Friday, January 6, 2017

Chesapeake Bay Seasoning For Seafood

     For Marylanders there is nothing like seafood, especially crabs, that much we can all agree on.  What we can't agree on is what seafood seasoning is the best to use with those steamed crabs... or crab cakes, fish, tuna salad, french fries, potato chips, ice cream... you get my drift, we put seafood seasoning on everything. Ask anyone what their favorite seasoning is and I hope you've got time on your hands for the answer.  Of course Old Bay is the overwhelming favorite but you'll also hear J.O. and Wye River mentioned along with a few like me who make their own.

     Old Bay started off as the brainchild of a German immigrant who barely escaped the Nazis and brought over one thing... His beloved spice grinder.  He invented a spicy and salty blend  that was sold to local bars for use with steamed crabs.  Back then, crabs were so cheap that bars gave them away for free when you bought drinks.  Of course they wanted to keep the mix salty and spicy so customers would be thirsty and buy more drinks.  Eventually this spice blend was renamed Old Bay in honor of the Old Bay Shipping Line and was sold to customers around Maryland looking for a great way to spice their seafood.

     Over time the manufacture of Old Bay coalesced into the Baltimore Spice Co and an intense rivalry developed between them and McCormick's Spice Co.  McCormick had their own Chesapeake Bay Style Seafood Seasoning but they just couldn't sell it in the face of massive market share for Old Bay.  Many offers were made over the years for Baltimore Spice Co to sell to McCormick's but a deal wasn't finally hashed out until 1990 and then the real controversy began.  Many people feel McCormick's simply labeled their own product with the Old Bay designation because the flavor became radically different.  Less heat on the back of the tongue and more sweetness from sweet aromatic spices.  This did little to dampen people's enthusiasm for Old Bay and even now Old Bay will win 98% of the time when people are asked what spice they use for crabs and seafood.

     My recipe tries to stay true to the original, it's closer to J.O. or Wye River Red seasoning in it's flavor profile.  I'm going to give 2 different measurements, one for a small batch and one for a large batch that you'll need to steam crabs.

Chesapeake Bay Seafood Seasoning

1T / 3C salt
1 1/2tsp / 1 1/2C black pepper
1tsp / 1C celery seed (bruised)
1tsp / 1C paprika
1/2tsp / 3T mustard powder
1/2tsp / 3T onion powder
1/4tsp / 1T garlic powder
1/4tsp / 1T cayenne pepper

Mix all the spices together until well blended.  Allow to sit at least overnight for flavor to meld together before using.  Keep in a tightly sealed container for up to 6 months.


  1. Awesome, so glad to find your page and recipe! I heard about
    the original seasoning and your recipe looks great, can't wait to
    try it on some chips! Thanks!

  2. Glad I found your site! Can't wait to try this recipe!


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