Best Maryland Crab Soup Recipe Ever

Updated on January 21, 2020
BigSerious profile image

A forty-something mom, knitting instructor, and novelist who's married to a native Marylander who loves it when we make this soup.

Charlie's Maryland-Style Crab Soup

Sure, you can go to a restaurant in Pennsylvania or New York and order a cup of Maryland-style crab soup, but if you're a native from the land of pleasant living, you'll probably be disappointed. And I shudder to think how you'll 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's looking for 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

To be safe, leave yourself 2 hours to make this soup, but remember: if you simmer it longer, the flavors only get better. A note about prep and cook times: You can prepare this dish slower or faster depending on which tools and ingredients you use. It will take longer if you're using fresh crab, less if you're using a chopper or food processor to prepare your vegetables.

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 (16 cups)

Ingredients

  • 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, (or 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, with liquid

Notes on the Ingredients

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 we use when we can’t go fresh.

Additonal, Optional 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 likes to add a bag of succotash (with lima beans), 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.

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.

Instructions

  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—enough 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, bringing it to a slow boil then turning it down to a simmer. Cover and let it 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.

To Serve

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

Enjoy!

3 stars from 661 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

Comments

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    • profile image

      Jeannie Sener 

      5 months ago

      I made this soup this week and it was the best crab soup! I would have never of thought of using beef bones, it really made the flavor base.

      I live in Baltimore, the city of the best steamed crabs. I froze a bag of crab claws and seasoning from crabs this summer, as well as picked crab meat. At one point, I removed the beef bones and added my crab claws and seasoning and let simmer. Then I removed the claws and picked the meat and added the meat to the frozen crab meat. Anyway, it was the best soup, my husband has been eating it for 3 days and keeps going back for more. Each bowl each raves how good it is. This recipe is a keeper! Thank you.

    • profile image

      Lisa 

      16 months ago

      Too much yellow corn making it look like a stew. Silver Queen is the way to go but if you can’t find it frozen works well. I’ve never seen so much pepper either. Old Bay is spicy enough.

    • profile image

      Carrier Sailor 

      23 months ago

      The soup would be a lot better using white corn and not pig corn

    • profile image

      Sara Turner 

      2 years ago

      ALWAYS cabbage AND okra!!!

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

    • profile image

      Julie 

      2 years 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 

      2 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Adrian 

      2 years ago

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

    • profile image

      brittany 

      2 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Randy 

      3 years ago

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

    • profile image

      MollyMac 

      3 years 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 

      3 years 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 

      3 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Denise 

      3 years 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 

      3 years 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 

      3 years ago

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

    • profile image

      mary stafford 

      3 years 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 

      4 years 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 

      4 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 

      4 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Ryan 

      4 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 

      4 years ago

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

    • profile image

      bluesgirl126 

      4 years ago

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

    • profile image

      bluesgirl126 

      4 years ago

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

    • profile image

      deb 

      4 years ago

      Making it real soon!!!!

    • profile image

      ginger 

      4 years ago

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

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      4 years ago from Northeast Ohio

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

    • profile image

      Carlan 

      4 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Nicole 

      5 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 

      5 years ago from Oklahoma

      Looks delicious. I love a good seafood recipe.

    • BigSerious profile imageAUTHOR

      Christen Roberts 

      5 years ago from Harrisburg, PA

      Fantastic, Ryan!

    • profile image

      Ryan 

      5 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 

      5 years ago

      Excellent.This is the real Maryland crab soup.

    • profile image

      dawn 

      5 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 

      5 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 

      5 years ago

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

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 

      5 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 

      5 years ago from Arkansas

      Looks delicious, I will have try it out!

    • carrie Lee Night profile image

      Carrie Lee Night 

      5 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 

      5 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      so this is it. Never thought to be so easy

    • Kathy Stutzman profile image

      Kathy Stutzman 

      5 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 

      6 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 

      6 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 

      7 years ago from Harrisburg, PA

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

    • profile image

      Steph 

      7 years ago

      I made it today ... DELISH!

    • BigSerious profile imageAUTHOR

      Christen Roberts 

      7 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 

      7 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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