What Is Old Bay® Seasoning?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2019
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Old Bay® Seasoning is a spice mix made by McCormick and Company, a Maryland based company which makes a wide range of herbs, spices, and blends. The mix has proved to be quite popular, especially along the Eastern seaboard of the United States, where it is paired with crab, lobster, shrimp, and an assortment of other seafood. Many markets carry Old Bay® Seasoning, along with its imitators, and it is also possible to make your own version at home, adjusting the spices to satisfy your personal taste.

The recipe for this seasoning was developed in the 1940s by Gustav Brunn, a German immigrant. He named the spice mix for the Chesapeake Bay, one of Maryland's more notable natural features, and the recipe along with Brunn's company was purchased in the 1990s by McCormick and Company, which retains the original recipe and distinctive labeling for the product to make it familiar and easy recognizable for consumers.

The exact proportions of the Old Bay® Seasoning mix are a subject of mystery, but the mixture is known to include cinnamon, ginger, mustard seed, bay leaves, celery salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Other cooks making their own versions at home may add additional spices such as cardamom, mace, cloves, allspice, paprika, and nutmeg. The spices are ground together to create a smooth powder which can keep for up to a year when stored in a cool, dry place.


The classic use of the seasoning is on crabs, a popular product of the Chesapeake Bay. At one point, crabs were so abundant that they were passed out for free at bars, encouraging patrons to stay, and early versions had a high salt content, so that as patrons ate the crabs, they would be encouraged to order more to drink. Now that crab has become more of a delicacy, people still use Old Bay® Seasoning, as they have acquired a taste for it.

Capitalizing on the Old Bay® brand, McCormick and Company produces a number of tie-in products, including Old Bay® Seasoning packaged in convenient shaker containers, Old Bay® batters for fried foods, a tuna salad mix, and Old Bay® branded cocktail sauces and tartars. Many of these products are readily available at large markets, although cooks can also make their own unique blend, if they feel so inclined.


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Post 2

You can find Old Bay in any major grocery store chain in the spice aisle.

Post 1

Where can I get Old Bay seasoning in the midwest? mainly in Chicago or nearby.

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