I grew up with lobster rolls. After all, my mom is from Ipswitch, Massachusetts, pretty much the epicenter of Lobster Roll Nation. I’d never heard of crab rolls.
Then, one day, I wandered into Obrycki’s in search of food during a layover in Baltimore-Washington airport. Crab rolls were on the menu. OK, I’ll bite. I ordered them.
“Good call,” the bartender said. They’re my favorite. Sure they are. Everything’s your favorite when you’re the bartender. I expected a glob of mayo-based crab salad in a tired hot dog bun.
An Obrycki’s crab roll is not that. Yes, there’s mayonnaise, and yes there is a bit of celery, and the obligatory Old Bay seasoning — I think it’s the law to include it with any crab dish within 150 miles of the Chesapeake Bay — but this sandwich (can you call something on a hot dog bun a sandwich?) was all about the crab.
While not as minimalist as a New England lobster roll, which can literally be buttered lobster in a split-top roll, this crab roll is full of crab with only the Old Bay-lemon-mayo to tie it all together. Celery is a minor addition entirely for texture, not a filler.
I wrote notes about this amazing lunch on a napkin, determined to reverse engineer it at home.
This is what I came up with. While probably not the exact Obrycki’s crab roll, it’s close, and really good. I used Dungeness crab because that’s what I had, but any crab will do. Obviously they use blue crab in the Chesapeake.
Oh, and good luck finding split top rolls outside of New England, and that’s one thing I won’t buy online. Just use a good quality hot dog bun, or something else that makes you happy. I won’t come to your house to beat you up if you used, say, a kaiser roll or even a tortilla.
Just make these crab rolls. They are easy to put together, cool on a hot summer day, and absolutely memorable.
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 pound lump crabmeat
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons minced chives
- 1 stalk celery, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 hot dog buns
- Toss the crabmeat in the melted butter. Mix all the remaining ingredients except for the buns in a large bowl. Fold the crabmeat into this.
- Grill or toast the buns; you can spread some butter on the buns first if you'd like. Fill with the crab mixture. Serve with pickles and potato chips.
Steve Kempin says
Excellent thank you Hank another outstanding recipe!
Jake Glotzbach says
Awesome recipe that lets the crab shine through! The meat is not overly seasoned with this recipe. If you are looking to change things up from the regular picked crab or crab cakes, or just want a great meal, this one is for you.
Jeff B says
Made these crab rolls tonight – awesome. Old Bay dosage was perfect — noticeable, but not overwhelming. And, the butter toasted rolls just added to the decadence. We accompanied the crab rolls with fresh ears of sweet corn from local farmer’s market. We’ll definitely being doing this one again.
This was fantastic. The old bay was so light you could hardly taste it. Added just enough fur flavor. The black pepper was more prevalent than the old bay honestly.
Great recipe for our leftover picked blue crab.
I’m going to try this, I like the idea of the Old Bay and the chives and I’m going to see how it turns out. I think I’ll just go lightly on both, or sprinkle a little on top.?
Barry Doohan says
Excellent and easy! Everyone loved the flavor
Just made this and enjoyed it with my wife. We both thought it was good and it was easy for me to make.
Could I use frozen dungeness crab that I caught in March for this? We got so many that I vacuum sealed a few after steaming them and haven’t found a use for them yet since this was my first time freezing them. Additionally, could I use my frozen crab for your risotto too or does freezing ruin the meat?
Made these with steamed frozen crab tonight and they were delish!
I’ve made this without old bay, which I hate, substituted Paul Prudommes seafood seasoning, excellent. I bought crab yesterday to make again.
What’s with all of the old bay haters? Is this a regional thing?
Hank Shaw says
Jason: Probably. I like Old Bay, and it is 100% needed if you want to make these crab rolls Chesapeake style.
The recipe looks great, I can’t wait to try it. Freihofer’s bakery makes New England style split top rolls but I haven’t been able to find them here in north Jersey for several years. Trader Joe’s sells them labeled as Hot Dog Buns.
David Thompson says
Leave out the chives and Old Bay. I grew up in Maryland and hate the stuff, it dominates all the delicate seafood flavors. When I was a kid, we caught crabs out of the Severn River and made crab rolls just like this. Next day was crab cakes for lunch, then a bushel of mussels for dinner with linguine. Breakfast was one of those huge omelets filled with a crab sauce, folded over and cut into chunks. Yummy. Stuff you never get in a restaurant. When I lived in Lake Charles, I bought two brand new 30 gallon trash cans and all they were ever used for was crabbing. My wife, my 4 year old and I could go crabbing, fill both trash cans and throw back anything under 8″ in 1 hour. Put the phone tree in action and we had a neighborhood crab boil.
Made these for dinner after finishing shucking dungenesse crab. Added some kelp pickles on the side for a nice quick meal. Thanks for the recipe from southeast AK.
Malcolm Burgan says
Looks like something I want to try here in South Australia. Big blue swimmer crab season starting in September here. Can’t wait. Thanks.
Egons Baumanis says
I get my Blue swimmer crabs at Cowell on the Eyre Peninsular in South Australia . I cant wait to try this recipe. I have picked crab waiting in my freezer. I agree the Rolls need to be fresh. Yummy. Thanks
Walter Matera says
Hmmm, while Dungeness crabs are readily available here in Portland-ish, why couldn’t you make this just as neatly with cold trout, or steelhead, or salmon or . . . I’m taking the g’grandchildren to a trout pond this afternoon and you’ve got my attention. What seven-year-old wouldn’t want a sandwich he’d caught himself?
Hank Shaw says
Walter: No reason other than what I ate were crab rolls in Baltimore. 😉
Nancy Shaw says
One of the hardest things to find even in New England is the correct original split top lobster roll bun. The sides are smooth bread – not crust and require toasting before stuffing with the ingredients. There are several sites online that show the type of bun that I grew up eating and still seek when ever a lobster or crab roll is to be made. https://lobsteranywhere.com/new-england-style/history-lobster-roll/ and mainelobsternow.com /lobster-rolls/lobster-roll-buns-6pack
There is a recipe online to make and bake your own New England buns!
Thanks for a yummy sounding post!
Stacey Guthrie says
Hey Hank, Whole Foods has Brioche split top rolls, Whole Foods brand. I have seen them in the bay area, and checked their Sacramento store website, they have them there also. I used them to make shrimp rolls, very much like this recipe.
what is in old bay seasonings?
Hank Shaw says
Glenda: Interesting. Are you not from America? It’s a very, very famous seasoning mix here associated with the Chesapeake Bay, and crabs in particular. Here is a recipe for making it from scratch.
I hadn’t heard of Old Bay until I moved to the east coast.
Phil Dupuis says
Hank, being a New England kid who spent most of his adult life within spitting distance of the Chesapeake I really appreciate this. BTW, top split hot dog buns are available here in central Florida, must be all the Yankee retirees.
Joe Baya says
I’m gonna crush this with some Gulf Coast Blue Crabs!
Bob Beaudoin says
Looks delicious, I’m going to make it next time I go crabbing, thanks for the recipe Hank.