The Best Substitutes for Old Bay Seasoning (Copycat Recipe)

The Best Substitutes for Old Bay Seasoning (Copycat Recipe)

If you find yourself without Old Bay seasoning, fear not! There are several alternatives you can use to achieve the taste of Old Bay. I’ve even included a homemade Old Bay seasoning recipe you can whip up in minutes.  

A bowl of Old Bay Seasoning copycat recipe

Old Bay seasoning is more than just a blend of herbs and spices; it’s a nostalgic flavor time machine that transports us to sun-soaked coastal kitchens, seafood boils, and lazy summer days.

I remember going crabbing with my sisters, sand castles on the beach and homemade Hemingway cocktails with dad. 

The best part about family vacations on the shore was the seafood and shrimp boils.

That’s what brings back the memories every time I reach for the metal tin of classic Old Bay seasoning.

Housed in its iconic bright yellow can, it is a staple for seafood lovers. 

This savory blend of herbs and spices adds unique flavor to dishes like crab cakes, shrimp, and more. 

While its origins trace back to a German immigrant named Gustav Brunn in 1939, today, Old Bay continues to be a beloved seasoning, finding its way into so many delicious seafood dishes. 

Whether you’re boiling crabs or whipping up a seafood stew, this classic spice blend brings coastal nostalgia to your kitchen.

So what to do when you reach for the can and find that it’s empty?

You make your own homemade version!

What Spices Are In Old Bay Seasoning?

According to the product label, some of the ingredients in Old Bay seasoning are celery salt, spices (including red pepper and black pepper) and paprika. 

But of course there’s more in there than that.

Other potential spices may include bay leaf, cinnamon, ground mustard, nutmeg, clove and cardamom.

They don’t exactly publish their trademark recipe. It’s a closely guarded secret!

So let’s dive into the spices and herbs that likely make up this iconic seasoning.

A spoonful of seafood seasoning blend hovering over a bowl.

Ingredient List

Check your spice cabinet for these herbs and spices then head to local grocery store where these key ingredients are readily available.

Celery Salt: Provides a savory and slightly tangy flavor.

Ground Bay Leaves: Adds a distinct herbal note.

Smoked Paprika: Infuses a smoky depth.

Ground Black Pepper: Brings warmth and spice.

Ground Mustard: Lends a mild, tangy kick.

Allspice: Contributes warmth and complexity.

Ground Cinnamon: Provides a subtle sweetness.

Cayenne: Offers a touch of heat.

Ground Nutmeg: Adds earthy warmth.

Ground Ginger: Imparts a zesty, aromatic quality.

These ingredients combine to create the similar flavor profile of Old Bay seasoning. 

Feel free to adjust the proportions to suit your taste preferences. 

Substitutes for Old Bay Seasoning

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If you are in a pinch and don’t have Old Bay in the house, there are some are the best Old Bay seasoning substitutes to consider. Try these pre-made spice blends or make your own version. See the full recipe below.

Crab Boil: This blend is often used for seafood and shares some similarities with Old Bay. It typically contains spices like mustard seeds, coriander, allspice, and cloves. Adjust the proportions to match your taste preferences.

Pickling Spice: A combination of cinnamon, allspice, mustard seeds, bay leaves, and cloves, pickling spice can add depth and warmth to your dishes.

Cajun Seasoning: Known for its bold flavors, Cajun seasoning includes ingredients like paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. It’s a bit spicier than Old Bay, so adjust accordingly.

Creole Seasoning: Contains fewer spices than Old Bay but still provides a flavorful punch. Both Old Bay and Creole seasoning have a mild heat profile, with paprika being the primary source of spiciness.

Homemade Blend: Create your own Old Bay-inspired seasoning by combining celery salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes and paprika.

Since celery salt and paprika are two of the main ingredients in Old Bay seasoning, you could substitute 1/4 teaspoon celery salt and 1/4 teaspoon paprika for every teaspoon of Old Bay. 

Or you could do a one-to-one swap of spice blends such as crab boil or Cajun, but keep in mind that Cajun blends will have added heat from cayenne pepper.

Other brands worth mentioning include Chef Paul Prudhomme, Zatarain’s, Tony Chachere’s, Louisiana Fish Fry, or Olde Thompson

If Old Bay is your seasoning mix of choice, check out the whole Old Bay line for low salt, blackened and hot seasonings. 

stack of three crabcakes on a plate

How to use Old Bay Seasonings

Old Bay isn’t limited to seafood – it’s a delightful addition to many recipes, even in your favorite Bloody Mary recipe!  Here are a few of my favorite ways to use the spice mix. 

Seafood: Of course, Old Bay is famous for enhancing seafood. Sprinkle it on crab legs, shrimp, fish, clams, oysters and lobster tails.

Roasted potatoes: Toss them in olive oil and Old Bay before baking.

French fries: Sprinkle the popular spice blend over hot fries.

Corn on the cob: Mix melted butter and Old Bay for a flavorful glaze.

Popcorn: Sprinkle Old Bay on freshly popped popcorn for a savory twist.

Nuts: Toss almonds or cashews with a pinch of Old Bay for a unique snack.

Deviled Eggs: Add a dash of Old Bay to your deviled egg filling.

Dinner Rolls: Before baking, brush dinner rolls with melted butter and sprinkle Old Bay on top.

Potato Salad: Mix Old Bay into your potato salad dressing.

Vinaigrettes: Add a pinch of Old Bay to your salad dressings.

Chicken Wings: Season wings with Old Bay before baking or frying.

Grilled Vegetables: Toss veggies in olive oil and Old Bay before grilling.

Fried Chicken: Add Old Bay to your flour coating for extra flavor.

How long can Old Bay seasoning be stored?

Opened Old Bay Seasoning remains good for up to 2-3 years if stored properly. Make sure the airtight container is kept in a cool, dry place.

Homemade Old Bay Seasoning can be stored in an airtight container for six months to one year. Remember that spices generally last in a cool, dry place for 8 months to 1 year. 

A plate of Old Bay spiced shrimp on skewers

Seafood recipes using Old Bay seasoning blend

The Best Classic Crab Cakes Recipe 

Easy Grouper Chowder Soup 

Easy Crab Bisque Recipe 

Sausage and Chicken Jambalaya

Steamed Crabs:  In a pot with a raised rack (minimum of 2 inches high) add equal quantities of water and vinegar to just below the level of the rack. Bring to a boil. Carefully layer 1 dozen blue crabs on rack; sprinkle each layer with OLD BAY. Cover and steam 20 to 30 minutes on medium heat until crabs turn red. 

Grilled Shrimp:  Juice half a lemon and add the juice to a medium glass bowl. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic and 1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a pound of shrimp. Toss to combine and marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes. Thread the shrimp onto wooden or metal skewers and grill the shrimp on medium heat until lightly charred on both sides and just cooked through, about 3 minutes total. Serve with lemon and cocktail sauce.

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A plate of Old Bay spiced shrimp on skewers

The Best Substitutes for Old Bay Seasoning (Copycat Recipe)

Ali Randall
If you find yourself without Old Bay seasoning, fear not! Learn how to make your own Old Bay Seasoning from scratch. 
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine American


  • 1 tablespoon celery salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoon paprika
  • teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper


  • Mix together all the ingredients in a bowl and transfer the mixture to an airtight container.
Keyword Old Bay Seasoning, Old Bay Substitutes

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