Post image for Homemade Old Bay Seasoning

Homemade Old Bay Seasoning

by jenny sansouci on September 21, 2011

People in Maryland are obsessed with Old Bay seasoning. When you’re in the Chesapeake Bay area, you’ll find this regionally popular spice & herb mixture everywhere – a waiter won’t even flinch if you ask for it at a restaurant. It’s mainly used as a seafood seasoning, especially in Maryland where there are crabs-o-plenty, but it can be used on anything, really.

When I was on a trip to Ocean City, MD over the summer, we had Old Bay on everything. When I got back to New York, I had gotten so used to eating it that I set out to create my own.

At an Ocean City, MD Seafood Restaurant

Here’s the thing about Old Bay — it’s a “top secret blend” of herbs and spices. That makes it tricky to copy, but their ingredients list gave me enough to start working with.


Ok – so we start there. What else? I did a little research and added a few more ingredients, and ultimately created a spice mixture that is pretty darn close to the real thing. There are some recipes that call for a bunch of other different things too, but I wanted to keep it simple.

Here’s what I used:

  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp ground bay leaves
  • 1/2 tbsp celery salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp all-spice

Mix in a food processor, spice grinder or high-speed blender until thoroughly mixed.

Ideas for sprinkling on Old Bay:

  • Steamed/sauteed veggies
  • Organic eggs
  • Popcorn
  • Tempeh/tofu
  • Any seafood or meats
  • Stir-fry
  • Soups & stews
  • Corn on the cob
  • Roasted potatoes

So try this out if you’re into creating your own seasonings…and you want to experience this classic seafood spice that has people totally addicted.



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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Danielle September 21, 2011 at 3:31 pm

I love this. I love everything you do!


Amanda September 21, 2011 at 4:17 pm

🙂 Thanks for the nod to Maryland. 😉


Angela September 23, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Yum! I love old bay. Do I have to be careful about going overboard when using it? I’m worried about how much salt is in it and can’t really tell.


jenny sansouci September 23, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Angela – just use enough so it tastes great but doesn’t totally overpower the dish. With any spice, I usually add a little, taste and then add more if it needs more flavor. 🙂


Brian September 24, 2011 at 10:42 am

hi jenny!…couple of questions – are there ingredients in addition to those listed by Old Bay as part of the recipe?…do they have to list all ingredients, by law?

What are the benefits to replicating the recipe on your own over buying Old Bay?…freshness?….control over individual ingredient amounts? Preservatives, additives and colorings are not an issue – there are none of those in Old Bay, are there?


jenny sansouci September 24, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Hi Brian! According to the FDA food labeling laws:
Spices, natural flavors or artificial flavors may be declared in ingredient lists by using either specific common or usual names or by using the declarations “spices,” “flavor” or “natural flavor,” or “artificial flavor.” I read on the Old Bay site that it’s a blend of 18 herbs and spices, but there are only a few on the list. So I tried to come as close as possible to the taste, even though I don’t have the exact recipe. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with buying it in the can, but I just like experimenting with making my own stuff rather than buying it pre-packaged. Also, Old Bay may not be available everywhere. Hope that helps!


cathy. February 14, 2013 at 2:18 am

I use from scratch recipes for seasoning over manufactured brands. MSG can be a hidden ingredient in “spices”, “flavorings”, and “natural flavorings” etc. Since I react violently to MSG I NEVER use any item with iffy ingredient listings. Thanks for this recipe!


Moma B June 4, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Contrary to your belief, Cathy, MSG can NOT be hidden in the ingredient, by law. So rest assure if it’s not on the list, then it’s not there. I too like to make my own spices and old bay is a biggies in our household since we consume large amounts of seafood.


Brian September 25, 2011 at 2:08 pm

thanks for the reply – that does help 🙂 …obviously, there is room for the food industry to include ingredients while keeping us unaware fully of what they are…


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