"Mock" crab cakes let everyone in on the coastal craze

Intro by Pam George | Photograph by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
From the August 2021 issue


For many Delmarva diners, nothing compares to a crab cake dinner. It doesn’t matter whether the restaurant specializes in seafood, steak, bar food or ethnic fare. Along the Culinary Coast, a crab cake is a must-have menu item.

If you don’t eat crab, you might feel left out. However, Chesapeake & Maine, part of the Dogfish Head family, has a solution. The downtown Rehoboth Beach restaurant serves “faux” crab cakes made with mushrooms. “They are extremely popular, and we’ve gotten a lot of great guest feedback on them,” says head chef Ray GiangerusoRaised in the hills of Vernon, N.J., Giangeruso knows his way around plants. As a child, he helped his mother — “a fantastic cook” — tend her vegetable garden. “I would help pick ripe tomatoes and herbs for marinara sauce,” he recalls. “I always enjoyed the long process of creating a great red sauce.”

At age 15, Giangeruso worked under a formidable Turkish baker who taught him the value of precision. The budding chef then climbed his way up the culinary ladder, from dishwasher to line cook. (He’s also been a bellman and valet.) In 2015, he became a line cook at Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats.

Giangeruso uses meaty lion’s mane mushrooms instead of crab for the faux crab cakes, but you can use any mushroom that’s not delicate or long-stemmed, he says. 

If you’re omnivorous, omit the mushrooms and use this recipe as a base for seafood cakes, including crab or shrimp. With smaller portions, you can have the cakes as appetizers. 


(Makes about 15 cakes — more if you are making appetizer-size) 

For the avocado aioli:

1⁄4  cup of vegan mayonnaise

garlic cloves


tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil 


STEP 1 Finely chop the garlic. Juice the limes.

STEP 2 Peel the avocados and remove the pits.

STEP 3 Add all the ingredients into a food processor. If you don’t have one, mix the ingredients in a stainless-steel bowl with a rubber spatula. The aioli will last up to four days if properly refrigerated.

For the faux crab cakes:

pounds of lion’s mane mushrooms or another hearty mushroom type

1⁄2 of a small red pepper, diced

1⁄2 of a small red onion, diced

tablespoon of parsley, chopped

cup of vegan mayonnaise

tablespoons of Dijon mustard

teaspoon of Frank’s RedHot sauce

1 teaspoon of Old Bay seasoning

1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

1 cup of panko breadcrumbs

Italian bread for serving (optional)

STEP 1 Trim the mushrooms, removing the base stem, and steam them for seven to 10 minutes. Chill and remove as much liquid as possible from the steaming process. If they are too moist, the cake will be wet.

STEP 2 Combine red pepper, onion, parsley, mayonnaise, Dijon, hot sauce, Old Bay and balsamic vinegar in a bowl. Mix with a whisk.

STEP 3 Pull apart the chilled mushrooms into chunks the size of lump crab meat. If you like, you can pulse half the mushrooms in a food processor to add texture.

STEP 4 Add the mushrooms to the mixture and toss. Fold in the panko with the rubber spatula. Make sure the ingredients are evenly distributed.

STEP 5 Separate the mix into 3-ounce portions — or 1.5 ounces if you are making appetizers. Bake the cakes in a 350-degree preheated oven for about eight to 10 minutes or until golden brown. The cakes will keep in the fridge for up to three days. You can also freeze them for future use. 

To serve:

Grill Italian bread slices for each cake. Place a dollop of aioli on the bread. Add the cake and more aioli. (Giangeruso tops each serving with micro fennel. Use the herb of your choice.)