A classic homemade seasoning recipe that any self-respecting seafood lover should have in their pantry, our Homemade Old Bay Seasoning is a near-perfect copycat of the classic yellow-tinned blend.
Homemade Old Bay Seasoning Recipe
Originally created in Baltimore, Maryland, Old Bay seasoning has become a staple for any self-respecting seafood lover over the past 80 years.
It was originally developed in the 1940s by a German immigrant, Gustav Brunn, who was fired from the McCormick Spice Company after they found out he was Jewish and subsequently established his own company. After he developed his classic recipe, McCormick’s tried for years to replicate it and barred Brunn from entering American Spice Trade Association. In an interesting turn of events, McCormick purchased the rights to his recipe in 1990 (after the company had changed hands twice). (Brunn’s son gave an account of the story to John Hopkin’s students which you can read here.)
The spice blend has always been kosher, which is interesting because it was originally sold to crab purveyors and is synonymous with seafood (though, as you will see in our recipe suggestions below – there are a bevy of ways to use this blend, beyond seafood).
What is Old Bay Seasoning? Old Bay is a layered and zesty all-purpose seasoning blend with a gentle amount of heat with sweet and earthy undertones. The original recipe remains a guarded secret, rumoured to consist of 18 different seasonings, but with bay leaf, celery seed, mustard and pepper being main ingredients.
The best cost savings with this recipe is to purchase your spices from a bulk store, or if that’s not an option, buy the large containers of the individual spices and herbs. Buying the little containers to make this seasoning would be crazy expensive (but ironically, still cheaper than using the seasoning packets).
This Old Bay Seasoning is shelf-stable for up to a year, as long as you use fresh (dried) herbs and spices when you make it and store in a cool, dry spot in your kitchen.
This seasoning is gluten-free, paleo, low-carb and vegan and makes a great homemade gift.
What is in Old Bay seasoning? Our homemade Old Bay seasoning is made with a variety of common seasonings, but only includes 9 ingredients while the original (secret) recipe consists of 18. We used bay leaves, celery seed, mustard powder, white pepper, ground nutmeg, ground cloves, ground ginger, smoked paprika and chilli powder.
Some people have speculated that the original also contains black pepper, mace, cinnamon and salt. Personally, I prefer to leave salt out of my homemade seasoning mixes so that I can have more control of each individual dish by adding that on it’s own.
Is Cajun seasoning the same as Old Bay seasoning? While both spice blends have several ingredients in common and are often featured in seafood recipes, there are several differences between them. Cajun seasoning varies from restaurant to restaurant, or brand to brand, while Old Bay is a specific spice blend from McCormick Spice Co.
Cajun seasoning tends to be more spicy (and contain larger amounts of chilli powder or pepper), while Old Bay is more zesty than spicy.
Need some inspiration for how to use your homemade Old Bay seasoning? Check out these recipes for how to use Old Bay seasoning:
- South Carolina Crab Bisque from What a Girl Eats
- Steakhouse Creamed Spinach
- Crab Cake Mac and Cheese Empanadas from Flavor Mosaic
- Maryland Crab Soup from House of Nash Eats
- Instant Pot Dill Pickle Soup
- Maryland-style Steamed Shrimp with Old Bay Butter from On Ty’s Plate
- Vegan Lobster Roll from Yum Vegan Lunch Ideas
- Parmesan Steak and Shrimp
- Crispy Air Fryer Shrimp from The Typical Mom
- Three Cheese Bacon Mac and Cheese from Sugar and Soul
- Crab Stuffed Mushrooms from Homemade Interest
- Air Fryer Fried Chicken from 4 Sons R Us
- Old Bay Sauce from The Two Bite Club
Plus, of course, it makes a great base for a seafood boil or addition to just about any seafood or steak recipe! You can use it to top eggs, popcorn, french fries, corn on the cob, etc.
Check out our quick video to see how easy it is to make our homemade Old Bay seasoning recipe, and then don’t forget to scroll down to grab your free printable recipe card:
Old Bay Seasoning Ingredients
- Bay Leaves, crushed
- Celery Seed
- Mustard Powder
- White Pepper
- Ground Nutmeg
- Ground Cloves
- Ground Ginger
- Smoked Paprika
- Chilli Powder
Scroll down to the printable recipe card for full measurements.
Tip: you can add salt or cinnamon, if desired.
Kitchen Tools You May Find Helpful
- Spice Grinder
- Measuring spoons
- Mason jars, for storing – I do not recommend plastic jars as they can hold moisture and you want to keep this seasoning mix dry to preserve freshness
How to Make Old Bay Seasoning
Place the bay leaves in a smoothie-style blender and puree until finely ground.
Place all spices in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
Store in an airtight jar for up to 1 year.
Grab your free printable for our Old Bay Seasoning recipe:
- 8 Bay Leaves, crushed
- 2 1/2 Tablespoons celery seed
- 1 Tablespoon dried mustard
- 1 Tablespoon white pepper
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons ground nutmeg
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons ground cloves
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons ground ginger
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons smoked paprika
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons chile pepper
- Place the bay leaves in a smoothie-style blender and puree until finely ground.
- Place all spices in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
- Store in an airtight jar for up to 1 year.
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McCormick Bay Leaves, 0.12 oz
VERONES Mason Jars Canning Jars, 4 OZ Jelly Jars With Regular Lids and Bands, Ideal for Jam, Honey, Wedding Favors, Shower Favors, Baby Foods, DIY Magnetic Spice Jars, 16 PACK,Extra 16 Lids
Hamilton Beach Fresh Grind 4.5oz Electric Coffee Grinder for Beans, Spices and More, Stainless Steel Blades, Black (80335R)
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 9Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 2mgCarbohydrates: 1gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 0g
Sugar, Spice and Glitter uses an auto-generate nutrition calculator. Nutrition information isn’t always accurate unless analyzed in a scientific lab, so these should be considered more of a guideline than medical information.
This homemade Old Bay seasoning is a great addition to your pantry and makes a thoughtful gift for the seafood fan in your life.
For more homemade seasonings and other kitchen staples, check out our full collection of homemade pantry recipes here: