Lion's mane crab cakes
Lion's mane is a perfect substitute for seafood in these crab cake imitations. (Photo: wavipicture, Getty. Ron Short, Backcountry Cocktails: Civilized Drinks for Wild Places)

Lion’s Mane “Crab Cakes” with Fermented Ramp Tartar Sauce

Lion's mane crab cakes

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While the words “lion’s mane” might conjure up images of the king of the jungle’s gorgeous crown of hair, these crab cakes are made only from mushrooms. Only slightly less regal than the African beast, lion’s mane mushrooms are large, white, bushy fungi that grow on the bark of trees like oak, maple, and beech.

Like many mushrooms, lion’s mane has been used in herbal remedies for centuries. In Asia, the mushroom, which has historically been called “The Mountain Priest,” is often ground up and included in tonics and teas for  longevity.

Lion’s mane is high in zinc, potassium, and manganese. Countless studies have been conducted on the benefits of this fungi, including one which tested mushroom’s ability to combat dementia-related memory loss. Additionally, lion’s mane might assist with chronic inflammation, anxiety, ulcers, and risk of heart disease.

Beyond its nutritional benefits, lion’s mane is delicious, often described as mimicking the flavor of popular seafood selections like scallops and crab – minus any fishy taste. Hence why this crab cake recipe works beautifully with lion’s mane’s mildly sweet flavors and tender texture.

A key piece to this recipe is lacto-fermented ramps. Lacto-fermenation means that bacteria is breaking down sugars to create lactic acid. Recipe developer Jamaar Julal has an easy, how-to guide to lacto-fermenting ramps.

Note: Always cook lion’s mane before eating. Eaten raw, the mushroom can upset the stomach.

Lion’s Mane “Crab Cakes” with Fermented Ramp Tartar Sauce



  • 1 pound (450 g.) lion’s mane mushrooms, shredded into crabmeat-size pieces
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ tsp. Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 1¼ cups panko breadcrumbs or crushed saltine crackers, divided
  • Olive oil, for seasoning
  • Lemon wedges, for garnish

Tartar sauce

  • 6 lacto-fermented ramps
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 3 Tbsp. minced dill
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste


1. Combine the shredded mushrooms, water, and salt in a medium pot on the stove, grill, or campfire. Cover the pot and bring the mixture to a simmer, occasionally stirring, until the mushrooms have released their moisture, about 3 to 5 minutes. (Depending on the size of your pot, you may want to do this in 2 batches.)

2. Strain out the mushrooms and set them on a clean dish towel to cool. When completely cooled, gather the corners of the towel into a bundle and thoroughly wring out as much excess liquid as possible. The less leftover moisture, the better and more “crabby” the texture of the cakes.

3. Combine the mushrooms with the eggs, mayonnaise, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, scallions, Old Bay, pepper, and half of the breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Thoroughly mixuntil fully incorporated and taste for seasoning, adding salt if needed.

4. Chill the mixture in the fridge or cooler for at least 20 minutes and up to overnight, covering the bowl with plastic if chilling longer than 1 hour. By hand or with ring molds, form the mixture into cakes that are roughly 1 inch (2.5 centimeters thick). You should get 10 to12 cakes. 

5. Add enough oil to cover the bottom of a large pan, about 3 tablespoons, and set it over medium heat. While the pan is heating, evenly dredge the cakes in the remaining breadcrumbs. Working in 2 batches, gently sear the cakes in the oil until golden brown, about 3 minutes on each side. While the cakes are cooking, make the tartar sauce. 

6. Place the ramps in a paper towel or piece of cheesecloth, bundle, and squeeze to wring out any brine. Mince the ramps and combine them with the mayonnaise, dill, lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Whisk together until evenly incorporated.

7. Serve individual “crab cakes” with a dollop of tartar sauce on top, or place the cakes on a large platter and serve tartar sauce in a bowl on the side.

Recipe by Jamaar Julal, courtesy of Backcountry Cocktails: Civilized Drinks for Wild Places

Lead Photo: wavipicture, Getty. Ron Short, Backcountry Cocktails: Civilized Drinks for Wild Places