America’s most popular spice blend, Old Bay Seasoning, is considered the ultimate seasoning for seafood. This amazing seasoning makes seafood taste fab and can transform just about anything, including steak, burgers, chicken, rice, potatoes, chowders, vegetables, and pasta, into something super delicious.
Created in Maryland more than 75 years ago, this unique seasoning with a blend of 18 spices and herbs has a salty, peppery, spicy and herbaceous flavor.
What Can Old Bay Seasoning Be Used For?
- Add the seasoning to your seafood, shrimp, crab cakes, etc.
- Sprinkle some seasoning onto your pita chips, tortillas or saltine crackers.
- Stir some Old Bay seasoning into rice and red beans or chili con carne for some extra flavor.
- Sprinkle some Old Bay seasoning onto your deviled eggs and make a yummy appetizer.
- Rub it onto your roasted or barbecued corn cobs.
- Rub the seasoning over pumpkin, squash or broiled veggies to take them to the next level.
- Sprinkle some Old Bay seasoning on avocado toast.
- Mix the seasoning with some oil and lemon juice to make a delicious marinade.
Good Old Bay Seasoning Substitutes
If you’ve run out of Old Bay seasoning and need to use it in a recipe, but don’t have the time to do a grocery store run, then you may have to resort to using an alternative for your favorite seasoning. And, if you’re wondering what to use instead of Old Bay seasoning, don’t panic. We’ve got your back!
Here are several other alternatives that can serve as a great substitute for Old Bay seasoning that you can use to finish any dish. Or, you can also make your spicy blend that can work as a good substitute too. In this section, we’ll discuss some substitutes that can fit the bill.
Used to pickle food mainly, pickling spice is a blend of spices that can also be used to add flavor to soups, braised meats, stews, etc. and is a great substitute to Old Bay seasoning. You can easily find pickling spice in the grocery store, supermarkets or online.
However, it is extremely easy to make pickling spice at home with the spices and herbs you have in your pantry like mustard seeds, allspice, cloves, ginger, red pepper flakes, bay leaves and cilantro seeds. You can also customize it according to your personal preference.
Typically used to flavor the water in which crabs, lobster, shellfish, shrimp and crawfish are boiled, crab boil comes closest to Old Bay seasoning. You can easily find readymade crab boil in all grocery stores, supermarkets and even online. However, nothing can beat the flavor of making your homemade crab boil.
And, what’s more, crab boil is super easy to make. All you need is cayenne pepper, cilantro seeds, dill seeds, mustard seeds, bay leaves and allspice and grind them into a powder using a mortar and pestle for that fantastic flavor and aroma. You can add extra spices and herbs like celery seeds, celery salt and paprika for that extra flavor.
Considered one of the best substitutes for Old Bay seasoning, Cajun seasoning adds loads of flavor and depth to any dish, be it fish, meat, beans, vegetables or others. Originally from Louisiana, Cajun seasoning is characterized by its subtle and pleasant spiciness that is enhanced by a wonderful earthiness.
Available at any supermarket or online, you can easily make this southern seasoning with cayenne pepper, paprika, garlic powder, black pepper, dried oregano and dried thyme. You can make Cajun seasoning taste more like Old Bay seasoning by adding some mustard seeds, cloves, allspice and celery seeds.
With its bold and fiery hot flavor, Chesapeake Dirt, a part of the spice mix range produced by Todd’s Dirt, comes very close to the taste and flavor of Old Bay seasoning.
With a blend of 20 spices and herbs, including garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, cloves, ginger, cinnamon and chipotle, Chesapeake Dirt is a one-of-a-kind seasoning that adds a bid hit of flavor to your seafood be it fish, crabs, scallops, shrimps and you can even try it with your veggies.
Originally from the Caribbean, seasoned salt, a blend of salt, celery salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and turmeric, is a wonderful alternative to Old Bay seasoning for meat-based dishes and other dishes that use Old Bay seasoning. The best thing about seasoned salt is that it is extremely versatile and can be used across varied cuisines, including American, Mexican, Chinese and Indian recipes.
Chinese Five Spice
A blend of ingredients, the Chinese five-spice is made from cloves, cinnamon, fennel, Szechuan peppercorns and star anise. A bit sweeter, Chinese five-spice is an extremely versatile seasoning that can be added to seafood, chicken and red meat and can be used instead of Old Bay seasoning. To make it taste close to Old Bay, you can add some bay leaves, mustard seeds and celery seeds to the Five Spice blend.
French Four Spice
Also known as quatre spices, French four spice is a seasoning mix that is commonly used in French cuisine to add flavor to soups, stews, vegetables, pates, casseroles and sausages. The seasoning has a blend of white pepper, ground cloves, nutmeg and ginger in equal quantities.
However, if you prefer, you can add other spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, mustard seeds, allspice, pepper and mace to the blend. French Four Spice is a great alternative to Old Bay seasoning and to make it as close to the taste of the Old Bay you can add crushed red pepper flakes, paprika and celery salt.
Making Your Own Homemade Old Bay Seasoning
The original recipe for Old Bay seasoning is a closely guarded secret and only the manufacturers know the actual ingredients that go into it. However, with some trial and error, we have arrived at a recipe that is quite similar in taste to the original.
The recipe is very easy and quick to make and the best thing about it is that you can tweak the recipe as per your preference. You can either use ground spices available at the store, or a better option is to purchase whole spices and grind them using a mortar and pestle or a spice mill.
- 1-1/2 tablespoon of celery salt
- ¼ teaspoon of paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon of mustard
- 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
- A pinch of cloves powder
- A pinch of cardamom powder
- A pinch of allspice powder
- A pinch of ginger powder
- A pinch of cinnamon powder
- A pinch of nutmeg powder
In a bowl add all the ingredients and mix it until everything is combined properly.
Then, put the blended seasoning mix into an airtight container and store it in a cool and dry place until you need to use it for a recipe.
Quick Facts About Old Bay Seasoning
- Brought to Baltimore, the U.S. in 1939 by Gustav Brunn, a zest dealer, who escaped from Nazi Germany, Old Bay seasoning was marketed by McCormick & Company.
- The seasoning was earlier called “Delightful Brand Shrimp and Crab Seasoning” and was later renamed Old Bay seasoning after the steamship line in the Chesapeake area.
- The Old Bay seasoning was extremely popular in Maryland and was also commonly used in the Mid-Atlantic States, New England, the Gulf Coast and the Southern States.
- When it was created, seafood was offered by the Baltimore bars for free and the spicy seasoning helped to drive up the beverage sales.
- Old Bay seasoning sticks to the seafood shells, causing people eating it to have red lips and fingers.
Old Bay seasoning is an extremely popular seasoning with plenty of uses; however, it is mostly used to flavor seafood, crabs and shrimp boils. However, suppose you‘ve run out of Old Bay seasoning and need it urgently. In that case, you can use any of the alternatives we have discussed in our article, or if you want a more authentic tasting seasoning, you can make your own Old Bay seasoning blend right at home.