Make your own homemade Old Bay Seasoning mix using the spices in your pantry! This version allows you to control the salt level, making it lower in sodium or even salt-free. It can be used on its own, or as an enhancement to the real stuff so you can amp up the flavor in Old Bay recipes without making them overly salty.
I’ve lived in Maryland my entire life, and as I’ve said before, we take our seafood very seriously. I consider Old Bay Seasoning to be an essential ingredient for steamed crabs and many other seafood recipes.
Over time, I’ve used Old Bay in a variety of recipes that aren’t seafood focused (for example, Old Bay Deviled Eggs). The one issue I run into repeatedly is that Old Bay is fairly salty.
While they now offer a low-sodium version, I’ve been wanting to create a version that can optionally be made salt-free so I can enhance the flavor in certain recipes. It was a challenge to infuse as much flavor into my Old Bay Bloody Mary as I wanted to without making the cocktail overly salty. I also ran into this issue when I made Old Bay Potato Latkes for my cookbook, The Gourmet Kitchen.
I’ve finally created a homemade Old Bay Seasoning recipe that allows me to control the salt level, meaning I can either use it as a replacement for the real stuff (I probably won’t need to) or use a salt-free version to punch up the flavor in my other recipes.
If the official seasoning isn’t sold at your grocery store, this is a good alternative to ordering it online.
I based my ingredient list off of vintage containers that provide the full ingredient list. The newer packaging is a bit vague (more on that below). In case you’re wondering about a few differences in my ingredient list vs the spice tin: Mace and nutmeg are very similar, and laurel leaves are the same as bay leaves. Cassia is Chinese cinnamon.
- Sweet paprika
- Dry mustard
- Celery salt (or celery seed for salt-free)
- Bay leaf powder (see notes on this below)
- Black pepper
How to Make Old Bay
This is straight forward, as spice blends usually are. Combine the spices in a small bowl using a whisk. As you can see from the photo, my dry mustard is a little clumpy, and I wound up having to sift the spices to fully incorporate it.
Recipe Notes and Substitutions
Less Umami? While I think this recipe is close to the real stuff (and so did my two taste testers), I think it’s still missing a savoriness found in the official blend. If you taste my version and then taste the real stuff, theirs definitely has more umami.
On newer Old Bay packaging, it lists several spices by name and then lists “spices.” I kind of wonder if one of those “spices” is something like MSG or a similar flavor-enhancing compound, but only because I can’t figure out what else to add. I’m not saying Old Bay has MSG, so please don’t come for me.
Bay Leaf Powder: The only unusual ingredient you might need to buy online is bay leaf powder. If that’s the only thing holding you back from making this, I’d omit it entirely or pulse some dried bay leaves in a spice grinder until they’re a powder. Either way, go easy on it because it has a bitter aftertaste.
Celery Seed vs Celery Salt: I tried to get the recipe close to the same saltiness as the packaged version. To reduce the saltiness, you can lower or omit the small amount of salt I’ve added to the other spices, and you can substitute celery seed for celery salt (or use a combination of the two).
Sift the Mustard: My dry mustard is so finely milled that it didn’t mix evenly when whisked with the other spices. Sifting it through a fine mesh strainer took care of the issue!
Recipes Using Old Bay
In addition to my bloody Mary and deviled eggs (both linked above), here are some more Old Bay recipes you might enjoy:
More Spice Mixes
You can also see my full archive of spice mixes recipes here!
Homemade Old Bay Seasoning
- 3 tablespoons sweet paprika
- 2 1/2 tablespoons dry mustard, sifted
- 2 1/2 tablespoons celery salt (use celery seed for a salt-free version)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons bay leaf powder or ground bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
- Optional: 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Place the spices in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
- Store in an airtight container in your spice cabinet. Spices don't technically expire, but their flavors will diminish over time.
Please read my full post for additional recipe notes, tips, and serving suggestions!
For immediate help troubleshooting a recipe, please email me using the form on my contact page. I’ll try to respond to urgent questions as quickly as possible! For all general questions, please leave a comment here :)