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8 Best Old Bay Seasoning Substitutes

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You already know what time it is when the big old bay seasoning is out of the kitchen pantry. It means it is time to add some heavenly touch to your recipe — a mix that can resurrect any food to its lost glory and make a mere dish taste as though a professional chef handled it. 

Regardless of how this seasoning is being worshipped and glorified in almost every kitchen, it is not always around in the time of need. And that could be annoying, which is why you need other mixes that serve as a good alternative. 

Permit me to give you a helping hand there because there are some REALLY cool old bay seasoning substitutes that you can use to spice up just about any food.

Cajun seasoning, crab boil, pickling spice, todd’s dirt, celery salt + paprika, celery seed + paprika, and even the homemade old bay seasoning are all perfect replacements for old bay seasoning.

What Is Old Bay Seasoning?

Old Bay Seasoning is a ready-made mix home cooks and chefs use to add full-body flavor to seafood, meat, salad, stew, soup, and chowder that strikes all the right tastebuds.

The seasoning tastes spicy, with a little salty and smoky trace of mustard, turmeric, and perhaps mace. It tastes complex and can never go wrong on a dish — well, that’s what to expect from a blend of about 18 herbs and spices.

Although, the ingredient list only includes spices (black and red pepper), celery salt (salt and celery seed), and paprika. Furthermore, Old Bay seasoning is kosher and has no MSG

But if you have any food allergens, I highly recommend you check the label if you’re familiar with any as the ingredients tend to change, and some batches are likely to contain common food allergens. And if this is the reason you chose to look elsewhere, we got you. 

You can try the Cajun Seasoning, Celery Salt, Chinese Five Spice, French Four Spice, Pickling Spice, Seasoned Salt, Todd’s Dirt, Zatarain’s Crab Boil, or Homemade Old Bay Seasoning. 

Homemade Old Bay Seasoning? 

Of Course! 

We included it in our list, so you have full control of the ingredients (which to remove or leave) and get the most authentic flavor. However, if you think you have neither the time nor the patience, then stick to the original plan.  

Best Old Bay Seasoning Substitutes

1. Crab Boil

If you love seafood, you should know crab boil is the secret ingredient behind that magic. More importantly, this ubiquitous boiling water contains old bay seasoning primary herbs and spice.

The crab boil is the closest available analog you can get from our analysis. It has makeup that is 90% identical to the real deal, depending on the brand you go with. With this seasoning at hand, you’ve been armed with handy-dandy seafood starter kits. 

Go ahead and flavor that shellfish, crawfish, lobster, or crabs in it. Moreover, this product is always available in the grocery, supermarket, or online, especially in the states.

Use crab boil to swap the old bay seasoning in a 1:1 ratio. 

2. Pickling Spice

Don’t let the name fool you into thinking it’s just for making pickles. Pickling spice is also a blend of various spices and herbs used to pickle food and add flavors to soups, stews, seafood, shrimp boils, and whatnot. 

It is a great choice whenever you’re out of Bay Seasoning because it has the same core constituents — the mustard seed, red pepper flakes, cloves, coriander, allspice, bay leaves, and more. 

It means you’ll end up having a similar flavor profile to the old bay. Swap the old bay seasoning with pickling spice in a 1:1 ratio. 

Although, the spice is slightly sweet. So if you want an additional kick, you would have to work on the black pepper, celery salt, and cayenne pepper a little bit. 

3. Cajun Seasoning

If you are a home cook or chef and haven’t tried the Cajun seasoning, you haven’t truly lived. Hails from Louisiana, the Cajun seasoning is another wonderful all-purpose substitute that could replace the old bay any day, any anytime. 

Your first try, and you’re hooked for life! 

You will see the rare gift it has for improving the taste of just about any meal. Cajun seasoning also consists of some basic old bay ingredients like salt, garlic powder, black pepper, red pepper, and chili powder. 

However, it is a little later and has more kick, so you might want to cut down the measurement to about two-thirds of the recipe that calls for it. 

The Cajun Seasoning is likely for those who enjoy hot, spicy food. Besides, it has one major advantage over the old bay and crab boil seasonings, availability. 

You have almost zero chance of not finding the cajun seasoning in any store. 

4. Todd’s Dirt

Todd’s Dirt has a wide array of seasonings, but the closest to the old bay is the Chesapeake dirt. It consists of 20 herbs and spices, is Gluten-Free, all 100% Natural, has NO MSG, and it doesn’t contain allergens.

It just tastes great for everything! 

You can elevate your meal’s flavor profile with this one-of-a-kind gourmet seasoning, whether it is vegetables, seafood, fish, crabs, shrimps, or scallops. 

Are you very big on BBQ? 

Then Todd’s Dirt is an even better option for you, as it pairs incredibly well with BBQ ribs.

5. Celery Salt + Paprika

While most people will advise you to use the celery salt in a pinch, adding paprika brings you closer to the old Bay flavor even more.

Think about it. Both are major ingredients of old bay, so collaborating could be a hit in your meal. 

So if you happen to have these spices sitting in the cupboard, you have a good substitute already — rather than running for an old bay in the grocery or supermarket. 

Just mix ¼ teaspoon of celery salt with ¼ teaspoon of paprika.

And do a 1:1 ratio swap for your Old Bay seasoning. You prefer it spicy, add a pinch of red pepper flakes, or throw in a shake or two of black pepper.

6. Celery Seed + Paprika

Remember old bay seasoning and the previous mix we just talked about containing doses of sodium. 

Well, if you’re trying to limit your sodium intake, you can use celery seed in place of celery salt and mix it with your paprika. 

While you do not get the full-body flavor of the real deal, you add other spices and herbs like ground mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper to make amends. 

7. Homemade Old Bay Seasoning

Main Ingredients & measurements 

  • 1 ½ tablespoon celery salt
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • One pinch ground cardamom
  • ⅛ teaspoon mustard
  • One pinch ground allspice
  • One pinch of ground cloves
  • One pinch ground ginger
  • One pinch of ground nutmeg
  • One pinch of ground cinnamon

Wondering why it is not up to 18 ingredients? 

Old Bay Seasoning is a proprietary mix, so the secret (complete ingredients) behind its flavoring is exclusive. Only the manufacturer’s employees know the complete list of the real ingredients.

However, we have a friend on the inside, and with the above ingredients, you come close to the real deal. 

You can use grounded spice or whole and grind them in mortar and pestle or a spice mill separately. After that, get a medium-sized bowl and whisk everything in it. 

Ensure all the spice and herbs are mixed properly before pouring them into an airtight container. 

Then store in a cool, dry place until needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Company Makes Old Bay Seasoning?

The McCormick & Company is the brain behind this amazingly flavored seasoning. It was a German refuge, Gustav Brunn from Maryland, who made the old bay seasoning way back in 1939 ever since this seasoning has been growing prevalently amongst other kitchen spices. 

What Is Old Bay Seasoning Used For?

The uses of old bay seasoning are almost limitless; that is why it is everyone’s most preferred kitchen workhorse. 

You can add to shrimp boil or pair with seafood, combine the blend with oil and lemon juice to make a tasty marinade, or sprinkle it onto pita chips, crab cakes, or tortillas. 

Also, you can stir it into slow-cooked chili con carne or rice; lather it on barbecue recipes and roasted vegetables. It is even better for salad, stew, soups, and gravies. For me, I adore it on deviled eggs. 

Can Old Bay Seasoning Go Bad?

Old bay seasoning is a combination of dried herbs and spices. And as you know, in the traditional sense, they don’t go bad that easy, unlike fresh mix.

How Can You Tell If Spices Are Old Or Have Gone Bad?

If you want to know when a spice has passed its prime, watch out for these Telltale signs: Either the spices are no longer aromatic, fail to provide the regular flavor boost to food, or the color isn’t vibrant anymore. 

And you DO NOT want to eat an expired seasoning or one that has gone rogue because it is tied to some consequences. So, endeavor to check the freshness date on the side or at the bottom of the bottle. You can go as far as opening the lid to check if the color and aroma are still intact.

Read Also: Best Substitutes for Accent Seasoning

Conclusion

So did you or did you not get a preferable alternative? I have there is a lot to take in. But I think you should go for the one that truly speaks to you. 

Remember, there are just alternatives, which means they may not give the same flavor as old bay but might mimic it. And it is worth the try because half bread is better than non. 

I would love to know which of the old bay seasoning substitute you finally chose. Did it exceed your expectations, or was it a so-so?