If you’re on the hunt for Old Bay Seasoning substitutes, you’re in luck!
Plenty of different spices and blends will give your food a similar flavor profile – you just have to know where to look!
This classic Maryland spice blend is a must for crab boils. But it’s also great on shrimp, fish, and – surprise, surprise – chicken!
If you love it as much as I do, chances are you’ve run out once or twice.
And when you’re in the middle of cooking, you can’t just drop everything to go shopping.
Fortunately, these Old Bay Seasoning substitutes have you covered.
What is Old Bay Seasoning?
Old Bay Seasoning is a spice blend that typically includes:
- Celery salt
- Red pepper
- Bay leaves
- Ground celery seed
With all of that good stuff, it’s no wonder people love it
Created in Baltimore, which we know is famous for seafood, you’ll see a few different recipes for Old Bay.
So, unfortunately, from one can to the next, the ingredients list changes.
It’s probably because the Old Bay folks aren’t keen on giving up their secret recipe. They’re like Mr. Krabs in that respect.
What we do know is that the seasoning mix includes a ton of flavorful, fragrant ingredients. And those listed above are in almost every recipe!
What is Old Bay Seasoning Used For?
Honestly, the easier question might be: what can’t you use Old Bay Seasoning for?
Because the list of things you can use it for is pretty extensive!
Old Bay Seasoning can be used as a rub or marinade for meats and seafood or as a seasoning for rice, chips, pasta, potatoes, and more. You can add it to chili, grilled veggies, or various BBQ dishes and sides. It even tastes great in vegan recipes or in deviled, scrambled, or fried eggs.
I like to add it to breakfast hash or use it to liven up a boring sandwich or salad. So like I said, you can put this stuff into and on anything.
10 Substitutes for Old Bay Seasoning (+ Easy Alternatives)
1. Paprika and Celery Salt
Celery salt is the biggest component of Old Bay Seasoning. And paprika falls right behind it.
So, if you have those two things, you’ll have a decent Old Bay dupe.
Most websites say to mix them in equal parts (1/4 teaspoon of each). However, I feel a bit of extra celery salt gets even closer to the real thing.
So, try a generous, heaping 1/4 teaspoon of celery salt with a level 1/4 teaspoon of paprika per 1 teaspoon of Old Bay.
If you like, add cayenne or red pepper flakes for a little bite.
2. Cajun Seasoning
One could argue that Old Bay Seasoning is a type of Cajun seasoning. After all, people probably use it most often in Creole and Cajun dishes.
With that in mind, Cajun seasoning makes a terrific substitute.
Most blends include paprika, pepper, and other prominent Old Bay spices. And the only significant difference is that Cajun also includes cayenne.
That gives it more heat than Old Bay, so start slow and add it in small increments.
3. Crab Boil
Cajun, Crab Boil, and Old Bay are all pretty similar. They combine various herbs and spices and use many of the same ingredients.
For example, Crab Boil includes celery (seed instead of salt) and paprika. That makes it an excellent replacement for Old Bay at a one-to-one ratio.
Crab Boil is slightly sweeter than Old Bay, but it’s not that noticeable in most dishes.
Also, it’s meant explicitly for seafood, so it works best in those recipes.
4. Seasoned Salt
Most seasoned salt varieties don’t include celery salt. So, they don’t taste precisely like Old Bay.
Still, if you want a delicious rub, seasoned salt is a good option. It has a wonderful flavor and smells incredible.
It’s even salty and herby, like Old Bay.
Also, like Old Bay, seasoned salt is perfect for a wide range of recipes. You can use it for meat or in omelets, sandwiches, and roasted veggies.
5. Pickling Spice
Pickling spice is similar to Old Bay because it uses many herbs and spices.
Typically, there’s ginger, bay leaves, allspice, salt, red pepper, mustard, and more.
Because it has such diverse ingredients, it replicates Old Bay’s complexity very well. Better yet, you can find pickling spice at practically any grocery store.
Use it at a one-to-one ratio for Old Bay Seasoning.
It works best in seafood dishes, but you can use it in anything.
6. Salt and Pepper
Salt and pepper will never replace Old Bay Seasoning’s wealth of flavor.
However, there’s a reason they’re classics: they pretty much make everything taste better.
They won’t provide the same herby, spicy flavor profile. However, they’ll improve your food’s taste.
Of course, pure salt is much saltier than Old Bay Seasoning, so start slow. First, add just a dash of salt and pepper, then taste your dish. Add more as needed.
7. French Four Spice
The white pepper in French Four Spice lays an excellent foundation for an Old Bay replacement.
The spice blend also contains cloves, ginger, and nutmeg, all of which are found in Old Bay.
Those four ingredients make French Four Spice an adequate substitute. However, you’ll want to add a few things to make it even better.
Start with the French spice as a base. Then, add 1/8 teaspoon each of red pepper flakes and paprika. Add between 1/8 and 1/4 teaspoon of celery salt, as well.
Together, they make a close replica of your favorite seafood spice blend.
8. Chili Powder, Garlic Powder & Celery Salt
Although this mixture isn’t perfect, it’s a decent replacement. Use 1/4 teaspoon of each ingredient for every required teaspoon of Old Bay.
It won’t be precisely the same, but it hits the major flavor highlights.
The chili powder adds heat, while the garlic brings the herby earthiness. And the celery salt is, well, celery salt – the main ingredient of Old Bay!
This mixture works best in stews, soups, sauces, and – surprisingly – on chicken. Of course, you can also use it in seafood, but other options here work better for that.
9. Chinese Five Star
I’m putting Chinese Five Star (or Five Spice) near the bottom of the list because it doesn’t taste like Old Bay Seasoning.
It uses several spices and herbs, but they’re very different from the ones in Old Bay. These include star anise, cinnamon, fennel, etc.
It has significantly more sweetness in it than Old Bay, too. So, if you’re looking for a close replacement for the seasoning, it won’t work.
All that said, if you just want something flavorful to spice up your food, give it a try.
10. Copycat Old Bay Seasoning
There’s no doubt that running out of Old Bay is crappy.
But if you have a little time, you can make a copycat, DIY version and have it on hand all the time.
Of all the options on this list, it tastes the most like the real thing.
Of course, it also takes a little work, and you need all the individual ingredients on hand.
And because the Old Bay Seasoning people won’t share their secrets, I don’t have an exact recipe.
However, this one from Tastylicious is the closest I’ve ever found.
Here are the ingredients:
- 1 1/2 tablespoon celery salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/8 teaspoon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- A pinch each of the following:
Use ground spices, or grind them yourself with a mortar and pestle. Either way, you’ll mix them and store them somewhere cool and dry.
It may not be the real thing, but it’s close enough!
Other Seasoning Substitutes To Keep On Hand
Substitutes for Tarragon
Substitutes for Red Pepper Flakes
Chipotle Powder Substitutes
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