We've narrowed it down to our three favorite recipes for Old Bay seasoning!
Have you been having trouble finding your favorite Maryland seasoning (that would be Old Bay for those not in the know) in the grocery aisles? Or do you just want to use up some of those spices in your cabinet? That iconic yellow can adds a zip of spice to seafood, soups, fries, bloody marys, and much more. I particularly like it on popcorn.
Old Bay seasoning was created in the late '30s by German refugee Gustav Brun who mixed together an amazing blend of 18 spices. Originally known as the Baltimore Spice Company, Old Bay got its name from the Old Bay Line, a passenger ship that sailed on the Chesapeake Bay from Baltimore, Maryland, to Norfolk, Virginia in the 1900s. Old Bay was purchased by McCormick & Co in 1990.
The distinctive red pigment and aromatic mix of paprika, ground bay leaves, cardamom, ground cloves, and crushed red pepper flakes is hard to miss. Some DIY recipes use cinnamon, nutmeg, and mace, and some use ground cloves and ginger.
I’ve chosen three Old Bay seasoning recipes that you can try until you can find it in the grocery aisles again. All feature some of the same ingredients but with variations. While they might not be exactly like the original (and totally Maryland) version, these do-it-yourself Old Bay seasoning recipes can come in handy in a pinch.
Give each a try and see what works for you. After you’ve experimented, you can pick and choose which ingredients that appeal the most to you. Personally, the smoked paprika (who even knew smoked paprika exists?) and celery salt are what make it Old Bay to me.
Make Your Own Old Bay Seasoning
- This one from The Spruce Eats is my favorite, and it’s the one I consider the closest to the original. It must be that smoked paprika and celery salt. I suggest going a little easy on the ground bay leaves, but the rest is perfection.
- The Pioneer Woman has another good DIY Old Bay seasoning. She combines cayenne, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, along with the smoked paprika and celery salt, to make my choice for second place.
- This DIY Old Bay recipe from This Old Gal uses regular paprika, allspice, ground ginger, and crushed red pepper flakes with the addition of parsley flakes. It has a nice aroma, but I would definitely have to add some celery salt to this one.
If you don’t have ground mace, you can substitute a bit of nutmeg. Mace is the aril, or coating, on the nutmeg plant. I do suggest using ground bay leaves that are already ground. Grinding your own bay leaves is a fairly frustrating thing to do (or maybe that's just me). Check out some recipes to make using your homemade Old Bay seasoning.
Homemade Old Bay seasoning, courtesy of The Spruce / Victoria Heydt
Finally, I know you must be wondering “What the heck is the difference between smoked paprika and regular paprika?” Well, I’ll tell you. Paprika is made with crushed and dried chilis. Smoked paprika uses chilis that are crushed after being smoke-dried. They’re smoked with oak to get that lovely aromatic flavor. Cayenne powder is sometimes used as a substitute for smoked paprika. Two parts chili powder (or regular paprika) and one part cumin can be used if you don’t have, or can’t find, the smoked version.
What did you think of these recipes? What’s your favorite way to use Old Bay? Let us know in the comments.