Old Bay Seasoning is a classic spice blend that I like to have on hand. It makes sense because this iconic seasoning it goes so well on so many dishes. But, occasionally I need to reach for one of my substitutes for Old Bay Seasoning.
Fortunately, if you can't find Old Bay Seasoning in your spice cabinet while you are in the midst of a recipe, there are some good substitutes including making it from scratch.
As you consider substitutions, keep in mind that some spices and seasoning blends work better with certain vegetables proteins, such as this Instant Pot Country Style Ribs recipe, than others. Other recipes such as these air fryer shrimp, air fryer crab cakes, and shrimp boils are best suited to the original because of the expected taste. Old Bay is easy to find in grocery stores, so you can easily stock up. But if you need a backup, this is the place to find one.
McCormick, the makers of Old Bay Seasoning keep their proprietary blend a well-kept secret. But, they do tell us that they use a blend of 18 herbs and spices to make the classic and well-loved Old Bay Seasoning. I am not even going to try to get close to that number!
The main ingredients on the container of Old Bay Seasoning mention celery salt, paprika, red pepper, and black pepper. The homemade recipe adds just a pinch of additional seasonings to round out the base. Knowing more about what these common ingredients contribute to the seasoning, will help you choose what dishes work with one of these substitutes for Old Bay Seasoning.
Celery salt is one of the base ingredients. It adds a subtle hint of salt flavor and helps to balance out the other spices in the mix. The subtle hint of celery gives it an unmistakable signature flavor, making it ideal for adding flavor without overpowering other flavors in your dish.
Paprika is another core ingredient in Old Bay Seasoning, and for good reason. It provides a smoky and earthy flavor and also adds some color to the seasoning blend, making it visually appealing as well as tasty.
Paprika also adds just the right amount of spiciness without being too overwhelming. Its versatility makes it an ideal choice for recipes like Old Bay Seasoning which require multiple different flavors to come together harmoniously.
Ground black pepper adds a bold and spicy flavor to Old Bay Seasoning. Its sharp, pungent taste gives a nice contrast to the earthy paprika, while also adding a hint of heat without overpowering the other flavors in the mix.
Cayenne pepper adds a wonderful kick of spice that really brings the other flavors to life. Its distinctive flavor is spicy yet savory, with notes of heat and smokiness.
The following ingredients round out the list of a good alternative homemade version of the real thing; dry mustard, which adds a bit of tanginess, ground mace, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, cloves, and ginger. These different spices, bring everything together for an aromatic flavor experience like no other.
Substitutes for Old Bay Seasoning
Here are some of the best Old Bay Seasoning substitutes if you don't want to make a run to your local grocery store!
- Cajun seasoning is a great substitute and the best alternative, but will have a little more spiciness than Old Bay. It does have most of the key ingredients and works well on fish and seafood, meats, and poultry. Cajun seasoning can also be use to seasoning rice and vegetables.
- Celery salt and paprika. To keep things really simple, mix ¼ teaspoon celery salt and ¼ teaspoon paprika for every teaspoon of Old Bay Seasoning called for in your recipe.
- Celery seed and paprika. Another good substitute is this combination especially if your are trying to limit your salt intake. The celery seeds should be ground in a mortar and pestle to arrive at a nice powdery consistency.
- Chili powder and celery flakes. This combination works well for meats, fish and poultry. Add salt as needed for your recipe.
- Homemade Old Bay Seasoning. See the recipe below for one of the closest substitutes for Old Bay Seasoning.
Store your seasonings in a tightly sealed container in a clean, dark place for best results. Any substitutes for Old Bay seasoning, including the homemade recipe can last up to 2 years. However, they will loose some of their flavor and potency after about 6 months. Test older spices either by smelling or tasting before using them.
The best part is that you don't need a lot of this seasoning to get bold and exciting flavors – so a little goes a long way. Enjoy experimenting in the kitchen and discovering new favorites with this seasoning or its substitutes.
What is the shelf life of homemade Old Bay Seasoning?
How much Old Bay should I add to my dish?
What type of dishes can I use this seasoning for?
How does Old Bay Seasoning differ from other seasonings?
Can I make Old Bay Seasoning without salt?
Homemade Old Bay Seasoning
- 1 tablespoon celery salt
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 pinch mustard powder
- 1 pinch ground mace
- 1 pinch ground cinnamon
- 1 pinch ground cardamom
- 1 pinch ground allspice
- 1 pinch ground cloves
- 1 pinch ground ginger
- In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Transfer the spice mixture to a container with a tight-fitting lid.
- Store in a cool, dark place for 3 to 6 months.