Homemade Old Bay Seasoning

Old Bay seasoning 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…heck, you can dump this homemade spice blend on anything, really.

Homemade Old Bay Seasoning

You may know Old Bay seasoning best as an indispensable ingredient in a crawfish or shrimp boil. As kitchen maverick Todd Wilbur explains, seafood was the start of Old Bay back in 1939, when Gustav Brunn, who had settled on the Chesapeake Bay where steamed crabs are a staple, honed his top secret blend of spices. It became the most used seasoning on steamed crabs, shrimp, lobster, fish and all manner of seafood for generations to come. But it’s so simpleminded to think of it exclusively in the domain of seafood. Go on. Shake the seasoning on everything else… Originally published August 28, 2012.Renee Schettler Rossi

How To Use Old Bay Seasoning

Mixed into crab cakes, natch
Sprinkled on sweet corn
Shaken or stirred into a Bloody Mary
Dumped on fries
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

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  • 5 M
  • 5 M
  • 2 tablespoons
5/5 - 4 reviews
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  • 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


  • 1. 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.

Recipe Testers Reviews

Oddly enough, I actually prefer this Old Bay seasoning 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 actual quality of the spices. We used it on shrimp that we grilled and on fried calamari and loved them both.

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 on 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, which 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.


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  1. Once I finish my current can, I will definitely try this. Old Bay is one of those store-bought items I could not cook without, and it would be great to be able to make it. One of my favorite uses in in the white sauce base for macaroni and cheese. But I consider it an all-purpose seasoning.

    BTW: if you buy it, unless you never, ever use salt, DO NOT buy the low-sodium version! It’s almost impossible to attain the correct balance of salt to spices if you have to add your own. Which leads to a question: If I don’t have celery salt, what measures of salt and celery seed should I use?

    1. Suzanne, hope you enjoy this. As fas as the correct balance of salt and celery seed, I can’t tell you. We didn’t test it that way. Just as you said not to mess with the low-sodium version, I’d suggest not trying to make your own celery salt. The variable are too great. I’ve seen 2 tablespoons ground celery seed to 2 tablespoons kosher salt. I’ve also seen 2 tablespoons celery seeds to 1 tablespoon kosher salt. You get the picture.

  2. Thank you, I now know how to make it salt free, I used to use Old Bay on everything till the hubby had a heart attack, no salt allowed now. I have already fine tuned adobo and know I can do the same with old bay.
    My favorite left over rice becomes fried jambalaya with old bay.

  3. I have been seeing chatter on the internet for a while now that McCormick’s bought the company that created Old Bay seasoning and that when they did, they did something to the formulation because it didn’t taste the same and this was lifelong Maryland seafood lovers who have been using it all their lives getting into a panic and rushing to the stores to buy cans of it made before the buyout before it was all gone. Is the recipe on this page meant to replicate the original formula or the changed one after the buyout?

  4. I loved this base. I omitted cardamom and ginger, then added a lot more paprika. Like at least three times this recipe until it had that old bay red hue. Perfect.

  5. Thank you! We are a Baltimore family and love Old Bay but my grandmother is on a severely restricted salt-free diet and I needed a substitute. Yours is a close match although I had to doctor it slightly. I omitted the 1 teaspoon celery salt for a 1/2 teaspoon salt substitute. It was still great!

  6. I understand old Bay seasoning is used for seafood. But I also read that some famous beef hamburgers use that ingredient too. That makes me wonder, as seafood and beef obviously should require some difference in seasoning.

    1. Hi Rudy, Old Bay is one of those seasonings that goes well with lots of things. One of my favorites is crab chips—potato chips seasoned with Old Bay.

    1. Hi Rick. I’m from Ontario, Canada. I’d try a bulk food store. Not sure where you are, but here in Ontario we have a chain called Bulk Barn with tons of spices, etc.

      Good luck!


    2. Rick, I have seen it in the groceries store. I’m in NB and I’ve seen it in Sobeys or Atlantic Superstore (Loblaws chain). Or even the Bulk Barn would probably carry it. Worse case scenario, you should be able to purchase on Amazon!

    3. I’ve seen it at our local Safeway (Alberta, Canada). I get mine from the Safeway in Medicine Hat Mall. I hope this helps.

  7. Thank you David you were a life saver! We cannot find Old Bay Seasoning anywhere here in Hong Kong and so glad I found your recipe. I used it in my crab stuffed founder and it was so delicious. I will be adding your link to my recipe and will be posting it soon.

      1. Rick, I have seen it in the groceries store. I’m in NB and I’ve seen it in Sobeys or Atlantic Superstore (Loblaws chain). Or even the Bulk Barn would probably carry it. Worse case scenario, you should be able to purchase on Amazon!

  8. Copious amount of Old Bay, a bit of chopped bacon and onion added to a pot of fresh (or as happens most times, canned) green beans is delish! We don’t eat them any other way!

  9. I see this post is older but hey I am new here so this post is new to me. I can not wait to try to make my own Old Bay! I have a embarrassing kinda comical story about Old Bay. Twenty years ago we moved from our hometown of Lexington. KY, to New Smyrna Beach, Fl. We met some locals and they took us crabbing. We had a blast and were quite successful in our attempts at catching crabs. On our way home we were told by our new local friends that we needed Old Bay seasoning to make crab cakes. We had never heard of it. (Gasp, can you imagine?)

    So we went into the local store to pick some up. Being fresh from KY we had heavy accents, even though we didn’t think we did. We looked all over for what the locals had called “Crab Boil.” Finally we asked the sales clerk. We kept saying we needed Old Bay crab boil. I reckon it sounded like we had a mouth full of mush. They could not understand us! We sounded like O-boy crab oil. LOL. Finally a customer from W. Virginia heard us repeating our self over and over and translated our hillbilly for the clerk and we were able to get the Old Bay… aha the memories.,…

  10. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. This is exactly what happened to me and what I am currently doing! LOL! One link led me to a recipe which then led me here. I am having so much fun! Must sign up for your emails! :D

    1. 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.

    1. Of course they’re steamed, AK… “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”….

      1. Sorry Gary, you did not say crab boil in your previous post. Even if you did, Marylanders would have still corrected you. And ‘crab boil’ is not a misnomer. While it can refer to the spices used to ‘boil’ crabs, it also refers to actually boiling crabs, like they do in the south. No one in Maryland refers to a steamed crabs as a crab boil…

  11. 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 :)

    1. 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!

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

    1. I have now found from reading this article what Old Bay is. I have to say, I will have a bash at making some today. Thank you and God bless.

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