You may know Old Bay seasoning best as an indispensable ingredient in a classic crawfish boil or crab cakes with a lovely lemon sauce. But who said it’s exclusively the domain of seafood? Go on. Shake the seasoning on everything else…

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Why Our Testers Loved This

The testers are sprinkling this on everything they can find, and for good reason. They loved that this homemade Old Bay spice blend tastes authentic yet doesn’t contain preservatives. Many of them look forward to adding this to their arsenal of homemade food gifts to share with friends and family.

Brenda C. “enjoyed the freshness of the homemade version, which was well-rounded and complete.” Hubba, hubba!

What You’ll Need to Make This

Five glass bowls containing all of the spices required to make Old Bay seasoning.
  • Celery salt–Made from a combination of ground celery seed and salt, this contributes plenty of saltiness to the Old Bay-style seasoning blend. Keep this in mind when seasoning your food, as it may not need any additional salt.
  • Paprika–This spice, made from ground red peppers, adds depth of flavor to the spice blend. We recommend regular paprika here.
  • Ground mace–This is ground from the outer coating of the nutmeg seed. You can substitute ground nutmeg if necessary.

How to Make This Recipe

A glass bowl with the spices for homemade Old Bay seasoning in it and a person using a spoon to mix them all together.
  1. Combine all of the spices in a small bowl.
  2. Stir until thoroughly combined. Transfer to an airtight jar or container and store at room temperature for up to 2 months.

Common Questions

How long will Old Bay Seasoning keep?

Like most spice blends, it will keep for up to 6 months if stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Given the options listed above, we doubt it will last you anywhere near that long.

When and where did Old Bay seasoning originate?

The original Old Bay seasoning blend was created in 1940 by Gustav Brunn, a German spice maker who came to the US as a Jewish refugee during World War II.

The spice blend was created in Maryland and was originally sold under the name Delicious Brand Shrimp and Crab Seasoning, before being changed to Old Bay Seasoning. The rights to the spice blend were purchased by McCormick in 1990.

What Can I Do With Old Bay Seasoning?

– Mixed into crab cakes, natch
– Sprinkled on sweet corn on the cob
– Shaken or stirred into a Bloody Mary
– Dumped on fries
– Incorporated into the flour for dredging pan-fried fish or pan-fried chicken
– Dumped into seafood gumbo
– Stirred into Spanish 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, grilled fish tacos)
– Melded into hot crab dip
– Tossed with homemade popcorn
– Whisked into egg white omelets
– Swirled into seafood soups and stews
– Whirled into homemade 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 breakfast oven fries
– Added to 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

Helpful Tips

  • For the most potent flavor, grind your own spices. Always measure the spices after grinding.
  • If you plan on using this seasoning mix frequently, double or triple the recipe.
  • If you prefer to be more precise in your measurements, a “pinch” can be measured as 1/16 of a teaspoon.
  • Store the spice blend in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.


There are several great reasons to make your own homemade Old Bay seasoning. You can whip up as big or small a batch as you like, depending on how frequently you use it. You can also adjust the seasoning and blend of spices to accommodate your personal preferences, allergies, or dietary needs.

More Great Seasoning Blend Recipes

Write a Review

If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David

A hand sprinkling homemade Old Bay Seasoning in a small glass bowl

Homemade Old Bay Seasoning

4.80 / 49 votes
This Old Bay seasoning recipe is a blend of celery salt, paprika, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, ginger, and other spices that are exactly what you want to sprinkle on shrimp, crab boil, fish, fries, chicken. Anything, really.
David Leite
Servings2 tablespoons
Calories7 kcal
Prep Time5 minutes
Total Time5 minutes


  • 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


  • Stir together all the ingredients in a small bowl. Transfer to a container of some sort that has a tight-fitting lid—a glass jar with a screw-top lid works spectacularly.
  • Set aside in a cool, dark place and use within a couple months.


  1. Scale up the recipe–If you plan on using the spice blend frequently, double or triple the recipe.
  2. Storage–Old Bay seasoning should be stored in an airtight container in a cool dark place for up to 2 months.
  3. Grind your spices–For the strongest flavor, grind your own spices. Always measure the spices after grinding.
  4. Measuring a “pinch”–If you prefer to be more precise in your measurements, a “pinch” can be measured as 1/16 of a teaspoon.
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Serving: 1 tablespoonCalories: 7 kcalCarbohydrates: 1 gProtein: 0.2 gFat: 0.4 gSaturated Fat: 0.1 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.2 gSodium: 3489 mgPotassium: 16 mgFiber: 0.4 gSugar: 0.1 gVitamin A: 77 IUVitamin C: 1 mgCalcium: 8 mgIron: 0.2 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2009 Todd Wilbur. Photos © 2021 David Leite. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Oddly enough, I actually prefer this Old Bay seasoning recipe mix to the actual store-bought Old Bay. Could not figure out what it was about it that made me prefer this one, perhaps the quality of the spices. We used it on grilled shrimp and fried calamari and loved them both.

When I travel, I always seek local food gifts I can bring home and stash away for future gift-giving, such as the December holidays. People always love having been thought of during my out-of-town adventures. 

On one trip to Washington, DC, I solicited the advice of a friend about what I could get that would be specific and unique to the DC area. She suggested Old Bay Seasoning. As a Midwesterner, I was skeptical. How could that grocery store standard be special enough for gift-giving?

Having now invested five minutes in making this homemade Old Bay Seasoning, my three regrets are that I didn’t know about the joys of Old Bay sooner, that I do not have as classy-retro a container for my Old Bay gift-giving, and that I didn’t just go ahead and double the recipe when it stated the quantity for a single batch would be 2 tablespoons.

Because we don’t eat fish, here’s a list of suggestions for more plant-based ideas! 

A restaurant here has Old Bay as one of their bagel options; if you’re not inclined to bake your own bagels, add it to a compound butter or to cream cheese for a spread, or simply sprinkle it atop plain cream cheese atop a bagel. 

Add it to goat cheese for a spread or to yogurt, Greek yogurt, labneh, or sour cream for a dip. Try it atop cottage cheese. Use it to kick up pita chips, roasted chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or almonds. Season mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes and vegetables, squash (yes, I’m thinking of the Roasted Spaghetti Squash), or mushrooms.

Sprinkle some atop a sour cream-topped baked potato. Try it atop avocado toast. Add it to rice, fried rice, pasta salad, potato salad, corn salad, salad dressing, or a marinade, including for tofu.

I’d recommend doubling the recipe so you have it readily on hand for all of these ideas! Note that while the recipe states the quantity as 2 tablespoons, it makes less–all of those pinches do not add up to 2-1/2 teaspoons.

Making this Old Bay Seasoning made me feel like a chemist, creating the perfect harmony of aromas by weighing “pinches” and adding and stirring and sniffing (with caution, of course!).

After mixing the ingredients with a fork, I transferred them into a spice jar, rolled the spice jar to mix further, ensuring the even distribution of the spices.

I tasted both this and my fresh store-bought mix. The original Old Bay had a bit more vibrant color, but this mix had a more vibrant flavor. You could taste the celery, but the other spices were silent contributors to a well-rounded, not-quite-the-original Old Bay flavor. But this blend is very close and definitely doesn’t sport the silicone dioxide of the store-bought version.

After I made this batch, I decided this seasoning would make a great gift for a couple of foodie friends. I made each batch separately and had the cardamom weigh in at only 0.1 grams the second time. This only confirmed my resolve to make this recipe by weight only.

The verdict? My New Old Bay and I are still honeymooning. But it has been sprinkled, steeped, and played the leading role in plenty of recipes.

It graced my dishes for the “feast of seven fishes.” They all had unique flavors, bringing out different flavors in the cod carpaccio, coquilles St.Jacques, chawanmushi, bouillabaisse, rouille, and steamed clams. Looking forward to all the future sprinkles and spoonfuls!

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. Hi. More of a question than a comment. Now that I’ve moved from RI to the West Coast, am going to need to make my own (or order from A*****, which is not preferred!). Hence this question …. one of the testers says this, ” …the cardamom weigh in at only 0.1 grams the second time. This only confirmed my resolve to make this recipe by weight only.” The recipe provides information about measures — such as using 1/16 tsp for a “pinch” — but I could not find weights. Did I miss them? Would Ilda be willing to provide the weights she used for the batch she preferred? Thanks!

    1. Great question, Kathleen. Ilda does point out that variations in weight for such small amounts can impact the finished result. We don’t generally offer weights for amounts so small because most home cooks don’t have scales that can measure that precisely. I was able to track down the weights that Ilda recorded, and have included them here if you’d like to use them.

      Celery salt, 1 tablespoon, 11.8 grams
      Paprika, Hungarian, 1/4 teaspoon, 0.8 grams
      Black ground pepper, 1/8 teaspoon, 0.3 grams
      Cayenne pepper, 1/8 teaspoon, 0.3 grams
      Dry mustard, 1/16 teaspoon, 0.2 grams
      Mace, 1 /16 teaspoon, 0.2 grams
      Ground cinnamon, 1/16 teaspoon, 0.2 grams
      Cardamom, 1/16 teaspoon, 0.2 grams
      Allspice, 1/16 teaspoon, 0.2 grams
      Ground cloves, 1/16 teaspoon, 0.2 grams<

      I hope this helps!

    1. Jo, I hope you like it. The amounts of each spice are listed in the recipe. Some say “a pinch,” which is, well, just that! A pinch.