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Old Bay Seasoning

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Multiple layers of complex flavors have made this iconic American spice blend a household favorite for generations.  This Old Bay Seasoning recipe is fabulous as an all-purpose seasoning blend and is sure to win a permanent place at your dinner table!

Use this Homemade Old Bay Seasoning to bring life and flavor to your Fish Cakes, New England Clam Chowder, Jambalaya, and more!

old bay seasoning recipe best homemade copycat seafood spice blend

What is Old Bay Seasoning?

Old Bay Seasoning is a quintessential American spice blend that has had a popular following since it was developed over 80 years ago.  It’s characterized by multiple layers of complex flavors that pair well with a large variety of dishes.  Its broad flavor palette makes it a terrific all-purpose seasoning.  We’ve created an Old Bay Seasoning copycat that we think you’ll agree is a total winner!

Where Did It Originate?

It was World War II and a man named Gustav Brunn, a German Jew, was sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp.  His family managed to bribe the Nazi soldiers to release him for a hefty sum of 10,000 marks and then hastily made preparations to flee to the United States.  He had to leave virtually everything behind but there was one item he couldn’t part with:  His small spice grinder.  Clutching his meager belongings he escaped from Germany and arrived in what would become his new home of Maryland, USA.  He soon got a job working for America’s largest spice company, McCormick, but was fired after only a week because of his lack of English skills.  But Brunn didn’t let that stop him.

In 1939 Brunn rented some space across from the Wholesale Fish Market at Baltimore’s Market Place and went to work creating what would become one of America’s most iconic spice blends.  He started selling it under the name “Delicious Brand Shrimp and Crab Seasoning” but soon changed it to what would remain its permanent name, Old Bay, a tribute to the Old Bay Line steamship route on the Chesapeake Bay.  The unique new seasoning spread via word of mouth and in time it acquired legendary status in its region and tremendous popularity beyond.

Ironically McCormick purchased Old Bay in 1990.  They’ve continue to make it after Brunn’s original formula.

old bay seasoning recipe best homemade copycat seafood spice blend

How to Use Old Bay Seasoning

While it’s traditionally associated with southern crab and crawfish boils, Old Bay Seasoning is deliciously versatile.  Here are some tasty ways you can use it:

  • In clam chowder and oyster stews
  • Sprinkled on French fries, baked potato wedges, and baked potatoes
  • Added to potato salad, macaroni salad, egg salad or tuna salad
  • Sprinkled on jambalaya, gumbo and other rice dishes
  • Sprinkled on popcorn
  • Sprinkled on corn on the cob
  • For seasoning roasted nuts
  • Added to fish cakes, crab cakes, or fried catfish
  • Sprinkled over fish tacos
  • Sprinkled over bread rolls
  • Strewn over chicken wings
  • As a dry rub for fish, meat and poultry
  • Added to eggs, deviled eggs, and omelettes
  • Incorporated into marinades for meats, poultry and seafood
  • Stirred into softened butter and then chilled to make a seasoned compound butter
  • Sprinkled over steamed, boiled, baked or grilled veggies
crawfish boil old bay seasoning

Old Bay Seasoning Ingredients

The original version is said to have contained 18 ingredients, most of which have remained a heavily guarded secret.  While no one knows for sure what all of the ingredients are or what their quantities and ratios are, there have been many attempts over the years at replicating the blend.  This is our copycat of the famous Old Bay Seasoning.

Included in our Old Bay Seasoning copycat recipe is salt, celery seed, sweet paprika, smoked paprika, black pepper, white pepper, nutmeg, mace, cardamom, ginger, allspice, cloves, cinnamon ground mustard, red pepper flakes, and bay leaves.  That’s 16 spices and if you want to increase the count to the original 18, feel free to add a touch or two of your own.  For example, you could add some garlic and/or onion powder.

We’ve tested this recipe on a large variety of foods and are confident you’re going to love this homemade Old Bay Seasoning as much as we do!

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Old Bay Seasoning Recipe

Once you’ve gathered up the ingredients it takes just a couple of minutes to make.

Place all of the ingredients in a coffee or spice grinder or small blender and grind until it’s a smooth powder.

Transfer the spice blend to an airtight jar and store in a dark, cool place.

For optimal flavor use within 3 months.

grinding ingredients to powder

Enjoy!

old bay seasoning recipe homemade spice blend from scratch seafood copycat

For more delicious homemade seasoning blends be sure to try our:

old bay seasoning recipe best homemade copycat seafood spice blend

Old Bay Seasoning

Multiple layers of complex flavors have made this iconic American spice blend a household favorite for generations.  Old Bay Seasoning is fabulous as an all-purpose seasoning blend and is sure to win a permanent place at your dinner table!  
5 from 74 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course condiment, Seasoning, Spice Blend
Cuisine American
Servings 12 servings
Calories 6 kcal

Ingredients
  

Instructions
 

  • Place all of the ingredients in a coffee or spice grinder or small blender and grind until it's a smooth powder. Transfer the spice blend to an airtight jar and store in a dark, cool place.
    For optimal flavor use within 3 months.
    Makes about 1/4 cup.

Video

Nutrition

Serving: 1teaspoonCalories: 6kcalCarbohydrates: 1gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 438mgPotassium: 15mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 218IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 9mgIron: 1mg
Keyword Old Bay Seasoning
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Originally published on The Daring Gourmet May 28, 2020

kimberly killebrew the daring gourmet

Hi, I’m Kimberly Killebrew and welcome to Daring Gourmet where you'll find delicious originals, revitalized classics, and simply downright good eats from around the world! Originally from Germany, later raised in England, world-traveled, and now living in the U.S., from my globally-influenced kitchen I invite you to tour the world through your taste buds!

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Recipe Rating




5 from 74 votes (56 ratings without comment)

47 Comments

  1. The recipe for Old Bay Seasoning says 12 servings. I am one person senior can you tell me in cups how much this recipe makes. Thank You.

  2. This is a terrific blend and hands down beats any of the store-bought brands, including the name brands.

  3. Really enjoyed this seasoning. The blend of spices and ratios were perfect, everything so well balanced. Didn’t need to make a single change. My go-to from now on.

  4. Hi! We were almost out of Old Bay Seasoning- commercial. We decided to make our own fresh using your recipe. The only addition we made was to add 1/4 tsp of marjoram. My husband is German and the family chef. He says Germans LOVE marjoram, so we added some to our mix In honor of old Gustav!
    We are using it in our corned beef. Thanks for your recipe!!

    1. Fantastic, Patricia, thanks so much for the feedback! And your husband is totally correct, marjoram is very much a staple in German cooking and I’m sure Gustav would feel honored :)

  5. hi! question for you…i just want to confirm whether i should be using fresh bay leaves or dry? i only have dry, and the grinder didn’t totally grind the dry leaves to a powder. i can see them scattered throughout the powder, very small pieces though.

  6. Thanks for the recipe! How much would you typically use in a recipe? For example, I have a crab cake recipe that makes about 3 cups of the mixture. How much of the seasoning mix to you recommend? Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Susie, for 3 cups of the mixture I’d go with 1-2 teaspoons of Old Bay Seasoning. It really depends on what other ingredients you have in your crab cakes and how pronounced you want the Old Bay flavor to be. What I recommend is starting with less, like a teaspoon, then take just a tablespoon of your mixture and fry it up, taste it, and then decide if you want to add more of the seasoning.

  7. This is awesome! I like to add a little citrus for brightest. I use “True Lemon” or “True Orange” depending on what I am putting it on. I just make up different jars for each.
    I love the “True” crystalized citrus packets. They are so versatile.

  8. Thank you so much as this is not a readily available spice to purchase in Australia and I love the story of how the man from Germany created this mix. I will be combining spices tonight :D

  9. Have not tried yet but sounds promissing, maybe coriander is one of the other 2 ingredients. In Maryland I think the JO spice is preferred by those in the know although not as a available. Probably an ex-employee of McCormick who was making Old Bay for years so took the recipe and added more of this and less of that.

  10. FYI – there is no garlic or onion in original Old Bay. I have a life-threatening allium (everything in the onion & garlic family) allergy, and have confirmed with the company that their product will not kill me, and they have very strict sanitation policies in place to prevent cross contamination from their other spice blends. Also, I’m still alive, so there is some anecdotal proof. So, while your suggestion to add onion and garlic would indeed bring it up to 18, those aren’t the two that are missing.

  11. Love this recipe I have Loved Old Bay and like to add to many things but sometimes way too salty to add enough….making my own I can make it without salt as well…Thanks for sharing

  12. Hi Kimberly…I am well in my 60’s and my grandparents lived in Maryland on the Eastern Shore. When I was barely walking they would either purchase steamed crabs from crab shacks or catch crabs to steam at home. People who crab on the Eastern Shore of Maryland have been using Old Bay Seasoning packaged by McCormick on steamed Crabs for way more than 20 years. McCormick obtain the RiGHTS in 1990 but the seasoning was under McCormick years before. The full story is very interesting.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Bay_Seasoning

    1. Hi Karen, yes that’s correct, it has been more than 20 years since McCormick bought Old Bay – they bought it in 1990 which is 30 years ago. Obtaining the rights and buying it is the same thing. The line you’re referring to in the Wiki article, “the rights to the seasoning brand were purchased by McCormick & Co in 1990”, links to this article as the source of that info: https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/bs-xpm-1990-11-01-1990305197-story.html. That article corroborates what I’ve said, namely that McCormick purchased Old Bay Seasoning for the first time in 1990. Prior to that it was owned by Baltimore Spice Company, the family owned company started by the man who invented Old Bay Seasoning.