Hearts of palm crab cakes are your new favorite vegan appetizer. Canned hearts of palm, when shredded, have a texture and taste that is remarkably like crabmeat. Making them into crunchy “crab” cakes is the natural next step!
Oh, friends…I have a game changer recipe for you today.
Crisp, crunchy, succulent crab cakes. Made without crab.
Instead, these “crab” cakes are made with a single can of hearts of palm, which, when shredded, has the texture and taste of crab.
No joking. I like to call them HOP Cakes :). Check out the interior of these lovelies:
That’s not all. These cakes are:
made with just FIVE ingredients (excluding salt & pepper)
baked, not fried
the perfect make-ahead appetizer (or entrée)
I’ve even provided a grain-free option. I don’t want anyone to miss out on these.
Ready to make these? Let’s get started!
What are Hearts of Palm
First up, hearts of palm. The heart of palm is a vegetable harvested from the inner core and growing bud of cabbage palm trees (they are more commonly known as Florida palm trees). They may have shown up on a hotel salad at some point in your life, to which you most likely thought “what is that?!” and pushed it aside. But they actually have a pleasant, firm texture.
You may not have purchased these, before now, but they are shelved with other canned vegetables at the grocery store. They are not cheap (typically $3 to $4 dollars per can) but (1) you only need one can, and (2) the remaining ingredients are inexpensive pantry items.
They are also fibrous, so simply cutting into shorter lengths and pressing apart, they resemble flake crab meat.
Adding to the resemblance, canned hearts of palm are packed in a light brine, giving them a taste of the sea.
How to Make Hearts of Palm Crab Cakes
It is typically easy to flake the hearts of palm into shreds, but I have come across one or two cans where the hearts were quite firm and difficult to “shred” with my fingers. Several pieces of hearts of palm shot across the room as I tried to squish them apart! (I think I found all of them…).
So, I ended up cutting the hearts of palm lengthwise into very thin strips (I had already cut them crosswise into short pieces), and then used my fingertips to further shred.
The shredding is the only time-consuming part, and it only takes about 5 minutes. One 14 to 15-ounce can yields 1-1/2 cups of shredded “crab”–quite a yield!
Next, simply mix and form. The Old Bay seasoning is key to giving these a quintessential crab cake flavor, but if you do not have it, you can use your favorite seasonings (you can taste the mix “raw” to get the flavor just right before baking). Added, too, are mayonnaise (use the brand of your choice, vegan, Paleo, etc.), green onions and gluten-free panko crumbs.
Can I Make these Without Mayonnaise?
Regarding the mayo: it is essential. I am not a mayonnaise fan, AT ALL, but it is important as an ingredient in many recipes, including this one. Don’t skip it here. These don’t taste like mayonnaise, it just becomes part of the dish. Trust me.
Shape, Bake and Broil the Cakes
I used my #40 size cookie scoop (it’s a medium size scoop, about 2 tablespoons) to portion these, which yields exactly 14 cakes. Press the cakes into some of the reserved panko to coat and give the cakes a spritz with cooking spray. Finally, slide the cakes into a preheated (400F/200C) oven for 18 to 22 minutes.
To get them perfectly golden-brown, I bake the cakes until light golden brown, and then I turn the oven to broil. Don’t walk away! Depending on your broiler, it only takes 30 to 90 seconds for them to turn a deep golden brown.
Here’s the mouthwatering result:
These are crispy-crunchy on top and bottom, despite being baked instead of fried!
Can the Hearts of Palm Cakes be Prepared in Advance?
You can prepare the cakes up to 12 hours before baking them. Store them in a covered container in the refrigerator until ready to bake. Alternatively, freeze the prepared cakes on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, store in an airtight container until ready to defrost and bake (hello, holiday parties and quick dinners!). Like I said at the start, these are game changers, on many fronts.
Thinly slice hearts of palm lengthwise; cut slices crosswise into 3/4-inch lengths. Transfer to a medium bowl and, using fingers, gently press and break apart into shreds.
In another medium bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, Old Bay seasoning, salt and pepper until well blended. Stir in hearts of palm and green onions until well combined (I like to get my hands in, to further break up hearts of palm).
Sprinkle half the panko over hearts of palm mixture and mix in thoroughly (do not mash). Form into fourteen 1.2-inch thick patties (I used a #40 cookie scoop to portion).
Spread the remaining panko in a small dish. Dredge patties in panko, pressing gently to adhere. As they are dredged, place patties on prepared baking sheet, spacing them evenly. Spray with cooking spray. Discard any excess panko.
Bake for 18 to 22 minutes until light golden brown.
Turn on broiler to HIGH. Broil for 30 to 90 seconds (keep checking, it happens fast!) until deep golden brown. Serve immediately with suggested accompaniments, as desired.
Grain-Free Option: Replace the panko with the following: 1/3 cup almond flour + 1-1/2 tablespoons coconut flour + 1/4 teaspoon baking powder + 1/8 teaspoon salt. Stir ingredients in a small bowl. Add half to the hearts of palm mixture (same as panko) and use the other half for dredging.
Options: If you are not following a vegan or gluten-free diet, feel free to use the mayonnaise of your choice and regular panko.
We loved these! I made them in advance the mix and put in the fridge. When ready to eat, I just formed into patties. I breaded them in Nut Crumbs (Gluten Free 'breadcrumbs' made out of nuts. I bought the hearts of palm from Costco in a glass jar, and had no issue shredding. Delicious recipe!!! Simple, tasty and great! Thanks so much Camilla!
Tuesday 15th of June 2021
You are so welcome, Sarah! Ooh, yum, nut crumb coating :)
Wednesday 24th of February 2021
A couple of nights ago I asked my husband to open a can of artichoke hearts and he accidentally opened hearts of palm. I was so determined to try something new and I ran across this recipe. OMG! I am floored! These were absolutely delicious and my nine year old even stole the last cake. Win for the whole family! This will definitely stay on our dinner rotation.
Monday 4th of January 2021
Might it work to use a potato masher or similar to break the shorter pieces into shreds? I haven't tried this yet -- need to get some HOP -- but I'll try that myself once I have some.
Tuesday 10th of November 2020
Great recipe, I just wish it were easier to shred the hearts of palm. There must be an easier way somehow. It took me a really long time probably 20 minutes or more to shred the whole can. I noticed that the outer part of the heart is very hard to shred. On the inside, it’s like very fine shreds and not hard to shred. I didn’t have old bay seasoning so I ended up making my own and it was very good. I didn’t have celery salt to make the old Bay so I made my own celery salt too. It’s been fun to make but is very time consuming. And hard on the hands if you have arthritis. Still, it taste very good, i used a mixture of grinded up gluten-free Panko, Almond flour, and it worked very well for the breading. Thank you so much for another great recipe. Absolutely tastes amazing, five stars. Like something you’d get in a restaurant, definitely a crowd pleaser.
Thursday 9th of July 2020
Made vegan & GF, served with arugula salad and quinoa. Such tasty little cakes! A big hit with my whole family.