Homemade Old Bay Seasoning

With spice grinder in hand, Gustav Brunn traveled to America from Germany and settled down in Baltimore on the Chesapeake Bay where steamed crabs are a staple. Gustav began grinding. In 1939, after trying many different combinations, Gustav found just the right mix for a top secret blend of spices that would be the most used seasoning on steamed crabs, shrimp, lobster, and other tasty seafood dishes for generations to come. But McCormick & Co., which purchased Old Bay in 1990, insists that the celery salt-based blend is not just for seafood. You can also shake the seasoning on chicken, french fries, popcorn, baked potatoes, deviled eggs, hamburgers, and even pizza.–Todd Wilbur

LC Oh, The Places You'll Go! Note

You may know Old Bay best as that indispensable ingredient in a crawfish or shrimp boil. But as kitchen maverick Todd Wilbur explains above, there’s no need to hold yourself back. We polled our most trusted cooks, and here’s how they made a batch of this homemade riff on Old Bay disappear in no time flat…
Mixed into crab cakes, natch
Sprinkled on sweet corn
Shaken or stirred into a Bloody Mary
Incorporated into the flour for dredging pan-fried fish
Incorporated into the flour for dredging pan-fried chicken
Dumped into gumbo
Stirred into gazpacho
Strewn atop a baked potato
Dusted daintily over naan
Stirred into egg salad
Rubbed on grilled fish that’s destined to be wrapped up in soft corn tortillas (that is to say, fish tacos)
Melded into hot crab dip
Tossed with popcorn
Whisked into egg white omelets
Swirled into seafood soups and stews
Stirred into tartar sauce
Dissolved in a brine for pork or poultry
Sprinkled in bread crumbs for, well, just about anything
Mashed into deviled eggs
Injected into chicken or turkey
Mixed into the coating for onion rings
Heaped on homemade potato chips
Added to mayo for a quick dip
Mashed with butter, garlic, and Parmigiano-Reggiano and slathered on warm bread
Rubbed between the meat and skin of a hen prior to roasting
Sprinkled on homemade tortilla chips as they’re pulled from the oil
Tossed with oven fries
Incorporated into stuffing or, if you prefer, dressing (and we’re quite certain you know the difference between them…right?)
Combined with hummus
Strewn on crawfish anything
And, if you live in Maryland, lavished on just about everything else you can think to eat

Homemade Old Bay Seasoning Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 5 M
  • 5 M
  • 2 tablespoons

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon celery salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 pinch ground dry mustard
  • 1 pinch ground mace (may substitute a teensy pinch nutmeg)
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground cardamom
  • 1 pinch ground allspice
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 1 pinch ground ginger

Directions

  • 1. Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Transfer to a container of some sort that has a tight-fitting lid, preferably a glass jar. Set aside in a cool, dark place and use within a couple of months for optimal flavor.
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Comments
Comments
  1. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Brenda Carleton] Seasoning blends like this are a lot of fun to make and taste. This recipe yielded 1 3/4 tablespoons, which doesn’t go far. Next time I’d at least double it. This blend was used on roasted baby potatoes as well as grilled shell-on shrimp. As I had a tin of Old Bay on hand, I compared the two and found there to be more depth in the original tin; however, I enjoyed the freshness of the homemade version. It was well-rounded and complete. The two tasted vaguely similar, but I wouldn’t call this recipe Old Bay necessarily…perhaps just Darned Good Blend. Cardamom is one of my favorite spices and I’m happy to use it whenever possible. What I’d like to try is adding some crushed cacao beans to this recipe and rubbing it on beef.

  2. Jamie says:

    Mmmm Old Bay is one of those things that I bring back to France every time I visit the states. Thanks for its little history. And I wonder if anyone has ever tried it in a sweet dish? But the popcorn, tortilla chips and mayo sound fabulous!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      I’m not certain the world is ready for creme brulee infused with Old Bay, Jamie, but we’re with you on the others….

  3. Gary Allen says:

    We’ve often driven to MD (several hundred miles), with no destination other than boiled crabs.

    At home, I always keep a can of Old Bay handy. It’s great in the breading for fried chicken, and is a tasty addition to fried okra. Obviously, I’m an unapologetic fan of fried — and spicy — foods.

  4. Alison says:

    I always assumed there were Bay Leaves in Old Bay Seasoning. Hah! I guess Bay refers to the location and use as a seafood spice blend. Thanks for the recipe, I look forward to trying it in my fish patties :)

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Alison, your guess is correct. Old Bay Seasoning comes from the Chesapeake Bay area. I once read that it was named after the Old Bay Line, a passenger ship line that traveled the waters of the bay in the early 1900s. Whatever the derivation of the name, it is a great seasoning mix- especially on seafood, or potato chips, or just about anything. Let us know when you try it!

  5. Gary, no one in Maryland boils crabs, we steam them. Never boil a blue crab as it makes them soggy and mushy.

    • Gary Allen says:

      Of course they’re steamed, Akismet… “crab boil” is a misnomer, just like “lobster bake.”

      BTW, I’ve got a little story that features crabs online. Just Google “Remembrance of Shellfish Past”….

  6. Ken says:

    Why does every other recipe for Old Bay always calls for ground bay leaves. Who is right on here?

    • David Leite says:

      Hello, Ken. I don’t think it’s a matter of right and wrong, but rather a matter of preference. I found other recipes on the Internet that don’t include bay leaf, while many others do. If you would like to add some, feel free. But my only caveat would be to use ground bay leaf. Don’t grind up the leaves yourself, especially in a dry application. The reason is the little shards can be very sharp and dangerous in the dish.

  7. Bonnie says:

    It’s funny how an internet search for ideas to bake some haddock led me to find out about Old Bay Seasoning. The next thing I know I am here and have learned how to make the seasoning and so much more. I have enjoyed reading the comments and look forward to making and using my Old Bay Seasoning. Thanks for the education.

    • David Leite says:

      Bonnie, nothing delights me more than your kind of comment. I love when a reader happens to alight upon the site and then gets lost in it! It means we’re doing something right. Welcome to LC, and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

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