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Chickpea “Crab Cakes”

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Recipe By Kim O’Donnel from the book The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook

True story: Less than two weeks before this manuscript was due, with most recipes edited and determined fit for public consumption, I pan-fried a batch of my falafel patties (featured on page 48) for me and my husband, Russ. He took one bite into his falafel-on-a-bun and looked at me with all seriousness. “This falafel looks and eats likes a crab cake.”

He was right. With thirty combined years of living in Washington, D.C. — crab cake central — we could both see that this chickpea patty had Chesapeake potential.

With the wild eyes of a mad scientist, I immediately went to work, replacing Middle Eastern falafel spices with Old Bay, the iconic Maryland seafood seasoning that’s had a cult following for three generations. Out with the tahini, in with a yogurt remoulade and “horseradishy” cocktail sauce that transport you from the Mid-East to the Mid-Atlantic.

The result: Downright “crab-shacky.”

Kitchen note: As with the falafel, dried chickpeas are a must for this recipe; the canned version are simply too soft and patties will fall apart.


  • 1 cup dried chickpeas
  • 1 ½ cups finely chopped onion (not quite 1 large onion)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro or parsley, or ¼ cup each, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 8 soft hamburger buns or English Muffins


    1. Cover the chickpeas with water and soak for at least 8 hours at room temperature. (If your kitchen is very warm, you may want to place in the fridge to minimize chances of fermentation.) Drain and set aside. You will end up with 2 cups of soaked chickpeas.
    2. Using a food processor or heavy-duty blender, pulverize the chickpeas, using the “pulse” function. Pulverize until the beans just form a paste that sticks together when you squeeze it in your hand. Be careful not to over-process the chickpeas; too smooth, the batter will fall apart when cooking.
    3. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the oil) and combine using the “pulse” function. After being pulsed approximately twelve times, the batter will be somewhat grainy and speckled with herbs.
    4. Refrigerate the batter for about 1 hour, until firm.
    5. Meanwhile, make the yogurt remoulade or cocktail sauce (details follow). Remove the batter from the fridge and shape into patties, using a scant 1/3-cup measure. Be careful not to over-handle the batter. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
    6. Place the patties on a plate or baking tray and cover with plastic wrap. Return to the fridge and chill for an additional 10 to 15 minutes.
    7. In a shallow 12-inch skillet, heat ½ cup of the oil over medium-high heat. Gently place the patties into the hot oil in small batches (don’t crowd the pan) and fry the first side until golden brown, about 3 minutes. (If you’re the impatient sort, set a timer and relax. These things don’t like to be fussed with.)
    8. Gently turn onto the second side and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Transfer to a baking tray to finish cooking in the oven for 8 minutes. (Before frying the next batch, heat the remaining oil.) The patties will have a somewhat drier appearance on the outside, which is a good thing.
    9. Serve on a bun with the remoulade, cocktail sauce, or a “schmear” of mustard-mayo.

Reminder: The ingredients in a recipe determine if it should be eaten every day, some days, or on special occasions. It's up to you and you doctor to determine what can be part of a healthy diet for you and any special needs you may have.

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Photo by Flicker user mollycakes / CC BY-NC 2.0

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