However, I really wanted it to be good for him because he grew up with his mom making the best crab imperial on special occasions like Christmas Eve.
My husband’s mom was an incredible home cook and everything she made was delicious.
So, I really wanted to bring back memories of his childhood through this recipe.
I can’t think of a better way to honor his mom by making this classic dish from the Eastern Shore of Maryland and bringing back this treasured memory.
But, because I couldn’t find my husband’s mom’s recipe, I found an easy recipe for Simple Imperial Crab on a site called Maryland Delivered.
It’s a great site for Maryland recipe lovers like me.
However, I did tweak the recipe a little bit in order to make it my own.
So, I’m going to give you the steps required for making this delicious crab dish.
- Premium Lump Crabmeat (preferably the type of crab meat is from Maryland’s blue crabs)
- 2% Milk
- Unseasoned Bread Crumbs
- Dry Mustard
- Sliced Pimientos
- Black Pepper
- Old Bay Seasoning (not pictured) – or a fantastic Old Bay substitute, also made in Maryland
How To Make Crab Imperial
Step 1: Prepare the White Sauce
To make the crab imperial sauce, melt butter and add the flour and milk to a small saucepan and mix well.
Then, heat the sauce mixture over low heat to medium heat while stirring until the sauce thickens and is fully blended.
After that, let it cool slightly.
Step 2: Mix Ingredients Into the White Sauce
Then, in a large mixing bowl, mix in your main ingredient, the pound of crab meat (preferably jumbo lump crab meat) with pimientos, mayonnaise (3 tablespoons or a little less than one quarter of a cup mayonnaise), dry mustard and beaten egg.
After that, mix the imperial mixture in the large bowl until it’s well blended.
Step 3: Spoon Crab Mixture Into Individual Baking Dishes or Shells
This is one of the mistakes I made the first time I made the other crab imperial recipe.
I didn’t have baking dishes for individual portions, so I put the entire recipe into one big casserole dish.
For some reason, making it in one big baking dish just isn’t the same as having your very own dish of amazing crab imperial sitting in front of you.
So I decided to get these individual ramekins, set of 4 Mini Cocotte Casserole Dishes (Amazon).
I absolutely love them for this type of recipe and they come in a variety of colors!
Also, they’re oven, microwave & dishwasher safe.
Particularly, these work well when you’re serving smaller portions as an appetizer.
So you can decide which baking vessels you prefer to bake them in!
Step 4: Sprinkle Bread Crumbs & Old Bay Seasoning
I used very fine bread crumbs and it turned out great!
But I might try larger bread crumbs next time.
My husband thinks that his Mom might have even just cut up pieces of bread to place on top of each serving, which sounds really good!
Step 5: Add Very Thin Pats of Butter to Cover Each Dish
The butter is important because it will crisp up the bread crumbs while baking.
But you don’t need a lot of butter, so make the slices as thin as possible to cover all of the bread crumbs.
Step 6: Bake in the Oven
Now it’s time to bake your delectable creations in the oven.
I baked them in a 350 degree F oven for 15 minutes and then another 4 minutes on broil in order to brown the tops.
Be sure to keep a close eye on them though because you don’t want the bread crumb mixture to burn.
How it Tastes
So, I made this before my husband got home in order to take advantage of the natural light from the beautiful day.
Not gonna lie, I took a bite….and then another bite….and then another.
Luckily I made 4 portions and there are only 3 of us humans in this household.
Sorry Sarge, (my dog) but you can’t have the 4th one!
The taste of the crab combined with the other ingredients is amazing!
This crab imperial is now one of my favorite recipes!
The white sauce was just the right amount of creaminess.
In addition, the crab imperial topping of buttery bread crumbs was crisped up perfectly to a golden brown color.
Also, the dry mustard was just enough to add that extra layer of spice to the dish.
In addition, the sliced pimientos (which I cut up into smaller pieces) are just the right amount of texture along with the lump crab meat.
Serve this crab imperial with baguette slices and you’ve got yourself a ta-die-for meal.
Tips & Substitutions
- Don’t buy the pimientos already diced. To me, already diced pimientos are basically like tiny skins from the pepper and don’t have any substance. Sliced pimientos still have some texture to them even after you dice them.
- Fresh lemon juice
- Parmesan cheese lightly sprinkled on top
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Chopped red bell peppers, green bell peppers, sautéed peppers instead of pimientos
- Cayenne pepper, red pepper, or other seafood seasoning instead of Old Bay Seasoning
- Bread cubes, crushed up Ritz Crackers or other cracker crumbs instead of breadcrumbs
- You can use a different type of crabmeat like backfin crab meat, but it’s finer in texture and not as delectable as jumbo lump crab meat
- White Pepper instead of black pepper
Last but not least, the Old Bay Seasoning is the perfect accompaniment to this recipe.
No, I’m not in a partnership with Old Bay for singing their praises in all of my seafood recipes.
Although, I wish that I was!
Crab meat and Old Bay Seasoning just go together like chocolate and peanut butter.
Traditional Maryland Crab Imperial Recipe
Maryland Crab Imperial Recipe
- 4 tbsp Butter
- 3 tbsp Flour
- 1 cup Milk
- 1 lb Crab Meat, Lump
- 1 Egg, beaten
- ½ cup Pimiento, diced , Buy it sliced and dice it yourself
- 3 tbsp Mayonnaise
- 1 tsp Dry Mustard
- Salt & Pepper, to taste
- Old Bay Seasoning, to taste
- ½ cup Bread Crumbs or Sliced Bread broken up into small pieces
- Butter, thinly sliced
- Add butter, flour, and milk to a sauce pan and heat over medium heat, while stirring, until it's well blended and thickens. Allow to cool slightly.
- Transfer your white sauce to a large bowl and mix in the crab meat, beaten egg, pimiento, mayonnaise, dry mustard, salt & pepper.
- Place mixture into 4 crab shells, scallop shells, or individual baking dishes.
- Sprinkle equal amounts of bread crumbs, Old Bay Seasoning, & thin slices of butter to cover the tops of each serving.
- Bake in 350 degree fahrenheit oven for approximately 15 minutes. Then turn your oven on broil for 3 to 4 minutes, while keeping a close eye on them, to brown the tops.
For more amazingly delicious, traditional Maryland, easy crab recipes, click on over to: