The Best Substitute for Old Bay Seasoning

The iconic Old Bay Seasoning, often associated with seafood, is also utterly delicious on popcorn, roasted potatoes, eggs and salads. Find 15 Old Bay Seasoning alternatives along with the best substitute for Old Bay Seasoning in the recipe.

The classic Old Bay Seasoning is a delicious blend of 18 herbs and spices. Season seafood dishes or sprinkle it over roasted potatoes as I do. It is also delicious on popcorn and cold salads (like potato salad, egg salad or tuna salad)!

Unfortunately, this delicious seasoning mix is tricky to find in grocery stores outside the US. While the exact recipe is a closely guarded secret, the main ingredients of Old Bay are widely known.

See the recipe card for homemade Old Bay Seasoning, or try one of the alternative Old Bay Seasoning substitutes.

Close-up of homemade Old Bay Seasoning substitute on a gold teaspoon with a bowl of Old Bay in the background.

What is Old Bay?

Baltimore Spice Company (founded by Gustav Brunn in 1939) created a seasoning mix called “Delicious Brand Shrimp and Crab Seasoning”, only later rebranding it as Old Bay Seasoning. McCormick & Company, Incorporated bought the rights to Old Bay in 1990 and still manufactures and distributes it under the Old Bay name.

Old Bay Classic Seafood Seasoning contains 18 herbs and spices. The exact recipe is a secret. However, the packaging lists the main ingredients. It includes celery salt (salt, celery seeds), spices (including red pepper and black pepper) and paprika.

Original Old Bay packaging in the Baltimore Museum of Industry lists more spices, including laurel leaves (bay leaves), mustard, cardamom, cloves and ginger.

And in the UK, Old Bay Seasoning consists of 14 herbs and spices. And they are all listed on the packaging: Salt, sugar, paprika (16%), mustard flour (13.1%), ground celery seed (12%), black pepper (3%), cayenne pepper, bay leaves, cloves, coriander seed, thyme, basil, anti-caking agent (silicon dioxide), ground nutmeg, rosemary, savory, allspice. This version is different to the classic US version.

Old Bay Seasoning varieties

Old Bay Seasoning refers to the Classic Seafood Seasoning, but there are more varieties. Stick to the original blend of 18 herbs and spices, turn up the heat, or try another exciting flavour.

  • Old Bay Classic Seafood Seasoning is the iconic savoury mix of 18 herbs and spicy to add to seafood dishes and anything else.
  • Old Bay Hot Seasoning is similar to the classic blend but with an extra spicy kick.
  • Old Bay Seasoning With Garlic and Herb has a garlicky punch.
  • Old Bay Seasoning With Lemon and Herb is like the classic mix but with added lemon (juice concentrate and oil) and is especially good with shrimp.
  • Old Bay 30% Less Sodium Seasoning has the same distinctive zesty flavour with all 18 herbs and spices but 30 percent less sodium.
  • Old Bay Blackened Seasoning is like a BBQ version with its blackened grill flavour and added sugar.

Main ingredients in Old Bay

The exact list of herbs and spices in Old Bay Classic Seafood Seasoning is a closely guarded secret.

But we can use our food detective skills to confirm and rule out a few of the ingredients. Then it’s down to our tastebuds to find the best substitute.

We know that:

  • US Old Bay packaging lists the main ingredients as celery salt (salt, celery seeds), spices (including red pepper and black pepper) and paprika.
  • The original packaging in the Baltimore Museum of Industry also lists laurel leaves (bay leaves), mustard, salt, cardamom, cloves, and ginger.
  • Comments addressing allium allergies by verified Old Bay responses on their US website confirm that “Old Bay Classic Seafood Seasoning does not contain onion or garlic”.
  • The same comments confirm that the US version of Old Bay Classic Seafood Seasoning does not contain sugar.
  • Herbs and spices in the UK version of Old Bay include paprika, mustard flour, ground celery seed, black pepper, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, cloves, coriander seed, thyme, basil, ground nutmeg, rosemary, savory, and allspice.

Other common ingredients in Old Bay copycat recipes include garlic powder, onion powder, star anise, dill seed, fennel seed and mustard seed.

According to Bon Appétit, red pepper flakes are a mix of peppers, with cayenne taking up most of the share. So, red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper powder will both work well.

Close-up of homemade Old Bay seasoning substitute in a small white bowl.

The 15 best substitutes for Old Bay Seasoning

If you run out of Old Bay Seasoning, this list has some excellent shop-bought substitutes (and many more that can work in a pinch!).

But if you struggle to find Old Bay because you live outside of the US, then some of the ready-made seasoning blends (like Phillips Seafood Seasoning, Pacific Seafood Seasoning and Chesapeake Dirt) will also be tricky to find. In this case, try the homemade Old Bay substitutes in positions 13 to 15.

Old Bay Seasoning is salty, so for some of these recommended spice blends, you need to add salt to use it as a direct substitute. Always check the label and add one teaspoon of salt to two teaspoons of spice mix if the blend does not already have salt.

1. Phillips Seafood Seasoning

This seafood seasoning contains a variety of herbs and spices similar to those in Old Bay, including paprika, celery salt, pepper, allspice, mustard and ginger. It is a great substitute that promises the same “zing”.

Use Phillips Seafood Seasoning as a direct substitute for Old Bay Seasoning.

2. Pacific Seafood Seasoning

Pacific Seafood Seasoning is another excellent ready-made substitute for Old Bay. It contains celery seed, white pepper, bay leaves, clove, sea salt, allspice, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, paprika and mustard powder.

Use Pacific Seafood Seasoning as a direct substitute for Old Bay Seasoning.

3. Todd’s Dirt (Chesapeake Dirt)

Chesapeake Dirt is an all-purpose seasoning for seafood, veggies or meat. The Chesapeake Bay style seasoning contains 20 herbs and spices, including basil, oregano, thyme, kosher salt, garlic, pepper, onion, rosemary, cilantro, sage, cinnamon, clove, ginger and more.

Use it as a direct substitute for Old Bay.

4. Crab Boil

The ingredients and flavour of commercial Crab Boil depend on the manufacturer (like Zatarain’s crab boil). This “Crawfish Shrimp and Crab Boil” is, unsurprisingly, used to season crawfish, shrimp or crab. But similar to Old Bay, it is a versatile seasoning blend.

It can contain red pepper (or cayenne pepper), paprika, bay leaves, cloves, black pepper, thyme, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, dill seeds, allspice, and more.

Use Crab Boil as a direct substitute for Old Bay.

5. Pickling spice

Pickling spice is another spice mix that can vary greatly depending on the maker. Typical ingredients include mustard seeds, allspice, coriander seeds, cardamom, mace, cloves, ginger, red pepper (chillies), black pepper, bay leaf and cinnamon.

The spices are often whole (or coarsely blended), and the mix tends to be unseasoned (check the label to confirm).

Grind the spices in a spice grinder. And add one teaspoon of salt (or even better, celery salt) for every two teaspoons of unsalted pickling spice.

6. Cajun seasoning

Cajun seasoning is a spice mix from the Louisiana area in the Southern United States. While everyone tends to have their version, it’s generally a spicy blend of peppers, including paprika, cayenne powder, garlic powder, pepper and oregano.

The spice blend is often salted. Check your label to confirm.

For an unsalted Cajun spice mix, combine two teaspoons of Cajun spices with one teaspoon salt (use celery salt if you want an even better match for Old Bay).

7. Creole seasoning

While Creole seasoning is also associated with Louisiana, it tends to be more herby and less spicy than Cajun seasoning. It can have paprika, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, basil, thyme, black pepper, white pepper, and cayenne pepper.

Brands like Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning already contains salt, so use it as a 1:1 substitute.

But some Creole spice mixes are unseasoned. Add a teaspoon of salt (or even better, celery salt) for every two teaspoons of unsalted Creole spices.

Chinese five-spice powder in a small bowl surrounded by spices viewed from above.

8. Chinese five-spice

This ground blend of five or more different spices has a distinctive flavour. The most common ingredients include cinnamon, star anise, clove, Sichuan peppercorns, and fennel seeds. The warm cinnamon notes and liquorice-like anise are prominent flavours in this spice blend.

To use Chinese five-spice as a substitute for Old Bay, mix two teaspoons with one teaspoon of salt (celery salt is even better), half a teaspoon of paprika and a generous pinch of cayenne pepper.

9. French four-spice

This ground blend of spices (sometimes called French allspice) is a mix of white pepper, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. It is a common ingredient in Middle Eastern and French cuisine.

Add two teaspoons of French four-spice to half a teaspoon of sweet paprika, a pinch of cayenne pepper and one teaspoon of celery salt to use it as a substitute for Old Bay.

10. Lebanese seven-spice (Baharat)

Bahārāt is the Arabic word for spices. Lebanese seven-spice is sometimes referred to as Baharat, even though Baharat can include more than seven ingredients.

The spices in Lebanese seven-spice vary. Most blends have cinnamon, ginger, allspice, black pepper and cloves. The remaining two ingredients can be cardamom, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, fenugreek or mahlab.

To use Lebanese seven-spice as a substitute for Old Bay, add one teaspoon of celery salt, half a teaspoon of paprika and a pinch of cayenne pepper for every two teaspoons of seven-spice.

11. Ras el hanout

Ras el hanout means “head of the shop” in Arabic. The exact spice mix varies across shops in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Ras el hanout is a great rub for meat or fish. It also elevates simple couscous, pasta or rice dishes.

Common ras el hanout ingredients include cardamom, cumin, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice, ground ginger, chilli peppers, coriander seed, peppercorn, sweet or hot paprika, fenugreek and turmeric.

Typically ras el hanout does not have salt. But check the product label to confirm, and add one teaspoon of celery salt for every two teaspoons of unsalted ras el hanout spice mix.

12. Seasoning salt

Seasoning salt is any blend of herbs and spices mixed with salt. So, the exact mix can vary greatly!

To use any seasoning salt as a substitute for Old Bay Seafood Seasoning, carefully check the label of your seasoning salt. If the mix does not already contain paprika, ground celery seeds, mustard powder, cayenne pepper (or another hot pepper), black pepper, or ground bay leaf, add some of these key ingredients to get closer to the Old Bay spice mix.

Close-up of celery salt and paprika on a concrete surface.

13. Two-ingredient Old Bay substitute: Celery Salt + Paprika

Celery salt and sweet paprika make a surprisingly good substitute for Old Bay.

Mix the following to create four teaspoons of Old Bay Seasoning substitute:

This quick and easy substitute does not require a spice grinder and is a good substitute for Old Bay Seasoning in a pinch.

Ground ingredients for an easy Old Bay substitute are arranged on a white plate and placed on a concrete surface.

14. Homemade Old Bay substitute without a spice grinder

Focus on the key ingredients in Old Bay to create a simple substitute that does not require a spice grinder.

Mix the following to create three tablespoons of Old Bay Seasoning substitute:

  • 1 tablespoon celery salt
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard (mustard powder)
  • ½ teaspoon bay leaf powder (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • pinch of ground allspice
  • pinch of cinnamon
Ingredients for a homemade Old Bay seasoning substitute are arranged on a white plate and placed on a concrete surface.

15. The best Old Bay Seasoning substitute

This homemade blend of herbs and spices is best substitute for Old Bay Seasoning. You will need a spice grinder for this blend.

For six tablespoons of the best substitute for Old Bay Seasoning, place the following herbs and spices and blitz until fine.

  • 1 tablespoon celery salt (or 2 teaspoons celery seeds and 1 teaspoon salt)
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard (mustard powder)
  • 4 bay leaves, dried
  • ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
  • ¼ teaspoon coriander seeds (cilantro seeds)
  • ¼ teaspoon thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (or red pepper flakes)
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • one clove (or a pinch of ground cloves)
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • pinch of ground allspice
  • pinch of cinnamon

How to use Old Bay Seasoning

While Old Bay Seasoning is best known for seafood, like shrimp boils and crab cakes, it is a delicious savoury spice blend that elevates any dish. Try some of these vegetarian uses of Old Bay Seasoning!

Sprinkle it over: 

  • potato salad,
  • scrambled eggs,
  • any form of potato (like french fries, roasted potatoes or a baked potato),
  • homemade popcorn,
  • BBQ veggies like grilled sweetcorn.

Rub it on: 

  • sweet potato wedges,
  • or the rim of your Bloody Mary cocktail.

Add it to: 

  • dips and sauces (try an old bay mayonnaise),
  • butter for an Old Bay compound butter,
  • egg salad,
  • or deviled egg filling.

Questions

Is Old Bay vegan?

Yes, Old Bay Seasoning is vegan. It contains celery salt, herbs, and spices. Despite being known for its seafood and meat uses, Old Bay Seasoning is also delicious in vegan and vegetarian cooking.

Is Old Bay seasoning gluten-free?

Yes, Old Bay Seasoning is gluten-free. In the allergen statement available from the manufacturer, they explicitly confirm that they will always declare allergens (such as gluten-containing grains – including barley, rye, oats, spelt, triticale, and kamut) on their label in the ingredient statement. They also say that allergens “will never be hidden under the notations of spices or natural flavors”.

Does Old Bay Seasoning contain sugar?

The Old Bay Classic Seafood Seasoning in the US does not contain sugar (confirmed in the Questions and Answers section of their website). However, the UK version of Old Bay Seasoning contains sugar, as listed on the ingredient list. So does Old Bay Blackened Seasoning in the US.

Close-up of homemade Old Bay Seasoning substitute on a gold teaspoon with a bowl of Old Bay in the background.

The best Old Bay Seasoning substitute

(click stars to rate)

5 from 7 votes
Print Pin
The iconic Old Bay blend of herbs and spices is often associated with seafood. But this homemade substitute for Old Bay Seasoning is also delicious on popcorn, roasted potatoes, eggs and salads.
Recipe byAdri
Servings: 4 tablespoons
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Equipment

Ingredients
 

  • 1 tablespoon celery salt
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard (mustard powder)
  • 4 bay leaves, dried
  • ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
  • ¼ teaspoon coriander seeds (cilantro seeds)
  • ¼ teaspoon thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (or red pepper flakes)
  • teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 clove (or a pinch of ground cloves)
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • pinch of ground allspice
  • pinch of cinnamon

Instructions

  • Place all the ingredients in a spice grinder and blitz until fine.
  • Store it in an airtight container. It will last up to a year.

Notes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Add a recipe rating: