Homemade Old Bay Seasoning

This Old Bay seasoning recipe, a favorite of Maryland, 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.

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

You may know Old Bay seasoning best as an indispensable ingredient in a crawfish or shrimp boil. And that’s not inaccurate. But it’s so simpleminded to think of it exclusively in the domain of seafood. Go on. Shake the seasoning on everything else…–David Leite

What can I use Old Bay seasoning with?

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 or 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
Whirled 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
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
And, if you live in Maryland, lavished on just about everything else you can think to eat

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

Homemade Old Bay Seasoning

  • Quick Glance
  • (8)
  • 5 M
  • 5 M
  • Makes 2 tablespoons
5/5 - 8 reviews
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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. Originally published August 28, 2012.

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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 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. I’m from the UK and discovered old bay on the banks of the Chesapeake whilst visiting friends out there five years ago whilst eating our own body weight of blue legged crab with old bay piled on. Delicious!!! For health reasons now, however, I’ve had to become vegan. Knowing what your recipe is now – I will indeed make my own. Thank you.

    1. You’re so very welcome, Peter. And I know exactly the feeling of consuming one’s own weight in crabs with Old Bay, all of it washed back with beer. It’s a reminder that life is good. Thank you for letting us know this is a keeper for you!

  2. Tried the recipe…was a close comparison to old Bay! I decided rather than buying all of the last six ingredients again to refresh my old ones I bought a 1.75oz container of McCormick pickling spice…it has most of the last six ingredients.I ground the whole bottle into a powder in my spice mill…omitted the last six and just added a teaspoon of ground pickling spice…It was spot on!!!Very good spiced shrimp!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

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