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Here’s how to make Old Bay seasoning! This easy homemade recipe is a substitute for the flavor of this secret blend of spices.

Old Bay Seasoning
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One of our most beloved of all seasoning blends: Old Bay seasoning! This American seasoning blend has seen a big rise in popularity lately: and for good reason. The flavor is unreal: one taste and you’ll get a big savory punch, followed by intrigue: savory, herby and a hint of heat. Alex and I use Old Bay in so many of our recipes that we wanted to create a homemade version in case you can’t access it. Using just a handful of ingredients, it’s very close to the real thing!

What’s Old Bay?

Old Bay is an American seasoning blend that’s often used to season seafood, most notably in shrimp boils. Invented in Maryland and is sold by McCormick, it’s also used in chowders like potato chowder or clam chowder. It’s risen to popularity around the country and world lately, so you’ll see it in anything from fries to corn on the cob. The main ingredients in Old Bay are paprika, celery salt, and black pepper. From there, it’s anyone’s guess at this secret seasoning blend!

Old Bay

How to make homemade Old Bay seasoning

Most of the Old Bay seasoning recipes out there have ingredient lists two miles long. Many of them call for crushed bay leaves, an unusual and hard-to-find ingredient. If you can’t find Old Bay at the store, it seems counterproductive to have to seek out crushed bay leaves! So, Alex and I have created an easy Old Bay seasoning with just 8 ingredients that are easy to find. Simply mix the following ingredients together in a bowl:

  • Paprika
  • Celery salt
  • Celery seed
  • Dry mustard
  • Black pepper
  • Nutmeg
  • Cinnamon
  • Cayenne

Does it really taste like Old Bay?

Yes! In our back to back comparison of this homemade Old Bay versus the real thing, they were very similar. There’s a slight difference, but it’s as close as we’ve ever come to replicating the magic of this seasoning blend. The key ingredient: celery! You’ll notice there’s both celery salt and celery seed to heighten this flavor, which is the calling card of this famous seasoning.

Homemade Old Bay

Take note: it’s salty!

One thing to note about Old Bay seasoning: it has quite a lot of salt in it. As we did extensive taste tests while creating our recipe, we realized just how much salt really is in this seasoning. When you sprinkle it on recipes (like your shrimp boil!), remember that it’s got salt in there, too. Don’t be tempted to throw on a lot of extra salt afterwards.

How long to store homemade Old Bay seasoning

You can store your homemade Old Bay seasoning mix in an airtight container for 6 months to 1 year. Of course, it’s best when it’s the freshest. Spices generally last in a cool, dry place for 8 months to 1 year. You can use this spice blend to add new life to spices that you’ve had for a while.

Need spice organization tips? If your spice cabinet is overcrowded (like ours!), go to How to Organize Your Spices…the Minimalist Way.

Old Bay seasoning

Ways to use Old Bay seasoning

Several of our recipes use Old Bay seasoning: and then you can use it free form to sprinkle on all sorts of things! Here are a few ideas for where to start:

  1. Sheet Pan Shrimp Boil: Our top way to use Old Bay: in a shrimp boil! This is a version of the popular seafood meal you can make on a sheet pan.
  2. Loaded Potato Soup: This potato chowder has a magic ingredient to bring just the right nuance. (Try it in the Instant Pot.)
  3. Best Roasted Vegetables: The very best roasted vegetables use Old Bay!
  4. Easy Sheet Pan Dinner: This quick and easy weeknight dinner capitalizes on this tasty spice blend.
  5. Cajun Shrimp and Grits: This “famous” shrimp and grits uses Old Bay among its ingredients.
  6. Grilled ShrimpBaked Shrimp, or Sauteed Shrimp: Sprinkle it on shrimp for the best flavor.
  7. Baked Salmon or Easy Cedar Plank Salmon: It’s fantastic on salmon too.
  8. Grilled Vegetables: Try sprinkling on Grilled Broccoli, Grilled Peppers, or Grilled Mushrooms.
  9. Perfect Grilled Corn or Oven Roasted Corn: Corn is more perfect with this seasoning.
  10. Baked PotatoesBaked Sweet Potato, or Baked Fries: Add new life to potatoes.
Seasoning blends
Try all our seasoning blends!

This Old Bay recipe is…

Vegetarian, gluten free, vegan, plant based, dairy free, naturally sweet, refined sugar free, low carb, and keto.

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Old Bay Seasoning

Old Bay Seasoning Substitute

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

3.5 from 4 reviews

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 4 tablespoons 1x


Here’s how to make Old Bay seasoning! This easy homemade recipe is a substitute for the flavor of this secret blend of spices.


  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 pinch cayenne


  1. Whisk the ingredients together in a small bowl. Transfer to an airtight container or jar. Store for 6 months to 1 year in a cool, dry place.
  • Category: Seasoning
  • Method: Mixed
  • Cuisine: Spices
  • Diet: Vegan

More seasoning blends

Making DIY seasoning mixes at home is so easy! They taste incredible—much better than storebought—and are fun gifts, too. Try all our seasoning blends (listed by style):

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Terry says:

    This Old Bay recipe is very close…others commenters have listed all the ingredients that wasn’t in there like 18 of them….Mace, cassia cinnamon, etc….Who keeps all that in stock???? Might as well buy Old Bay seasoning in the store, all those ingredients would be very expensive to buy individually….

  2. William Richardson says:

    Sorry but your recipe is missing laurel leaves (bay leaves), mace, cloves, ginger, cassia cinnamon and includes nutmeg that is not in it according to the 1950 label.

  3. Marie D says:

    FYI… Old bay seasoning should have Bayleaf in it… That’s where the name came from 😊

  4. Leisa says:

    This was perfectly fine. Thank you. I had some Chinese Five Spice powder as a substitute for the nutmeg/cinammon…it has three other ‘things’. Really enjoyed using it!

  5. Randy says:

    According to several other sites Old Bay has 18 different herbs and spices where you only have 8. I’ll let you know the final results.

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Haha! Yes, ours is a little simplified but still has that magic. Let us know what you think!

      1. Lori Eastman says:

        I was drawn to your recipe because it’s called a Substitute for Old Bay.
        I am allergic to spices in the Laurel family…Bay being the worst for me. I have even had to avoid Cinnamon for periods of time.
        Looking forward to trying your recipe.