Bolinhos de Santola

Portuguese Crab Cakes with Mint and Cilantro

Preparation info

  • Serves


    • Difficulty


Appears in

The Mediterranean Kitchen

By Joyce Goldstein

Published 1998

  • About

This recipe is a compromise because the original is made with salt cod, a fish most chefs and some Italians, Spaniards, and Portuguese adore but that we cannot sell to the average American diner. Since we are in San Francisco, home of the famous crab, we substituted crabmeat for the cod. Now we cannot keep up with the demand for these cakes.


  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 medium onions, finely minced (about cups)
  • 4 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 pounds crabmeat, picked over for
  • ½ cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade (see next recipe)
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup fresh bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh mint leaves
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1 cup olive oil or as needed for frying.
  • Red Pepper Aioli (recipe follows)


    Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and celery; cook until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the dry mustard and cayenne; stir well and cook 3 more minutes. Let cool completely.

    Add all the remaining ingredients except the dry bread crumbs, oil, and aioli to the onion mixture and combine well. Shape into 16 patties, about ½ inch thick. Coat each crab cake with dry bread crumbs. (At this point the cakes can be refrigerated on a baking sheet lined with baker’s parchment or waxed paper up to 24 hours.)

    Heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add as many crab cakes as will fit without crowding and sauté until golden brown, about 3 minutes each side. Serve hot with red pepper aioli and sauteed Swiss chard or other greens.