If you know the magic that is Old Bay seasoning, it might be difficult to even contemplate replacing it with something else. But sometimes you don't have the exact little can on hand to season meat and dishes like crab, shrimp, marinades, clam chowder, corn on the cob, crab cakes, veggies, and more. You might need to swap it out with an Old Bay seasoning substitute, but thankfully, you have a few options to choose from.
What is Old Bay Seasoning?
First, a history lesson. Old Bay is a mix of herbs and spices marketed and sold in the United States by McCormick & Company, according to Wikipedia. It was originally created in Baltimore, Maryland, and is named after the Old Bay Line, "a passenger ship line that plied the waters of the Chesapeake Bay from Baltimore to Norfolk, Virginia, in the early 1900s."
The spice blend was originally created by a Jewish-German immigrant named Gustav Brunn. In the beginning, he called it "Delicious Brand Shrimp and Crab Seasoning." McCormick bought the rights in 1990, and the rest is history.
What's in Old Bay?
The spice mix is made out of "celery salt (salt, celery seed), spices (including red pepper and black pepper), and paprika," according to the product page on McCormick's website. Based on the ingredient list, it appears to be gluten-free, and McCormick's FAQ page promises, "Gluten will never be hidden under the notations of 'spices' or 'natural flavors.'
What Are Some Substitutes for the Seasoning Blend?
If you don't have the real thing, there are a few ways to substitute Old Bay.
Chili Pepper Madness recommends cajun seasoning as one substitute. "Pretty much the same as the latter, albeit normally spicier, Cajun seasoning blends are commonly more generally accessible," the outlet notes.
That site also suggests seasoned salt as an Old Bay substitute. "They won't necessarily compare to the taste of Old Bay," the outlet warns. "However, they often deliver a complex mix of seasonings that may approach what you're looking for."
A third option is to throw together a homemade Old Bay seasoning. Mashed recommends a recipe with celery salt, paprika, ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, dry mustard, ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, ground cardamom, ground allspice, ground cloves, and ground ginger. They just need to be combined and mixed well before being kept in an airtight container.
Pepper Scale also has an Old Bay substitute suggestion. The site recommends Todd's Dirt "Crabby Dirt" Chesapeake Bay style seasoning, which you can find on Amazon.
Finally, Enrichen the Kitchen says you should consider Chinese five spice as a seasoning mix if you don't have Old Bay. "It is made from a combination of the five basic flavors - spicy, sweet, salty, sour, and bitter," the outlet notes.
Although there's nothing quite like the Old Bay seasoning recipe, you do have some choices if you can't find it at your local grocery store.