Best Maryland Crab Soup Recipe Ever

Updated on September 7, 2017

Charlie's Maryland-Style Crab Soup

Sure, you can go to a restaurant in Pennsylvania or New York and order a cup or bowl of Maryland-Style Crab Soup, but if you're a native from the land of pleasant living, these soups don't compare.

I shudder to think how you fare with a can from the grocery store, no matter how much you paid for it. Are you craving the distinct delicious flavors of a real Maryland-Style Crab Soup? This recipe is for you, the connoisseur who wants the flavors of Baltimore, Annapolis and other towns surrounding the Chesapeake Bay.

Your spoon will always have crab.
Your spoon will always have crab. | Source

A note about prep and cook times: prep time can be shorter or faster depending on how you prep your vegetables and whether or not you are picking fresh crab.

It will be longer if you're picking fresh crab, shorter if not, and shorter if using a chopper or food processor for your vegetables.

Regarding cook time: two hours is sufficient, but if you simmer it for longer, the flavors only get better. You be the judge—taste as you go!

This recipe is presented the best way a crab-soup lover knows how: as if they were there, smelling it, wanting to eat it already. Go with your gut and your taste buds—have they ever steered you wrong?

Cook Time

Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 2 hours
Ready in: 2 hours 30 min
Yields: Approximately 1 gallon

Ingredients and How to Prep Them

  • 1.5 to 2 c celery, sliced
  • 1.5 to 2 c carrots, cut in small pieces
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • approx 3 c potato, diced (small, bite-size pieces, skin on)
  • 1 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes, with juices/water

additional vegetables:

  • corn is a must, but from there use what you like. Some versions throw in slices of corn on the cob – about half-inch disks – which makes a nice presentation. Only a few, though. My husband, the chef, prefers a bag of succotash (the lima beans of which are in the photo above), but you can throw in what you like, such as peas and green beans. To be traditional we do not recommend straying too far from these, although folks in Baltimore sometimes throw in cabbage. Fresh is best if you can, but frozen is a great substitute.

14.5 oz. can of beef broth, or about that much from boxed broth (bouillon cubes don’t cut it)

1/2 lb beef bone

  • ox tail, neck bone or whatever you can get. It needn’t be expensive. You don’t need a lot, half a pound or so is fine. I like to cut some of the meat off into small pieces.

1 lb crab (at least), lump and claw.

  • A good ratio is about 3:1, lump to claw. If you can, go fresh, and pick at some steamed crabs to get what you need. The folks at Wharf Rat in Fells Point, MD, throw in a few whole claws, which is a great touch. Second best would be fresh picked and packed crab. Third best is canned, but don’t use the stuff you find on the shelf. Look for it in the seafood section of your grocer, crab house, or seafood market. The good canned stuff is refrigerated. Phillips Seafood makes good versions of Special and Claw, which is what my husband uses when we can’t go fresh.

2+ tbsp Old Bay Seafood seasoning, or a good alternative like Wye River. You will need at least two tablespoons, more if you like the flavor.

1 bunch fresh parsley; 1 tbsp if using dried

2 or 3 bay leaves.

Sea salt and fresh pepper to taste.

  • Real Maryland Crab Soup is quite peppery. At the Wharf Rat, you can see the pepper flakes on top.

Small amount of oil (about 1 tbsp) – canola is good. I recommend one that is flavorless.

Fresh water

Ingredients (SHORT VERSION)

  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups celery, sliced
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups carrots, cut in small pieces
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • About 3 cups potatoes, diced (small, bite-size pieces, skin on)
  • Additional vegetables (see note below)
  • 14.5 oz. can beef broth, fresh or from boxed broth (bouillon cubes don't cut it)
  • 1/2 lb beef bone, ox tail, neck bone or whatever you can get
  • 1 lb crab (at least), lump and claw, 3:1 ratio of lump to claw is good
  • 2+ tablespoons Old Bay Seafood seasoning, or a good alternative, like Wye River
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, 1 tablespoon, if dried
  • 2 or 3 bay leaves
  • Sea salt and fresh pepper to taste, (Wharf Rat serves it really peppery)
  • Small amount of flavorless oil, (I like Canola)
  • Water
  • 28 oz. can Tomatoes, in water

Notes on the Ingredients

Vegetables

  • For the vegetables, corn is a must, but from there use what you like. Some versions throw in slices of corn on the cob – about half-inch disks – which makes a nice presentation. Only a few, though.
  • My husband, the chef, prefers a bag of succotash (the lima beans of which are in the photo above), but you can throw in what you like, such as peas and green beans.
  • To be traditional we do not recommend straying too far from these, although folks in Baltimore sometimes throw in cabbage. Fresh is best if you can, but frozen is a great substitute.

Crab Meat

  • Regarding the crab meat, the folks at Wharf Rat in Fells Point, MD, throw in a few whole claws, which is a great touch. Second best would be fresh picked and packed crab. Third best is canned, but don’t use the stuff you find on the shelf.
  • Look for it in the seafood section of your grocer, crab house, or seafood market. The good canned stuff is refrigerated. Phillips Seafood makes good versions of Special and Claw, which is what my husband uses when we can’t go fresh.

Other Tips

  • Real Maryland Crab Soup is quite peppery. At the Wharf Rat, you can see the pepper flakes on top.
  • I like to cut some of the meat off the beef bone into small pieces.

How to Do It

  1. Heat a large soup pot to a tad hotter than medium, adding enough oil to coat the bottom. Add beef bone and any pieces you cut off. Once it starts to sizzle, add celery, carrot, and onion. Sauté long enough for the beef around the bone to brown slightly, and for the celery and onions to become a little transparent.
  2. When the beef is browned and the veggies are about ready, add fresh water – filtered or spring – to cover your ingredients. The water should go no higher than one half inch above the bone and veggies. Throw in your bay leaves and most of your parsley. Salt slightly. Turn up the heat a touch, letting it just get to a boil. Once this happens turn it down to simmer.  Cover, and let cook for about half an hour to forty-five minutes or so, stirring occasionally.
  3. Meanwhile, parboil your potatoes: put them in a pot of cold water, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium for five minutes.  After five minutes, strain and set to the side.
  4. When the beef stock has cooked sufficiently, add the can of tomatoes. Also add the can of beef broth. At this point, add some seafood seasoning. Heat to just below boil. Try to break apart the tomatoes as they cook. Add your vegetables, including the potatoes. My husband likes to let this mix cook for a short while – maybe fifteen minutes or so – before adding the crab.
  5. Add the crab, then add more seafood seasoning, parsley, and some black pepper. Let this all cook for a while, stirring often. After cooking for a half hour or so take a taste: you may wish to add more seafood seasoning, salt, and pepper. You may also wish to add a little more water. At some point after the soup has been cooking for a while, remove the beef bones.

Serve Hot

It’s good to grind some fresh black pepper on your portion. Serve with oyster crackers, saltines, or bread.

Enjoy!

3 stars from 549 ratings of Maryland-Style Crab Soup
Try not to eat your screen. Objects ARE as delicious as they appear.
Try not to eat your screen. Objects ARE as delicious as they appear. | Source

Inspiration

This recipe is inspired from several recipes, including one from John Shields’ Chesapeake Bay Cooking and the classic Chesapeake Bay Fish & Foul Cook Book. It is also inspired by my husband's favorite Maryland crab soups eaten over the years as a native Marylander, including that from The Wharf Rat in Fells Point, Baltimore, MD, and Miller’s Market in Manchester, MD.

This is a great recipe for folks in places where fresh Maryland crab is scarce, or in the winter when fresh ingredients are hard to get or are prohibitively expensive. Realizing that fresh is always best, my husband tried to come up with something that is adaptable when you can’t get fresh crab or veggies.

Go get thee to the grocer! It's CRAB SOUP TIME!
Go get thee to the grocer! It's CRAB SOUP TIME! | Source

Questions & Answers

    Comments

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      • profile image

        Sara Turner 

        2 weeks ago

        ALWAYS cabbage AND okra!!!

        OF COURSE, THERE MUST BE Half crab bodies & whole claws, already steamed, as well!!!

      • profile image

        Carl Miller 825 

        7 weeks ago

        I use this recipe as a base every time I cook crab soup. However I use a 22 qt. pot so I have to adjust the amount of ingredients. I include 2 lbs of bacon in mine and also spicy V-8 does wonders instead of water only. Thank you for the recipe... I have officially perfected my version!

      • profile image

        Julie 

        3 months ago

        Made this last night and it was a HIT!! Fun and simple to make, honestly the best MD crab soup I've ever tasted and I live in Maryland!

      • profile image

        Dawnn 

        4 months ago

        Sooooo easy and soooo delicious! This recipe is a keeper!

      • profile image

        Adrian 

        5 months ago

        I’ve been eating this all my life! I’m just a lucky guy....slurp......OH Pardon Please

      • profile image

        Mary Hamlin Smith 

        6 months ago

        Will cook soup soon, looks delicious.

      • profile image

        brittany 

        9 months ago

        this is amazing!!!! so yummy :) my husband and i loved this recipe!

      • profile image

        Randy 

        11 months ago

        Don't see how much tomatoes to add - am I missing something?

      • profile image

        MollyMac 

        17 months ago

        Love this soup! I've made it 5 times now in my electric pressure cooker. Turns out perfectly, I put the potatoes in the microwave until par cooked, then I add everything to the pot and cook for 5 mins. Thank you for the great recipe!

      • profile image

        Bonnie 

        17 months ago

        I just made a big pot of this soup and it is absolutely the best Maryland crab soup I have ever eaten. And yes - I live in Maryland. Thank you so much for this amazing recipe!

      • profile image

        Rob 

        19 months ago

        Why do you not have tomato listed? That is the main ingredient in MD Crab Soup.

      • profile image

        Denise 

        19 months ago

        A friend gave me a recipe that uses V-8 juice instead of tomatoes. although I think last Christmas I did put diced tomatoes in. I also used canned beef broth if I can't make my own. Last Christmas was the first time I made it. I always made Cream of Crab each year. Everyone like the MD crab better.

      • BigSerious profile imageAUTHOR

        Christen Roberts Comer 

        21 months ago from Harrisburg, PA

        Add one can of diced tomatoes, or whole peeled tomatoes, chopped. I prefer tomatoes that are not flavored - let the stock do that flavoring.

      • profile image

        David Gadabout 

        21 months ago

        I don't see tomatoes listed in the recipe. Do you use just whole peeled canned tomatoes? What size?

      • profile image

        mary stafford 

        21 months ago

        I'm making this soup today smells amazing cant wait to have a bowl, I didn't know you good buy seafood broth I will have to look for it, thank you for the recipe is awesome easy to do.

      • profile image

        Craig 

        24 months ago

        Although I've made MD crab soup a few times in the past I always forget exactly what goes in it and how much of everything...this recipe looks right on the money and I'm so glad you have it out there...making a double or triple batch for a 30 person party this weekend! Thanks so much!

      • profile image

        Justin 

        2 years ago

        Do we absolutely need the beef bone? What's a good sub if so?

        Also, what would be the best method to use a slow cooker?? It says sautéing in the soup pan, but could I do it in the crockpot?

        Thanks!!

      • profile image

        Shelby 

        2 years ago

        I made this tonight and it was absolutely AMAZING! Great recipe - Thank you!

      • profile image

        Ryan 

        2 years ago

        Wow, this was my first time making Maryland crab soup and this was perfect. Don't skimp on the Old Bay- it adds just the right amount of heat.

      • profile image

        Simms 

        2 years ago

        In the process of making it now, smells so good can't wait till its done!

      • profile image

        bluesgirl126 

        2 years ago

        Its only two of us...can it be frozen?

      • profile image

        bluesgirl126 

        2 years ago

        Making this soup this weekend! Can't wait! Will report back and let you know how it goes.

      • profile image

        deb 

        2 years ago

        Making it real soon!!!!

      • profile image

        ginger 

        2 years ago

        I can hardly wait to try this! This was such a child hood memory for me!

      • Kristen Howe profile image

        Kristen Howe 

        2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

        I never had crab soup before. It looks delicious. Great hub!

      • profile image

        Carlan 

        2 years ago

        My husband said it may be the best crab soup he has ever eaten!! Thank you for posting it!!

      • profile image

        Nicole 

        2 years ago

        My husband found this recipe and made it yesterday. It just may be the best we've ever had! I shared on Facebook using the link from your recipe page. Thanks!!

      • Larry Rankin profile image

        Larry Rankin 

        3 years ago from Oklahoma

        Looks delicious. I love a good seafood recipe.

      • BigSerious profile imageAUTHOR

        Christen Roberts Comer 

        3 years ago from Harrisburg, PA

        Fantastic, Ryan!

      • profile image

        Ryan 

        3 years ago

        This is the real deal. I had never made MD crab soup but had always a wanted to try. I was looking for recipes and came across this one. The description, and the fact that you name the Wharf Rat and Millers Market as inspirations, made me realize that I didn't have to look any further. The soup turned out great so I really lucked out finding this recipe. Thank you so much for taking the time to share this!!

      • profile image

        minniemaus 

        3 years ago

        Excellent.This is the real Maryland crab soup.

      • profile image

        dawn 

        3 years ago

        Thanks for the recipe in MD a year and first time trying this. Pretty great soup, will let you know if leftovers improve!

      • profile image

        Navy wife 

        3 years ago

        I made this a few weeks ago for a Ravens game and ended up licking the bowl clean! We are soup people, and it was one of the best soups we've ever tasted! Thanks for the recipe! This is now in the regular Friday soup night rotation!

      • MSGolden51 profile image

        MSGolden51 

        3 years ago

        Crab soup never had crab soup. But i have tasted crab.

      • torrilynn profile image

        torrilynn 

        3 years ago

        This sounds absolutely delicious. I can't wait to try it sooner rather than later. Thanks.

      • Kourtney Tippy profile image

        Kourtney Tippy-Love 

        3 years ago from Arkansas

        Looks delicious, I will have try it out!

      • carrie Lee Night profile image

        Carrie Lee Night 

        3 years ago from Northeast United States

        Yummy ....love me some crab soup any way I can get it :). Thank you for sharing the recipe.

      • peachpurple profile image

        peachy 

        3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

        so this is it. Never thought to be so easy

      • Kathy Stutzman profile image

        Kathy Stutzman 

        3 years ago from When not traveling, located in Colorado or Minnesota

        Just reading the recipe made me hungry and homesick for Baltimore, can't wait to make this tomorrow!

      • BigSerious profile imageAUTHOR

        Christen Roberts Comer 

        4 years ago from Harrisburg, PA

        Steve, we'll have to try that. It sounds like a delicious addition! Thank you for sharing. :D

      • profile image

        steve 

        4 years ago

        wow, I live in Maryland and I make crab soup every month (making some today with leftover crabs). I make the exact same way as this recipe, with one major exception. Never use water. Use 2 boxes (32 0z) of seafood broth instead.

      • BigSerious profile imageAUTHOR

        Christen Roberts Comer 

        5 years ago from Harrisburg, PA

        Awesome, Steph! So glad you tried it and loved it!

      • profile image

        Steph 

        5 years ago

        I made it today ... DELISH!

      • BigSerious profile imageAUTHOR

        Christen Roberts Comer 

        5 years ago from Harrisburg, PA

        Thank you so much, Lynn! I really appreciate you looking out for me and taking time to write me with the link. I went to the page, and despite my best intentions, I felt upset when I saw it was shared 183 times while my hub has only been liked 19. I left a comment, asking to have a direct link to my article and to source my photos. Hopefully she does; in the spirit of good cooking, good eats, and technology, I would like for it to work to our mutual benefit and let it remain - but I would like for my hard work to be recognized as well.

        Again, I really appreciate that you took the time to write me. Thanks again!

      • profile image

        Lynn Vining 

        5 years ago

        I thought you should know that the picture above and recipe (word for word) is being used on a FB page...

        https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2808467053...

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