Many have tried to replicate the flavors of Old Bay only to fall short of the famous seafood seasoning’s secret blend of ingredients. While the Old Bay company reveals four ingredients on its product page, the rest of the 18 herbs and spices are unknown. In addition to the confirmed celery salt, red pepper, black pepper and paprika seasonings, many speculate that dry mustard, allspice and cinnamon are also present. While there’s no substitute for the original, attempting to recreate Old Bay seasoning at home can yield similar -- or at the very least, interesting -- results.
Made of ground celery seed and salt, celery salt has a potent celery flavor.
While Old Bay’s reference to red pepper leaves the ingredient open to interpretation, it is believed that cayenne pepper is the confirmed fourth ingredient, though red pepper is also commonly referred to as its milder counterpart, chili powder.
A household staple, black pepper possesses depth, complexity and an earthy spice.
There are many different varieties of paprika ranging from sweet to smoky to spicy, but Old Bay doesn’t specify which is used to make its seasoning.
Author of Top Secret Recipes Unlocked Todd Wilbur speculates that the following are also ingredients found in Old Bay seasoning:
- Mace: A subtler and sweeter counterpart to its close relative, nutmeg, mace is light and complex with notes of citrus and cinnamon.
- Dry Mustard: More potent than prepared mustard, a little dry mustard goes a long way to adding an earthy heat.
- Cinnamon: Sweet and spicy, cinnamon adds the flavor of both sweet and savory foodstuffs.
- Cardamom: Herbal, citrusy and aromatic, cardamom is complementary to sweet and savory foods.
- Cloves: Intensely warm and sweet, cloves' flavor is reminiscent of that of cinnamon.
- Allspice: Contrary to what it’s name suggests, allspice consists of one spice, though it tastes like a blend of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.
- Ginger: Warm and spicy with a hint of sweetness, ground ginger is milder than its fresh counterpart.
Old Bay is widely touted as a seafood seasoning, especially for flavoring crabs and shrimp, but it can be used to season a multitude of dishes. Old Bay is also recommended for use to season fried chicken and hamburgers, mashed and baked potatoes, tuna and egg salads, soups and stews, steamed vegetables and deviled eggs. It also makes a great topping for everything from pizza to popcorn and is a welcome addition in or on the rim of a bloody Mary.