Ever since going vegan, I’ve been having ridiculous amounts of fun “veganizing” meals and recipes that are traditionally non-vegan. My mom’s banana bread is the first thing that I veganized and since then I’ve been working my way towards more involved dishes such as this one. How does one make vegan crab cakes? Read on and I will explain!
One of my earlier posts documents some of the feelings I was dealing with as I went through the transition process. Some of my feelings of sadness, and even anger, came from leaving foods behind that had previously been associated with positive memories or had provided comfort and pleasure in the past. I noticed these feelings diminish fairly quickly as I discovered how easy it could be to veganize these foods.
A strong interest in discovering suitable ingredients to make simple substitutions for animal products, paired with an understanding of flavor profiles has led me to create some of the dishes I’m most proud of in my repertoire.
My husband, who expressed some concern initially, has been by my side throughout my explorations in vegan recipe creating and has since been “won over,” so to speak. He is especially a huge fan of these Hearts of Palm Vegan “Crab” Cakes. Considering he is from Maryland, an area famous for crab cakes, this comes as a huge compliment.
My inspiration for this dish comes from the restaurant, Crossroads, in Los Angeles. My good friend and her husband came to visit a few months back and generously treated us to dinner there to celebrate our recent nuptials.
The restaurant is 100% vegan and offers up tapas, or small plates, of delightful and creative plant-based dishes. We decided to order practically one of everything on the menu and split each thing so we could taste everything! One of our favorite plates was the hearts of palm crab cakes. I knew instantly I had to recreate this at home.
I’ve never even made crab cakes with crab before, but I knew the ingredients would include onions, celery and garlic, and of course, hearts of palm! To keep the mixture of vegetables together, I made an aoili from raw almonds. A few breadcrumbs and seasonings later, I had the perfect vegan “crab” cake!
**For those who are trying to avoid nuts for any reason, I would suggest using a store-bought vegan mayo veganaise. I have only made these with my homemade aioli that I made from almonds so I cannot tell how much you should use or if it will turn out exactly the same. But the purpose of the aioli is to add moisture and a creaminess so I think Vegenaise would be a decent substitute. If you try it, please let me know how it goes!
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 cup celery
- 1/2 cup white onion
- about 2 cups hearts of palm (I use the 14.5 oz jar from Trader Joes)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1-2 Tbsp vegetable broth
- 1/8 cup fine bread crumbs or crushed oyster crackers
- 1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- **To make nut-free, use veganaise instead**
- 1 cup raw almonds (without skin*)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice or red wine vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
- Soak almonds for at least 2 hours. If you don't have that much time, you can simmer the almonds for about 10 minutes to help them soften. If your almonds still have the skin on them, this will also help them loosen so you can easily remove them.
- Put the almonds in a food processor with the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth. This could be up to 2-3 minutes or more. Stop the processor every minute or so to scrap down the edges in order to make sure all chunks get blended in to create a smooth, creamy sauce.
- Pour the sauce into another container and set aside.
- Clean the food processor bowl to prepare the "crab" cake mixture.
- Prepare the onions by removing the skin and clean the celery.
- Add onion, celery and garlic to the food processor.
- Pulse a 5-6 times to chop the celery and onions into small pieces.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.
- Add the onion celery garlic mixture to the pan and saute for 2 minutes.
- Drain the hearts of palm and add to the food processor.
- Pulse a few times until it creates a chunky shredded texture.
- Add the hearts of palm to the skillet.
- Add the Old Bay seasoning, salt, pepper and 1 Tbsp veggie broth and stir until combined.
- Cook over medium-low heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat.
- Add the breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup of the garlic aioli.
- Stir to get a feel for the texture. If you want the crab cakes to be more moist, add more aioli. If you want them to be more bready, add more bread crumbs and possibly more veggie broth. Either way, you want them to be a thick enough texture that you can form them into "crab" cake patties.
- Using a spatula or spoon, divide the mixture into four equal parts and form a patty out of each section, setting aside on a plate or wax paper.
- Wipe out the skillet, then heat another tablespoon of olive oil.
- Once the oil is hot, carefully add the "crab" cakes to the pan.
- Cook for 4-5 minutes or until the edge is golden and crispy.
- Turn and cook another 2-3 minutes on the other side.
- Serve fresh out of the skillet.
- I like to serve these "crab" cakes with fresh dill, which I sometimes blend into the garlic aioli for dipping. Spicy chili sauce is also a great condiment with these "crab" cakes.