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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Bent

Maryland Crab Imperial in a Scallop Shell

Updated: Jun 18

Crab Imperial has been a cherished family dish in my household for as long as I can remember. My grandmother Edna swore by generously coating the crab meat with an extra dollop of mayonnaise, creating a luxurious, buttery flavor that perfectly complements the sweetness of Maryland crab meat. While I prefer serving Crab Imperial on scallop shells for an elegant presentation, feel free to use crab shell molds or real shells for a charming touch. 


Alternatively, this recipe is equally delightful when prepared in a baking dish, scooped out like a dip, and served with fresh crusty bread. 

Maryland Crab Imperial in a Scallop Shell


  • ½ cup crushed oyster crackers 

  • 2 tablespoons softened butter 

  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream or evaporated milk 

  • 1 egg 

  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning 

  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 

  • 1 cup high-quality mayonnaise 

  • 1 pound Maryland crabmeat, picked over for shells (Backfin works great) 

  • 8 cleaned and dried 2.5 oz scallop shells 

  • Paprika 


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). 

  2. In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, softened butter, cream, egg, Old Bay seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, and ½ cup of mayonnaise. Mix well, being careful not to overmix. 

  3. Gently fold in the crabmeat, ensuring it is evenly distributed throughout the mixture. Divide the mixture into 8 parts. 

  4. Arrange the scallop shells on a sheet pan. Fill each shell with a generous mound of crabmeat mixture, taking care not to overpack. 

  5. Spread the remaining ½ cup of mayonnaise evenly over the crab mounds until completely covered. Sprinkle generously with paprika. 

  6. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and bubbly. 

  7. Serve immediately and enjoy the rich flavors of Maryland Crab Imperial. 

Makes 8 servings 

by Rebecca Bent 

History of Crab Imperial


Crab Imperial is a classic American seafood dish that originated in the late 19th to early 20th century, likely in the Chesapeake Bay region of Maryland. The exact origins of Crab Imperial are somewhat elusive, but it is widely believed to have been created as a way to showcase the abundance of blue crab found in the region. 


The dish typically consists of crabmeat mixed with a creamy sauce flavored with mayonnaise, eggs, and seasonings such as Old Bay seasoning, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard. It is often baked until bubbly and golden brown, then served as an elegant appetizer or main course. 


The name "Crab Imperial" suggests a sense of grandeur and luxury, fitting for a dish that became popular during the Gilded Age when extravagant culinary creations were in vogue among the elite. It likely gained further popularity during the mid-20th century as seafood became more widely available and appreciated across the United States. 


While the exact creator of Crab Imperial remains unknown, it is believed to have been developed by chefs or home cooks looking to elevate the humble blue crab into a dish worthy of fine dining. Over time, variations of Crab Imperial have emerged, with different regions adding their own twists and adaptations to the classic recipe. 


Despite its mysterious origins, Crab Imperial has stood the test of time and remains a beloved dish enjoyed by seafood enthusiasts across the country. Its rich history and timeless appeal continue to make it a staple of American culinary tradition. 

Watch former NFL QB, Brett Hundley, as he experiences pre-picked (fresh) Maryland crab meat from

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