The 4 Best Old Bay Seasoning Substitutes

Old Bay Seasoning is a trendy seasoning option that features a blend of 18 herbs and spices. It is primarily used for seafood, but as you will see, it can be used in a range of other dishes, as well. The article below will teach you about Old Bay Seasoning, what types of food it works well for, and some of the best substitutes that you can use for the food you are making.

What is In Old Bay Seasoning?

The recipe for Old Bay Seasoning is still a secret. Some of the ingredients are known, but the label still just says that there are other "spices" to keep the recipe under wraps. Known ingredients in the list include celery salt, paprika, crushed red pepper flakes, and black pepper.

We do know that there are 14 other ingredients, but precisely what they are is up to conjecture. Some of the common ingredients that people claim they can taste in the seasoning include cloves, ginger, and mustard.

There are some seasonings with similar tastes out there, including spice blends that people have made in their kitchen. However, the original has kept the secret and the unique taste that people crave. The taste of Old Bay is tangy and zesty with hints of the garlic, pepper, and celery seed. There is a little bit of spice to it, but it is not considered a spicy seasoning.

Nutritional Breakdown

Old Bay Seasoning

Amount (1 tsp)

% Recommended Daily Intake

Calories

3

Variable

Total Fat

0g

0%

Saturated Fat

0g

0%

Sodium

280mg

12%

Total Carbohydrate

0.7g

0%

Dietary Fiber

0g

0%

Sugars

0g

0%

Protein

0g

0%

Where Did Old Bay Seasoning Originate?

Old Bay Seasoning, which is marketed through McCormick and Company, was originally brought to the United States in 1939 by Gustav Brunn, who escaped Nazi Germany with his family. They came to Baltimore, Maryland, and soon went into business mixing spiced blends.

The earlier work he did was to create spice blends for pickles and various meats, which had been popular in his home of Germany. However, one of the most popular foods in the area at the time was crabs. It was in 1940 that he created the blend that would go on to become so popular.

Baltimore Spice, Brunn’s company, was run by the family until 1985. Eventually, McCormick and Company bought the secret recipe for the seasoning. It’s still going very strong today and remains one of the most popular spices for seafood, particularly with crabs.

Where Did Old Bay Seasoning Originate

Is Old Bay Seasoning Vegan and Gluten-Free?

A common question people ask whenever they are choosing anything to add to their food is whether it is going to work with their tastes. Old Bay Seasoning is often used to season seafood and other types of meat.

However, it doesn't contain any sort of meat or animal products, which means it is vegan-friendly. Also, it is gluten-free for those who do not want to add gluten to their diet.

What Types of Food and Recipes Use Old Bay Seasoning?

The seasoning was first created for crab and other seafood, but that doesn't mean you should relegate it to only those types of foods. It works well with many other types of food, as well.

It can be used in soups, to season chips and crackers, on vegetables, in marinades, poultry, red meat, and much more. Those who like the taste of Old Bay can find a wealth of uses for it around the kitchen.

Is Old Bay Seasoning Healthy?

Another common question that’s asked is whether Old Bay Seasoning is healthy or not. While it is low in calories, and it is a seasoning, you will want to watch out for the sodium levels, which hare higher than some other types of spices that are available.

Still, because it is used to season food, the amount of sodium that is added tends to be minimal. Those who are on a low-sodium diet may want to use less or find other options instead.

Is Old Bay Seasoning Keto Friendly?

Those who are following a keto diet want to make sure that they are restricting their carbohydrates each day to ensure their body goes into ketosis.

This means that most people will want to have fewer than 50g of carbs in their diet daily. Fortunately, those who are on the keto diet will not have any problem with Old Bay Seasoning or the substitutes that are on the list.

Is There MSG in Old Bay Seasoning?

Those who want to stay away from MSG will find that Old Bay Seasoning does not contain any MSG. Also, it is kosher.

Is Old Bay Seasoning Whole30 Compliant?

Those who are on a Whole30 diet will remove foods and drinks that are inflammatory, such as alcohol, sugar, grains, processed foods, and similar items. People who are on the Whole30 diet might be wondering whether they will be able to use Old Bay for their food.

Fortunately, there is nothing in the seasoning that should cause a problem for anyone who is on the Whole30 diet. The addition of spices can help to add flavor, which can make keeping up with a new dietary lifestyle easier.

Does the Seasoning Expire and Go Bad?

When buying food, people often worry that it will go bad before they can use it. However, when it comes to spices, there is no reason to worry. Most of the time, spices are going to have a 'best by' date on them, but this does not mean that the spices are going to spoil when they reach this date.

Instead, it means that the older the spices get the less potent they are going to be. Most of the time, spices are going to last for about two to three years with their full potency. After that, they might not have as much kick as they had before. They are still good, but they won't provide as much flavor.

To make sure that your spices last as long as possible, it is important to store them correctly. You will want to keep them in a cool and dark cupboard, and you will want to be sure they are in an airtight container.

Can You Make Your Own Old Bay Seasoning Substitute?

Since the full ingredient list for Old Bay Seasoning is still a secret, it will be next to impossible to get the recipe the same. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t get close. There are many recipes online that can do a good job of getting very close, and it all starts by using the ingredients that are listed on the container of Old Bay.

You can then start to experiment by adding some of the other ingredients that people claim they are tasting in the seasoning. Making your own will also allow you to create a seasoning recipe that works perfectly for your taste buds. 

It will take some time to perfect your recipe, but once you do, you might find that you don’t want to go back to Old Bay again.


1. Cajun Seasoning

Easily the most common and popular substitute for Old Bay Seasoning is to use Cajun seasoning. The spice is very similar to Old Bay, but you will find that it tends to be a bit spicier.

Advantages

Because the taste is so similar, it means that many people may not even be able to tell that you aren’t using Old Bay. Another one of the advantages of using Cajun seasoning is that it tends to be easily accessible. If you don’t already have some in your kitchen, you will probably be able to find some at the local grocery store.

Disadvantages

While it is certainly a great option as a substitute, it is important to remember that the heat might be more than some like. If you do not want to have food that’s too spicy, you will want to be careful when you are choosing your Cajun seasoning. Some of the options on the market will be extremely hot.

Nutritional Breakdown

Cajun Seasoning

Amount (1 tsp)

% Recommended Daily Intake

Calories

5.2

Variable

Total Fat

0g

0%

Saturated Fat

0g

0%

Sodium

13mg

0%

Total Carbohydrate

3.3g

1%

Dietary Fiber

0g

0%

Sugars

0g

0%

Protein

0.4g

1%


2. Chinese Five Spice

One of the other options that people will sometimes use when they don’t have Old Bay or when they are looking to try a different flavor is Chinese Five Spice powder. The seasoning features a blend of cinnamon, cloves, Szechuan peppercorns, and star anise. However, some of the recipes use different ingredients, such as ginger or nutmeg.

Advantages

Chinese Five Spice can work well for most of the same types of dishes that would use Old Bay. This includes fish and other seafood, as well as poultry and red meat.

Disadvantages

While some of the ingredients will be the same, and you can get a somewhat similar flavor, the substation is not a perfect exchange. There will be a different taste when using Chinese Five Spice, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It will just be different from Old Bay.

Nutritional Breakdown

Chinese Five Spice

Amount (1 tsp)

% Recommended Daily Intake

Calories

5

Variable

Total Fat

0.5g

1%

Saturated Fat

0g

0%

Sodium

4mg

0%

Total Carbohydrate

3.3g

1%

Dietary Fiber

0g

0%

Sugars

0g

0%

Protein

0.4g

1%


3. Seasoned Salt

There are many different brands of seasoned salt available today, and they often have a range of different types of spices in them that can provide them with the kick that your dishes need.

Advantages

Seasoned salt is very easy to find in most grocery stores and online, and you will find that it is very affordable. Because there are many different brands and options available, you will have a range of choices of different blends. This means you should be able to find something that suits your taste buds.

Disadvantages

While seasoned salt can work as a substitute for Old Bay, it doesn't contain all of the same ingredients and means that the flavor is not going to be the same. Still, given the variety of options of the market for the seasoning, there are many good options to try.

Nutritional Breakdown

Seasoned Salt

Amount (1 tsp)

% Recommended Daily Intake

Calories

5

Variable

Total Fat

0.1g

0%

Saturated Fat

0.1g

0%

Sodium

1409mg

61%

Total Carbohydrate

0.8g

0%

Dietary Fiber

0g

0%

Sugars

0.2g

0%

Protein

0.1g

0%


4. French Four Spice

Also known as quatre epices, French Four Spice is typically used in French cuisine, as the name suggests. However, it is also often used in Middle Eastern fare. It has a few similarities to Old Bay, but it will need a few additions to be an acceptable substitute. It includes ground pepper, cloves, nutmeg, and dried ginger.

Advantages

One of the biggest advantages to French Four Spice is that it can be used in a wide range of different types of dishes, including soups, stew, and even sausages. It will do more than just act as a sub for Old Bay.

Disadvantages

Because the blend isn’t the same, you won’t get the right flavor of Old Bay if you use it as is. To make the taste closer, you can add paprika and perhaps some red pepper flakes.

Nutritional Breakdown

French Four Spice

Amount (1 tsp)

% Recommended Daily Intake

Calories

2

Variable

Total Fat

0.2g

0%

Saturated Fat

0.1g

1%

Sodium

0.5mg

0%

Total Carbohydrate

1.4g

0%

Dietary Fiber

0.5g

2%

Sugars

0g

0%

Protein

0.2g

0%


The Bottom Line

Old Bay Seasoning is a delicious and versatile seasoning option that can be used for many different types of cuisine, and even for snacks. It has a unique taste and has become almost synonymous with seafood, making it a staple in many pantries.

However, some alternatives could be used, and which are mentioned above. They can provide a similar flavor, and it might be worth checking out some of those options to see if you like them even better than the traditional Old Bay.

Top Vegan Picks

Fortunately, all of the items mentioned in the article above are vegan and do not contain gluten. Whether you want Old Bay Seasoning, or you are trying out some of the substitutes that are on the list, you will be able to enjoy them without worry.

Ultimately, it will come down to the taste that you prefer. You may want to try several different options to find the one that works the best for the food you are making.

Top Healthy Picks

For the healthiest picks, you will find that all of the items have low calories. As mentioned earlier, sodium can be high in certain spice blends, and that is certainly true seasoned salt. It has a lot of sodium, so those who do not want to add a lot of sodium to their diet should choose another option.

Fortunately, the French Four Spice, Chinese Five Spice, and the Cajun seasoning are all good options that have very little sodium in them.

Top Convenient Picks

When it comes to convenience, the seasoning that is likely the easiest for you to find other than Old Bay Seasoning will be seasoned salt, followed by Cajun seasoning. Many stores today will also have the other options discussed on the list above.

If you have trouble finding the seasoning that you want in your local stores, you can always head online to buy what you need. You will find that Amazon and other online retailers should be able to provide you with any of the seasonings that you might want.

Top Convenient Picks

Top Convincing Picks

While all of the substitutes have their benefit, you will find that the one that does the best of actually matching the taste of Old Bay is going to be Cajun seasoning.

While it might not be a perfect match, it will be very close. Just remember that this is likely to be somewhat hotter than what you would be getting with Old Bay Seasoning, so make sure that you understand just how hot it is before using it in your dishes.

Resources: 

https://www.saveur.com/article/Kitchen/The-Secret-Spice-of-Gustav-Brunn/

https://www.eatthismuch.com/food/nutrition/spices-cajun-seasoning,128099/

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Shares
Scroll to Top