Best Maryland Crab Soup Recipe Ever
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?
- 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.