We all have that one go-to-spice we can’t live without. The kind of spice that works with everything from scrambled eggs to grandma’s famous pot of gumbo. The kitchen can become chaotic when your spice runs out, and you can’t find any in the pantry.
So is there a substitute for Old Bay Seasoning, and what can you use?
One of the best substitutes for Old Bay Seasoning is Todd’s Dirt. Other tasty substitutes include Crab Boil, French Four Spice, Chinese Five Spice, Pickling Spice, Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, and cajun seasoning. All of these substitutes are readily available.
If you love Old Bay Seasoning but are struggling to source it, this guide will provide you with the best substitutes.
What Is Old Bay Seasoning?
Old Bay seasoning (Old Bay for short) is a popular spice that complements foods such as chicken, soup, vegetables, and fish. This seasoning is very popular in seafood dishes, especially crawfish and crab boil.
Old Bay Seasoning is one of America’s most iconic spices, thanks to Gustav Brunn, who combined these wonderful flavors in 1939. This famous spice has a pleasant earthy flavor with the perfect balance of savory and sweet undertones.
Here’s a look at some foods you can use Old Bay Seasoning with:
- Butter popcorn
- Sprinkled over sweetcorn
- Add to breadcrumbs
- Add to mashed or baked potatoes
- Add to soups, stews, and curries
- Mix with mayonnaise for a tangy dip
- Sprinkle over fries
- Add to a Bloody Mary drink
- Mix with salad dressing
- Sprinkle over fresh bagels
Old Bay Seasoning is also available in different flavors, such as:
- Old Bay Seasoning with Lemon and Herb
- Old Bay 30% Fewer Sodium Seasonings
- Old Bay Blackened Seasoning
- Old Bay Seasoning with Garlic and Herb
Fun Fact: Old Bay seasoning was first sold under the name “Delicious Brand Shrimp and Crab Seasoning.”
What’s Old Bay Seasoning Made Of?
While the original Old Bay Seasoning recipe is still a well-kept secret, it’s believed to be made from around 18 different herbs and spices, such as:
- Celery seed
- Cayenne pepper
- Black pepper
- Bay leaf
- Dry mustard
- White pepper
- Onion powder
- Red pepper flakes
- Garlic powder
Top Tip: If you want to try making your own version of Old Bay Seasoning, combine all these ingredients and grind them into a powder. Put the spice in an airtight container and store it in a dark, cool place.
The spice should last for around 3 months before it starts losing its flavor.
Best Old Bay Seasoning Substitute
Even though Old Bay Seasoning is a popular spice, it can still be difficult to source in local grocery stores.
If you like this spice and you’re looking for something similar, check out these 5 best Old Bay seasoning substitutes:
1. Crab Boil
An excellent substitute for Old Bay seasoning is Crab Boil. This seafood spice has similar ingredients, such as celery seed, pepper flakes, bay leaves, paprika, and allspice, to Old Bay. Other spices include cinnamon and cardamom.
Crab Boil is a versatile spice that’s perfect in shrimp and crab boil dishes, as well as for seasoning vegetables.
The ratio of crab boil is one teaspoon for every teaspoon of Old Bay.
2. Pickling Spice
Pickling spice has a very similar taste profile to Old Bay seasoning. It has a sweet and savory flavor that goes well with soup, seafood, curry, and rice dishes.
The spice mix also has similar herbs and spices, such as allspice, cinnamon, and bay leaves.
The great thing about pickling spice is it’s available in most grocery stores.
The ratio of pickling spice is one teaspoon for every teaspoon of Old Bay.
Top Tip: Add a generous amount of pickling spice to some full-fat Greek yogurt or a tub of sour cream for the perfect dip.
3. French Four Spice
Another substitute to try is the French Four Spice. Although this spice goes well with many dishes, this mixture is made from four ingredients only: ground cloves, white pepper, nutmeg, and ginger.
To make this spice taste more like Old Bay, you would need to add a few more ingredients, such as crushed red pepper flakes, paprika, and celery salt. Luckily, these ingredients are pretty easy to come by.
This substitute has no exact ratio; you must taste and season the dish according to your preference.
4. Chinese Five Spice
Chinese Five Spice is made from star anise, peppercorns, cinnamon, crushed cloves, and fennel seeds. This blend has a licorice flavor and works well in Asian cuisines such as tofu dishes, soup, salmon, sushi, and stews or sprinkled over rice and vegetables.
As a substitute for Old Bay, you would need to mix about two teaspoons of celery salt, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and half a teaspoon of paprika into the Chinese Five Spice.
The exact ratio is hard to say, as you would need to taste the food to gauge how much you would need.
5. Todd’s Dirt
Todd’s Dirt (also known as Chesapeake Dirt) is one of the best substitutes for Old Bay seasoning. This versatile blend is made from around 20 spices and herbs that include similar spices, such as cayenne pepper, dry mustard, and garlic powder.
Todd’s Dirt is excellent for seafood dishes such as shrimp, scallops, and crabs. This tasty blend is also a winner with sticky BBQ ribs and meat marinades.
The ratio of Todd’s Dirt is one teaspoon for every teaspoon of Old Bay.
Can I Use Cajun Seasoning Instead of Old Bay?
You can use cajun seasoning instead of Old Bay seasoning. It’s one of the best substitutes around, and it’s easy to source. Cajun seasoning is made up of garlic and onion powder, ground black pepper, and paprika.
The ratio of cajun seasoning is one teaspoon for every teaspoon of Old Bay.
Top Tip: Cajun seasoning is much spicier than Old Bay, so don’t use too much in your recipe.
Can I Use Lawry’s Instead of Old Bay?
Lawry’s Seasoned Salt can be used instead of Old Bay and is a great substitute. The spice is made with garlic, salt, turmeric, paprika, and celery and has a pleasant and light flavor.
To match the complex flavors of Old Bay, add about a teaspoon of cayenne pepper for some extra spiciness.
Lawry’s Seasoned Salt ratio is one teaspoon for every teaspoon of Old Bay.
Did you Know: Lawry’s Seasoned Salt has 35% less sodium than table salt?
My Last Foodie Thoughts
Adding Old Bay Seasoning to your seafood recipes (or any recipes) will rock your cooking world. Unfortunately, this popular spice isn’t always easy to come by, but there is no need to fret.
If you have the 18 spices on hand that Old Bay seasoning is made of, you could always attempt to mix your own tasty version of this iconic spice. But, to make your life easier, why not give one of these fantastic substitutes a go?
They are just as tasty, and you can tweak them to your liking.