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.
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?
|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
2 hours 30 min
Approximately 1 gallon (16 cups)
- 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)
- 28 oz. can tomatoes, with liquid
Notes on the Ingredients
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 this soup hot.
- It’s good to grind some fresh black pepper on your portion.
- Serve with oyster crackers, saltines, or bread.
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.
Jeannie Sener on March 06, 2020:
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.
Lisa on April 11, 2019:
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.
Carrier Sailor on September 16, 2018:
The soup would be a lot better using white corn and not pig corn
Sara Turner on June 29, 2018:
ALWAYS cabbage AND okra!!!
OF COURSE, THERE MUST BE Half crab bodies & whole claws, already steamed, as well!!!
Julie on April 06, 2018:
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!
Dawnn on March 11, 2018:
Sooooo easy and soooo delicious! This recipe is a keeper!
Adrian on February 18, 2018:
I’ve been eating this all my life! I’m just a lucky guy....slurp......OH Pardon Please
brittany on October 04, 2017:
this is amazing!!!! so yummy :) my husband and i loved this recipe!
Randy on July 31, 2017:
Don't see how much tomatoes to add - am I missing something?
MollyMac on February 13, 2017:
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!
Bonnie on February 04, 2017:
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!
Rob on December 22, 2016:
Why do you not have tomato listed? That is the main ingredient in MD Crab Soup.
Denise on December 19, 2016:
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.
Christen Roberts (author) from Harrisburg, PA on October 26, 2016:
Add one can of diced tomatoes, or whole peeled tomatoes, chopped. I prefer tomatoes that are not flavored - let the stock do that flavoring.
David Gadabout on October 25, 2016:
I don't see tomatoes listed in the recipe. Do you use just whole peeled canned tomatoes? What size?
mary stafford on October 08, 2016:
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.
Craig on July 20, 2016:
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!
Justin on July 19, 2016:
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?
Shelby on July 06, 2016:
I made this tonight and it was absolutely AMAZING! Great recipe - Thank you!
Ryan on June 17, 2016:
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.
Simms on May 05, 2016:
In the process of making it now, smells so good can't wait till its done!
bluesgirl126 on February 22, 2016:
Its only two of us...can it be frozen?
bluesgirl126 on February 22, 2016:
Making this soup this weekend! Can't wait! Will report back and let you know how it goes.
deb on December 03, 2015:
Making it real soon!!!!
ginger on November 28, 2015:
I can hardly wait to try this! This was such a child hood memory for me!
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on October 10, 2015:
I never had crab soup before. It looks delicious. Great hub!
Carlan on October 08, 2015:
My husband said it may be the best crab soup he has ever eaten!! Thank you for posting it!!
Nicole on July 27, 2015:
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 from Oklahoma on June 23, 2015:
Looks delicious. I love a good seafood recipe.
Christen Roberts (author) from Harrisburg, PA on February 24, 2015:
Ryan on February 17, 2015:
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!!
minniemaus on February 14, 2015:
Excellent.This is the real Maryland crab soup.
dawn on January 25, 2015:
Thanks for the recipe in MD a year and first time trying this. Pretty great soup, will let you know if leftovers improve!
Navy wife on January 18, 2015:
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 on December 20, 2014:
Crab soup never had crab soup. But i have tasted crab.
torrilynn on December 19, 2014:
This sounds absolutely delicious. I can't wait to try it sooner rather than later. Thanks.
Kourtney Tippy-Love from Arkansas on December 19, 2014:
Looks delicious, I will have try it out!
Carrie Lee Night from Northeast United States on September 15, 2014:
Yummy ....love me some crab soup any way I can get it :). Thank you for sharing the recipe.
peachy from Home Sweet Home on September 12, 2014:
so this is it. Never thought to be so easy
Kathy Stutzman from When not traveling, located in Colorado or Minnesota on August 29, 2014:
Just reading the recipe made me hungry and homesick for Baltimore, can't wait to make this tomorrow!
Christen Roberts (author) from Harrisburg, PA on May 16, 2014:
Steve, we'll have to try that. It sounds like a delicious addition! Thank you for sharing. :D
steve on May 04, 2014:
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.
Christen Roberts (author) from Harrisburg, PA on June 13, 2013:
Awesome, Steph! So glad you tried it and loved it!
Steph on June 09, 2013:
I made it today ... DELISH!
Christen Roberts (author) from Harrisburg, PA on May 31, 2013:
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!
Lynn Vining on May 26, 2013:
I thought you should know that the picture above and recipe (word for word) is being used on a FB page...